Hi Friends, today I am excited to tell you about Cathy Gohlke’s latest novel, Until We Find Home! This moving WW2 story will capture your attention from the first page and keep you up until the wee hours to see what will happen to her characters. Cathy and I traveled together to England’s Lake District on a research trip, including a visit to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, which is featured in Until We Find Home. I know you’ll enjoy reading her thoughtful answers to the questions below. For more info and for links to purchase your copy, visit Cathy’s website or click on the cover.
Welcome Cathy! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about Until We Find Home with us!
1. What inspired you to write Until We Find Home?
Cathy: Alarmed by the plight of young refugees fleeing gangs in Mexico to cross United States borders, and heart heavy for victims and refugees worldwide who’ve suffered and continue to suffer under oppressive regimes, I looked for a moment in history to tell their tale as I wish it could play out. I didn’t have to look far.
The Kindertransport of 1938-1940, brought 10,000 predominantly Jewish children to Great Britain for refuge from Nazi oppression. Accounts abound of men and women who rescued children through resistance, often at great cost to themselves—even life itself. But what happened next? What happened when those children entered countries of refuge? I wondered about the average person and what role they might have played once the children were out of immediate danger. . . and what role we might play in the world’s need today.
World News reported that in 2015, 51% of the world’s refugees were children. Scripture tells us to care for widows and orphans. How do we do that from where we live, and as Christians, how do we reconcile this directive with the world’s reality and our need for safe borders?
Characters’ personalities were in inspired, in part, by people I know (the youngest character, Aimee, was inspired by my young granddaughter). Some of the children’s antics (embarrassed to say), and some of the older characters’ struggles were inspired by my own life stories—including Miranda’s journey with cancer. Bluebell Wood’s secret garden and many of the books and poems Claire loves in the story are based on books and poems I grew up knowing and loving—thanks especially to my dear grandmother, who read to me.
This novel embodies a great many things important to me. It is, in some ways, my victory book through battling cancer.
Carrie: I loved the personal touches you added to the book, especially your love for classic children’s stories, C. S. Lewis, and Beatrix Potter!
Cathy at Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm.
2. Can you tell us about the historical research that went into writing this novel? Did you learn anything new that surprised you?
Cathy: Knowing I would set this story during WWII in England’s Lake District, in 2014 Carrie and I traveled to England and Scotland where we both did research for our book projects.
For me, we travelled to Windermere and the Lake District to research Beatrix Potter and her renown Hill Top Farm, the poetry and world of Wordsworth, and to learn just what happened to refugees and evacuees in the District during WWII.
As a result I learned more about the Sunderland Flying Boat Factory and its village of Calgarth, camps for German prisoners of war, including Grizedale Hall, wartime homes for British evacuees and foreign refugees, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the famous spy pencil, the after-war arrival of the Boys of Windermere (children deeply in need of rehabilitation who’d survived Europe’s concentration camps), and so much more.
I ran my fingers over the desk where Wordsworth had carved his name as a boy, visited his burial ground, and fell in love with that poet’s fields of golden daffodils, the heady perfume of lilacs, the glory of woodlands spread in sapphire carpets of bluebells, and newborn lambs tottering across the fells, butting tiny heads against their mother’s sides in search of lunch. We ferried across Lake Windermere, ate Grassmere’s famous gingerbread, and took tea with jam and bread. Nowhere is the grass greener or the air purer than in the Lake District in springtime.
Beatrix Potter Heelis’s Hill Top Farm, with its rooms and their contents reminiscent of her books was a real treat. During WWII, Hill Top Farm housed British evacuees.
Our research trip culminated when we joined a ten-day tour of Scotland’s “Highlands, Islands and Gardens,” guided by Liz Curtis Higgs. Forty ladies followed in Liz’s wake as she inspired us through Bible study each morning, then guided us through magnificent Scotland by day. As a result of that trip, I could not help but include in my story a good Scottish doctor, as well as memories of the terrible feud between the MacDonalds and Campbells. In regard to that feud, we visited Glencoe and the site of that terrible massacre.
That was the travel portion of my research. Internet investigations and the reading of books, old and new, continued for months. Included in those books were wartime diaries, especially those compiled from Britain’s Mass Observation Project, day by day histories of the war waged against Britain, journals and letters from Beatrix Potter Heelis, journals, letters and biographies of C. S. Lewis, the books and notes of C. S. Lewis, the history of Glencoe, biographies and history of Sylvia Beach and details of Shakespeare and Company, the American bookstore in Paris, studies of Europe’s child refugees housed in Britain, and so much more. Perhaps the most fun was found in rereading childhood classics.
Carrie: That was such a wonderful trip to England! What a treat to travel together and share those experiences!
Cathy and Carrie at Tyntesfield.
3. A number of classic authors are mentioned in Until We Find Home, Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, particularly. How have these authors and others inspired you in your life and writing?
Cathy: Beatrix Potter, her stories and illustrations, have been dearly loved since childhood. To me, it was as if she spoke the language of children and animals. I seemed to me that if she could learn their language, I could learn the language of my characters, too, and tell their stories in ways readers would understand. I loved learning that the stories and illustrations of Beatrix Potter influenced C. S. Lewis and his brother as children and inspired them to write the story of and illustrate an entire kingdom. It felt as if they—and I—rode the current of a continuing stream, a stream that brought readers and writers together.
C. S. Lewis is a voice of reason. He came to faith not through Scripture or through an appreciation of divine design in nature. He was not born with an innate faith. In fact, he was an atheist that struggled against faith. But he came to belief in God—to Theism—through reason. Coming to belief in Jesus as Lord and Redeemer was a separate journey. I’ve known many people who seemed to have been born without faith. It is something I observe, but don’t fully understand. I wanted to highlight Lewis’s writings in the hope that those who believe will be encouraged, and in the hope that those who do not believe will be encouraged to consider his reasoning. Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity, describes some of his journey through reason, and was taken from his WWII radio broadcasts that began at the time Until We Find Home takes place. I was able to include some from his earlier book, The Problem of Pain, in this story, and those things help in Claire’s journey, as they did in mine.
It’s important to me to highlight the writings of classic Christian writers for a new generation, to share with others the blessing those books have been in my own life.
Carrie: Introducing a new generation to these believers and their writing is such an important aspect of all your books. I love that so much!
Cathy and Carrie in a field of bluebells in Scotland.
Thank you, Cathy! What a treat it is for me to share in the creative journey of this novel. I’m sure readers will be delighted with the story and it will give them much to consider. It’s the kind of book to savor and enjoy in a cozy spot this winter.
You can connect with Cathy through her beautiful website where you’ll find links to purchase her books, photos from her travels, and interesting information about her writing journey. It’s well worth your time, so pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a visit! You’ll also find Cathy on Facebook where she shares interesting and encouraging posts.
Leave a comment and answers one or more of the following questions and your name will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Until We Find Home. (US mailing addresses only.) Which of Cathy’s books have you read and enjoyed? If you could travel to England what would you like to see? What’s your favorite classic children’s story? Giveaway runs 1/16 – 1/19. I’ll email the winner.
Until next time, Happy Reading!