I wrote, Sunshine Through the Rain, which is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows Christie Ann Cook, a wise beyond her years young girl growing up in the south during the Civil Rights Movement. So, what was it like for a smart, headstrong young woman in 1960s era Deep South growing up in a family that wants her to either be a “Southern belle” or a tomboy? You will have to read the book to find out!
I’ve always been interested in those tumultuous years in the South. I was raised in Louisiana where the 'n' word was the norm, but my parents taught me to judge someone by their character, not the color of their skin. In this book, I really wanted to show a young girl who had diverse people in her life that she loved and cared for and how she was torn between her small insular world and the uncertain bigger world around her.
Sunshine’s protagonist, Christie, tries to find her place in that world and in her own home. Her mother wants her to be a traditional, “Southern” woman while her dad wants to make her into the son he always wanted. Thanks to the wisdom of the family’s housekeeper, Ernestine, Christie makes up her own mind as she grows from a child, to a teenager to a young adult.
Readers follow Christie through national events such as the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and personal events such as the rape of a college roommate and a racially charged murder.
There are several instances in the book when Christie is faced with very tough dilemmas, such as the murder of Ernestine's young nephew by two white men. When Christie’s father testifies and helps put the men in prison, the family knows that he will be threatened and harassed for standing up for a black family but also know it is the right thing to do. It becomes a teaching moment for Christie … setting the stage for many of her life decisions going forward.
Watching Christie stand up and do what’s right is a key part of the book. I wrote the main character as a feminist so hopefully young girls can read this book and know it’s OK to say ‘no,’ to stand up for yourself, not to be a doormat. If someone is doing something or saying something that makes you uncomfortable it is within your rights to shut that down immediately. Never depend on someone else for your livelihood or your happiness. It's OK to throw a hissy fit sometimes to get your way.
Before writing full time, I worked as a director at nonprofit agencies including the United Way and Habitat for Humanity. Writing this book has always been at the back of my mind but sometimes life gets in the way. Becoming a writer is a large part of the story and follows my own dream of becoming an author. Because I did not actually grow up during the Civil Rights Movement, I did a considerable amount of research to make sure I had the dates and timeframes correct. This book floated around in my head for many years before I sat down and put it on paper. I wrote the book in three months. Once I started the book it just flowed. I am currently working on a second book about the murder of a young women that was never solved. It is written from the point of view of the Sheriff who is trying to solve the case.
I hope readers of the book have a better understanding of race relations in the South’ that young girls realize it is okay to be strong and outspoken. Also, I hope this book shows that integrity and loyalty are two traits we should all strive for.
C. A. Collins was born and raised in the Deep South where sweet tea, seafood gumbo, and “bless your heart” were commonplace. Ms. Collins was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family. She began writing short stories when she was six years old, and two years ago, she decided to try her hand at writing a full-time. Before taking time off to write, she was the director of several nonprofit agencies, including United Way and Habitat for Humanity. She lives in the upper Midwest with her husband, Mike, and their Coondog, Lincoln. Ms. Collins has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration and a master’s degree in organizational leadership both from Concordia University Ann Arbor. Ms. Collins is currently working on her second book, a true crime account of a murder that occurred in the south and was never solved. The book is written from the viewpoint of the Sherriff who worked the case. Sunshine through the Rain is her first novel. Sunshine Through the Rain is available on Amazon, Kindle version and paperback, as well as Barnes and Noble Nook.