Today I’m delighted to welcome Cheryl Edwards to Virtual Book Club, the interview series in which authors have the opportunity to pitch their novels to your book club. (Cheryl is also giving away ten eBooks, details at the end!)
Cheryl has been a creative force from her youngest days. At the age of six, she began performing in musical theatre, performing stories for a live audience. Her love for storytelling continued through the years and the itch to share her own stories grew.
She married her husband and they had six sons before moving to Alberta in the prairies of Canada. Now, she writes the stories she always dreamed of telling in her spare time, while she continues to be involved in local theater, raising her family and pursuing a professional career in healthcare.
Location: A small prairie town in Alberta, Canada
Family: Husband and six boys
Pets: 3 tabby cats
Job: Healthcare IT
Date First Novel Was Released: October, 2016
Time From First Word to Publication: 2 years
Favourite Place to Write: When it’s warm, outside, on the back deck. When it’s cold, on the chaise by the bay window in the living room.
Q: Cheryl, please can you start by telling us how you came to be a writer.
From a young age I wanted to write. I would take lined paper and put it into a binder, draw primitive cover art and start with Chapter One at the top of the page. I’m sure you can picture my frustration when I would use my eraser and it would leave a grey smudge on the page.
My older sister and I had the same ninth grade English teacher. She was a tough marker. I watched my sister go before me, observing her struggle to meet the teacher’s expectations. Naturally, I was terrified when I looked down at my list of ninth grade teachers and saw that teacher’s name listed as my instructor. But, I had a different experience. The teacher loved my writing and encouraged me to consider writing in my future, even going as far as to send me an entry form to a writing competition. It was the first time someone, outside of family, affirmed my writing ability and her approval and compliments have stayed with me. I’ve never forgotten that the tough teacher liked me.
But then my writing efforts were put on pause. I may have a bit of a perfectionist streak. Growing into my teen years, the thought of being a writer never left me, but I felt “too busy” to write. I told myself I’d write one day when I had time.
It wasn’t until I was married and had six children that I found the time. A crazy thought, right? Who could find time to write when they have a large family? From there, it was good old perseverance. I get up at 5:30am every morning and get some words out. It has become my quiet and alone time. It isn’t a chore to get up early, although it was at first. Now, I find it enjoyable.
Once my novel was out of my head, I pushed through the anxiety of having it read by others, taking in feedback, and making revision after revision. Lastly, I hired an editor. It took me two months to get up the nerve to open the email attachment with her feedback. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t bad and I survived professional feedback. After that, I sent my novel out into the world and the rest is history.
Q: What is it about A Shot at Peace that makes it particularly suitable for book clubs?
Conversations are best had when there are differing perspectives. Lived experiences influence the lens of the reader and how they perceive the story. Within A Shot at Peace, there are several sub-themes from loyalty, to mentorship, love. Being able to discuss these themes from differing viewpoints, I hope would create opportunities for rich conversation between book club participants. I picture participants sitting with a glass of wine, coffee or tea, talking about the characters, their motivations and values. Given that it is a “clean read,” book club members can enjoy the book from beginning to end without the content making them feel uncomfortable.
If book clubs want to connect with me through Skype, I would love to join in the discussion. I’m also always reachable through email to answer any questions people may have.
Q: You generally write Science Fiction. What can readers expect?
This isn’t heavy on the Science Fiction elements, because that isn’t the heart of the story. It is about the people living in the world of Elta and their struggle to survive, their desire for peace and their pursuit to be people of good moral character. There is a little romance thrown in, which adds one more layer of conflict for the characters to deal with in an already complicated life.
In my unpublished work, I’ve found the theme of being a person of good moral character always coming through. It isn’t intentional, but is this undercurrent that my characters need to wrestle with. Every day in our lives we are faced with dilemmas with our families, at our jobs and in our communities. We are faced with challenges where it would be easier to lie or cheat to get ahead. These issues should be the same for our characters. It doesn’t matter if they live in a fictional world. How does someone navigate through a challenging situation with their morals intact?
Q: The protagonist in A Shot at Peace is Colfar. What five words best describe him?
Colfar, or “Cole” as he is called by some, is first of all loyal. It is his loyalty that causes his internal struggle. He is a man of integrity. Even when faced with difficult decisions, he tries to do what is right. He is compassionate and courageous, putting the needs of others above himself. And finally, Colfar, is loving and a loving person also needs to be loved.
Q: Was the seed of your story an idea or an image? In other words, are you a conceptual or a visual writer?
I’m a very much a visual writer. A Shot at Peace came to me when I was lying in bed. It was in the form of a movie trailer, where I saw the beginning, middle and end. I took out my phone and typed out an email to myself in an attempt to capture the idea before I forgot it, which would have happened by the morning.
Q: Did you know where this book was going to go right from the start?
As I got to know my characters, I realised I was telling the wrong story. Once I let them tell their stories, the words poured onto the page. I knew it would be a three book series (at least I expect it to end at three) and how the first book would end, but how I got there was left open to exploration. I used to think it ridiculous when authors would say the story reveals itself as you interview your characters and you will have less control over where the story goes. They were right. I remember an important scene in this book where I tried to negotiate with my characters to figure out another way around where they were leading me. I was given no other option. The characters led the way forward and I followed.
Q: Joanna Russ wrote, “Not only is female experience often considered less broad, less representative, less important, than male experience, but the actual content of works can be distorted according to whether the author is believed to be of one sex or the other.” Do you wish to comment?
This is something that many authors continue to talk about. I see male romance authors who write under a female pen name out of fear that their work wouldn’t be taken seriously by readers.
I struggled with how to identify myself as an author in Science Fiction. Most Science Fiction authors are male, or at least the pen names lead you to believe they are. The content of the book should speak for itself. How an author writes is based on their personal experiences and how they perceive the world. Each viewpoint is unique and that’s what makes storytelling so important. Readers grow because they are shown a different way of viewing the world. How boring would it be to read books that all have the same perspective on life? If someone chooses not to read a book because of the gender of its author, they will have missed out on an opportunity to see life from another angle.
Q: Is your day job a distraction or does it add another element to your writing?
My day job can be a distraction… or writing can be a distraction from my day job. Don’t tell my boss. I always keep a notepad handy in case a thought comes to me in the middle of a meeting. I’ve had fully developed ideas pop into my head during work and I find myself telling my creative mind, “Not now.” Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to escape from the everyday?
Q: You’ve already mentioned your large family. Would you say that being a parent heavily influences your writing?
Being a parent of six boys does factor into what I write. One thing that was important to me during the writing process was to make sure I wrote a “clean” story. That meant not including gruesome, gory details during an attack scene and not including sexual content. While there is a romance between two of the characters, if my sons picked up the book, they will read about a relationship built upon care and a desire for life-long companionship. They could pick up my book and I won’t need to worry about what scene they are on. Personally, I have stopped reading books because the content made me uncomfortable. I don’t want that for my readers and I don’t want that for my children. There is a need for more clean reads out there and authors, like me, are the ones to write them.
Q: To what extent does self-publishing give readers and writers greater freedom when it comes to what they read/write?
Self-publishing gives the author the opportunity to tell stories that need to be told. They don’t have to conform to what is popular now or fill a gap in the agent’s author list. Authors are free to try new things and present stories in unique ways that perhaps an editor at a large publishing house wouldn’t necessarily find profitable, but readers love. A novel doesn’t need to sell millions of copies to be a good book. It is about what is on the pages inside, not about the dollar signs.
Q: Is your writing plot-driven or character-driven?
I love that my book is character-driven. While every story has a plot, the reader’s investment is always in the characters. I have asked readers for their thoughts on the story and they always come back to the lead characters and the protagonist’s community. They want them to succeed. I try to ask them about the war that the characters find themselves in, but time and time again the readers continue to redirect the conversation back to the characters. That is what I was hoping for. The Science Fiction elements and war between people groups is the backdrop. It has always been about the characters for me.
Q: You’ve very kindly agreed to give away ten copies (eBooks) of A Shot at Peace. How can readers get their hands on one?
The giveaway is only available until June 15 and once the ten are gone, that’s it. No restrictions for location…etc. It’s first come first served. Just post a comment and Cheryl will send you the download details.
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Remember, if you enjoyed this post please share it. If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Cheryl please leave a comment.
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