Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interview with Emilie Richards author of No River Too Wide + Review

I'm so pleased to welcome to the blog another favorite author of mine and I'm a bit ashamed this is the first time. I've read almost everything she's written, enjoyed both her stand-alones and her series and it's about time I've gotten around to inviting her to the blog.
She is here today to talk about her just released yesterday novel #3 in her Goddess Anonymous series, No River Too Wide.
Please enjoy our short chat and I've included my review courtesy of RT Reviews below.
Emilie its all yours!



Some betrayals are like rivers, so deep, so wide, they can't be crossed. But—for those with enough courage—forgiveness, redemption and love may be found on the other side.
On the night her home is consumed by fire, Janine Stoddard finally resolves to leave her abusive husband. While she is reluctant to involve her estranged daughter, she can't resist a chance to see Harmony and baby Lottie in Asheville, North Carolina, before she disappears forever.

Read an Excerpt:

In an Oscar-worthy performance, Harmony Stoddard put all the enthusiasm she could muster into her voice. "I just know you're going to love spending time with your grandma, Lottie."
In reality she wasn't sure that her nine-month-old daughter, happily exercising her chubby little legs in her bouncy chair, was going to love the upcoming visit one bit, but she continued the charade.
"And your daddy will be there. You remember Davis, right? You've seen him twice. He even held you once."
Of course, not with any enthusiasm, but Harmony's job was to ready Lottie to be carried off by strangers and to make her baby girl think this was going to be a terrific afternoon. By her own critical standards, she was doing an admirable job, even if she was developing a roaring headache from the effort.
She wasn't surprised at the good face she was able to put on upcoming events. After all, she had been raised by a mother able to turn a day rimmed with fear and foreboding into an adventure. So many afternoons she and Janine had baked cakes and cookies, or set the dinner table with their best china and carefully folded napkins, pretending they were a normal mother and daughter brightening their happy little home.
In reality, of course, their preparations had only been a pantomime. Pretending all was normal had helped them get through the hours until Rex Stoddard walked through the door to lavishly compliment them or—more memorably—knock Janine to the floor.
Sadly, Janine Stoddard wasn't the grandmother on her way to see Lottie. That grandmother, Grace Austin, was Davis's mother. Lottie's father had only recently gotten around to telling his family about his nine-month-old blessed event. Harmony didn't know if her ex-boyfriend had been too embarrassed, or if the baby's arrival had simply slipped his mind.
Whatever the reason, Davis's father had no interest in meeting Lottie, but his mother was curious and expected Davis to produce her new granddaughter. So producing Lottie was the activity of the day.
"Let's make sure we have everything you need," Harmony continued in her own mother's chirpy counterfeit voice. "Diapers, just in case one of them is willing to change you. Your sippy cup. Spring water. Snacks you can feed yourself."
She paused a moment, wondering how that would work. Would Davis and Grace let messy little Lottie experiment with the lightly steamed vegetables Harmony had prepared, the little squares of whole wheat toast? Or would they lose patience and feed her French fries or crumbled-up hamburger from whatever restaurant they took her to?
The mystery was about to be solved. The bell at the bottom of the stairs pealed, and Velvet, Harmony's golden retriever, who had been sleeping on the sofa, gave one sleepy bark before closing her eyes to finish her nap.
Harmony took a deep breath. For better or worse, Lottie was Davis's daughter. Harmony had no right to dictate everything he did with her. After all, he did send regular support checks. Of course, if he didn't, he would have to explain his reasons to his stodgy employer when the state of North Carolina garnished his paycheck.
"Okay, off we go." She lifted the baby into her arms and settled her into the car seat to carry her downstairs. Harmony had insisted that Davis check the manuals for his car and the car seat to be sure he could use it safely. Luckily his Acura was new enough that she didn't really have to worry, which was a good thing, since she doubted he had bothered with his homework.
The doorbell rang again, longer this time, followed by a third blast. She smoothed the wisps of pale brown hair off Lottie's forehead, then hoisted the car seat and the diaper bag and carried both to the door, nudged it open with her hip and peered down at him.
"It takes a minute to get her into the seat, so next time you can ring once, Davis. If you'd like to take the diaper bag, that would help."
Davis, good-looking in a brooding sort of way, deepened his perpetual frown, but he came up the steps, stopped just below her and held out a hand. She swung the diaper bag in his direction, and he caught it. She followed him down, taking her time so she could grasp the rail. The stairway up to her garage apartment was wide and as safe as any outside stairway could be, but she always took her time, even when she wasn't carrying precious cargo.
The woman waiting at the bottom of the stairs was obviously Grace. She had the same vaguely dissatisfied expression as her son, the same dark hair, the same impatient, almost jerky, movements. Although she smiled politely, her eyes didn't change. She was examining Lottie, and not with grandmotherly affection.
"She seems small for nine months," Grace said. She didn't bother to smile at the baby, who was playing with a ring of plastic keys Harmony had given her. She continued her assessment. "Davis had more hair."
"I probably had less," Harmony said, struggling not to dislike Lottie's grandmother on sight. "She is small, but well within the normal range."
"Davis was walking by the time he was that age."
"You must have had your hands full."
Grace gave a humorless laugh. "We had a nanny until he was five, so my hands were full with better things. His father and I both traveled frequently for business."
"I'm sure she took excellent care of him."
"Of course she did," Grace said with obvious irritation. "We made sure of it."
Harmony thought one response was as pointless as another, so she gave none at all.
"We'll bring her back in a couple of hours," Davis said quickly, as if even he had picked up on his mother's animosity. "Mother's flying out early this evening. This is just a brief visit."
Harmony managed a tight smile. "I'll be waiting, and I'll have my cell phone with me if you have any questions."
"Oh, I think we can manage," Grace said. "Davis's sister has two children, and we see them frequently. Of course, that situation is very different. They live in a two-parent family."
"There's no point in bringing that up." Davis sounded annoyed.
"Why not? It's the truth. Your father and I are happy to be seen with them. We can show themoff to our friends."
The rest of the sentence was unspoken but clear. Not like this one.
"Your son proposed, and I declined," Harmony said, "so don't blame him. I hope you won't punish Lottie. Times have changed, and there are plenty of unmarried parents raising children."
"I doubt you have any idea what I consider appropriate."
Enough was enough. Harmony lifted her chin. "I doubt that I want to."
"Let's go," Davis told his mother. "As usual you've thrown a damper over the afternoon. Let's see what we can salvage."
Grace just smiled, as if his words had been a compliment.
Harmony watched them head toward Davis's car, and for the first time she felt a twinge of sympathy for Lottie's father. She'd just gotten a peek into Davis's childhood, and while the scenery surrounding him had probably been lovely, the actors and script had been B-movie grade, at best.
As Harmony watched, Grace got into the passenger's seat, leaving her son to set the car seat on the ground, open the rear door and finally juggle it inside to begin the process of trying to fasten it in place.
Like her own mother, Harmony yearned for the best in bad situations, so she had foolishly hoped Grace would welcome Lottie and shower the baby with unconditional love. Instead, it was clear Grace and Davis would take Lottie to a restaurant closer to Asheville, do their familial duty and return her well ahead of schedule. Their visits—if Grace visited again—would always be short and stressful. Eventually Lottie would refuse to go with them.
Harmony had chosen a real winner when she'd moved in with Davis almost two years ago.
Not for the first time she wished her own mother could be here with her. Without a doubt Janine Stoddard would fold her baby granddaughter into her arms and smother her with all the love she had to give-and was so rarely allowed to.
But that, too, was a bad situation with no "best" to hope for. Right now, in a secluded house in Topeka, Kansas, her mother was probably preparing dinner for Harmony's father, hoping as she struggled for perfection that tonight Rex Stoddard would praise what she cooked and otherwise leave her in peace.
Sadly Harmony could only guess, because she hadn't talked to her mother in over a year. The last time she'd tried, Janine had told her never to call home again.
• *
From the audio journal of a forty-five-year-old woman, taped for the files of Moving On, an underground highway for abused women.
I was a happy child. My father worked in a factory, and my mother was a dressmaker who sewed and made alterations in a corner of the bedroom she shared with my father. She was always home when I returned from school. There were homemade cookies waiting and open arms for my friends.
Most of the money Mama made was turned over to my father, who decided how to spend it, but her wishes were always taken into account. Daddy was a kind man, generous in every way, who found joy in providing for his family and keeping us safe from harm. When our front door was closed at night, love, not fear, was locked inside with us.
Every Sunday we attended a church where God's mercy was preached from the pulpit. Every Monday I walked through a neighborhood of small, tidy houses to a school where I was expected to do my best. While neither of my parents had gone to college, they saved what money they could to guarantee I did. They wanted to give me the best.
Had they lived, my life would have been different, but in my third year of college, as they were on their way to visit me, a car traveling in the other direction crossed the interstate median directly in their path. The cars exploded on contact, ending a midday drinking binge for the driver and the lives of both my parents.
The accident left me without a compass. My sheltered background left me with little insight into people who were not decent and well-meaning. My parents left me with a yearning for what I had lost, but sadly they left me when I was too young to understand the difference between a marriage based on respect and one based on fear.
By the time nine months had passed, I had learned.
One month after their deaths, the Abuser came into my life.
Rex had done this before.
At two a.m., as she tossed underwear and socks into a canvas backpack, Janine Stoddard reminded herself this was not the first time her husband had stayed away all night without warning her ahead of time. Keeping her off guard was part of a strategy to keep her from leaving him. Sometimes, by piecing together hints in later conversations, she'd even concluded that Rex had stayed close to the house the whole time to see what she would do in his absence.
It wasn't enough that she obeyed every whim when he was at home. He wanted to be sure she followed his orders when he wasn't, too.
While their son, Buddy, was still alive, Rex had never needed to worry. At the first sign of his mother's defection, Buddy would have called his father. Of course, Rex's faith in Buddy had never been put to the test. Janine had loved her son too much to put that kind of pressure on him.
She couldn't think about Buddy. Not now.
It was possible Rex was observing her right this minute. He might be in his car in a vacationing neighbor's driveway, eyes trained on the road to see ifJanine tried to slip away. He might even be camping in the woods behind their house, with binoculars and night-vision goggles. Rex considered himself something of a survivalist, and while he was too much of a loner to drill on weekends or join a militia, he collected survival gear the way some men collected fishing lures or model airplanes. He kept all his equipment under lock and key in the same room where he kept an arsenal that included an AK-47 and an assortment of Rugers and Remingtons.
He liked to tell her exactly what each gun could do. Sometimes he gave his lectures with the gun pointed directly at her.
For a moment she was frozen in place, one hand raised toward the dresser, as she thought about those guns. Was she insane? Did she really believe that after all these years she might be able to pull this off? That Rex had really been fooled by her eager attempts to please him, by her waning interest in anything that wasn't centered on his needs, by her reluctance to go out in public without him?
For months now she had carefully waged a campaign to make her husband think his efforts to turn her into one of the walking dead had succeeded at last, that there was nothing left inside her except a desire to please him. The masquerade had given her hope and a reason to live. Having a plan, even a sliver of one, had slowly reinfused her with energy and purpose. As she had pretended to sink lower and lower, she had watched his reaction and gauged his state of mind.
Rex had believed her. She was almost certain. After all, not to believe would have been an admission that twenty-five years of his best efforts to subdue her hadn't borne fruit. He had set out to change his wife to suit his every need, and Rex Stoddard succeeded at everything he set his mind to. He was so superior to those around him that even the possibility he might fail never really entered his mind.
She had known that. She had used that.
But had she really convinced him? If she had, where was he tonight?
One more time, just one more, Janine forced herself to consider other possibilities. Rex wasn't a drinker. Had he been hurt, the police or the hospital would have called her. If his car had broken down on the way home from work, he would have driven home in a rental car, angry at the world and anxious to take his frustrations out on her.
She squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to picture the best scenario. Rex had probably gone off on an overnight business trip, as he was sometimes forced to. Truckers and trucking firms in the Midwest were the primary clients of Rex's insurance agency, and occasionally it was necessary to visit in person to settle claims or sell policies. He hadn't told Janine he was leaving, because he wanted her to think he was still in town, eyes trained on her from some hidden location.
Janine reminded herself that she had carefully practiced her escape. Her husband's most powerful weapon was fear.

I'm so happy to have on The Reading Frenzy another favorite author of mine Emilie Richards.
Emilie it's so good to have you finally visit.

Can you tell us where the original series idea came from?
I always enjoy writing series because I need to know what happens to significant characters after a first book ends.  The Goddesses Anonymous series came about when the economy dipped and unemployment soared.  I began thinking about the way women reach out to other women in times of need, and I decided this was a wonderful moment in history to explore what's always been a fact. Whether women are part of a formal group or just something called a "neighbor," we always find ways to help each other, and I wanted to explore what happens when a small group of women band together on purpose to do just that.

Was it always going to be a series or did you discover you weren't done telling the initial story? 
From the beginning I planned for this to be a series, although that's not always the case.

How many books are planned?
I've been contracted for one more, then we'll see. Authors generally feel more strongly about continuing a series than publishers do, but with independent publishing so well-received these days, more and more authors are choosing to finish series on their own time.

I have to admit that I'm really drawn to your series and I can still remember all the novels and characters in your Shenandoah Album novels. For me a series is special because not only do you get to meet new characters; solve a crime or fall in love but you also get to check up on the past characters you've come to know from previous titles.  From an author's standpoint why do series work for you?
For many of the same reasons, Debbie. I often write "questions" into a book, questions about what a character will do about a particular problem, or questions about what fate has in store for him or her. I'm a fan of the happy ending, but not for every character or plot twist.  So those unanswered questions nag at me. Even more important, I fall in love with characters I create, and I just want to sit down with them for the length of one more book and have a nice long chat about their lives.  Even when a series is finished, they still live in my head. Yesterday I found myself comparing a local bakery pie to one Wanda would sell in my Happiness Key books. I wanted to sit down with her and tell her to get the recipe for the pecan pie we bought.  Because it was "Wanda-good."

Emilie I've read almost everything you've ever written and am so impressed by the diversity in your novels and by your gentle handedmorality tales without the sermon/storytelling. And I'm particularly in love with the ministering style of your one Goddess, Analiese.  Is she based on anyone in particular?
Thanks, Debbie.  Social issues intrigue me, and fuel many of my stories. I like exploring gray areas of life, not preaching, and I'm glad that comes through to you. I just want to think and make my readers think, too.  My readers don't always agree with what my characters do, but I hope I give them something to consider.
You probably know my husband is a minister—now retired after forty years. I suspect Analiese is based on the best of the many ministers I have known, including Michael. I also like that we are inside her head and privy to her thoughts, because ministers are not saints, just human beings who try to live the word they preach. I like reminding readers of that.

I'm also particularly fond of Aggie from your Ministry is Murder series. I'm chuckling just thinking of her. She's funny; she's devoted; she's a hoot with eclectic family and friends. Tell us where the idea for this series came from?
Aggie was and is my favorite characters to write. Michael swears Aggie is me, but absolutely not. One, she's much more patient, and two, she's always finding dead bodies. Luckily for me, not only did we never have to live in a parsonage, I never found a dead body on my front porch, parsonage or no.
I hope to return to the Ministry is Murder series when I get other commitments behind me. They just make me happy, and I already have the next plot and title.

Emilie, I was just admiring your new website, it's a beauty and it got me to thinking. You've been an author since before the social media/internet craze, but you're a very connected author.  Are you a big fan or do you wish we all still used landline phones and the US Mail?
Thanks for the compliments. I love my new website, and think we really got it right. I have to confess I like doing social media. It's a great way to connect with people when you spend a lot of each day sitting at a computer. I never, ever kept a journal, but I really enjoy blogging.  Facebook is a guilty pleasure. Twitter? I suspect it was put on earth to teach me to "write short." Not that it's working, but there's always hope.

Emilie according to your bio, novel writing was not on your College course list, and yet you have published more than 70 novels. So looking back, when was the first time you really fell in love with being an author?
I was so seldom encouraged to write fiction that every attempt is crystal clear in my mind.
My first story (third grade) was about a murderer who left handprints at the crime scene. Needless to say my teacher was not impressed. My sixth grade attempt (for a Sunday school play) was about a mad scientist (truly) who ignores his only child as he conducts countless experiments. Mad Scientist is killed in his laboratory at which time he realizes man needs more than chemicals and beakers to really live.
The next one (seventh grade)  was about an teenager on a bus who gets good advice about being truly thankful.
And I am sad to say those were the extent of my public school fiction writing experiences because diagramming sentences was the order of the day. In college I took a short story class just for fun and fell completely, utterly in love with my own imagination and trying to transcribe it.  In the end I majored in American Studies and later for my master's degree, Family Development and Counseling.  But now I write novels about American families, and really, how much better could my choices have been?

Emilie, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Good Luck with the new novel. Will there be any events/signings for this release?
Thank you for having me, Debbie. I spend the summer in rural New York, so there's nothing on my agenda until the Buckeye Bookfair in Wooster Ohio on November 1st. But I will be busy online and readers can always send me an SASE to receive lovely bookplates. Info's on my website.

Be sure and check out Emilie's website for contests, and up to date information

Connect with Emilie – WebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterest - Goodreads

Emilie Richards’s many novels feature complex characterizations and in-depth explorations of social issues, a result of her training and experience as a family counselor, which contribute to her fascination with relationships of all kinds. Emilie, a mother of four, lives with her husband in northern Virginia, where she is currently working on her next novel for MIRA Books.

My Review of No River Too Wide
Courtesy RT Reviews Magazine


  1. I love how the author got the idea for this series and she is right, I love that woman do reach out to one another and so willing help each other out.

  2. Oo a new to me Debbie! She sounds like such a nice lady and love when authors are connected like that and really get into socializing with their readers :)

  3. I really want to start this series Debbie! It sounds fantastic :)
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

    1. Kimberly I think it's right up your alley
      Thanks for stopping by

  4. Great interview! I bet if she digs up her old stories, she's sure to find inspiration for another great book.

  5. Reviews have been very strong for this and I actual put it on my tbr pile, Wonderful interview, I enjoy getting to hear from the author!

    1. Thanks Kim, I think you'll like it a lot. You may want to start from the beginning if you haven't

  6. Thanks to everyone for your comments, and thanks particularly to Debbie for doing the interview.

  7. On exploring a favourite author, whose interview do I come across - yours! Snap! I am doing the A-Z April blogging challenge and want to one post on Emilie R's books. I 'll link to your interview!

    1. Wow Kathryn do you think we were separated at birth. LOL