“There is nothing in the world more important than family,” explains C. H. Armstrong. She makes that abundantly clear in her debut historical fiction novel, “The Edge of Nowhere,” being released by Penner Publishing on January 19, 2016. Inspired by stories passed down from the large extended family of her late grandmother, Armstrong tells a poignant tale, weaving fact with fiction to explain why the family matriarch may have become the overbearing woman so misunderstood by her grandchildren.

LANDSCAPE OF A BITTER HEART 

The novel begins with a prologue, written in 1992 by a dying 87-year-old woman who offers no apologies or excuses for her desperate actions and life choices. She assures her family that the love she found so hard to demonstrate was bound up in lifelong secrets and invisible scars of survival: family tragedy, hunger and physical abuse, effects of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, challenging the strength of a young widow raising nearly a dozen  children—alone.

Viewing the powerful Ken Burns documentary series about the Dust Bowl era helped Armstrong understand that such a punishing physical landscape affected the landscape of her grandmother’s heart. “My grandmother’s life was a hundred times harder than I portrayed in the book,” she says. “I didn’t think people would believe her real story. My grandmother actually raised 14 children—nine biological children, along with five stepchildren who were closer to her age when she married a widower more than twice her age.”

INSPIRATIONAL CHOICES

A native of El Reno, Oklahoma, Armstrong moved to Rochester in 1992, after her husband was offered a job by IBM, incidentally, on their wedding day. With a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Armstrong spent 20 years writing and editing non-fiction for various non-profits. She wasn’t sure she had enough creative bent to write fiction. Reading an interview with the prolific Diana Gabaldon of “Outlander” inspired her to unfold her fictional wings and incorporate the family stories that fueled her imagination. “When I sat down to write, I was shocked at how quickly it all came back to me—all those stories about the Dust Bowl era,” Armstrong comments. 

Five weeks and 91,000 words later, Armstrong completed a first draft. After querying a hundred agents and small publishers, she received a publishing offer from Penner Publishing in May of 2015. She was adamant about choosing traditional book publishing over self-publishing. “With my first foray into fiction, I wanted the ‘legitimacy’ that comes with knowing someone—besides me—liked my book,” says Armstrong. 

FAMILY STILL INTACT 

“The Edge of Nowhere” conveys a passionate message about surviving desperate odds to keep a large family intact. Though Armstrong’s grandmother died in 1992, a key year for the author in truth and fiction, she might be pleased to know that multi-generations of her descendants routinely gather for Oklahoma family reunions and keep in touch online. The book has already helped family members to better understand the matriarch it is based upon and the tenacity that still binds them together.  

Following “The Edge of Nowhere,” Armstrong wrote a young adult novel about a homeless Rochester family. She currently has a women’s fiction title in progress.

UPCOMING AUTHOR APPEARANCES

“The Edge of Nowhere” is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes for iBooks. C.H. Armstrong will also sign copies at the following sites:

January 19: Post Town Winery, 7 p.m., Book Release

January 23: Rochester Public Library, 3 p.m., Reading & Signing

January 26: History Center of Olmsted County, 7 p.m., Lecture & Signing

For more information about this novel or other works by this author, visit her website at charmstrongbooks.com.

CJ Fosdick is working on the sequel to her debut novel, “The Accidental Wife.” Her new candy heart story, “Hot Stuff,” will be released in February 2016 by Wild Rose Press. Follow her on Facebook, her newsletter or visit her website at cjfosdick.com.

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