Just so our readers will know, Cheryl Norman and I met through Facebook several years ago. She has been a huge inspiration in my writing career. However, for those of you who don't know her, Cheryl is also a breast cancer SURVIVOR.
In true CHERYL NORMAN form, she turned her writing skills in another direction from Romantic Suspense to Cookbook Author to help others who are walking in her shoes or who have loved ones facing that scary path.
Cheryl has combined her passion for writing and healthful cooking by publishing two cookbooks (both finalists in the EPPIEs in the self-help category). Currently, she is writing a cookbook for patients with suppressed immune systems, a subject she knows well after recent chemotherapy treatment. She works with other breast cancer survivors to raise awareness about early detection and treatment of the disease. She also helps writers with her Grammar Cop blog, newsletter articles, and workshops.
Cheryl Norman grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where she wrote her first mystery at the age of 13. She earned a BA in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta. After a career in the telecommunications industry, she returned to fiction writing and won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort.
Her debut with Medallion Press, Restore My Heart, led to a mention in Publisher's Weekly as one of ten new romance authors to watch.
Running Scared, a romantic suspense set in Jacksonville, Florida, and Washington, D.C., received a Perfect 10 from Romance Reviews Today.
Reviewer Harriet Klausner calls her writing "Mindful of Linda Howard..."
Her latest romantic suspense novel for Medallion is Reclaim My Life,
and Cheryl has two novellas in the anthology Romance on Route 66.
Rebuild My World, the sequel to Reclaim My Life, will be published by Turquoise Morning Press.
Cheryl, what was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
To relax and let the characters lead me. This requires a lot of prep work, of course, where I allow myself to get acquainted with my main characters completely. I have pages and pages of "interviews" with them, along with character worksheets and picture boards. It helps me to "see" my characters in my head and let the story scenes move in my mind like a motion picture.
If I try to manipulate the story or push the writing, it shows, and I have to revise. Nobody likes to read contrivances and cliches, and that's what forced writing produces.
How interesting. You truly do your research. What book or project are you currently working on?
RECIPES FOR RECOVERY. After surviving breast cancer and its treatment, I want to help others by passing along cooking tips and recipes I learned while weak from chemotherapy and radiation. These are shortcuts that save effort and time while boosting the patient/cook's nutrition. Anemia, for instance, is a common side effect from treatment. I learned ways to enrich the diet with iron without increasing one's serum cholesterol.
I realize this is a departure from romance writing, but I am a cookbook author, too. I have two cookbooks out now, "CHEF" CHERI'S HASTY TASTY MEALS and HASTY TASTY MEALS IN THE RV. Check out my cooking blog at http://hastytastymeals.com/
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Obviously, you need to write and produce. The more you write, the more you learn. Get feedback (other than your best friend or sister) from another writer or two whose work you respect. It's like learning to play tennis. You'll never improve if you don't play against stronger players. Finally, accept feedback and learn from it. Don't be defensive or sensitive to critiquing. The way to hone your craft is to learn. Using the tennis analogy, you need to practice, challenge yourself, learn, and apply what you learn. Sound easy? Well...
I will admit that a good writer never stops learning and growing. If she does, it will show, and readers will stop buying her books. We all have room for improvement, even those on the NYT Bestseller list.
So practice makes perfect...or at least better, right? What do you think makes a good story?
Character growth. If your protagonist hasn't learned some kind of lesson by the end of the story, it's not a satisfying read. Of course, he/she has to suffer a lot first! *LOL*
I'm such a great fan of yours. Do you hear from your readers much?
I do, and I love the feedback. One reader, who was disabled, wrote to compliment me on the realistic and sensitive way I dealt with my heroine's disability in RESTORE MY HEART. Another, a marathon runner, wrote to say she was re-reading RUNNING SCARED because it inspired her. Those comments remind me why I love writing so much.
I'd like to share with our audience, Cheryl and her husband, and me and my husband, have a deep bond because of our love of cars. RESTORE MY HEART grabbed my attention with just the title. I love all your work, but this one is my favorite. I'm inviting everyone to buy and read it!
Tell us about your newest book. When will we be able to buy it?
REBUILD MY WORLD will be out April 11 from Turquoise Morning Press. It's available in all formats, including print. Although it connects to my previous book (RECLAIM MY LIFE), it stands alone. My heroine is a survivor of a brutal crime that leaves her suffering from agoraphobia. She still feels in danger and is hiding out in the little town of Drake Springs, Florida, where she encounters the chief deputy. Naturally, there's a romance developing between them. Unfortunately, he can't get past his hatred for her family. Even if he learns to forgive, he first has to catch the killer who's after her.
I dedicated REBUILD MY WORLD to the memory of one of my high school classmates who was brutally murdered in 1992. The case is still unsolved.
Thank you so much for this awesome interview, sweet friend!
Visit Cheryl at her website: http://cherylnorman.com/
and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/cheryl-Norman/191056605429?ref=mf