Thursday, June 2, 2011
Welcome Guest Blogger Cheryl St. John
Strangely enough, this is always a tough question, and I always have to go look up the answer. I am not a number person. The lists inside my books aren’t complete, anymore, which is a bummer, because that used to be a good way to count. I keep a list on my hard drive so I can remember. I think it’s thirty-eight.
We’re noticing a trend with the states in your book titles lately. Do you title your own books?
Yes and no. With each proposal I include a list of alternate titles, besides the one I’ve chosen for my story. Often my title sticks, but other times I’m asked to choose a different one. Sometimes there’s another book with a similar title or the same word the same release month, and other times mine just didn’t connect with marketing. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at learning the key words and the titles that they will like.
So, often, a title is one I came up with, but not my first choice. Occasionally the editors and marketing department select the title, but they always run it past me before it’s set in stone. I always defer to their judgment.
I titled Her Montana Man and Her Colorado Man. My title for Her Wyoming Man was Wyoming Wildfire, but it wasn’t a hit. Her Wyoming Man was on my list of alternates. My critique group laughingly says I’ll get through all the states eventually. We think Her Maine Man will be hilarious.
When you’re plotting and writing a story, how do you keep track of everything, like the character’s names and your research?
For every book I have a handy dandy three ring binder. I start it as soon as I start to plot a new story. The first pages hold my character grids and GMC grid, as well as my hand-written notes—usually one or two pages that describe my initial concept for the book. I include any correspondence with the editor, pages of names, the synopsis and first pages, all of my research and photographs. I use clear plastic sleeves for newspaper articles and photos.
In the pockets I keep a page count with chapter breaks (noted in pencil because they change), any sketches of the rooms, house, or any layout of a town or yard I need to know. In Marrying the Preacher’s Daughter, the Harts have such a large family and entertain so many guests that I had to make seating charts for dinners, so I know who was across from whom and which direction they were passing food.
Into the front and back clear-view binder cover I slip favorite book cover flats, character photos or simply memorabilia from a chapter event—fun things that inspire me.
It’s obvious you’re a prolific author. When writing so many books in a specific period of history, what kind of things do you do to make a new story fresh and interesting to you?
My idea for her Colorado Man was so preposterous that every time I brainstormed it with my critique group, I’d end up putting it on the back burner. I did that for over a year. The thing about the story that excited me was the thing I couldn’t make believable. Finally, after all those months, one day the answer just came to me in a split second. I knew how to fix it and make the reader suspend belief to bite into the story. Oddly enough one reviewer remarked that the story concept was outrageous, but that I’d pulled it off. That was so rewarding to read.
I also look for tidbits of information or history that are unique and that fit into my story and add zest. In marrying the Preacher’s Daughter, I found an old black and white photograph of the Denver Theater. The theater was on the second floor, above a saloon and gaming hall. Once I learned that, I had to find a way for the preacher’s daughter to set out on a trip to the theater, only to discover what lay beneath. And while I had her there discovering, I had her recognize someone she knows quite well going into the gaming hall. Fun!
What does your family think about the fact that you’re an accomplished author?
They like the checks, what can I say? Seriously, they think it’s pretty cool and have always encouraged me and supported my writing. However, I’m still just Mom, the one who cooks the turkey and makes the sweet potatoes, you know?
You do a lot of public speaking, including conferences and workshops. Do you get nervous before you give a talk or a class?
I used to be, the first couple of years, but not anymore. I think the most important thing is to be familiar with your topic and confident that you can present it.
I am also a worship leader, so I sing in front of people all the time. That keeps me humble. I’ve learned that a mistake is just a mistake. You say or do something wrong, and you do it better the next time. People are forgiving when they know your heart is in the right place.
It’s always interesting to see who an author’s go to author is. Which authors do you like to read?
I always buy Jill Marie Landis, Margaret Brownley and Laurie Kingery. I do a lot of study reading for Bible college classes.
If you had a redo of something you did early in your career, what would it be and why?
I’d have more publicity photos taken with various hairstyles, and then as I aged, I’d just pull out a different photo, yet wouldn’t have aged at all. Voilà!
If you weren’t an author, what would you be? Leave an answer in the comment section to get your name in the drawing for a copy of Marrying the Preacher's Daughter. Or buy it by clicking HERE
Less overcommitted and a lot more rested. Maybe. I’d probably be a photographer. Or an interior designer. Is there any demand for professional chocolate tasters?
Visit me on the web: http://www.cherylstjohn.net/
From the Heart: http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/