Tag Archives: Catherine West

Review: The Things We Knew, by Catherine West

The Things We Knew, by Catherine WestThe Things We Knew, by Catherine West (Thomas Nelson, 2016)

Lynette Carlisle can’t remember what happened the day her mother died, but she was there. Now, in her dreams, it feels like her mother wants to tell her something. Or is it her own mind trying to communicate with her?

Lynette divides her time between her daycare job and caring for her father, who exhibits signs of dementia. The family home on Nantucket Island is falling down around her. Her older brothers and sister have left the area and are too wrapped up in their own lives to realize how much help she needs.

It takes a crisis to force her family to come home. Nick Cooper, who grew up with them, has also come home. Also not by choice. Being together again brings past hurts to light and reveals present turmoil each one is trying to hide. This family may have drifted apart, but they’re ashamed to let their siblings see their hurts.

Beautifully crafted and satisfying, The Things We Knew is a novel about family secrets and ties, about extending grace and finding hope. For Lynette and Nick, it’s even a chance at love.

Rich in setting and in relational dynamics, this is a novel worth enjoying. From the first page, I found it one of those rare books whose characters and setting welcomed me into their midst and invited me to stay.

Favourite lines:

The magic he’d felt when he’d first arrived tonight had only been a lost memory trying to find its way home. There was no magic here anymore. Only desolation. [Page 84]

If they were ever going to be free from the past, they needed to exhume it. [Page 274]

Catherine West writes stories of real life, healing, and hope. Her other novels are Bridge of Faith, Hidden in the Heart, and Yesterday’s Tomorrow. For more about the author and her work, visit www.catherinejwest.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Catherine West, Author of Yesterday’s Tomorrow

Catherine West

Catherine West writes stories that connect with readers’ imaginations and with their hearts. Her novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in 2011 from OakTara Press, and she’s re-releasing it now as an independent author.

Because I loved the story, and because I’m also a newly independent author re-releasing a traditionally-published book, I asked Cathy if we could chat.

Janet: Welcome, Cathy, and thanks for taking time to join us. Congratulations on this second edition of Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Fantastic new cover, which we’ll talk about in a bit. For now, tell us about the story itself.

Cathy: Vietnam, 1967.

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Janet: Yesterday’s Tomorrow is written from a Christian worldview, yet it’s gritty and real. Not the sweet sort of story many associate with the genre. I’m glad there’s room for stories like this. What’s the takeaway it offers to readers?

Cathy: I think readers can really take as much or as little from this story as they wish. The main theme that runs throughout is forgiveness. Both Luke and Kristin make life-changing mistakes they must come to terms with and grieve in their own way, but to truly move past those dark moments they must learn to forgive themselves and each other. I also like the theme of redemption that is ever present. God truly can take any situation and redeem it for good, sometimes when we least expect it.

Janet: Since it’s set during the Vietnam War, you didn’t have to update to match current technology, but did you make any changes for this edition?

Cathy: I worked with freelance editor Mick Silva, on this edition. Outside of one big change, the real magic was in the telling of the story, tightening tension, polishing the prose, and making the plot even more intriguing and motives more believable. I think at the end of it we have an even better offering. I hope readers will agree.

Janet: Do you have a favourite character in Yesterday’s Tomorrow?

Cathy: Ah. Of course. Luke Maddox will forever hold a place in my heart no matter how many books I write. He’s the type of guy you love to hate at the beginning, but by the first half of the book you realize just how wonderful he is and you can’t wait for Kristin to finally wake up and see that too. 🙂
Yesterday's Tomorrow, by Catherine West

Janet: The original cover was striking, but I think the new one is more so. And I like how it reflects both the war and the romance elements. What goes into designing a great cover?

Cathy: I love this cover so much. Dineen Miller did an amazing job! She had read the story, so she knew what I was looking for right off the bat. While still giving some hint of the era and the war backdrop, we really wanted to play up the romance, and I think the images we finally agreed on do that very well.

Janet: When did you decide to get your publication rights back and go indie? Was it a long process?

Cathy: It usually takes about six months for the process to be completed. My agent and I made the decision back in January.

Janet: There’s a lot for an independent author to learn, but more and more people are choosing this route. Do you have a few favourite resources to share?

Cathy: I don’t have a whole lot of experience going this route yet. I’ve joined a few Indie author groups on Facebook and I’m learning a lot from the folks there. I’m reading a lot of books on self-publishing and marketing, but I don’t know enough to make any recommendations yet.

Janet: What’s the most exciting thing for you as an indie author?

Cathy: I like having control over my books, I guess. It’s all so new that I’m not really sure yet. 🙂 It’s nice to know that if I want to do a free or 99 cent day offering, I can do that.

Janet: What’s the biggest challenge?

Cathy: I was fortunate to be able to work with my agency Books & Such, on this Indie venture, so they dealt with Amazon and all the formatting etc… I imagine that would be very difficult and I was glad not to have to do that! The biggest challenge, I think, will be marketing and making sure the book gets the best exposure. But that’s the same with traditional publishing as well.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers, especially those considering the independent route?

Cathy: Independent publishing is a viable option nowadays, but you really want to make sure you’re putting your best work out there. I highly recommend working with a freelance editor on any project, even something you’re planning to submit to an agent or publisher. It’s really hard to pick up mistakes, grammar or spelling, when you’ve read something over a hundred times! And objective, professional eye – an editor with experience – is worth the investment. There are many to choose from so ask around, get recommendations from authors you trust, and really make sure that you find someone you believe you can work well with, especially if you want a substantive edit rather than just a line edit.

Janet: Are you planning to re-release your second novel, Hidden in the Heart, as well?

Cathy: Yes, that is in process.

Janet: What other projects do you have in the works?

Cathy: I have four completed novels making the rounds at the moment, so we’ll see what comes next with those.

Janet: Life is more than writing. Tell us something you appreciate about living in Bermuda.

Cathy: I love the beauty of this island. The sparkling blue waters, pink sands, green hedges and colourful flowers everywhere, no matter the time of the year. I’m not a city person nor do I enjoy winter, so island living suits me fine. There’s also a slower place here, which I like. Nobody’s ever really in a hurry.

Janet: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Cathy: Hmm. Neither really. I used to be a night owl, I worked well after midnight and still got up and functioned fine the next morning. Not so much anymore. I like to be in bed by 11pm at the latest. I’m definitely not a morning person though. I need my coffee and a couple hours silence before I’m ready to interact with the world.

Janet: What’s your favourite food?

Cathy: I would say chocolate pudding cake, but it’s a migraine trigger for me, so I have to stay away from it. Chilled lobster with hot garlic butter sauce is definitely up there on the list!

Janet: Sounds good to me! Thanks so much for visiting today, Cathy, and all the best with your new ventures. I hope many new readers discover and appreciate your fiction.


Yesterday’s Tomorrow, second edition, is now available in ebook and print formats through your favourite retailers. (The first edition is still available too, with the original cover, so be sure you get the new one.) There have been a few changes for this new edition, but the basic story is the same. You can read my review of the first edition here. I look forward to reading the new version soon.

Picks from 2011

I’m borrowing this idea from Laura Davis at Interviews and Reviews, and picking my favourites from what I’ve reviewed in 2011:


Most life-changing (tie, listed in order I read them):

Most fun:

Most laugh-inducing:

Best dramatic novel:

Most personally helpful writing how-to:


Favourite album of the year (tie, listed in order I heard them):

Review: Yesterday’s Tomorrow, by Catherine West

Yesterday’s Tomorrow, by Catherine West (OakTara, 2011)

It’s 1967. Journalist Kristin Taylor defies convention and flies to Vietnam to take up her father’s legacy of reporting from the war zone. She lands an assignment with a US-based paper and begins producing a string of high-quality articles. Her editor pairs her with Luke Maddox, a photographer with a painful past—and whom she suspects of working for the CIA.

Sparks fly between Kristin and Luke from their first meeting (he nearly shoots her) but so does an attraction that’s hard to ignore. Problem is, Luke’s still grieving for his wife and daughter. And Kristin’s on a mission that leaves no time for personal flings.

Luke’s driver and best friend is a Black soldier named Jonno, who developed asthma after he reached Vietnam but refuses to accept a discharge to go home. The banter between Luke, Kristin and Jonno is fast, funny and sometimes poignant. Jonno gives us a peek into the level of racial oppression going on in the US in the late 60’s.

Catherine West has written a strong debut novel, rich in the sights and sounds of the exotic Vietnam locales. She does a superb job of conveying Kristin and friends’ reaction to the horrors of the war without overloading the reader. And she provides places of respite, like the Saigon orphanage run by a missionary couple who befriend both Kristin and Luke.

The characters are real, and readers can feel their hurts. Yesterday’s Tomorrow is a compelling read that kept pulling me back when I needed to put it down. There’s a strong romantic element, but there’s also a lot of action. With point of view roles shared by Kristin and Luke, I think this is a novel both women and men will enjoy.

Bermuda-based Catherine West is a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a founding member of International Christian Fiction Writers. You can learn more about her at her website, or check out her blog about writing and life. Click here for my interview with Catherine West.

Friday Friends: Catherine West

Catherine West’s debut novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, an inspirational contemporary romance, releases in March 2011 from Oak Tara Publishing.

I had the privilege of meeting Cathy a few years ago in her beautiful home country of Bermuda, when she kindly took time to have tea with a fellow member of American Christian Fiction Writers (despite neither of us being American…)

Janet: Welcome, Cathy, and congratulations on your upcoming novel! Let’s start by getting to know you.

Cathy: Hi Janet, thanks for having me! Well, like Janet says, I live in Bermuda, which is a small island about 700 miles off the coast of North Carolina, so we’re pretty close to the States, but we’re actually a British colony. I was born and raised here.

Janet: What got you started writing?

Cathy: I’d have to say I’ve always loved to write. English was my best subject in school. I started to read at an early age, and read pretty much whatever I could get my hands on. I had a vivid imagination and spent a lot of time daydreaming, which got me into lots of trouble at school. I think getting into writing fiction was just a natural progression of who I am and the abilities I’d been given.

Janet: Tell us a bit about Yesterday’s Tomorrow.

Cathy: Yesterday’s Tomorrow is one of those ‘book-of-the-heart’ stories for me. The idea came completely out of the blue – a female journalist goes to Vietnam to cover the war. I was told several things. 1. It’s been done. Maybe not the exact same story, but similar ones about Vietnam can be found, and also a ton of movies. 2. I’d be getting in way over my head. Too much research. No way to keep it authentic. 3. It would never fly. Nobody wants to discuss the Vietnam War let alone read about it. Certainly not in CBA.

I didn’t really care. While the story does take place during a war, it is a love story. And it’s character driven, so I didn’t really think the war thing would be a major drawback. I knew this was the story I had to write, so I went for it. I also knew it was a story that needed to be told with a Christian worldview in mind, and I didn’t want to settle for taking out the spiritual message and trying to sell it in ABA. So I wrote it, but I wasn’t really sure what would happen with it.

Truthfully, it was a tough sell. The naysayers were right, and I began to wonder why I’d just spent a year and a half writing and re-writing something that would never get past the files in my Mac. We actually put it on the shelf for a year. During that time, I just couldn’t let it go. Somehow I just knew it wasn’t over. So this past year we tried again with some smaller publishers that were more open to different topics, and Oak Tara jumped on it.

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Cathy: Honestly, I don’t really know. Years ago, I wrote a very similar story, very badly I might add. I kept the idea on file in my head I suppose, and when the time was right, it came back to me.

Janet: How did you research conditions in the Vietnam War? And did you pick up any odd bits of trivia that you’d like to share?

Cathy: I knew that if I was going to write authentically, I’d have to know what I was talking about. I began by purchasing every book on The Vietnam War that I could find. One in particular was brilliantly helpful – War Torn – Stories of War by the Women Who Reported the Vietnam War – a compilation of stories from nine female journalists that covered the war. (Random House, 2002).

I spent months scouring the Internet, reading Veteran blogs and websites. One thing I found interesting was that there weren’t too many people who were willing to talk about it. I was extremely blessed to be connected with the husband of a fellow ACFW member who served in Vietnam. His initial help with my early draft, wise counsel and sharing of information was instrumental in getting me off in the right direction. At one point in my researching, I remember writing to him and saying something along the lines of, “I don’t really understand it, but I feel like I’m stepping on holy ground.” His response, “You are.”

I picked up a ton of slang from that era as well as Army talk, none of which I can repeat here! It’s not really trivia, but in one scene, Kristin has to learn how to drive an Army Jeep. That was fun. I didn’t actually drive one myself, but I did receive some very helpful instructions from guys who had. I kind of wonder if I’d be able to!

Janet: Okay, I’m going to ask a question I personally hate answering. Feel free to pass. What’s the novel’s theme? Or what one key thing do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Cathy: For this book, the question is easy. It’s multi-layered, but I believe that my characters learn about redemption, forgiveness and restoration. When you live through a war, that changes you. I’m not sure anyone can walk out of a war zone and be the same. You have to learn how to put things in perspective again. You may have done things you’re not proud of, but you’re redeemable. Things may have been done to you, and somehow you have to forgive your transgressors.

Ultimately, in time, restoration will happen. It won’t happen overnight, but if you believe that God works all things together for good, then on some level, you can begin to find your way back to wholeness. This is something I struggled with a great deal while writing this story – I’ve never been in a war zone. I haven’t experienced the horrific things my characters did. But I know what it is to suffer emotionally, and I know that you don’t get through that without faith, a knowledge that eventually God will step in and things will change. I didn’t want to come across as sounding trite or preachy, but ultimately, I have to believe this is true.

Janet: Is there another novel in the works?

Cathy: Yes. My agent is shopping a manuscript called Hidden in the Heart, which is a women’s fiction novel, loosely based on my own experience of searching for and finding my birth family. I’m also working on a family-saga type novel called Reprisal, and a contemporary romance called First Harvest.

Janet: You’re busy! But that’s good. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Cathy: My family has gone through a few major things in the past few years. Some struggles we did not expect. Challenges and unexpected trials, and the loss of my two-month old great niece a couple of years ago. Several songs got me through some hard days, “Cry to Jesus” by Third Day, “Faithful One” by Brian Doerksen, and “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman. My life verse is probably cliché, but it’s Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

Janet: “Blessed Be Your Name” has helped me through some rough places too. I think music takes us back to what you said earlier about suffering and waiting for God to bring wholeness.

What do you like best about the writing life?

Cathy: I love that I can stay home and do this! It’s a blast to just lose myself in another world for a few hours at a time – when I’m really into a story and things are going well, there’s nothing like it!

Janet: What do you like least?

Cathy: Getting through the first draft. I’m a seat-of-the-pantster, so I find it really difficult to plot beforehand. I may work from a rough outline, but I really have no idea where the story is going until I’m finished. I’m plagued by self-doubt the whole time, and I think I’ll get to the end and have to trash the whole thing because nothing makes sense! That’s not usually true, but I do a lot of revisions from that point on.

Janet: What do you do to get away from it all? Or on a lovely island like Bermuda, is that as simple as heading for the beach or the nearest garden?

Cathy: No. Familiarity breeds contempt. J I have to get on a plane to get away from it all! We have a summer home in Northern Ontario, on a beautiful quiet lake. That’s definitely a great retreat for me. Other fun trips are going to the US to spend time with my sister, which always involves shopping, or going to Toronto for a few days to catch up with my college-aged daughter, and that definitely involves shopping too!

Janet: What’s the most surprising/fun/zany/scary thing you’ve ever done?

Cathy: The scariest thing I’ve ever done is deciding to get serious about publication. That’s probably not the answer you were looking for, but really, putting myself out there, sending off query letters and sample chapters to agents and editors was WAY out of my comfort zone. And then there was attending my first writers conference, alone. THAT was scary. But after about ten minutes, I knew I’d come home. 🙂

Janet: That wasn’t what I was expecting, but I certainly relate. The sending out of our work is scary enough, but then there’s the opening of the reply when/if it comes… that’s terrifying. I’m glad you persevered to get a “yes” response for Yesterday’s Tomorrow, and I hope there are plenty more acceptances in your future. Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Cathy. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.


About Yesterday’s Tomorrow:

It’s 1967 and Kristin Taylor wants to go to Vietnam to report on the war, and honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning journalist like he was. But no editor will send her. So she strikes out on her own and steps into a world more terrifying than she’d imagined.

As she encounters the horrors of war, Kristin struggles to report the truth while desperately trying to keep tabs on her only brother who enlisted some time ago, but both tasks seem impossible.

When she meets photographer Luke Maddox, Kristin knows she’s found a story. The mystery beneath his brooding eyes triggers her curiosity. She’s convinced he’s hiding something and determines to discover his secrets. The only trouble is, he won’t let her within three feet of him.

[Click here to read an excerpt from Yesterday’s Tomorrow, or here to visit Catherine West’s website.]