Growing up, Cecelia Dowdy entertained herself watching soap operas and reading romance novels. Now she puts all that research to good use as an author of contemporary and historical romances. She’s one of four contributors to the historical romance collection Teacher’s Heart: 4 Historical Stories of Learning to Love (Barbour Books).
Cecelia also recently re-released her classic Hallmark-movie-style romance Bittersweet Dreams (Divine Desserts), the latest book in her Candy Beach series:
Karen Brown’s fiancé was the treasurer of their large megachurch. After embezzling thousands of dollars, he disappeared with his beautiful assistant. Reeling from shock, Karen moves back in with her mom. When she arrives, she meets Keith, the blunt next-door neighbor who knows way too much about her past. Keith Baxter—plumber and future preacher—is enamored with Karen. Can he sweeten Karen’s mood with his homemade candy and convince her that not all men are dishonorable?
In this exclusive interview, the author shares some behind-the-scenes info about the book, reveals all the elements that came together for the Candy Beach series, and explains why she always puts her characters through emotional angst.
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What inspired the story in BITTERSWEET DREAMS?
Actually, Bittersweet Dreams is an old book, originally titled Bittersweet Memories. It was published by Barbour as part of their Heartsong Presents line and I was granted the rights back to the story recently.
I’ve always been interested in financial matters and honesty. I wondered what it would have been like to be engaged to someone and then then discover that they are dishonest and steal money from the church. How would one deal with that kind of pain? How does one move forward with their life after being hurt by someone that one loved so deeply?
What’s the overarching idea or theme behind your Candy Beach series?
Candy and faith. I want to inspire people to have a deep faith in God as they find themselves falling in love. I’ve always been a fan of sweet treats, which is why I chose candy as the theme to all of my stories. I also love beautiful beaches. It just seemed like it’d be awesome to put all of those elements together to make The Candy Beach series.
How does BITTERSWEET DREAMS fit into that bigger picture of the series? (I see you already have #4 up for pre-order–how many books are planned for the series?)
Yes, #4 is up for pre-order and it’s called Coffee and Kisses. Book #5 is tentatively titled Rocky Road Dreams. I’m not sure how many books will be in the series. My last series, The Bakery Romance Series, had seven books, plus book #0, which makes eight books.
Tell us about Karen and Keith. What about these two characters made you want to build a book around them?
Karen has been hurt by her fiancé. He’s cheated on her and he’s stolen money from the church. He’s missing, and she’s upset when some church members mistakenly blame her for her ex-fiancé’s indiscretions.
I just thought about how that would be a strong conflict, to overcome being hurt by someone who was admired in your church circle. Then to be judged by Christians to whom you thought were your friends…I wanted to figure out how a woman could get past that and move on with her life.
Keith wants to be a pastor and he’s estranged from his identical twin brother. Part of their estrangement stems from a monetary issue. Keith wants to bring people closer to God and as he pursues a pastor-ship, he attempts to rectify his relationship with his alcoholic twin brother. I wanted to see how two brothers, who used to be so close, could bond and perhaps mend their broken relationship.
What do you consider the essential qualities for a leading lady and a leading man in a romance?
I believe you can’t have characters that are too perfect. They have to be broken, with faults, and they must resolve some strong conflicts before they can be together as a couple.
What do you find to be the challenges (or benefits) of writing “romances” from a biblical worldview?
No sex. No steaminess. I think it’s natural for a man and woman to be attracted to each other and to think about….things…which can’t be mentioned in Christian fiction. At least they can’t be mentioned most of the time.
Christian romances also show how folks can fall in love and have a faith element interwoven into the story. These are clean wholesome romances that folks can share with their grandchildren. These stories show the beauty of relationships that are not clouded by sexual overtones.
Can you share some examples of how your faith impacts your storytelling?
I’m always having my characters to pray and ask God why, why, why. When they have emotional angst, they turn to God and their Bible for answers. They have internal conversations with God and seek guidance from Him. I write this way because I often ask God questions as to why things are a certain way.
Why is storytelling such a powerful way to communicate truth?
Jesus spoke in parables. I consider Christian fiction to be sort of a parable.
What spiritual themes or ideas are in BITTERSWEET DREAMS?
Forgiveness. Ministering. Reconciliation.
What do you hope readers takeaway after reading BITTERSWEET DREAMS?
I hope folks can learn to forgive those who have hurt them in the past. Even though you may have been hurt by someone with whom you’ve shared a romantic relationship (like an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend), you do not have to necessarily romantically reunite with that person, but you can forgive them for the pain that they’ve caused you. Hope and pray that that person is able to move forward with their life.
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