Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Prelude to Christmas: Cathe's story about Snow Angels

Welcome Cathe Swanson to the blog today! She's a sweet person and a talented author. Today she's here to talk with you about her holiday book, Snow Angels via an author interview. 

Here's the book blurb for Snow AngelsWhen Lisa Marsh is roped into serving Thanksgiving dinner at the local community center, she encounters hundreds of children, lively teenagers, stubbornly independent veterans, eccentric elderly people, and a particularly rude and scruffy homeless man named Pete. The evening ends in disaster, but when her best friend challenges her to reach out and help other people, Lisa decides to take on the project of reforming Pete – whether he likes it or not. 

Her plan is simple: Help him find a job and become respectable. All he needs is a helping hand and some guidance. And a shave. Definitely, a shave.

Pete is willing to work, especially if it means spending time with the pretty volunteer, but her tactless determination to “reform” him makes him dig in his heels. Her creative ideas for employment become increasingly outrageous, but every time he tries to put an end to her meddling, she charms him with her good intentions and willingness to serve others.

Lisa finds herself unaccountably attracted to her vagabond protégé and irresistibly entangled in the lives of the other people she meets at the community center. Before she knows how to stop it, her one small service project snowballs into an extraordinary Christmas ministry that just may change her life forever.

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Enjoy the interview with Cathe!
Interview with Cathe Swanson, author of Snow Angels:

Your heroine Lisa seems very strong-headed but sweet. Tell us how you created her character.

A good friend of mine survived many years of a difficult marriage, and a counselor told her she had a civilian form of PTSD. That diagnosis fascinated me. As a military wife and mother, I am aware of the realities of PTSD, but I hadn’t associated it with trauma experienced by civilians.

At the beginning of Snow Angels, Lisa Marsh suffers from crippling anxiety. When she was younger, she was energetic, fun and perhaps a little Type-A. She was full of ideas and was willing to work hard to make things happen. She carried others along in her enthusiasm. The circumstances of the death of her husband left her shattered, however, and the book is about her healing as she learns to accept God’s gracious forgiveness.

Who convinced Lisa Marsh to serve Thanksgiving dinner at the local community center? How does that inciting incident further the story?

Lisa’s sister-in-law, Claire, is the one who set up that situation. It wasn’t a matter of convincing her, though; Lisa was pressed into service as an emergency replacement for another volunteer, and she just couldn’t get out of it.  She thought she could push her way through it and never return, but in reality (well, in my fictional reality), it was the start of her healing.

Tell us about the homeless man name Pete. What does he look like? Smell like? Act like? What draws him to Lisa?

Pete is a genuine guy. What you see is what you get – except for the facial hair. He just can’t grow a decent beard.  As for smell... He works with street people, especially men, who smoke and drink. At one point early in the book, he gets doused with a bottle of booze, and that smell is hard to get out of a heavy winter coat.

He is tall and gangly, and not particularly handsome. He has shaggy dark blond hair and blue eyes, a rectangular head, mobile lips and a fair complexion. He has a marked limp. When he talks, he describes things with his hands. Not waving them around, but illustrating his conversation. Pete is attractive because of his intensity. When he is with a person, they have his full attention. He treats each person with a respect that protects their dignity.

Pete doesn’t like Lisa at all for the first part of the book, but he reluctantly acknowledges her good intentions. Her patronizing attitude offends him. He knows he needs to tell her the truth, but every time he tries, she annoys him all over again and he doesn’t do it. As she heals from the wounds of her traumatic past, however, he gets glimpses of the girl she used to be and starts to enjoy her company.

Describe Lisa and Pete’s meet-cute.

Lisa and Pete’s first meeting at the Unity Plenkiss Community Center sets the tone for their early relationship. She doesn’t want to be there and is barely staving off an anxiety attack, and he’s in a hurry, blaming himself for wasting food and needing to get back to the delivery of meals to shut-ins. He’s rude. She’s judgmental.  There is no instant attraction. Lisa and Pete are very human characters.

What or who compels Lisa on her mission to find a “decent job” for Pete and to make him look “respectable”? How does her special project transform into a Christmas ministry?

Lisa’s sister-in-law, Claire, pressures her into agreeing to do some kind of service project as a memorial to Lisa’s dead husband. “Fixing Pete” seems like a good short-term project with a reasonable chance of success.  Like many short-term projects, though, it snowballs. He is the one who first involves other people, and she has to change her small plan to include them. Other needs are brought to her attention, and other helpers come forward. The burgeoning ministry helps Lisa regain her confidence as she is reminded that she does have the skills to manage such projects.

What is it about Pete that Lisa finds attractive and leads her to getting to know him better?

Lisa likes the way Pete interacts with others (except for Mary Henders). She is impressed by his consideration for other people’s self-respect. She sees that he works hard and genuinely cares about others, so when she learns his true identity, she also acknowledges her own part in the deception.

What was the reason that you wrote this story? Was there any inspiration from a real-life situation? Explain.

The “misunderstanding” part of the story was inspired by No Shave November. As the mother of three sons, I am fairly familiar with this event. When they were younger, they weren’t very good at growing facial hair, so they just ended up looking scruffy!

The inspiration for the setting was the Milwaukee Rescue Mission and similar ministries. They treat people with respect, helping them preserve their dignity in difficult circumstances.

It’s easy to start seeing “the poor” or “Vietnam vets” or “the homeless” or “the elderly” as demographic groups instead of individual people like ourselves. I am pro-life, and that means valuing each individual life, as God does, regardless of socio-economic status.

Lisa’s condition was inspired, as I said, by the idea of PTSD in the civilian population. I researched it and learned that it’s quite common, with symptoms similar to those experienced by military veterans. For Lisa, that realization was a step toward healing.

What was your favorite scene to write in Snow Angels? Why?

The scene in which they put up the Christmas decorations for Mr. and Mrs. Wilde, of course! It was fun coming up with ideas for tacky lawn ornaments.

What was the most difficult scene to create in this story? Why?

Without doubt, it was the scene with Tally. Women have been serving in the military for a long time, but – I am ashamed to admit – I hadn’t really thought about them having the same problems we see in male veterans. The number of female homeless veterans is appalling. And just as in the male population, many suffer some degree of PTSD. I wanted to show Tally as an individual, though, and not just a statistic, so I gave her an ordinary, healthy childhood and then a horrible wartime experience.  She is a good foil for Lisa.

What lesson are you trying to teach your readers through this book?

I hope that readers will come away with a greater awareness of people as individuals, but I also hope people will remember that God does eventually redeem the years the locusts have eaten. Today is a blip on the timeline of eternity. I don’t want to minimize pain and suffering. Our hearts should be broken for our hurting neighbors, but for those who trust in Christ, it’s not the end of their story.

Is there anything about your story or characters that taught you, as the author, a lesson? If yes, please share the lesson.

People who live in poverty or other hardship need to be treated with courtesy and respect, to help them maintain their dignity. Dignity isn’t the same as pride. Pride is a sin, and humility is a virtue, but being humiliated is devastating.  This is especially true for elderly people, as they become increasingly dependent on other people.  

Thanks for the interview!

Thank you, Alexis!

Do you have any closing thoughts to share?

I hope you enjoy Snow Angels. I know it swings from hilarity to heartbreak and back again without much notice, but life is like that. If you know someone who is struggling with the issues I wrote about, check out the list of resources in the back of the book.

My first full-length book in the Great Lakes collection is available for preorder now and will be released on Valentine’s Day! Baggage Claim is set about two years before Snow Angels. In it, you will meet a younger Phoebe and some characters who will reappear in the next Unity Plenkiss book.

Snow Angels is my very first published book, and I’ve been amazed and blessed by the response from readers. Please feel free to send me a note about the book or issues in it. Meet me on Facebook and other social media, and please sign up to receive my email newsletter. God bless you!

Author Bio:
Cathe Swanson lives in Wisconsin with her husband of 32 years. They enjoy spending time with their family and being outdoors, kayaking, hiking, birdwatching and fishing, but summer is short in Wisconsin, so it’s important to have indoor hobbies, too. Cathe has been a quilter and teacher of quiltmaking for over 25 years, and she enjoys just about any kind of creative work, especially those involving fiber or paper. 

Her family is growing steadily; she and her husband had three sons, and those boys all grew up and married delightful women and started producing grandchildren: three boys and two girls so far, and two more arriving in the spring!

The long Wisconsin winters are perfect for writing and reading books! Cathe enjoys writing stories with eccentric characters of all ages. Her books will make you laugh and make you cry – and then make you laugh again.

Buy Cathe’s book: Snow Angels is available in paperback on Amazon, and as part of the Christmas Lights novella collection for Kindle.
Connect with Cathe:
Amazon Author Page -


  1. Of course I love to make snow angels! But at 70 years old I probably would lay in my snow angel unable to get up and then freeze to death laying on my lovely snow creation. :-)

    1. Lol. You are funny, Grandma D! :) But please be safe out there in the snow. Maybe let your grandchildren create the snow angels for you?

  2. Cathe, I don't want a twitter account, but I cannot get past that entry without it. How can I get the to other entries?

    1. Dear Grandma D: Rafflecopter already recorded your entry. You are officially in the running to WIN Cathe's book, "Snow Angels"! :) Don't worry about anything else. Thanks for visiting my blog. God bless you.

  3. Love snow angels. The book and the activity.

    1. Snow angels are beautiful! :) Thanks for visiting my blog today! :)

  4. Yes, when we get snow..which isn't often, we love it!

    1. Awe, so happy that you do get snow every now and then, Marleen Viola! :) Thanks for visiting my blog. God bless you! :)

  5. I loved the boook! Cathe you are a great writer!!

    1. Happy to hear that you loved her book, Lori! Cathe's writing is captivating! :)

  6. I am not a fan of being cold and wet so I really only enjoy snow angels in theory! :) I did really enjoy this book though. I'm looking forward to giving it a re-read soon!

    1. Hi, Tina! Winter isn't my favorite season either because of the cold but snow is so beautiful when it first falls down from the sky and makes the outdoors look like a lovely Winter Wonderland! :) Thanks for visiting my blog. God bless you. Merry Christmas! :)

  7. I love this book!!!! As for real snow angels... I would love making them if it didn't involve getting cold!!!

    1. Dear Andrea,
      I can feel your enthusiasm through your words! :) So happy that you loved reading Cathe's book. Snow angels are fun to make if you don't mind the cold. Merry Christmas! :) God bless you.

  8. *Love* Thank you all! I have been so blessed by these encouraging words.