Focus on Fiction is pleased to feature
Cindy lives in Northern California with her husband David and their three children. She has traveled numerous times to Europe to research her novels, particularly focusing on Austria and the Czech Republic. Her stories also feature California locations that are not only close at heart but close to home . Her novels include: Winter Passing, Blue Night, and North of Tomorrow. In addition to her writing, Cindy is the co-founder of the Quills of Faith writers' group, and a speaker at writers' conferences. She enjoys studying history, traveling, playing city league softball, snow skiing and spending time at home.
Focus: Cindy, can you tell us how many books you've published in the Christian market?
Cindy Martinusen: Three. Winter Passing, Blue Night, and North of Tomorrow, with another on the way.
Focus: In each of your first three books, you offer dual stories - one set in Austria during World War II, and a parallel story set in the present day. Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of each of these amazing books?
Cindy Martinusen: In Winter Passing, photographer Darby Evans stands before her grandmother's bed, wondering why the dying older woman calls the name of a stranger--Tatianna. An unwilling participant in her grandmother's dying request, Darby searches for long buried answers and uncovers a heart-breaking secret: Tatianna sacrificed herself to allow Darby's grandmother to escape the Nazis. But will Darby escape the sinister plans of a man determined to locate her family's prized possession?
In Blue Night, a romantic vacation in Venice ends in tragedy when Kate Porter's husband vanishes from their hotel room, leaving no clue to his fate but a small blue tile on Kate's pillow. Five years later, prepared to declare her husband dead, Kate receives another tile in the mail. As she follows the broken trail of blue back to a group of soldiers in World War II, her courage will be tested beyond anything she imagined, and a chance meeting in an Austrian forest will change her life forever.
And in North of Tomorrow , Amanda Rivans traces her family's history back to World War II, and discovers their ties to a Nazi massacre and a famous piece of jewelry, the Empress Sissi Brooch. But the ties that bind her to these discoveries are not those she expected and she soon finds everything she believed about her family was a lie. Now she must face the shocking truth of her family's past, and find the one World War II survivor who can bring forgiveness--a woman who bears a deadly secret of her own.
All three books have connections in their plot and characters and are set in both Europe and the U.S.
Focus: Rumor has it you have a new book coming out from Tyndale Publishers in April. Can you tell us a little about what we have to look forward to in The Salt Garden?
Cindy Martinusen: The Salt Garden is a contemporary novel told by three women of different generations who are connected by a small coastal Californian town. It weaves the memories of a shipwreck survivor (and the secrets of what happened during the ship's demise), the life of an older reclusive author, and the return of a young woman to her hometown. Through their connection, the women are changed by one another and a town's mystery resolved.
Focus: Besides fascinating parallel tales, you also include some unusual items in your books. In North of Tomorrow, it's a mysterious brooch, in Blue Night, it's a piece of blue tile stained with meaning, and in Winter Passing, it's two headstones engraved with the same name. What inspired you to fold things like these into your plots?
Cindy Martinusen: I guess I like to include objects that symbolize something deeper within the story or that are used as a vehicle toward a thematic moment.
Focus: E.L. Doctorow once said, "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." Though I wouldn't go that far, to make your characters live on the page, you must at least see through their eyes. How difficult was it to see through the eyes of some of your Nazi characters?
Cindy Martinusen: In some ways, I am every character or every character is a bit of me because of seeing through their eyes. Sometimes this is extremely difficult. It's brought me even more understanding of the humanity of all people and showed me how our life journeys, decisions, and compromises change and mold who we become. In the instance of a Nazi character, it was challenging to research and then try to be a cheerful mom, but I really gained a lot, like how both the smallest compromises or the smallest dots of courage change you completely, for the good and the bad.
Focus: How did you cope with three years of constant exposure to the tragedy and horror of the Holocaust?
Cindy Martinusen: Well, I'm in therapy : ) I actually don't think I did cope, it shaped my life and made me see everything differently. Sometimes it brought nightmares and struggles, but it also widened my view, gave me a greater gratitude for my life, and showed me grace and redemption in a different way.
Focus: Your books deal with prejudice, cancer, divorce, greed, guilt, and many other tough topics. Do you ever find it challenging to convey in words the answers and hope needed for the difficult topics your books address?
Cindy Martinusen: My writing is very much my own search for answers and for a deeper level of understanding. It can be like discovering some little treasure and holding it up to see if anyone else recognizes it's value also. So I suppose it's less of me conveying answers and hope, and more a journey with the reader to see what we'll find together.
Focus: What do you feel is the greatest theme or message with which God has entrusted you, and why have you chosen fiction as the medium for that message?
Cindy Martinusen: I often find reoccurring themes have risen from within my words, not that I intentionally chose to put them there. When it comes down to it, each book I've written has been a deeper search for God's grace and redemption. In my new book, The Salt Garden, I included a Philip Yancey quote that I ascribe to. It says, "I write as a pilgrim, qualified only by my craving for grace."
Focus: What impact do you hope your books will have on readers?
Cindy Martinusen: Recently, a reader wrote with one of the most meaningful comments I've received saying, "your books challenge me to think in ways I don't tend to think on a daily basis." I guess this comment sums up my hope. Much of my inner life steers toward the search for deeper meaning and for the depths of God's love, so it means a lot that my books would influence a reader to think deeper also.
Focus: You wrote your first epic tale at the advanced age of twelve. Would you mind sharing a little about this story with us?
Cindy Martinusen: Oh, I was the heroine (how egotistical was that?) in an Indiana Jones type undersea adventure - of course I saved the planet! Looking back now, I think it was my attempt to not feel so anonymous, to have a voice. Yet I'm still writing stories that are the search for one treasure or another.
Focus: Before your first book, Winter Passing, was published, you received a number of rejection letters. Can you tell us what helped you persevere during those days?
Cindy Martinusen: The compelling urge to write wouldn't leave me. I prayed again and again that if it wasn't what God wanted, then He would show me so I wouldn't waste my life on some lofty dream. Another rejection letter would arrive, I'd want to give up, but then a new story idea would follow. Then one year at a conference, I accepted the writing call, feeling so strongly that it was God's plan. That helped me not ride the wave of emotion when more rejections came. Writer friends and annual writer's conferences are still huge motivations to not give up (because after getting published that's when many of the writing challenges really begin).
Focus: We've heard tales of starving artists and writers selling their cars to fund their careers. Did writing have a negative impact on you financially, particularly at the beginning of your writing career?
Cindy Martinusen: In my opinion, and my husband's too, pursuing what you're called to do is worth the investment, though thankfully, we're not dependent on my income for our family. (My husband might joke, "Uh, what income?":) With marketing expenses, research trips, continuing education and writer's conferences, my tax form still says: Starving Artist.
Focus: In addition to being an author, you are also a wife, mother of three, and speaker at writing workshops. Do you find it challenging to maintain a balance between writing and family responsibilities?
Cindy Martinusen: Yes! When people act impressed with the above list, I just laugh. It is always a challenge searching for balance, and I've never quite found it. I think this will always be my challenge. Life is busy for everyone; if someone had the potion to change that, I'd be in the line to buy.
Focus: Besides posting comments on your website, how can your readers and fans be an encouragement to you?
Cindy Martinusen: Prayer truly has carried me through many dark seasons. I can never ask for enough.
Focus: Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?
Cindy Martinusen: At last! My opportunity to write everything about myself that no one knows:) Uh, favorite ice cream: coffee heath bar crunch or chocolate peanut butter cup. Hmm, favorite movie: Princess Bride…okay, I'll stop. What I'd really like readers to know is how much I appreciate them, I've prayed for them, and I look forward to an eternity to chat about books and all those answers we'll finally have.