Sunday, May 1, 2011

Interview with Cheri Chesley, Author of Peasant Queen

I decided to interview our very own Cheri today. She's such a wonderful person, I'm happy that she's agreed to this interview.

How and when did you discover your love of writing?
That's actually a funny story. In the first months of my freshman year of high school, I wrote to kill time during my lunch hour. I wasn't really doing anything in particular, but one day I flipped the page I was working on over and wrote the page number on the top corner. 100. That's when I realized I might have something here, since I wasn't even half done with the story in my head! 

What other loves do you have and how did you develop them?
It took me a long time to figure out the importance of play in life. I play with my family whenever I get the chance. Especially with the hubby. We never get enough time together.

Aside from the fam, I love photography, sewing and baking. I will sew without a pattern or by mixing and matching pattern pieces to get what I visualize in my head. I do follow the book more when baking--with all these things, the more I do them the better I become at them.

Have you ever drawn portraits of your characters?
At some point, I had to choose the writing or the drawing because I couldn't do both. But I did used to draw my characters because I'm a visual person, and I still have those drawings. They make me laugh.

How many books have you finished? Which of your books is your favorite? Why?
I have not, and may never, transition my writing and notes completely to the computer, so there's still a lot on paper. Once I put all my stories and novels on paper and listed their level of completion, but I've written more stories and not updated my list. This is the long way of telling you I have no idea. I think a good estimate is that I have completed 6 novels, but that does not count short stories. 

Right now, my favorite novel is The Tyrant King. It is the last of my fantasy trilogy and is packed with action and the culmination of generations of character angst. But I have a nonfiction work that surpasses even my fondness for TTK. It's a memoir of the first 5 or so years of my life as a mommy. I wrote it in 2002 while recovering from a miscarriage.

What genres do you classify them as and how many are do you have in each genre? What is your favorite genre? Does world building intimidate you and what is the funnest part of world building for you?
The trilogy is YA romantic fantasy. I have the one nonfiction and another that is I guess a paranormal. Not on purpose, but there's a ghost story and a little ghostly assistance--so it fits. Another is contemporary YA.

I read nearly all genres, but what genre I prefer to write in depends on my mood. Fantasy, romance, middle grade fantasy.

Why fantasy?
I write the stories that speak to me. As a kid, I loved unicorns, magic, princesses--anything of that ilk. So it made sense my first stories had those elements. Since then I've branched out some, but I don't stray far.

Are you planning to write ‘clean’ adult books?
Definitely. I think there's precious little clean romance, and I personally love the concept of romance novels that you don't panic if your kids pick up.

How many of the books you’ve written are published?
The Peasant Queen will be my first published novel, though I have had some poetry and short stories published in anthologies.

Do you have a character bible?
Of sorts. One of my dreams is to attend a character bible class at a conference and figure out how to make mine more official. My problem is always the variety of classes and having to prioritize! But I have to make notes of my characters' particular traits, or I get horribly confused!

On your april 27th blogging post, you quoted, "The harder I work, the luckier I am." Could you tell us how this applies to you? What struggles did you face as a writer?
I think my struggles as a writer are pretty common. Time. Confidence. Schizophrenia. This particular quote reminds me of something a bestselling author told me about how they are perceived. People often forget how much work and time go into producing a novel, so success seems near instantaneous. It's not. 

In 2006, I received a call out of the blue telling my my cousin, who shares my given name (Cheryl) had died suddenly after a routine gall bladder operation. 2 weeks later, my grandma, who had been suffering from inoperable cancer for about a decade, died (on my birthday). I attended two funerals in 3 weeks. About a month later, my doctor referred me to a specialist about my allergy problems. The specialist found I had a severely deviated nasal septum and recommended surgery. Routine surgery. Sound familiar? I started to wonder if this was it for me, if my time on earth was waning. How had I spent it? Was I realizing my potential? It served as a wake up call. Was I going to get serious about my writing, or not? That's when things really began to change.

How do you deal with writer’s block? Do you have a writing buddy or a crit group? How often do you get together? Did you ever once feel as if they set you back by their comments about your work?
I used to never get writer's block. Then I started writing. Seriously, though, I don't know if any one thing has worked more than one time. Sometimes I switch to a different piece or give myself a break entirely. But, a couple of years ago, I had an episode of writer's block that lasted nearly 9 months. It was almost entirely stress related, which is ironic. If I don't write, then I get stressed, but my stress was keeping me from writing. That was the toughest period I went through. I had to sort out some personal things before I could write again.

I've fallen behind with my crit group. Now I'm actually part of two, and don't do much--though once I have a few chapters of my WIP revised I'm going back. They were critiquing the book I had submitted to Cedar Fort, but once it was accepted I didn't feel I had anything ready to submit to critique.
I can't say that I've ever gotten feedback that's negative enough to discourage me. God knows me well; He knows I'm my own worst critic--even to the point where I quit writing more than once in my 20's. Convinced myself I can never be good enough, etc., and gave up. Most of my feedback has been constructive--and luckily things I can fix. :)

With kids amuck, when do you find time to write? How do you balance life, family and work?
We have 5 at home. I also do some babysitting in addition to everything else. If I can pull an hour a day to write, I'm feeling pretty good. Right now my schedule is such that I can write while my kids are in school and the baby's napping. When school lets out, who knows what will happen?

Some writers get up early to write before their family needs them. Others stay up late to write after everyone's in bed. I am not a morning person. I can't make that work, and I've tried. But my schedule doesn't let me be a night person, so for me it's the middle of the day. Or when things get quiet, which is a near miracle all by itself. I'll tell you, I do watch a lot less TV now!

What words of wisdom do you have for aspiring writers out there?

Write. Read. Prioritize. For me, writing is more my part in this world--my role in God's plan--than anything else. It took a long time for me to understand this, and even longer to accept it. But I will never forget the incredible sense of peace that came over me when I accepted this new role. This is what is right for me. And because of this, I know I can't give in to the doubt that can plague me. If a person feels that call to write, they will only be miserable if they try to ignore it.

Thanks, Cheri! I had fun getting to know you!

Visit Cheri on her blog and become a follower!


  1. It's great to get to know you better, Cheri. You inspire me!

  2. What an interesting interview! Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth! Cheers



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