Home to Chicory Lane 

Deborah Raney writes a story that examines how the love of our family can help us weather life's storms. The first book in the new Chicory Inn series introduces us to Audrey Whitman, a mother who has launched all of her children into life and now looks forward to fulfilling some of her own dreams during her empty-nest years. However, not all of her children are ready to stay out of the nest quite yet.

Raney has beautifully captured the tenderness - and turmoil - of family life in her new release. It was easy for her to do. "We have four grown children and five grandchildren . . . so far!" Raney says."So, as you can imagine, family is extremely important to us. We're both close to our families, and all of the good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderful of being part of a family, went into this series."

Readers of Home to Chicory Lane will meet all of the Whitmans, including Audrey and her husband, Grant, who are turning their beloved family home into a bed and breakfast. As Audrey works toward opening weekend, she is more than a little anxious, even as she joyfully anticipates her family and friends gathering from across the country to help celebrate the occasion.

What she doesn't expect is her youngest daughter, the newly-married Landyn, to arrive with a U-Haul, clearly intending to stay more than just a few days. Questions flood Audrey's mind: What happened in New York that sent Landyn running home? Where was Landyn's husband, Chase? It appears the Chicory Inn will be getting off to a bit of a rocky start.

The empty-nest parents of the story aren't the only ones opening their doors to adult children - it's a phenomenon increasing in the current economic climate, leading to the question: Is a parent's job ever really done? "I think it is - or at least it should be," Raney weighs in. "Ken and I loved how the relationship switch flipped from parent to friend at a certain point. Now, our job is to encourage, enjoy, give advice only when asked and to be the best grandparents we can be to our kids' kids. That's the true reward of all those sleepless nights raising our kids."

In Home to Chicory Lane, that kind of parental love shines through Audrey's character. As the stress of running her own business mounts, she will soon begin to wonder if she will be able to realize her dream while still providing her daughter with the comfort of home she so desperately needs.

Despite the challenges they face, Raney reminds us in Home to Chicory Lane that our family - whether brought to us through birth, marriage or adoption - is a gift given to us by God. Readers will come away from this warm and moving book with a new appreciation for family, in all its forms and functions.

An Interview with Deborah Raney

They say blood is thicker than water, and the closeness of family is a big part of the theme of Home to Chicory Lane. How did your own experience with family shape the way you wrote this book?

We have four grown children and five grandchildren (so far!). I grew up the oldest of a family with four girls and a boy, and then I married the oldest of a family of four boys and a girl. We both have many aunts, uncles, cousins, and we both had our grandparents well into our forties (and even fifties, for my husband). So as you can imagine, family is extremely important to us. We’re both close to our families, and all of the good, the bad, the ugly, the wonderful of being part of a family went into this series. Of course, the novels are pure fiction, but I do find wisps of truth threading their way into my stories, and a few of the funny things in the book may have happened in real life, though not exactly the way they’re told in the book.

Home to Chicory Lane introduces us to Audrey and Grant Whitman, an empty-nest couple excited for this new season in life. How do you identify with them?

Like Ken and me, Audrey and Grant have looked forward to the empty nest and the time they’ll have alone together now that their kids are gone. We definitely identify with anticipating and then enjoying that empty-nest time (even though there was a short period of grieving that a very precious chapter of our lives had come to an end). But unlike the Whitman kids, who keep trying to come back home, our kids have made a clean break and are scattered around the world from Missouri to Texas to Germany! We miss them and sometimes wish they would move back home. But we never wish it for too long!

The couple decides to pursue a dream — turning their family home into a bed and breakfast called “The Chicory Inn.” It can be difficult for a married couple to work together and be together ALL of the time — what kind of challenges do your characters discover and what can other couples learn from them?

Well now, that’s where OUR real life comes into play. After a layoff from his job five years ago, Ken started his own business and began working from home. There was a pretty steep learning curve for us to learn to exist happily in the same house 24/7, but like my characters, we did figure things out and have made it work. Today, we can’t think of any better situation for an empty-nest couple. We love it! The secrets that Audrey and Grant discover are: give and take, live and let live, and don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s all small stuff). But of course, like Ken and me, Grant and Audrey have to learn a few things the hard way.

Opening weekend of The Chicory Inn, their youngest daughter shows up at the house with a U-Haul, fully expecting to be able to move home. How much of a responsibility do you think a parent has to take care of his or her adult child?

Like the answer to so many good questions, I think this one is: it depends. Most parents’ goal is to launch their children into the world with all the tools they need to make it on their own. But some kids boomerang back for a year or two before they are ready to make it on their own. I think the secret is learning to recognize whether your child is ready, and if not, to help from afar as much as possible, not interfering too much, but offering guidance when appropriate and when requested.

 Is a parent’s job ever really done?

I think it is — or at least it should be — when the child leaves home and is financially independent. Certainly when the child gets married. That’s not to say that kids don’t still need a parent in their lives, but Ken and I loved how the relationship switch flipped from parent to friend at a certain point. Now our job is to encourage, enjoy, give advice only when asked and be the best grandparents we can be to our kids’ kids. That’s the true reward of all those sleepless nights raising our kids.

A common problem between newlyweds is when the husband wants to pursue his dream, while the wife is not quite sure. What advice do you have for young wives?

Any advice I can offer, unfortunately, comes from having done it all wrong. I wish I could turn back the calendar and be more supportive of my husband’s dreams and ambitions — both when we were newlyweds, and more recently, after Ken’s layoff. This is especially true because Ken has always been such a champion for my dreams. For me, fear crept in and I became more interested in being financially secure, rather than being willing to follow God’s leading through my husband’s calling — even when it was a little scary. I probably still have a long way to go before I’m where I should be in supporting my husband, but I’m learning.

The Whitmans are a close-knit family, all living in the same community. That closeness provides support, but it also causes tension from time to time. What advice do you have for managing relationships between adult family members?

Having made a move just a year ago that puts my entire family of origin in the same town, we are all learning how to set boundaries and how to allow one another’s differences to be strengths rather than points of contention. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be: If you’re angry with a family member, talk to God about it, not the other members of your family. The other thing I think my family has done well is that we’ve never let THINGS be more important than relationships.

How close do your four adult children live to you? Are any scenes in the book based on your own family experiences?

Sadly, they all live out of state, and our oldest son is out of the country in Germany. My kids always say they see a lot of our family in all my books, so I’m sure they would recognize our family in parts of this series. But I’ve not intentionally based the book on our family, other than the fact that, like the Whitmans, we are Christians (albeit imperfect, human Christians) trying to live out our faith in Christ as authentically as possible. 

Audrey wants to help her youngest daughter during her marital crisis, but she is also careful not to overstep her role. What advice do you have to help parents find the balance between helping their adult children and interfering in their lives?

It’s been fairly easy for Ken and me to not interfere, simply because our kids all live far away. If they lived closer, I’m sure the temptation would be greater. I think the simplest advice I could give would be to wait until asked before giving advice. With rare exceptions, it won’t kill your kids to learn by making some mistakes along the way. Don’t be tempted to swoop in and “fix” things too soon or too often. Lessons learned the hard way are usually better learned. We took a page out of both of our parents’ playbook and kept a hands-off approach toward our kids, especially when they were beginning their marriages. Once the grandkids came along, though, all bets were off, and we became much more obnoxious and overbearing and insistent on getting more attention from our kids. (Just kidding . . . but not by much.)

Home to Chicory Lane is the first in the Chicory Inn series. How many books will there be? Can you give us a hint of what we can expect in future titles?

Five books are planned for this series (and I have an idea for a special Whitman family Christmas story I’d love to write someday as well). Each of the books in the series will center on one of the Whitman’s children, whom the reader will get to know through the various issues they deal with. The second book, which I’m finishing now, is the story of the Whitman’s eldest daughter, Corinne, and her husband, Jesse, as they wrestle with issues in their marriage brought to light by a co-worker’s accusations. The third book will explore Danae and Dallas’s challenges with infertility. The fourth book will follow the Whitman’s widowed daughter-in-law, Bree, as she falls in love again and struggles with separating herself from the family of the heroic husband she lost in Afghanistan. The final book will find the remaining Whitman brother, Link, falling in love with a woman the family isn’t sure is right for him. The more I work on the early books in the series, the more I fall in love with this family and can’t wait to tell each of their stories!

What do you want your readers to take away with them after they’ve closed the pages of Home to Chicory Lane?

I hope readers will come away with a new appreciation for the families God has placed them in — that they will learn to see past the warts and quirks to the treasure that is in each family member God places in our paths. Family relationships are hard work, but they are so very worth it! Nowhere else in my life have I found such total acceptance for who I really am. Nowhere else am I so free to laugh and cry and FEEL every emotion life brings. Nowhere else have I grown more in my faith than in the midst of my family.

Join Deborah Raney for a live Facebook Party on September 9 at 8:00 PM EDT, where she will chat with readers about the Chicory Inn series and give away copies of Home to Chicory Lane. Watch for more details on her Facebook Page.

For more information about Raney and her books, visit her online home at deborahraney.combecome a fan on Facebook (deborah.raney) or follow her on Twitter(@authordebraney).

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