Catherine Palmer lives in Missouri with her husband, Tim, and sons Geoffrey and Andrei. She is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University and has a master’s degree in English from Baylor University. Her first book was published in 1988. Since then she has published more than twenty novels. Catherine has won numerous awards for her writing, including Most Exotic Historical Romance Novel from Romantic Times magazine. Most recently she has been nominated for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Total sales of her novels number more than one million copies.
Favorite Verse: Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT - “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.”
Our Interview with Catherine Palmer
What prompted your decision to become a CBA author?
I come from a long ancestral line of storytellers and preachers, so part of it must be genetic! I was making up stories before I even knew how to write. My parents encouraged and supported my writing from early childhood on. I wrote my first full-length novel right after graduate school. My husband purchased the very first version of a Macintosh, because he, too, had such great faith in me. With this blanket of support and love around me, I ventured into submitting my writing for publication. My first book was published in the general market in 1988. When I discovered the CBA market, I was eager to write fiction that incorporated my faith in Jesus Christ as a part of the lives of my characters. In 1997, my long relationship with Tyndale House began. My fiftieth book was released this February.
How did you and Gary Chapman team up for this series?
Ron Beers and the fiction team at Tyndale had long been eager to use my fiction to illustrate non-fiction principles, but they wanted to find just the right fit in a co-author. When they contracted with Dr. Gary Chapman to write The Four Seasons of Marriage, they recognized the strong similarity in our outlook on faith and in the messages in our writing. But God actually made the match! In the midst of a CBA convention hall packed with thousands of people, I was standing alone in a booth watching a short film. A gentleman walked up and joined me. I glanced over at his nametag and saw the words, “Gary Chapman.” We began talking, and it wasn’t long before we realized that the Lord had brought us together on a similar mission. The people at Tyndale were delighted that we had met, and they quickly formalized our relationship as co-authors of the Four Seasons of Marriage fiction companion series.
How do you communicate during the writing of the book? (email, in person, on the telephone?)
After our initial personal meeting at the conference, Tyndale arranged for me to make a trip to visit Dr. Chapman. My editor and I sat in an office with Gary and his beautiful wife, Karolyn, to discuss the preliminary outlines of four novels. Based on my reading of his book, The Four Seasons of Marriage, I had developed a set of characters and plots. We carefully reviewed all this, and Gary made many suggestions and additions. During the writing of each book, we communicated by phone and email. We also had several other opportunities to talk in person. It has definitely been a delightful process.
How do you both decide who does which sections/subjects?
Dr. Chapman’s non-fiction book formed the foundation for the plots and characters. There are four couples in the series, and one marriage forms the primary focus of each book. All the information about the marriages, their problems, and their road toward healing comes from The Four Seasons of Marriage. As a fiction author, I wrote the text. Dr. Chapman then read it and offered suggestions. I incorporated these into the storyline. By the time each book is complete, it is a blending of his principles about marriage with my fiction skills.
How closely is Winter Turns to Spring based on your personal experience?
My husband, Tim, and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary last year. Winter Turns to Spring focuses on the young newlyweds in the series, so I drew heavily on memories of the early years of my marriage. Brad and Ashley are not all that similar to my husband and me in personality and background, but their struggles are universal. I actually based the character of Brad on a young man I met on an airplane. His wife had left him and fled back to her parents’ home. He was on his way to see her – and he was to be met at the airport by a pastor who was shuttling him straight to a counselor’s office! Though this handsome young guy was dreading his trip to marriage therapy, he poured his heart out to the anonymous lady in the seat beside him – me! What a story he had to tell. That young couple had made almost every possible mistake you could make in marriage. To this day, I wonder how things worked out for him, and I pray for him. When he – in the form of Brad Hanes – walked onto the pages of Winter Turns to Spring, I was glad that Dr. Chapman and I had a great plan for transforming the icy chill of his marriage into a bright springtime of true love.
How long did each book in the Four Seasons series take you to complete?
Each book took me about five months to write.
What is the symbolism for the title the Four Seasons series?
Dr. Chapman asserts that every marriage passes in and out of four distinct seasons – not in any particular order. Spring is a lighthearted time when all is right with the world, everything is in bloom, and your spouse seems like the most wonderful, amazing person imaginable. Summer is a restful period in marriage – a time of comfort, ease, relaxation. You and your spouse feel confident in your love and in the commitment to continue the relationship forever. Fall brings in a chilly wind. These are the times when things look great on the outside. People will say, “Oh, aren’t they the sweetest couple! Look how happy they are!” But the married couple senses that things are not as they should be, and trouble is constantly just under the surface. Winter is when a marriage is cold, lifeless, empty, dead. The couple knows it, and usually so does everyone else. These seasons come and go in every marriage.
In the non-fiction book THE FOUR SEASONS OF MARRIAGE, Dr. Chapman helps couples recognize which season their marriage is in, and he provides excellent strategies they can use to bring their marriage out of Fall or Winter back into Summer or even Spring. In the fiction series, the four primary couples all experience the movement of the four seasons in their marriages – and the reader walks with them through times of darkness and chill into the joy of warm rebirth.
Do you have a favorite character in the Four Seasons series ? Why?
My favorite character – and the one readers have said they love, too – is Cody Goss. He’s a secondary character who appears in the first book, IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING. Throughout the series, he grows and evolves. Cody is based lightly on my son, Andrei. Andrei came to us from a Romanian orphanage, and Cody, too, comes from a background with little education or stimulation and much deprivation. Like Andrei, Cody is autistic. But both demonstrate the amazing power of God – and the love of true friends – to bring about great change and beauty.
How much research did the Four Seasons series take?
The non-fiction book THE FOUR SEASONS OF MARRIAGE provided the primary source material. Each book also called for research into such areas as the Missouri Water Patrol, diabetes, NASCAR, home construction, bead-making, and many other subjects.
Will you be writing any more books with Gary Chapman?
At this point, we don’t have any plans. But we both enjoyed the process so much, and I’m sure we would be open to God’s leading.
Do you prefer to write contemporary fiction?
I love writing historical and contemporary fiction equally. I find each sub-genre to be a lot of fun.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Balance is always my biggest issue. When I was raising my two sons, I was careful to place the needs of my husband and children above my writing deadlines and pressure. Now my husband and I are moving to Atlanta, Georgia, to serve as missionaries with the Mission Service Corps of the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist). We will be living among Hispanic immigrants, and I also will be working with refugees from war-torn countries. So once again, it will be a real challenge to keep my relationship with the Lord and my husband healthy, to maintain my writing schedule, and to be of service on the mission field.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love hearing from readers. I love meeting readers. I write for my readers, and I genuinely love and pray for them. I also enjoy getting to work at home. That blessing allowed me to be with my sons when they were little and to be available during their school years if they were home sick or if there was a snow day. And I get to wear jeans and T-shirts to work every day! I’m also grateful for the opportunity to use the gift and talent God has given me in order to bring glory and honor to His name.
What interesting fact or facts did you learn while writing this series?
I learned a lot about how to keep my 30-year-old marriage healthy and happy. Dr. Chapman’s strategies are wonderful! I also learned more about the Lake of the Ozarks area where I have lived for nearly four years – the people, the organizations, the services, and all the fun that goes on here.
What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?
Since 2004, my husband and I have given away 6,000 free copies of my book, THE LOVED ONE (Tyndale House), to members of our military and their families. I worked with Prison Fellowship for many years at the women’s correctional center in Vandalia, Missouri. I helped lead worship services and also taught a writer’s class. I also served on the PF state board of directors for years. I speak many times a year at all sorts of gatherings of church and civic groups. This past Christmas, I had the joy of selling my books at a community event, with all the proceeds going to our area benevolence center.
What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?
Research always gives my books a big spark of life and realism. I enjoy gathering factual information and filtering it into my fiction. I watch a lot of movies. And I love to read novels when I’m not writing something of my own.
Are there any other new projects on the horizon?
Too many to name! I’ll list a few. My faithful readers have been writing me non-stop to ask about THE COURTEOUS CAD, the third book in my Regency series that began with THE AFFECTIONATE ADVERSARY and THE BACHELOR’S BARGAIN. I’ll be writing CC this fall for an early 2009 release. That story will include characters from my other Regency series, ENGLISH IVY, WILD HEATHER, and SWEET VIOLET.
I’m also currently working on a romantic suspense series with Steeple Hill. Known as the Haven books, these stories are set around an inner city youth center. The first, THREAD OF DECEIT, will be published in May. Next year, STRANGER IN THE NIGHT and a reprint of FATAL HARVEST, both in the Haven series, will be released in May.
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?
My husband. Tim believed in my ability to write long before I ever did. He proved that faith by buying me the first Macintosh computer on the market so I could begin to print out and submit my work. Tim has read and edited every word I’ve written, including this interview!
God provided a steady stream of other people who shaped my writing. My mother started it by making up stories for my sister and me every night. She also read many books to us when we were children. Teachers throughout my life have influenced me – not only with writing techniques but with the encouragement to believe in my skills. Editors and publishers, workshop leaders, and so many others have all played a role.
What message would you like your readers to take away from the Four Seasons series?
Hope! The books are all about the truth that it really is possible to revive a marriage that looks and feels totally dead – and bring it back to a place of warmth and joy. My own marriage bears evidence to this truth, and I wrote my heart’s experiences into the stories. Dr. Chapman’s concepts and strategies provide the means by which the healing can occur, so I pray that readers will absorb them and put them into practice.
What is your greatest achievement?
I don’t believe I have any great achievements. I have tried to be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and as St. Paul wrote, that’s my reasonable service and nothing to boast about.
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
My mission is to lay out in story form the messages of truth God puts in my heart – and to enclose these messages in a form that’s as entertaining as possible. In fact, I pray my books are so loved and enjoyed that readers share them with their family and friends, an act that further spreads God’s message.
What do you do to get away from it all?
At home, I drink tea, listen to instrumental music, and read decorating magazines. If possible, I go to a beach. Sunshine, sand, and water are the best therapy in the world.