I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, October 15, 2010

Meet the Authors of A Door County Christmas; 4-in-1 Collection

Hi, I'm Roxanne Sherwood. Please welcome Becky Melby, Rachael Phillips, Eileen Key and Cynthia Ruchti; authors of A Door County Christmas. Leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of the book.

Christmas Crazy by Becky Melby
Jillian Galloway sacrifices her vacation to salvage her uncle’s dinner theater in time for Christmas, but a leaky roof and oddball actors challenge her optimism. When a mysterious Brazilian offers his help, should she listen to the rumors or trust those Latin eyes?
Becky Melby and husband Bill have four married sons and eleven grandchildren. Becky has co-authored nine books and is currently working on a contemporary fiction series.

Ride with Me into Christmas by Rachael Phillips
Widowed Joanna Flick’s new neighbor Paul Sorenson shares her passion for bicycling and Door County, as well as her faith in Christ. But will their Grinch-y grown children steal their fun romance before it has a chance to bud?
Rachael Phillips, an award-winning Indiana writer, (www.rachaelwrites.com) has authored four Barbour biographies, besides her Door County novella. She and husband Steve have three children and four grandchildren.

My Heart Still Beats by Eileen Key
Hired by two octogenarians to escort them on their last visit to their bayside cottage in Ephraim, Wisconsin, Madison Tanner literally “runs into” Realtor Grant Sterling. Grant is intent on selling the cottage before Christmas, but every prospective buyer finds a new problem with the property, prompting Grant to suspect Madison is guilty of sabotage. Each new setback pushes Grant further from his goal and closer to the hazel-eyed chauffeur.
Eileen Key resides in Texas near her three grown children and two wonderful grandchildren where she is an active member of Grace-San Antonio.

The Heart’s Harbor by Cynthia Ruchti
Amanda Brooks retreats to picturesque Egg Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin, to escape an empty holiday season in her Chicago apartment. Peace on earth is what she needs but instead finds herself in charge of the legendary Christmas Tea at the Heart’s Harbor Victorian Inn. Dealing with its quirky guests, bare-bones budget, antisocial puppy, matchmaking owner, and her match-resistant son, Jordan, deepens her doubts that Christmas and love have anything in common.
Cynthia Ruchti writes and produces a 15-minute drama/devotional radio broadcast and is currently president of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Whose idea was it to write A Door County Christmas: Four Romances Warm Hearts in Wisconsin’s Version of Cape Cod (Romancing America.)? How did the four authors become involved? Who pitched the story to Barbour?

CYNTHIA: Becky Melby and I (both Wisconsin authors) discovered we have a matching appreciation for the beauty and charm of Door County, Wisconsin, and toyed with the idea of setting a series of Christmas novellas in that area. Since we both also enjoy adding a twist of humor to our stories, and since Becky is so skilled at writing romance, we looked for two more authors to join us who had a heart for romantic comedy. Eileen and Rachael were friends of mine from ACFW and seemed the perfect duo to join us in this adventure. (Eileen says she was Plan B, but we know she was God’s Plan A all along.)

BECKY: When we began discussing the idea of a Christmas collection, there was no arguing that Wisconsin’s touristy peninsula was the perfect setting. Cynthia knew Rachael and Eileen had the kind of comedic voice we were hoping for and when she approached them, they agreed to jump in. We wrote a proposal and sent it off to Becky Germany at Barbour.

RACHAEL: Cynthia and I met at an earlier ACFW. We both had served as humor columnists for ACFW’s Afictionado for two years. She and Becky M. agreed they wanted to ask someone who would enjoy writing with a humorous slant, and that’s how I came into the picture.

EILEEN: I was invited after one of the other writers couldn’t participate. Cynthia bravely pitched to Becky Germany at breakfast at the conference. Becky had worked with Becky Melby and her interest was piqued.

All of you actually traveled together to Door County for research. Four writers on a trip—that sounds like a story in itself.

EILEEN: Oh yes, some fond, fun memories were created, that’s for sure! What a scenic spot to visit! I hope to return someday.

CYNTHIA: Four days of intense research seemed like a long time until we got there and began to soak in all the natural beauty and the scenic drives and the shops and restaurants and galleries and oh my! We had fun piling in and out of our vehicle as we noted points of interest or drove past houses that looked like the ones we had in our budding stories’ imaginations. What amazing women with amazing lives and challenges. (Our characters, too!)

BECKY: That trip “gelled” us as a team. I hadn’t met either Rachael or Eileen, but after that trip, I felt like they were sisters. The scenery was breathtaking, the food delectable, and the company as sweet as a Door County cherry/hot fudge sundae!

RACHAEL: What a fun mix! I didn’t know Becky or Eileen, but we all blended as if we’d worked together for years. And Door County is a unique experience—all the wholesomeness of the Midwest married to the artsiness usually found on the coasts.

How valuable was that research?

EILEEN: The trip was invaluable to me. I’m a Texan, and snow/cold is a foreign idea to me. I never knew areas could close down for the winter months! So it caused me to rethink some of the things my characters did.

BECKY: I’ve been to Door County many times, but this trip helped me visualize where my characters would be and capture details I never would have remembered.

CYNTHIA: Visualizing places for a plot twist and capturing the sights, smells, and flavors of Door County helped us create a book that makes people tell us often, “Oh, now I HAVE to go there!”

RACHAEL: Interviews over the phone are helpful, but they’re no substitute for experiencing Door County Magic firsthand. Internet info, photos and videos filled in the gaps, but when I climbed the fire tower in Peninsula State Park with Becky and watched the sun set over wintry Green Bay, I knew my characters would have to experience this—and they did!

How did you decide on the elements that unify the story?

EILEEN: Brainstorming. Trial and error. We each critiqued the other’s work, pointed out any inconsistencies.

CYNTHIA: We threw away a few ideas. Okay, a few dozen. Each of the four stories is both unique and connected. We worked hard to make sure those connecting threads were meaningful but not domineering. And I think we each fell in love with each others’ characters.

BECKY: Cynthia created the innkeepers and the Christmas tea for her story. We all agreed they would be perfect elements to incorporate in each story.

RACHAEL: We each claimed a town apiece on the Door County peninsula as distinct settings for our novellas, then visited them individually, taking notes and photos. We also compiled a list of restaurants, points of interest, recreation spots, favorite foods, and other elements and divied them out. We even collaborated on weather. For example, I needed snow on the ground—enough for snowmobiles—during certain weeks of December. The others agreed not to instigate thaws then!

What was your writing process?

BECKY: We outlined our stories before beginning, then exchanged chapters as we finished them. Four sets of eyes on each story was such a help.

RACHAEL: We brainstormed together per e-mail about our initial ideas and made suggestions to solve any problems that appeared, then sent the proposal to Barbour. Becky Germany surprised me—the novice novel writer of the bunch—at ACFW conference with my first contract! (The three other sneaky writers had managed to conceal this from me.) When I recovered from the shock, I put together a rough outline, did research with the gang at Door County, then wrote and wrote as we critiqued each others’ material, chapter by chapter. And re-wrote and re-wrote. I had to trim and condense extensively, because I’m a lifetime member of the Wordy Club. But I made the 20,000-word count!

CYNTHIA: It was a challenge for me personally to write romantic comedy in the months between my father-in-law’s and my mother’s Homegoing. But the deeper I plunged into the story, the more I could see that the Lord used it to help press some humor into a humorless time…and remind me Who is ultimately in control—of life, of love, and of our writing careers.

What tips do you have for other writers who want to collaborate on an anthology?

EILEEN: Be kind, be patient and love one another. Then write. I believe the power of prayer helped us form an everlasting bond. We had a strong idea about a unique subject, and each brought our own strengths into the work, yet were willing to listen to critiques.

CYNTHIA: Yeah, what Eileen said!

BECKY: I can’t think of anything to add to Eileen’s answer. That sums it up!

RACHAEL: Amen! I will appreciate forever the openness and experience of my novella partners—they taught me so much. Our sister bond in Christ kept us working together, especially when illness and life stresses made it difficult. I would encourage other new fiction authors to respect the wisdom and savvy of those who have published before.

Also, laugh together and eat a lot.

What surprised you about the project?

EILEEN: First that Barbour purchased it! I felt it was a long-shot at best. Then how seamlessly our group worked together.

CYNTHIA: It surprised me that after many years of vacationing and getaways to Door County, there was still a lot more to unearth. And that after 38 years of marriage, there is still more to unearth about romance and humor and where they intersect.

BECKY: This is the second novella anthology I’ve participated in and this experience was radically different than the first because of the close interaction. I couldn’t wait to turn on the computer every day for another installment of one of the stories. We worked as a team, not as four independent writers—that was a delightful surprise.

RACHAEL: That I got to be part of it! Sometimes I had to pinch myself to believe it was really true. Also, it amazes me that people who did not know each other could blend their unique abilities and quirkinesses to produce such fun and meaningful stories.

What was the most fun or unique event that happened, either during research or while writing the story?

EILEEN: On our last evening, we drug out our notes and laptops, settled in for a serious brainstorm/fact-checking writing time: and the electricity went out for the whole town! The Inn provided glow sticks and we sang “This Little Light of Mine” instead.

BECKY: In the midst of that black-out, Cynthia and I went out to pick up pizza in the next town. Very eerie to see the bay— glassy-like water normally shimmering with reflected light—pitch black.

CYNTHIA: That was a memory-making moment I’ll never forget. The light from the fireplace was all we had, in addition to those adorable lime-green glow sticks. We ate pizza and prayed for one another. The perfect punctuation for our time together.

RACHAEL: Tootling around Door County, jumping out of the car and taking pictures was fun, too. We stood lookout for each other, and nobody got arrested.

What question do you wish I’d have asked?

EILEEN: Does our group plan on working together again? Good Lord willin’, we just might. Though I think we’ll research a warmer climate. Thanks Roxanne.

CYNTHIA: It was fun discussing these questions, Roxanne. We appreciate it! Where can readers find the book? Wherever books are sold! Including many Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs.

RACHAEL: Do I want a Door County Sundae (frozen custard drenched with hot fudge and warm cherries, smothered in whipped cream) right now? Answer: Oh, yeah!

BECKY: How can readers get to know your characters better? By visiting their blog: http://doorcountychristmas.blogspot.com/

Thank you so much for the opportunity, Roxanne.

Ladies, we’re so glad you could join The Ponderers today. Thanks for being here.

Readers: Becky, Rachael, Eileen and Cynthia, have agreed to answer questions throughout the day. Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of A Door County Christmas before midnight on Sunday. A winner will be chosen at random.


  1. My favorite genre is Regency romance, but Door County sounds lovely. You've made me want to read these stories!

  2. What a fun post, Roxanne! Another book to add to my To Be Read pile!
    Question: What advice would you offer to writers hoping to do a series of novellas together?

  3. What a great idea! Can't wait to read it. And I love that it's in the midwest - not enough settings there!

  4. I am a relatively new transplant to the state. Newly retired and newly married. This book sounds like a great gift for my former colleague teacher friends who live in MI. A way to familiarize themselves with Door County plus have a good read. Of course I must have one for myself. Congratulations on your fun collaboration.

  5. I love Christmas stories--I can read one in July-- and can't wait to read this story set in Door County.

  6. Interesting and fun. I don't live that far away from Door County, so this blog has persuaded me that I really do need to go over there to see it for myself. Great connected story concept. May other ACFW members similarly cooperate, storm the doors, and find success.

  7. Hey, I have a coworker who is visiting Door County with her family today - random! So fun to read about the collective creative process...sounds like a blast. Can't wait to read the book. Thanks, Cynthia, Eileen, Becky and Rachael!

    Between reading about this book and also Jenness's book with Tracy (their book launch was earlier this week - yippy), I've now got a hankering to do some group writing...hmmm...

  8. A Door County Christmas sounds like a fun book. I love the premises of each novella. I look forward to reading this book. Thanks for participating, ladies.

    My question for you: how do you keep your research organized?

  9. Thanks, ladies, for all your kind comments! I'm Midwesterner, too, Jennifer, from Indiana, and I love our area of the country. I'd never been to Door County, though, until our group trip there. I'd love to return to that magic place for a novella partner reunion :-)

    Beth, as for your question about forming novella groups, I would encourage continuing to network with other authors--especially through ACFW, as that's where Cynthia and I met--so that you recognize kindred spirits. I'm sure, too, that Cynthia and Becky, the instigators of our collection, bathed the project in prayer, and we continued in that vein. We brainstormed together per Yahoo before we presented the proposal to Barbour, and I think that solidified our group and confirmed our ability to work together.

    Lisa, I'm sorry, but I am a pile, not file, person. (I took a course on this at the last conference because of my lack of talent in this area.)So one of my organized partners will have to help you!

  10. We're supposed to keep our research organized? Oh, that would have helped! Seriously, though, I have a file for each project I'm working on at the moment...or for years. When I run into a nugget of information or an imagination-stimulating picture or a snatch of a phrase I think might work, I stuff it into that file's folder. At least I know "It's in there somewhere."

    And as to the question about writing novella collections, I believe it takes more than friendship and more than writing talent. Prayer is an important part, as has been said, and respect for one another's approach, voice, and gifts. Even though we critiqued one another's work, I think readers will "hear" four distinct voices in the storytelling.

    We get no kick-backs from the Door County Tourism Bureau, but are thrilled when we pique someone's interest about visiting Door County. If you want the beauty and the artistry without the crowds, trying going midweek or off season. Right now, the apple orchards are in constant celebration mode and the harbors are shivering. But any season of the year, Door County stirs the heart.

  11. Yay! Rachael affirms the "pilers not filers" in the group--like me!

  12. I have heard so much about Door County and would love to visit there sometime...maybe I'll need to do it via your stories! Thanks for being with us ladies!

    Would you say its easier to propose a set of novellas if at least one of the authors is published?

  13. Hey Jennie and all - maybe we should have a Ponderers reunion in Door County! And of course, new blog friends could be invited too.

  14. Great idea, Melissa! I would love to meet old and new friends in Door County!

  15. Count me in on the reunion! Imagine flooding Wisconsin's "thumb" with Christian readers and writers! Jennie asked if it's easier to propose a novella collection if at least one of the authors is publsihed. I'm not familiar with other publishing houses, but Barbour Publishing requires at least three of the four authors to have previously published with Barbour. I'd love to hear what other publishers require.

    Thanks to all of you who've stopped by. Keep those questions coming!

  16. What was the most challenging thing about writing the series?

  17. One thing that's always a challenge in a romance novella is bringing the characters from boy-meets-girl to "I love you" in only ten chapters. In this particular collection, we also had the challenge of infusing the story with deep spiritual truths while not losing the light, comedic pacing. All in all, very fun challenges.

  18. Well, I'm commenting late today, but I still want to say how much I enjoyed this e-interview! Reading about your fun makes me want to visit Door County too. I can already see I'm going to need to find this book. :) The ideas and suggestions on collaboration are interesting and eye-opening for a new writer. :) Thank you ladies for taking time to share your experience and your fun!

  19. It's so easy in writing a romance novella to revert to the "I love you/I hate you/I love you/I hate you" pattern or the "I hate you/I hate you/I hate you/Oops! I love you/The End" routine that we see in some movies and books. For me, it was a challenge to build the romance in a realistic way but still have it compel the reader to root for the relationship to succeed...and yes, in ten short chapters. But we wouldn't be writers if we didn't enjoy a challenge.

  20. OK--am I the only one totally excited about seeing a model with GLASSES on the cover? For some reason that just gives me a four-eyed thrill.

  21. Omy! I'm away from my computer for a day and look at the conversation! Thanks so much for chiming in everyone. Cyn is so right: it's tough compressing your story into 20k especially when you're trying to give the Door County flavor too. I hope when you get the opportunity to read our individual stories you'll fall in love with our characters. My niece called to ask why we couldn't make it longer!

    Writing as a "team" worked as we scissored chapters back and forth. I removed this idea because someone used it or added another I'd forgotten. You'll hear 4 voices for sure!

    Thanks for hosting us today. Can't wait to see who wins a book. ENJOY!

  22. Ha! Allison, I thought the same thing!

    I loved reading this interview and seeing how y'all worked together as a team!

  23. There's a bit of a story behind those glasses, Allison. When the four of us got together, I was the only one who didn't have cool, squarish, Sarah Palin glasses. I felt left out, so I gave them to my character, Jillian, who ended up on the cover. BTW, I now own a pair myself, but I'll never catch up to Jillian who has frames to match every outfit!

    Thanks for this opportunity, Roxanne, and thank you to everyone who stopped by. It's been a fun day. See you all in Door County!

  24. I'm thinking I'm going to like Jillian!

  25. Suzann Leadbetter10/15/10, 8:38 PM

    I am so excited to say that I personally know an "author." The book sounds great and I can't wait to read it.

  26. Eileen, Becky, Cynthia and Rachael, it was great to have you with us. Thanks so much! I enjoyed everyone's comments.

    I'll randomly select a winner from our readers on Sunday night, so feel free to keep post until then.

  27. Yes, Suzanne and I go a LONG way back! Thanks for checking in. And everyone loves Jillian!