Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cliffwalk Courtships - Throne of Grace by Cecily Wolfe

Good morning, all.

Today, I’m interviewing Cecily Wolfe, author of Throne of Grace, which is part one of a three-part series entitled Cliff Walk Courtships. Please join me in getting to know this exciting author.

Ceci Wolfe writes whatever her characters tell her to write. A Harvest of Stars is dramatic, realistic fiction about two teens dealing with abuse in a small Kentucky town. Throne of Grace is the first in a series of historical inspirational romances set in beautiful turn of the century Newport, Rhode Island. Her stories have been published in the Rubbertop Review, Pilgrimage Press, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Rose Red Review, and Persephone's Daughters.

Connect with Cecily online:


Book-specific playlists on Spotify as ceciwolfe

Hello, Cecily. It’s my pleasure to interview you today.

Hello, Angela. Nice to meet you.

Is Throne of Grace your first novel?

It is my first full-length published novel. My novella, A Harvest of Stars, was released in June of 2016, and I have other unpublished manuscripts laying around somewhere.

What is the title of your latest book?

Throne of Grace is

 my most recent release. I do have a contemporary romance/drama publishing at the end of April of this year (Reckless Treasure), and the second title in the Cliff Walk Courtships series, the sequel to Throne of Grace, Crown of Beauty, scheduled to release in October.

I have a difficult time coming up with titles. How did you choose the title?

God’s throne of grace is mentioned in Hebrews, as a source of mercy and compassion during times of difficulty and atonement. It seemed fitting for Josie and Arthur’s story, as they struggle with their own flaws and work towards directing their lives towards helping others, looking to God for guidance and forgiveness.

Did you design the cover?

Yes, I did. It is a stock photo I found searching for wedding pictures, and I played around with PicMonkey to end up with the final design.

What is the genre of your book?

Christian historical romance.

How would you describe the book to someone in a text message?

Sweet and hopeful.

Who is your main character and what problem does he/she face?

Arthur and Josie are the main characters. Josie faces the judgment of her neighbors and of the upper class, whom she relies on for employment, when she befriends Arthur, who belongs to that upper class. He, in turn, has to decide if and how he can find his own path rather than rely on his parents’ money, especially when they do not approve of his friendship with Josie, their housemaid, and his interest in opening a homeless shelter rather than follow his father into a financial career. Arthur struggles with his faith but sees the strength Josie holds in hers, and while his attraction to her is romantic, he sees her as a companion to walk with as he learns to reach out to and follow Christ.

What might draw someone to your character?

Arthur is very realistically flawed, and is afraid of how he can live a life without his parents’ money. Many of us are tempted to take the easy path in life, and even if we know it isn’t the one God would want for us, this temptation can still be a difficult one to fight. He is also very sweet and polite, and treats Josie like a princess. Josie, in turn, is very focused on helping others and has an unfailing faith that holds her steady, even when she doubts herself. She sometimes has a ‘bit of sass’ (as one Goodreads reviewer noted) and pushes past her fears to stand up for what she knows is right. The two of them together are sweet, strong, and successful.

What prompted you to write this book?

I write a lot of darker fiction (short stories, novellas) and during a long, hot summer a few years ago when I was having a variety of difficulties, I began to imagine a sweet romance based in faith, something I wish that my own marriage, which had ended in a very nasty divorce, might have been. Arthur came to me first, and then Josie, and my affection for one of favorite vacation spots, Newport, Rhode Island, stepped up to offer the perfect setting and time period.

What did you bring to the book from your own life?

Some of my own issues wrestling with guilt, forgiveness, and dealing with negative people in a firm but respectful way. These are common problems, and I hope that readers who finish Throne of Grace will feel better about their own faith journey and the promise of grace offered regardless of any mistakes we make on the way.

What makes your book stand out from other books like it?

The characters. I write everything based on where my characters take the story (outlines get shoved out of the way when characters decide they have something else in mind) and Arthur and Josie feel very real and believable to me. I hope readers find them believable as well.

What is one thing you learned from writing this book?

I learned a lot about the details of Newport in 1893, some of which I knew beforehand, but more importantly, I was absorbed in the emotional aspect of Arthur and Josie’s difficulties, and realized that my relationship with Christ was emotional as well. Approaching him with tears, with joy – our emotional range was created by God, as we are in his image, and all of those feelings are ways of showing the intensity of our relationship with him. I had never really considered that before, but the details of the inner struggles of both of these characters made me think on it in great detail

Let’s learn about you. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a dancer and a lawyer.

Do you still want to be that?

I danced for many years until I decided to have a family, and feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to hone the skills necessary to be so dedicated to one physical activity. I find that devotion applies when I have to juggle responsibilities and priorities, and time management problems. I did get advanced degrees in college, but decided that law school, while intriguing in theory, was not going to lead me to a career I wanted to pursue.

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

When I was eight, I was fascinated by Helen Keller. I read everything in our little school library, then in our public library, about her. I then turned to my own imagination, and began to write stories in which Helen had adventures with her teacher, Annie. What did they do? How did Helen experience the world? These stories did not survive, but it was then that I started writing, and I have never stopped.

Did anything unusual or funny happen on your journey to becoming an author?

I may have mistyped something in a query a few years ago and had an agent who was very interested in the book I was submitting. I didn’t realize that the typo existed until the agent returned the manuscript, disappointed that it was a Southern gothic family drama, and not erotica. What was the typo? I’m not exactly sure, but I don’t write erotica and I can’t even imagine whatever it was that he might have interpreted as the promise of erotica. This remains a mystery to me, but an amusing one.

What books have influenced you most?

I have been reading Jane Austen since I was in middle school, and I appreciate her use of humor and sarcasm while dealing with very real social issues of the day. I would have to say that Emma is my favorite, and Emma’s realization that her words and behavior have power over others, both because of her social position and by the fact that other people have feelings and she can choose to be kind or insulting, stuck with me, even at that age. It is a very basic but important lesson that is easy to forget when we are busy dealing with day to day life, but I often think of Emma and the guilt she feels when she unknowingly hurts her old friend, who has been nothing but kind to her, and think twice when I consider how to speak with and treat others.

What’s the most times you’ve read a book and why? Title?

That might be Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. I am a huge fan of Southern gothic fiction, and I think O’Connor has a whole mess of trouble going on in any of her stories. The Christian element is prominent, and faith is a very real part of her work. I have probably returned to Wise Blood at least thirty times since I first read it as an undergraduate.

What are three unusual things about you your readers might not know?

I love NASCAR! My favorite driver just retired, but I’ve been watching my whole life, so I won’t stop now. I love to listen to it on the radio, too – the excitement is continuous and contagious.

I love to bake. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping, so I bake. I have a close friend who has this problem as well, but both of our families benefit from our 3 am cupcake bake-offs.

I love to swim. I will swim regardless of the weather, and I have been almost kicked out of the neighborhood pool for staying in the water during a thunderstorm. I would live in the water if I could get away with it!

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

I went to New York City with a friend with only a few dollars in my pocket, after the price of the hotel and plane tickets. We did everything for free, and scored free food for participating in some surveys on the street, and just kept walking. We explored everywhere we could reach, and there was so much to see and do without charge. It might not have been the smartest thing to do, but I don’t regret it all these years later. It was truly a great adventure, and NYC is still my favorite city.

Do you have life philosophy? Favorite verse?

Return to God. Always. No matter what I do, I try to keep in mind that I have to return to God, and if what I am doing is not the path in that direction, I need to reconsider. I love the Gospel of John, and hold tight to John 3:16, which sums up God’s love for his people.

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

Just do it. And read. Read everything. Pay attention to life as you live it. Trust your heart and listen to your imagination. If there’s something stuck inside your head, write it out.

More about Throne of Grace

Arthur Davenport has it all: looks, money, and a successful future planned by his parents. He knows that something is missing, but when he and Josie, his mother's maid, develop a friendship that can only be based on Christian values, he realizes that his love for her is the key to his happiness. Can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury for a life of service with her?

Newport, Rhode Island in the last decades of the nineteenth century was a stunningly beautiful and glamorous playground for the rich during the summer months, and a perfect setting for a romance between a rich young man from New York City and a local girl who works for his family. The two couldn't possibly expect to have anything in common, as he is expected to follow his father in a financial career and she is merely a maid with a mother who takes care of local children while their parents work. Arthur Davenport, spoiled and bored, unsure of his place in his family and in the eyes of God, truly meets his match in Josie Warren, who is often just a bit hard on herself for not being the perfect Christian in thought as well as deed. The two meet on the famous Cliff Walk, and neither of them can imagine where or how their instant attraction will take them as he struggles to make his parents understand that his calling is the same as hers, to help those less fortunate. He has no money of his own, and if they disinherit him out of disapproval, how can he help Josie, who has spent her life working hard to help support herself and her mother? More importantly, how can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury just to be with her?

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