Please help me welcome my guest today the wonderful author Chery St. John! Let’s take a glance at her bio and then get right to the fun party, shall we?
USA Today bestseller Cheryl St. John is the author of more than fifty historical and contemporary novels. Her stories have earned numerous awards and are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers and readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion and believability. 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.”
Amazon and Goodreads reviews show her popularity with readers. With a 4.9-star rating on Amazon, Cheryl’s bestselling non-fiction books, Writing with Emotion, Tension, & Conflict and Write Smart, Write Happy by Writers Digest Books are available in print and digital.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Cheryl: The Babies and Bachelors Series for which I wrote this book required a cowboy who gets a baby to care for. I’d written a couple of post-Civil War stories in the past and wanted to do something I’d never tried before, so an ex-soldier with a baby on his hands was what I imagined. Of course, he was a Union officer, so my heroine became a Southern belle who survived the war and afterward escaped to the North.
Betty: Which character arrived fully or mostly developed?
Cheryl: Raylene came to me most developed. I immediately knew her story and that her life had been turned upside down. She’s trying to keep it together the only way she knows how. As the daughter of a rich Southern gentleman, her future was laid out for her. She can embroider, needlepoint, and play the piano. She’s cultured and educated. None of that serves her well when stability is knocked out from under her, so she has to survive and recreate herself with sheer grit.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Cheryl: I’ve written books in this time period before, so I did a quick timeline review of the war, searched for places where my characters grew up, and chose specific battles. When I write a period piece, I often make a list of movies and watch them in order to get a feel for the atmosphere and attitudes of the time. I had a huge list for this story and got through about twenty movies.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Cheryl: I’m a one draft writer, so don’t throw rocks. I know that’s unusual. When I start my day’s writing, I go back and edit what I wrote the day before. Halfway through the book, I go back to the beginning and add anything I’ve missed. At the end I spell check and edit for errors. I rarely actually need to revise.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Cheryl: I can usually write a book this length in two or three months. For this particular story I used a sensitivity reader and a couple of beta readers, so that took a little longer.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Cheryl: I write at my desk and only at my desk. I usually have a cup of coffee or tea sitting to my right. On my left is my three-ring story binder that holds everything I need to write the book. Many writers keep their info in digital files, but I’m a tactile paper and pen person and have my character grids, hand-written ideas, names with descriptions, goal-motivation-conflict sheets, research and photographs all in this binder. It pretty much lies open on my left through the duration of the writing process.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Cheryl: For some reason, I catch those things on my own most of the time. I do editing for other writers, so I’m conscious of repetitive words. I do check for just and it before finalizing.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Cheryl: I plot and create characters on my sofa, with a cup of coffee, my binder and worksheets and assorted colored gel pens. I write at my desk. I edit at my desk. I most often read in bed on my iPad.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Cheryl: I’m very proud of my backlist and body of work. I wrote over fifty books for Harlequin, both historical and contemporary in several lines, and I’ve written how-to books for Writers Digest. Burned out after twenty-five years under deadline, I took a hiatus a few years ago and cared for a new grandbaby. During that time, I learned I still wanted to write, but vowed I would only write books I loved from then on. I’m enjoying writing the stories I want to tell, the way I want to tell them.
Betty: What other author would you like to sit down over dinner and talk to? Why?
Cheryl: That would be Stephen King. He’s a genius. Some of his books I’ve read at least ten times. The Stand is one of my all-time favorite books. He creates such amazing characters that studios keep remaking movie adaptations of his books. And he’s no-nonsense funny. I’d love to pick his brain.
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Cheryl: While I’d love to be rich, if not famous, there’s a lot to be said for being proud of my work ethic, the people I’ve touched with my stories, and the writers I’ve worked with during my career. I’ve heard from readers who tell me my stories helped them through difficult times. One letter in particular that I cherish was from a young woman who had read Saint or Sinner. She told me her step-father had beaten her, causing permanent nerve damage in her arm. I remember sitting and crying because I sit in my comfortable air-conditioned office with my coffee and make this stuff up while others are experiencing true tragedy. But what she wrote next has stayed with me forever. She said my story gave her hope—hope that someone would love her the way Joshua loved Addie. That meant more than the awards on my walls. There’s never enough hope in this world. If I can share a little hope with readers, I consider that success. I may not be rich or famous, but I love writing the stories of my heart and sharing them with readers.
He’s focused on the future…
The past is all she knows.
Together they’re forced to face today.
His months in Salisbury prison taught Union Captain Tanner Bell to detest a southern drawl, and Widow Cranford’s exaggerated Dixie twang has him gritting his teeth. His plans for a ranch are threatened when his orphaned newborn niece is delivered to him, and he desperately needs her help.
Raylene Cranford survived a Georgia winter living on acorns and scrawny rabbits before traveling sixteen-hundred miles to carve out a life in Colorado. She lost everything—except her dignity and hope. Her feminine Southern graces are her armor, but maintaining appearances could cost her love.
Can a Southern belle and a Union soldier change deeply-ingrained misconceptions about themselves for the sake of a child?
Buy Links: Amazon
I love your definition of success so much. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl!
Until next time, happy reading!
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