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Monday, March 3, 2014

Interview with Cheryl St. John




Today we have the amazing Cheryl St. John on the blog. Cheryl is an amazing writer, teacher, collector and gardener. Her first book, RAIN SHADOW was nominated for RWA’s RITA for Best First Book, by Romantic Times for Best Western Historical, and by Affaire de Coeur readers as Best American Historical Romance. Since then she's received several RITA nominations and three Romantic Times Achievement Awards. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations.

So great to have you here, Cheryl!

***NOTE: Cheryl will be giving away a Kindle copy of the reader's choice of Land of Dreams, Saint or Sinner, Heaven Can Wait or Rain Shadow. 
So comment away!***


Q: Tell us about your newest release.

A: Land of Dreams is a historical romance set in my home state of Nebraska. It features two characters who share an interest in a child who comes west on an orphan train.
I’m also excited about my first non-fiction release, a how to write book, available from Writers Digest Books.

Q: Tell us about any upcoming appearances, either online or in person.

A: I’ll be doing two workshops at the Writers Digest conference in NYC this August 1st through the 3rd.

Q: You write a lot about second chance and redemption in your stories. What is it about this romantic trope that you find so appealing?

A: Everyone loves an underdog. We all root for the guy who has realized his mistake and starts over. Eventually we all need a second chance at something. Many of the best characters are in this position. The first ones I think of are John McClane in Die Hard, Walt Longmire in Longmire, and Kevin Bacon’s character in The Following.

Q:  Not only do you write fiction, but you help other authors through motivational speaking, teaching, and writing nonfiction books on the craft of writing. With so much success writing fiction, what made you decide to take this route with your career?
 
A: As a beginner, there were several generous writers who helped me find my way, so it was natural to turn around and share what I’d learned. I’ve taught workshops at writing conferences, and I taught online classes regularly. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me sooner to put a lot of what I’d learned into a book, but when I got the idea my agent loved it. When we sold Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict to Writers Digest, I was humbled and amazed. Now my book is right there among those of authors I have studied and admired. The reviews have been outstanding, and I’m thankful for the great opportunity.

Q: What is your favorite part about being an author?

A:I appreciate the ability to set my own hours and set my own deadlines. It’s pretty great hearing from readers who have enjoyed my stories, too. There are a few readers who, over the years, have become good friends.

Q: Rain Shadow, your first book, was nominated for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, Romantic Times Best Western Historical, and Affaire de Coeur's Best American Historical Romance. Why do you think readers connected so strongly with this debut novel?

A: Rain Shadow is a young woman searching to belong, hoping to find identity in her birth family. She has lofty goals, an admirable work ethic, and she adores her son and adoptive father. Anton is a flawed hero, a man who’s been emotionally wounded and is self-protective, but admires and can’t resist the proud, beautiful woman who has taken up residency in a tipi in his front yard. The themes of belonging and acceptance are universal—and there’s a little wild west excitement thrown in for fun.

Q: Your latest book with Writer’s Digest is about writing with emotion, tension and conflict. Why, in your opinion is this so important?

A: We all have favorite books, and for most of us there are a special few that hold places in our hearts. Every author wants to write stories that will connect so vividly with readers that their books will become favorites. In order to connect with readers on an emotional level, in order to make a reader buy in for the duration of the story and root for our characters, we must make them feel the story. Writers do that by putting the reader in the time and place, by winning readers’ trust, and by making them believe the outcome is important. What our story people say and do are not what hooks readers. How our characters react is what engages and endears. We read to be entertained, but also to feel something. The writer’s job is to make the reader care.

Q: Do you need to have anything by your side while you write? (coffee, food, good luck charms, etc)? What is your office space like? (feel free to include a picture, if you'd like)

A: My desk only gets cleaned between projects. I always have my current book binder open on my left. It holds the story synopsis, a list character names and character analysis for each person in the story, as well as research, a calendar of story events, sketches of the house or town, and any other information I’ve collected to help me write the book. Standing up behind that is my planner, where I have my page counts planned and recorded. I always have a cup of tea on the right. Add to all that, my scribbled notes, jump drives and pens, and my desk is a mess, but that’s how I roll. I look at photos of clean desks and wonder how those writers do it.

Q: In addition to your personal blog, you also run a recipe blog. What is your favorite recipe?


Q: What one item can you never leave the house without?

A: You know it seems silly, because it wasn’t that long ago that nobody had cell phones, but now if I realize I don’t have my phone, I go back to get it.

Q: I’ve read that you are also a collector. What is your favorite collection? How many items are in your largest collection?

A: I don’t know if I could pick a favorite. My largest collection is probably my dishes. I have Christopher Radko for Christmas, Blue Willow, white ironstone and a mishmash of china in rose patterns. Assorted teapots and teacups must be counted along with the dishes, and they’re up there with my favorites. I also have a lot of miniature souvenir spoons standing in planters and short glass containers on my shelves.

Q: If you could be one Disney Princess, who would you be? Why?

A: I guess I’d be Merida because I love her hair and her accent, but I’d give my princess-self glasses. My four-year-old granddaughter took off her glasses to wear her tiara, because “princesses don’t wear glasses.” I think they do.

Q: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind of music?

A: I love music and listen to music all the time—except when I’m writing. I prefer silence when I work. That’s not always possible and I’ve learned to adjust, but it’s my preference. I do have a few soundtracks I play very softly on rare occasion.

Q: In addition to writing, you also love to garden. Tell us, do you grow vegetables or flowers? What might we find in your garden this coming spring?

A: A few vegetables, but mostly flowers. I love heritage varieties—love the look of a vintage garden—and don’t plant anything in rows if I can help it. My son and husband (who do the heavy work) like order, so we constantly compromise. Some of my favorites are spiderwort, daylilies, morning glories, bleeding heart, chives and zinnias. We grow a lot of bushes and flowers to attract butterflies. We also have lilac bushes, Rose of Sharon and a tulip tree.

Q: How can fans contact you?

A:


Her newest releases:






















26 comments:

Sandy said...

Hi Cheryl,
It's nice to see you here, as I've met you a few times over the years. I'm very glad to see you doing so well with your writing career.

Your new release has a beautiful cover, and your non-fiction book sounds like what I need right now. I'm going through edits on my next book, and I'm trying to dig deeper for the emotion.

Mary Preston said...

I have heard about the orphan trains, but never read a story about them. So much to catch up on thank you.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Janice Seagraves said...

I just bought your Writing with Emotion book, that's something I struggle with myself. :)

Good luck with your novels. I wish you many sales.

Janice~

Fran Lee said...

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Cheryl. I love hearing success stories, and it's great to know more about you and your books.

Rose Anderson said...

I enjoyed your interview, Cheryl. Thanks for joining us today. Best luck with both books.

Carly Carson said...

Thanks for the interesting interview. Writing emotion is a topic that doesn't seem to be covered much so I'm off to check out your book.

Elaine Cantrell said...

Hi, Cheryl, I'm a dish junkie myself. I ended up with three sets of Christmas china, and my family isn't that big! I have a small collection of tea pots, but I've moved on to jugs now. I enjoyed your interview.

Renee Vincent said...

Great interview Cheryl! So nice of you to be here with us today!

Paris said...

Hi Cheryl,

The "second chance" romantic trope
is one of my all-time favorites. There's something about people willing to risk trying again that resonates. Love the idea of your non-fiction Writer's Digest book and plan to add it to my collection!

Polly McCrillis said...

"The writer's job is to make the Reader care"........love that line, Cheryl! Wonderful, informative interview. Thank you and congratulations on the new release.

Tina Donahue said...

Congrats on all your kudos! Well-deserved. :)

Cheryl St.John said...

Hi Sandy! I do love the covers of my indie releases. Thank you.

I'm sure you'd find the book helpful during the editing process. I do list a lot of things to check for to make sure you've got the conflict and emotion in there.

Cheryl St.John said...

Hi Mary. The journals I read of the orphan trains were heartbreaking. I had to write a story with a happy ending.

Thanks for getting the book, Janice! xoxo smooches! I hope it's helpful.

Thanks for stopping in, Fran Lee.

Thank you, Rose!

Cheryl St.John said...

Carly, that's why editorial chose to go that direction with the book. Emotion was something WD hadn't done a lot of before. Thanks for looking for your own copy!

Cheryl St.John said...

Elaine, you are a woman after my own heart. Three sets of Christmas dishes is very impressive. :-)

I do love teapots. I try to resist, but it's impossible. Now I have a rule (like with shoes) that when a new teapot enters the house, and old one must go--makes it much more difficult to add to the collection. I've only added one in the last year. That's pretty good!

Cheryl St.John said...

Thank you Renne! I was delighted to be invited.

Me, too, Paris! We all need a second chance at sometime or another. Love to read about do overs. :-)

Thank you, Polly! I'm honored to be quoted. :-)

Cheryl St.John said...

Thanks, Tina! It's been exciting to see the reception to this book.

Liz Flaherty said...

Hi, Cher. You're right about princesses and glasses. I loved that story.

Cheryl St.John said...

xoxo Liz! More princesses should have glasses, right?

jean hart stewart said...

Wishing you even more success! I add a voice for princesses in glasses!

darkwriter said...

Cheryl, thanks for an interesting post and sharing something of yourself. I particularly like your view on emotions and relating to the reader on that emotional level.

Cheryl St.John said...

Thank you, Jean and darkwriter for stopping by!

Cara Marsi said...

Hi, Cheryl, I'm so glad to see you here. I wrote to you many years ago in the dark ages when we actually sent letters through snail mail. I wrote to you about a couple of your books that I loved. One was Rain Shadow. Wasn't there a sequel? I have your books on my shelves, but I've got so many books, I can't find yours at the moment. I know they're there. I'm happy to hear you're doing so well. PS-I wrote my letter to you before I was published, and I used my real name Carolyn Matkowsky.

Suzanne Rock said...

Hi Cheryl! Thank you so much for being on the blog today. It's so wonderful to have you here! I love your book covers. Gorgeous! I'm going to have to check out your writer's digest book. I'm always on the looking for ways to improve my writing.

Cheryl St.John said...

Hi Cara! There is actually a pre-quel to Rain Shadow, and that is Heaven Can Wait. The stories are about brothers. Great memory! Good to connect with you again.

Thanks so much Suzanne. It was a pleasure to have been invited to join you.

Suzanne Rock said...

Thank you so much everyone for participating. And the winner is...(chosen by random.org)...

Mary Preston! YAY! Congratulations!!

I will put you in touch with Cheryl off loop so you can claim your prize.

And THANK YOU Cheryl for granting us this interview. It was so much fun to have you here!

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