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  • Release Date: Oct 1, 2009
  • Publisher: Bethany House
  • Pages: 316

Cindy Dagnan Interview

1. This is your second novel, and it is completely different from your first, which dealt with a widow’s untimely loss. How did you choose the themes of unfaithfulness and forgiveness in the setting of a daughter’s upcoming wedding?

Who hasn’t needed forgiveness for something? Who hasn’t needed to forgive? It has always struck me as terribly sad, the pain we feel when we are in need of forgiveness.  And I’m horrified by the wreck we make of our lives when we withhold forgiveness. I’ve written articles and given speeches about both the need for and the need to forgive. It was probably inevitable that I would write about it in a novel as well. It is basic to life in God. The cross is in response to both: You need forgiveness; you are forgiven.

Unfaithfulness is an interesting issue. My husband and I have discussed the topic of unfaithfulness through the years, and much of what we believe, without my reiterating in this small space, is all over the book. What an audience may not see is that I really have explored, or at least touched on, the idea of what constitutes unfaithfulness. My husband and I believe there are many ways to be unfaithful to those we love.

The wedding week? Beats me. Truly. I have no recollection of how that framework came to me. However, I think it works well. I think it would be good for every bride-to-be to think on the issues discussed in Things Worth Remembering. So many end up hurting their mate because they didn’t determine not to.

2. My goodness, I love the mother’s tucking-in time ritual with her girl, Maisey! It made me jealous, since I have four girls, and if I spent an hour tucking in each one, I’d never sleep.  What were some of your favorite tucking-in rituals with your own two girls?

You have four girls, not one, and I have two girls, not one. An hour per child hardly seems feasible when you have more than one child. Kendy had only Maisey, and was lucky to have her, so for her an hour was a possibility, and it was wonderful. So much can happen at bedtime. Finally the distractions are at bay, and you can fully give yourselves to one another. I couldn’t recommend anything more.

My daughters say I tucked them in every night. I can’t vouch for every night. I’m sure that it was a general rule however. It was only a ritual in the respect that I did come in every night and chat a bit, or pray a bit, or read a bit, and then cover them up, kiss their sweet faces, and turn out their lights. Many times the chatting, praying, or reading took place among all three of us and then they went to their own rooms for the rest.

We laugh even now because the first time Stacey came home with her husband and everyone was getting ready for bed, she called from her room, “Mom, come tuck us in!” That was a hoot. I kissed her goodnight and turned out their light. They were on their own after that.

Each of my daughters has three children, and they have continued that tradition with them, only more extravagantly I think. It bonds in the most incredible way, and I can’t tell you how sweetly and deeply God’s truth are transferred, not only in praying with your children but in reading to them and chatting with them.

You, dear Cindy, though it might not make it into this “interview” but should, do the same thing, just in different ways. You have great family times, and taking each of the girls on your speaking engagements is such a sweet idea, time with their mom they will never forget.

I’m not a legalist in any sense of the word (please, God)—bed time might not work for some people at all. Just find some quality time to talk to and with your children, or there will be some price to pay.

3. Some of the “things worth remembering” in this novel are the biblical concepts that we are all made of dust and prone to stumbling and sinning. Additionally, we all need forgiveness, from a holy God and from each other. That Psalm is critical in healing the Laswell marriage. What is another of your favorite, worth remembering concept?

Well, my goodness, it’s in my first novel, Tender Grace—the abiding presence of God, his abundant grace and love. “For he hath said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’” That verse is the theme of my life. It (are you listening Tony? Girls?) should go on my grave marker. I’m working on a third novel now, and one of the two main characters needs to grasp emotionally what she accept intellectually, that God is watching out for her. Consider the Lilies is the working title. 

4. Your original books, Framing a Rainbow and Because Love Welcomed Me, are non-fiction. Was there a catalyst for turning to fiction writing?

I wrote those two non-fiction books twenty years ago because College Press asked me to. It was in my comfort zone because I had written articles and taught composition for so long. Fiction was another thing altogether. But several years ago I was challenged by a respected and talented editor at a writing conference to write fiction. He saw in my non-fiction writing a flair, I guess, for story. I laughed for years at the mere thought. I imagined that anyone could learn the skill to write non-fiction, but that fiction was more art than skill, an ability you’re born with or gifted with, not something you could learn. But then I thought I would give it a try—it was an act of faith. I read hundreds of novels (or so it seems) and many book on writing fiction and then began. It has been stimulating beyond what I can say to offer my meager talents to the Lord in this way and to do what I thought I could not do. I couldn’t recommend it more.

5. Daisies play an integral role in this story. What is your favorite flower?

This will surprise you, Cindy. I don’t have one!!! Tony brought me home the most beautiful bouquet for our 43rd anniversary in August, and it was full of all kinds of flowers: the palest, biggest pale pink rose in the middle of irises, daisies, tulips, and all kinds of things I couldn’t name. It was stunning, and I loved it. I love wildflowers in the countryside, some of which are probably weeds. Like my husband, I love daffodils and can almost quote Wordsworth’s amazing poem about them (featured in fact in the book I’m working on now). I’ve never met a flower I didn’t like (pardon me, Will Rodgers). I do wish I had a gardener and could walk through my gardens every morning and evening. 

6. I love the character names, Kennedy and Maize. In the story you explain the reasons for the naming. In real life, how did you come to choose those names?

I’m glad you liked their names. I did too. When you work on a book as long as I have to you’d better like their names. I hoped the names would be likeable and memorable, and I thought they were. I can’t say how I got Kendy’s, except than when I realized her birth year, it came to me. Maisey’s I wanted for sure. When my husband and I drive to our home town of Muskogee, Oklahoma to see family, we go through a tiny, tiny town called Maize. I always pronounced it not in one syllable (which is correct) but two, like Maisey. And I told Tony that I’d name a girl that if I had another one. I like it, so did he. So I used it for this book, which worked even better since I set it in Indiana. (To my way of thinking anyway.)

7. Why do you think so many women have a “Clay Laswell” moment in their lives? What advice would you give to those young brides on remaining faithful (as far as how best to accomplish that, in a culture that doesn’t seem to care)?

Well, Cindy, that’s a book topic, I’m afraid. And there must be many books out there on it. I think being aware would be terribly helpful, and being smart enough to disconnect from any situation where there is an attraction. At one point in the book, Kendy says she could have told Clay she didn’t want a ride or to give him one, but he might hear in that subtle rejection what he needed to know. She also knew there were places in the timeline in which she could have averted “disaster.” It is always that way. Christians believe the Holy Spirit is our helper, and he is. He really will try to intervene. Why we slough him off is a mystery.

Actually you could develop a whole list of things you can do to keep this from happening by going back through the novel when you’ve finished the story.

If people would pour what energy they have into their marriages or into things that matter instead of looking for inappropriate affirmation, distraction, and titillation, they would have no “torments of memory.” They would have satisfaction and joy. (I’m not talking about abusive marriages—that’s another topic altogether, but unfaithfulness is not an answer for that either.)

8. Who helped you pick out your wedding dress?

Ah, an easy answer! My mom helped me. And I helped each of my daughters pick out her dress. I remember when we were picking out Leanne’s, who got married first. I picked up a beautiful veil, and said, “Stacey, you need this!” She said, “Mom, I need a boyfriend!” We had fun, and my heart really did break for Kendy in that she missed out on that all around. But I’m glad she had the sense in the end to dwell on what she did have, not on what she didn’t have.

9. Until the “incident,” Maisey and her mom, Kendy, have an amazingly wonderful mother-daughter relationship. What are your top three tips for moms who are raising daughters?

Get on Google and find an old copy of Framing a Rainbow!  But for now, here you go~

(1) My husband thinks the most important thing I did was talk to and listen to our girls. We talked at bed time, but also my job allowed me to be home before or not long after they got home from school. I’d always say, “Girls, come share you lives with me!” It was our joke, but they did it, even when they had company. Their friends could hardly believe it. Leanne had a girl spend the night once and I went in to talk to them before I went to bed, a kind of tucking in. Christi and I talked long after Leanne fell asleep. We were discussing marriage, and Leanne just couldn’t keep her eyes open. She rolled over and told Christi we had talked about this before and she needed to get some sleep.

(2) We also told them why we had certain rules. As I said, we weren’t legalists, and we wanted them to understand the reason for our choices. Along this line, one of the most important things I told them I put in this novel: “Make choices that will let you sleep in peace.”

(3) Enjoy them no end! I was immature beyond words when I got married and when I had kids, but my mom always said I had one thing going for me with our daughters: I enjoyed them so much. One of our key phrases to this day is: You delight me! And the phrase I put in my dedication: You are our beloveds. We laughed a lot (you have that in common with me, Cindy). Tony enjoyed them too. He especially enjoyed them doing chores with him outside. They swore they were the only girls who had to mow the lawn with their dad and rake leaves, etc. Tony thought it was immensely good for them. I, too, was no martyr mom. We all worked together, and then we all had a chance to rest and play. I feel sorry for kids who grow up not sharing in the community of family. I think we do kids a disservice. I know of a mom who cuts up the meat for a healthy 13 year old and is appalled that my grandchildren have to do chores. My daughters learned that little trick from their parents. They had to tell me where I keep the sweeper when they left home.

10. Do you have a special writing routine or ritual? What factors and/or persons most encourage you in your writing? What are you working on next?

How I wish I had a writing routine or ritual! It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m answering your questions. When I have an assignment, I’m all over it. That’s from 31 years of teaching. I don’t do late work!  When my editors ask for a revision of some kind, they seem to be shocked by how quickly I get on it and please that it exceeds their expectations. I’ve been warped by occupation. But when something isn’t due, like the third novel I’m working on, I don’t have a routine. When we’re not gone or don’t have company, I have an ideal I’d like to implement: I’d get my exercise, devotion time, breakfast, house righting and emails done by eleven (I’m slow) and write from 11 until 4 each day. Then have an hour for calls to/from the girls and to my house-bound Mom, dinner and the evening with Tony. But while I often write four or five hours a day, and sometimes several hours at night, too often there is no schedule. For example, if I turn on the computer for “just a second” after I’ve had a bowl of cereal, I might be sitting there in my robe typing away at noon!!! I hate that. But I console myself that either way it gets done. I never did in 30 years of teaching get my papers done the minute I got them so I could relax until the next sets were due. Instead I stared at them and groaned inwardly at the work that awaited me and graded them at the last minute. But I like to think I graded them well and the kids got them when I said they would with few exceptions. But not to worry, next week, I’m starting my 11-4 writing routine. Then maybe I can finish that third novel, which is what I’m working on next. 

11. You and your husband Tony have been married for many years. What was your most memorable anniversary?

We’ve been married 43 years. I asked him this question, and he had the same answer I did, even though we took a Mediterranean cruise the summer of our 40th anniversary, but not in August. The answer we both came up with was our 25th. We went to the Seattle, Washington/Victoria, British Columbia area. Friends met us after our actual anniversary, August 5, but on that evening, we had dinner in the restaurant (one that turns and eventually provides a 360 degree view) on top of the space needle in Seattle. We went a little earlier than our reservation, but they happened to have a table, and it happened to be by the windows, and we happened to be facing the ocean while the sun was setting, and by the time we were facing the city it was dark and the lights were spectacular. We absolutely loved that evening. It was a great anniversary. (Neither of us really has a romantic bone in our body, but we are both pleased by such things as a sunset and the lights of a city from atop a space needle.)

12. As the mother of four girls, I especially adored the characters of Marcus, Maisey’s fiancé. Was this a dream composite of the ideal future husband for your girls when they were growing up?

I’ve written only two novels, but I’m sure I’ve been accused of having some characters that are too perfect. But in the context of this story, Marcus has few if any flaws. In another story they might surface, such as they are, but not in this one and I can’t understand why some people insist they “must.” I’ve always tended to see or have tried to see the good in people and overlook their weaknesses. I know we’re children of dust.  But truly, I have two of the sweetest sons-in-law you could imagine. Perfect? Not any more so than Tony and I are, or anyone else, but they are delightful, and they are such complements for our daughters—they help make each other happy and emotionally and spiritually healthy. And on top of that, they love Tony and me, sweetly and tenderly. We know this is an incredible blessing.

 

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