Friday, June 1, 2018

Author Interview with Cheryl Pierson

Hello, Cheryl. Please introduce yourself and tell us about Prairie Rose Publications. Where you’re not only a writer, you’re also….

Cheryl: Hi Patti! I’m so glad to be here. Livia and I both wear many different hats at Prairie Rose Publications. I’m the Editor-in-Chief and co-owner of the company but I also do most of the promoting of new releases, and I’m responsible for acquisitions, contracts, and so on. I’m also constantly trying to think up new ideas for authors to contribute to—boxed sets, anthologies, and “lines” to write for. And as you mentioned, I’m also a writer myself in several different genres. When we started Prairie Rose over 4 years ago, we started out as a company only for women who wrote historical romances. But we quickly realized we needed to add some imprints when submissions of all kinds began rolling in. So in addition to our main Prairie Rose Publications imprint, which is also our company name, we added our two imprints for young readers, middle grade, YA, and NA—Painted Pony Books (historical stories) and tornado Alley Publications (contemporary, sci-fi, and fantasy); our Fire Star Press imprint is for contemporary romance, mysteries, sci-fi, and fantasy for adults, and we also have an inspirational imprint, Prayers and Promises Publications. Sundown Press is the imprint which includes westerns as well as some other genres such as self-help, writing, cookbooks, and so on.

I admire your writing style. You’re very precise: besides the obvious things a writer does such as use dialog and action to tell your story, you’re able to drop in concise, well-crafted phrases that draw us in emotionally. Could you tell us something about your journey as a writer? How much comes naturally and how much have you learned from studying the craft of writing?

Cheryl: Thank you so much for the very kind words! I have read books and studied the craft of writing, of course, and even have taught several creative writing classes and workshops for many years. But probably the bulk of what I do in my writing “just comes naturally”, and I thank God for that. Stephen King says anyone can be taught to write. While that might be true, there is a definitive quality that separates those “wow” stories from “eh” stories. And I don’t believe THAT factor can be “taught” – it just has to be there.  I don’t believe it’s something that can be learned—it’s a part of a person’s imagination, their make-up, and really, the fiber of their personality. I think it helped being raised practically as an only child, with much-older sisters who were out of the house by the time I was 8. I have a lot of “make believe” scenarios I kept in my mind and wrote from the time I was able to string words together. So I just naturally imagine what my characters would say, think, do or feel throughout the story, and I try to tell it in their voice.

I notice that the heroine in Fire Eyes and your daughter share something: the name Jessica. I like to bury bits of my life in my stories for my own amusement. Is this something you do?

Cheryl: Actually, I don’t really do it on purpose, but I’ve surprised myself by what I’ve “revealed” in my characters that came from my life. When I was writing Fire Eyes, my daughter was a teenager. When she and my son were younger we talked one day about wishing we had our Indian names since we have Cherokee and Choctaw blood in our family. My daughter said if she could pick her Indian name, it would be Fire Eyes—so it naturally followed that her name would also be Jessica in the story.  (My son was about 6 at the time—he said he wanted to be Eagle Talon, which I thought was pretty thoughtful for a 6-year-old! LOL)

One thing that struck me while reading Fire Eyes is that there is no clear boundary between good and bad guys. For example, the Indians fade in and out of the narrative and sometimes they’re menacing, and sometimes the reader is relieved to see them. And although the villain of the story is a horrible person, one of the most moving scenes to me is one where an outlaw faces his own death. Not to give too much away, but I was right there with him looking up at what would be his last autumn sky. I think you and I grew up watching the same westerns. Do you think there’s been a shift in recent times how iconic figures of westerns (Indians, outlaws, sheriffs, etc.) are portrayed?

Cheryl: I definitely see a shift, Patti. Things were much more defined “back in the day” of the westerns we used to watch on TV, even to the point of the black hats/white hats to show who was good and who wasn’t. But we know that people are usually not one dimensional. Most times, they have more to them than just being “bad” to the core—but there are exceptions.

I know the scene you’re talking about. That was gut-wrenching to write, even though I knew he was a villain. But he also had memories, a family, a mother…he wasn’t ALWAYS bad. I watched an old re-run of Tales of Wells Fargo a couple of nights ago where the sheriff was actually the bad guy—and I remember thinking, “Wow, what a twist for the times that show was filmed.” But I do think as we are increasingly more aware of psychology and reasons for why people behave the way they do, the “shift” has become more prominent in the stories we write. I should add that I do believe there are people who are totally evil, with no redeeming qualities.

You wear many hats as both editor, writer, publisher. Is there a routine you follow? What does your ideal day look like? Do you have a dedicated work space?


Cheryl: Oh, gosh. Wouldn’t a routine be wonderful? LOL But I’m also a wife, mom and proud grandparent of a big ol’ huge Great Pyrenees dog! And so, family comes first, especially the fur-baby (hubby and I are grandparents with custody—our daughter had to move to a place with no fence when Embry was about 2, so he’s lived with us permanently for the last 7 years). I try to get a jump on the books that will be coming out soon on the schedule so I’m never feeling anxious about getting them edited in time—and it leaves a little breathing room in case an emergency comes up. In the winter, I’m usually in my office or in the living room in front of the fireplace! I have different projects on my laptop than what’s on my desktop (I have learned it’s best that way!) LOL

I’m so glad to be here, and glad you enjoyed Fire Eyes so much, Patti.  Thanks again for having me!

Excerpt from Fire Eyes:

THE SET UP: Jessica Monroe is living alone with her adopted daughter in the eastern part of Indian Territory. Her husband has been murdered by Andrew Fallon’s border raiders. Now, the Choctaws have brought her a U.S. Deputy Marshal who has been badly wounded by the same band of outlaws, in the hope that she will be able to save his life. Here’s what happens:
“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”
Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.
His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”
Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath, and try not to move.”
He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”
She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”
“Go ahead.”
Even knowing what was coming, his voice sounded smoother than hers, she thought. She wrapped her hand tightly around the metal and pulled up fast, as he’d asked.
As the metal slid through his flesh, Kaed’s left hand moved convulsively, his fingers gripping the quilt. He was unable to hold back the soft hint of an agonized groan as he turned away from her. He swore as the thick steel pin cleared his skin, freeing the chambray shirt and cotton undershirt beneath it, blood spraying as his teeth closed solidly over his bottom lip.
Jessica lifted the material away, biting back her own curse as she surveyed the damage they’d done to him. His chest was a mass of purple bruises, uneven gashes, and burns. Her stomach turned over. She was not squeamish. But this—
It was just like what they’d done to Billy, before they’d killed him. Billy, the last man the Choctaws had dumped on her porch. Billy Monroe, the man she’d come to loathe during their one brief year of marriage.
She took a washrag from the nightstand and wet it in the nearby basin. Wordlessly, she placed her cool palm against Kaedon Turner’s stubbled, bruised cheek, turning his head toward her so she could clean his face and neck.
She knew instinctively he was the kind of man who would never stand for this if it wasn’t necessary. The kind of man who was unaccustomed to a woman’s comforting caress. The kind of man who would never complain, no matter how badly wounded he was.
“Fallon.” His voice was rough.
Jessica stopped her movements and watched him. “What about him?”
His brows drew together, as if he were trying to formulate what he wanted to say. “Is he…dead?”
What should she tell him?
The truth.
“I—don’t know.”
“Damn it.”
“You were losing a lot of blood out there,” Jessica said, determined to turn his thoughts from Fallon to the present. She ran the wet cloth lightly across the long split in his right cheek.
His breathing was controlled, even. “I took a bullet.” He said it quietly, almost conversationally.

Jessica stopped moving. “Where?”


Elizabeth Clements said...

I love this interview and what a great excerpt. I must finish reading this book. I admire how you can create such an evil villain, but the hero needs a worthy adversary to show his strength. And, I'm blown away by how much you accomplish on the business-side of things. Do you ever sleep, Cheryl? For me, there just aren't enough hours in a day and I don't have near your responsibilities. Keep up the wonderful stories.

Andrea Downing said...

Welcome to Cowboy Kisses Cheryl. Great interview ladies--and interesting point about villains not being ALL BAD. Goodness, if they were, they would be so monotone and uninteresting! Like the old white and black hat guys.

Cheryl Pierson said...

Hi Elizabeth! Well, I do sleep SOMETIMES, but it's pretty rare. LOL Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy reading the rest of Fire Eyes--your paperback copy should arrive any day now, dear friend!

Yes, my villains are pretty darn evil, but boy, they're fun to create. Sometimes I even scare myself, though. LOL

Hugs, Elizabeth!

Cheryl Pierson said...

Hi Andrea! Glad to be here in such find company at Cowboy Kisses! Patti always does such a great job on these interviews of hers, and I'm thrilled to be her "subject" today!

Yes, I laugh when I think of those old days when tv shows felt they had to "show" the audience who was good and bad by the color of their hat (as if we couldn't tell by their actions!) LOL

Thank you for stopping by and for the very warm welcome!

Kaye Spencer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaye Spencer said...

*sigh* I will attempt a second comment, sorry.

Cheryl, I enjoyed your interview and the glimpse into your writing and publishing life. This excerpt is one of my top favorite scenes in “Fire Eyes”.

Cheryl Pierson said...

Hi Kaye! I hate it when I comment and then it disappears or something goes wrong. Thanks for trying again and persevering (endeavor to persevere...) LOL

I love this scene too, because of what's going on in Jessica's mind about the other time this happened, etc. I kind of believe she's already started to care about him...

Thanks for coming by!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Fire Eyes was the first book of yours I ever read. I loved it. I especially loved how Turner, half dead from hos encounter with the awesome villain, Fallon, still managed to overcome the villain. Of course I loved Kaedon Turner, but I think it was the crazy villain in this book that got my attention. I couldn't see how Turner was ever going to win. I liked this story so much I read everything you wrote after that.
If someone missed reading Fire Eyes, they have missed a great story and need to get it and savor every word.
How you do all the jobs you do I wouldn't know. You must be exhausted at the end of the day.
All the best to your corner of the universe, Cheryl...

Cheryl Pierson said...

Sarah, thanks so much for stopping by. This truly was a case of the villain being SO formidable, you really had to wonder if Kaed was going to be able to save the day with the shape he was in. Oh, when he realized Fallon was going after Jessica...even when I first realized that's what was going to happen, I had one of those moments where I just stopped and said aloud, "Oh my gosh!" LOL That's pretty weird when you even surprise yourself. LOL

Thanks for always being so supportive, Sarah! You are a gem!

Renaissance Women said...

All I can say is, I'm one of the lucky ones you took under your wing and help me follow the dream of telling stories. You have been and continue to be an inspiration to me. Thank you. Doris

Cheryl Pierson said...

Well, Doris, you've made my YEAR. That is one of the very nicest things anyone has ever said. I'm so glad that I've inspired you--that's a better compliment than anything else, I think. We are so glad--AND LUCKY, TOO!-- to have you with us at PRP! Thanks so much for coming by and for such a sweet comment! I appreciate it so much.

Laurean Brooks said...

Intriguing excerpt, Cheryl, and great interview. Like Elizabeth, I am amazed at how you find time to write with all your other responsiblities. But you know what they say. "If you want something done, ask a busy person."

Cheryl Pierson said...

Laurean, you know what I've discovered? Now that I'm more "mature" I do that thing that Old people do where they wake up in the night and can't get back to sleep. LOL Sometimes I just lie there hoping that I will be able to, but other times I get up and work on my writing or correspondence or whatever. I wish I had about double the hours in my days--I say that often enough, I know, but I guess if I did, I'd fill that time up, too. LOL Thanks so much for stopping by today, Laurean!