If you love a story that touches your heart, you need to read everything Cheryl St. John writes. Cheryl belongs to the Heartland Writers Group out of Omaha, Nebraska. I met her too many years ago to admit and have been hooked on her books ever since.
Here is out interview –
Virginia – Where are you from?
Cheryl – I’m a Midwest girl, born in Iowa, but raised in Nebraska. I live in a big city, however, so don’t ask me about cows or corn – unless it’s Cornhuskers, and then I’m all over that. Go Huskers!
Virginia – How long have your been writing?
Cheryl – I’ve always written in one form or another. As a child, I wrote stories, drew the covers, and stapled them into mini-books. My first rejection came at age fourteen when I submitted a romantic short story to Redbook Magazine. I still have the form rejection. I was crushed.
I wrote long hand off and on after that, occasionally typing a story on my Grandma St. John’s manual typewriter. For years, I pretty much dedicated myself to my family, and raised my four kids. I used to read only horror, mystery and mainstream novels, but I read a few Victoria Holt’s I’d received from the book club and found them appealing, yet somewhat unsatisfactory in some way I couldn’t define at the time.
On a whim one day, while browsing the store shelves, I bought Lisa Gregory’s The Rainbow Season and LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird. Imagine that out of all the books available, I chose those two classic romances for my first taste of romance! Needless to say, I was hooked from that day forward. I devoured everything either of those two authors ever wrote, and went on to Janelle Taylor, Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, Francine Rivers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss.
When my youngest daughter went to Kindergarten, I was lost without her. In retrospect, it was empty nest syndrome, but instead of having another baby, which many women do, I decided it was time to write the novel that would launch me to stardom.
Yeah, right. The rest of the process took a little longer. And I’m still not sure about the stardom part.
Virginia – What do you write?
Cheryl – I’ve written several contemporaries, but I love writing historical romance set in the American West or Midwest, and I love cowboys. I love stories with an underdog, and those in which a character is pretending to be someone he or she is not.
Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.
Cheryl – Harlequin publishes my books. I’ve written for several lines and worked with a few different editors over the years. My agent is my intercessor and the left side of my brain, so to speak. She handles money and contracts and leaves the creative side to me. She believed in me from the beginning and sold my very first book for me.
Virginia – How many books have you published so far?
Cheryl – See, now this is a tough question – because I am so not a numbers person. I always have to go count when someone asks me this.
The Preacher’s Wife is my thirty-second published book. I’ve written number thirty-three and it’s scheduled for next year. I’m working on two more right now.
Virginia – What is your writing day like?
Cheryl – It’s changed over the years as my life has changed. I went from dropping off kids at school to having an empty nest and am now back to dropping off one child-my grandson-at school most mornings. I get up and feed him and get him ready and drop him off at school. Sometimes I stop at the grocery store or if it’s Thursday or Friday, I scope out every garage sale in the vicinity on the way back. It inspires me. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.
Once home I make a fresh pot of tea – chai is my preference – read through my email, take care of the things that are pressing that day, and then open my Word file.
I read over what I wrote the day before, edit a little, as I go, and then continue forward. Many nights after supper and my favorite evening shows, like American Idol and Bones, I go back to my desk and work. If my brain is too tired to write much past 11 or 12, I do promo work and blog.
I teach an online class each month, so the night I need to prepare lessons, I’m sometimes up until 2 03.
Bookmark my workshop: http://cheryl-stjohn-workshop.blogspot.com/
Virginia – Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?
Cheryl – The really stupid way, I assure you. I was clueless, unlike the beginning writers today who have the Internet and online communities. I didn’t even know any other writers to ask about the process. Looking back on my amateurish manuscript preparation, all the stories with no plot or conflict, and the volume of editors I sent the manuscripts to is a humiliating, yet laughable experience. I can’t believe I did that! I wrote in a vacuum for years, reading how-to-books from the library and sending stuff out to everyone in The Writer’s Market. Those early books are still on a shelf in my basement, along with a few others. And rightly so.
Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?
Cheryl – My December Her Montana Man was picked up by Doubleday and Rhapsody Bookclubs in hardcover, and I was excited about that! It has a stunning cover – one of my all time favorites.
June 2009 is the release of my first Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, and I couldn’t be more pleased with this venture into the inspirational market. It’s a story I wanted to tell for a long time, and then this wonderful venue opened up for me to leap into.
Virginia – What are you working on now?
Cheryl – I’m writing a Love Inspired Historical novella for a two-in-one anthology for Mother’s day of 2010. And putting together a sequel to The Preacher’s Wife – its Elizabeth’s story.
Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?
Cheryl – Believe in yourself and your ability. All the techniques of writing are learnable, so stay open to those, but the gift of storytelling and the desire to write are talents you were born with. Your talent doesn’t up and desert you when life is difficult or you’re struggling. Some of my best work was done during times of emotional upheaval. Let those times be a catharsis for your work. Stories are about feelings.
I’ve just launched a brand new website and I’d be delighted for you to drop by and visit.
Visit me on the web: http://www.cherylstjohn.net/
Look who’s blogging: http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/
Thanks Cheryl for taking the time for this interview and I look forward to seeing you soon!
Author Alert: If you would like me to post an interview with you on my blog, please comment and let me know.