A Conversation with Cathy Gohlke

INSPYs 2016-Cathy Gohlke Feature

Good afternoon, INSPYs readers. We’re welcoming  author Cathy Gohlke today. Cathy is the author of novels like Saving Amelie, Promise Me This, and this year, her novel, Secrets She Kept (Tyndale) made the final in the 2016 INSPYs shortlist in the General Fiction category.

Below Cathy shares about the inspiration of Secrets She Kept, and gives us some insight into her favorite story to write in the two-person narrative of the novel.


The secret a mother was forbidden to share . . . the consequences a daughter could not redeem—but will risk everything in her attempt.Book - Secrets She Kept

All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah unlocks secrets of her mother’s mysterious past, including the discovery of a grandfather living in Germany.

Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father, ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, demands a marriage for his daughter to help advance his career. But Lieselotte is in love—and her beloved Lukas secretly works against the Reich. How far will her father go to achieve his goal?

Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who hides wartime secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past, and how their legacy will shape her future. – Goodreads

Amazon | Goodreads


INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

INSPYs: What inspired Secrets She Kept? Secrets She Kept was conceived while researching WWII and touring Germany. I learned that WWII bred many deep secrets in families—secrets of good deeds unrewarded and secrets of evil deeds never discovered.

But I wondered, how did Holocaust survivors reclaim their lives and live beyond the tragedies of the war when anti-Semitism still existed? How did perpetrators and their families live with the horrors they’d inflicted? Were they sorry for what they’d done? Did they attempt to hide their wartime activities? Did they confess or try in any way to redeem the wrongs they’d committed? Is there atonement? How do Germans today reconcile what they or their nation did during WWII?

Those questions made me ask, too, how do we confront the far-reaching consequences of our actions or those of our family members?

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian, who, with her sister, father and many family members, helped Jews escape Nazi persecution during the war, inspired an answer in her book, The Hiding Place. I’ve been fascinated and convicted since my teenage years by Corrie’s courageous and triumphant faith, and the frank honesty of her journey.

INSPYs: Which character/story did you most enjoy writing about in Secrets She Kept? Lieselotte. During my research I walked Lieselotte’s paths in Berlin before and during the war, and through Ravensbruk Concentration Camp. I tramped through the rain from a train to the camp at Sachsenhausen and imagined what it meant to be Jewish or considered a political criminal, yanked from your life, taken away by train and thrown into prison . . . not just any prison, but one of terrible persecution.

Creating Lieselotte and imagining her life, the daring and courage it took to help Jews right under the nose of her Nazi loving father and brother, the grievous loss of her mother and the man she loved so dearly, and the terrible sacrifice she made for love of her daughter . . . I feel as if I know her, as if she and her journey are part of me.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

+ What are you listening to? “Favourite Wartime Songs—The Songs That Lifted a Nation’s Heart,” produced by English Heritage. It’s a wonderful collection of nostalgic and well-known British songs and dance music from WWII that I found at the Imperial War Museum in London. A note on the back of the CD case reads, “Tunes that we all remember from a time we will never forget.” Can you guess the period for my current wip? : )

+ What are you watching? My brother and sister-in-law introduced me to “Coalhouse at War,” a series filmed in Wales. I’m hooked! It’s a fascinating reality show about daily life in a Welsh coal town during WWII. Three modern-day families and a group of young men “drafted” to work the mines live, work and go to school just as they would have during WWII.

Men, women and children deal with blackout, rations, deprivations, evacuees from bombed towns, raising animals for food, air raids, Home Guard training, coal mining, the threat of invasion, dances and sing-songs for fun, weekly chapel, and all that went with life in those days. It is the only reality show I’ve ever seen that I would love to participate in—although I’m not keen on the idea of eating sheep’s tongue. : {Cathy Gohlke's Reading Table

+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I’m rereading some of C. S. Lewis’s works, especially those things written prior to and during WWII. Many of his works were published or broadcast in different forms than the final books we have today. I’ve just finished reading Mere Christianity which is a compilation of his WWII radio broadcasts, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, and am now reading The Weight of Glory. I’ve loved reading the Boxen stories he and his brother, Warnie, wrote and illustrated for fun as a children (inspired by beloved stories and illustrations of Beatrix Potter).

Daily I read my Bible. This year I’m enjoying Tyndale’s NLT and the new Tree of Life Version. Dwelling Places, by Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a favorite new devotional, as is Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent. Two wonderfully engrossing novels I’ve read and reread recently are Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence and Carrie Turansky’s Refuge at Highland Hall.


Thanks so much for joining us, Cathy. It was a pleasure to learn more about Secrets She Kept, and which storyline was your favorite to write.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Cathy Gohlke Author-Photo

Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award–winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Promise Me This, William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award and was listed by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2008.

Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, make their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland.

Author Website | Facebook

  • Staci

    Secrets She Kept was such a beautiful blending of two different time periods. This novel had me turning pages to see what would happen next for Hannah and Lieselotte. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was how thought provoking it was. As Cathy mentions in the interview, the reader was forced to consider if there was any guilt associated with not helping Jews. The novel also brought out the question of antisemitism existing after the end of the war. Secrets She Kept was a five star read.

  • Carrie Turansky

    Wonderful interview! Secrets She Kept is such a powerful story that deeply touched my heart. I can’t wait to read Cathy’s next book!

  • Rebecca Tellez

    Great interview. Cathy’s stories about Nazi Germany and the lives of the people affected by the evil touch deep places in my soul as my great grandparents came from Prussia and, we believe, may have been Jewish. They were very secretive about their past and never would allow the German language to be spoken in their home. I wonder how much of their lives might have paralleled Cathy’s characters.
    Secrets She Kept had me up late turning pages and losing myself in the story.