by Sheila Barnard
We were lucky enough to have a visit and book signing by hometown author C.H. Armstrong while she was promoting her new book ROAM. She took the time out of her busy schedule to do a little Q & A with us.
Cathie (Hedrick) Armstrong, I write under the pen name C.H. Armstrong.
Where did you grow up?
An El Reno native, I grew up in the farming community of Banner located about 5 miles west of town. I’m a 1988 graduate of El Reno High School and hold a B.A. in journalism with a minor in history form the University of Oklahoma.
Tell us about your family?
Oh wow! There are so many of us!
I’m the 4th of 5 children, and my father was the 8th of 14. While the five of us have all moved out of state, the majority of my remaining extended family still live in the El Reno, Yukon, Calumet, and Okarche area.
My husband, Troy, and I met while attending the university of Oklahoma and were married in October 1992. Two months later, he spirited me off to Minnesota to accept his dream job at IBM. What was supposed to have been in a 3-year term employment has extended to nearly 27 years and counting! Together we have two children. Our daughter, Amber, is a grad student pursuing her master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology at St. Cloud State University; and our son, Braden, is 14, a competitive swimmer, and in the 8th grade.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
yes and no. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it’s not something I ever imagined I would accomplish on a professional level. Becoming a published author always seemed like an unattainable dream until I finally sat down and decided to make it happen. Even then, I assumed I was chasing something elusive. And, now that I have two traditionally published books, I sometimes have to remind myself that “this is really happening.”
Who is your favorite character you have written and why?
Yikes! This is like asking a parent to choose her favorite child! It’s an impossible question Instead, I’ll just tell you the character I most enjoyed writing: Josh, in ROAM.
Josh is a combination of so many different people I’ve known through the years. He’s my “big bro” from when I was a “little sis” at my husband’s fraternity in college, and he’s every best friend I’ve ever had all rolled into one. I enjoyed writing him the most because he’s funny and completely authentic (which is what I look for in my friends). He knows who he is and what he stands for, and he’s a loyal friend to the end. He’s a straight-shooter who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, but he’ll always do so as kindly as possible without lying to you.
Who is your favorite author?
I have so many! Do I have to just pick one?
So, it really depends upon what I’m reading. In the Young Adult/New Adult Category, I absolutely adore Colleen Hoover and Jamie McGuire (also an Oklahoma author). In the category of women’s fiction, I love Cathy Lamb, Joshilyn Jackson, and Lorna Landvik. If I’m looking for something fast-paced that leaves me breathless and wondering what’s gonna happen next, I turn to Mary Kubica and Heather Gudenkauf. Occasionally I’m looking for a good old-fashioned Oklahoma author and in those cases I turn to Brandon Hobson (of course!), William Bernhardt, Carolyn Hart, or Connie Fedderson. And if I just want a light romance or something “fluffy” to just “escape”, I turn to Julia Quinn or Janet Evanovich.
What are some of your favorite books?
Hands down, my favorite book ever is TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD. It’s the only book I consistently re-read every year or two. It’s also the book that has defined the entire direction of my life and the values I hold most dear.
Other books I love:
GONE WITH THE WIND (Margaret Mitchell)
I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE (Wally Lamb)
EAST OF EDEN (John Steinbeck)
THE GRAPES OF WRATH (John Steinbeck)
ANGRY HOUSEWIVES EATING BON-BONS (Lorna Landvik)
THE LAST TIME I WAS ME (Cathy Lamb)
GODS IN ALABAMA (Joshilyn Jackson)
TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING (Judy Blume)
If you were stranded on a desert island, other than food and shelter, what 5 things would you bring with you?
- My husband and kids (can I count that as one, or do I have to use up 3 for that?)
Do you have any pets?
Yes. I have an 8-year old brindle boxer named Hershey. He’s goofy and absolutely ridiculous, but we love him. Some day he’ll likely make a cameo in one of my books.
Did you like to read growing up?
Yes! Yes! Yes! It was my favorite thing to do in the world! I actually remember learning to read and the excitement of decoding the letters on a page. Nearly every week in the summer in the summer, I’d stop by the library and pick up about 15 books and take them home to read. I’d then lay them out on my bad, close my eyes, and choose my next read by reaching out blindly and selecting the first book my hands landed on By the end of the week, I’d have read through my stash and would return for another dozen or more books.
How have libraries impacted your life?
Where do I even start? Generally speaking, libraries have always been a safe haven; a place to escape and find my next great read. But El Reno’s Carnegie Library has always had special place in my heart.
I grew up during the era of Diane Costin, who was a long-time librarian in El Reno. She knew my reading preferences and always seemed to have something in mind for me every time I visited. As I got older the library became more about research and less about enjoyment, Mrs. Costin was instrumental in helping me complete many a last minute research paper. You just had to tell her what you were looking for and she’d help you find everything you needed in minutes.
There aren’t many libraries (or librarians) left like El Reno’s Carnegie Library. So many have become large and impersonal. But my fondest memories of my childhood are walking into the library, seeing Mrs. Costin’s smiling face from high behind the desk, and knowing that someone actually understood me.
If you could have dinner with one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Easy-Maya Angelou! I’ve always admired Dr. Angelou, and I’ve always felt like I could have all of the answers to life’s most important questions if I could just spend ten minutes in conversation with her. The woman was completely brilliant.
THE EDGE OF NOWHERE
I am really excited to share that my first novel, THE EDGE OF NOWHERE, which was set in and around El Reno is set for a 2nd edition re-release by Central Avenue Publishing on June 1st. While the story is the same, this new edition includes new material in the form of additional scenes not depicted in the first volume, “tighter” editing, and a Q & A at the end related to some of the most popular questions I’m asked about the characters and ow the fiction lives depicted in the book relate to the real people and experiences that inspired the novel.
We would like to thank Ms. Armstrong for taking the time to answer our questions and encourage everyone to go get her new book ROAM, available now!