Cheri Allan lives in a charming fixer-upper in rural New Hampshire with her husband, two children, two dogs, four cats and an excessive amount of optimism. She’s a firm believer in do-it-yourself, new beginnings and happily-ever-afters, so after years of wearing suits, she’s grateful to finally put her English degree to good use writing romance. When not writing, you might find her whizzing down the slopes of a nearby mountain or inadvertently killing perennials in her garden.
Cheri loves to hear from readers! E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, like her at facebook.com/cheriallanbooks, friend her at www.facebook.com/cheriallanauthor, find her on twitter at @CheriAllan or visit her website and blog at www.cheriallan.com.
What inspires you to write?
Watching the news. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the difficulties in this world, and so I am continually inspired to share stories of hope, humor and happiness as a reminder to readers that there IS good out there. Some years ago (God bless you for not asking how many!) I met, fell in love with and married my best friend. I’ve had the good fortune to be surrounded by supportive, loving friends, family and neighbors, and it is *that* love and positive energy that inspires me to write hope-filled stories for my readers.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a total pants-er. Outlines give me hives. The one time I did an outline for a book, I deviated wildly half way through, tore up the outline and never looked back. That said, I’ve learned that if I don’t identify the key GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict) of the characters at the outset, I set myself up for lots of hair-pulling revisions down the road.
My writing schedule is more like binge eating… I will get a great idea and immerse myself for as long as I can, ignoring household chores, menu planning, and small kitchen fires then, when the draft is complete, I walk away and ignore it. I’ll read again and watch romantic comedies. Then, I’ll feel guilted into revisions and dig in, finally sending it to my CP who will point out all the parts I knew weren’t working but had hoped I’d be able to get away with ignoring. (I can’t.) She’ll send me notes, and I’ll find a lot of cleaning that hasn’t been done (see step #1) as I attempt to avoid the inevitable before remembering why I loved the story to begin with and diving in again. It sounds haphazard, but it has its own cyclic quality.
The few semi-organized things I do are this: keep writing. When I get to a glitch in the book, I use the digital highlighter in Word to mark it and MOVE ON. This includes details I want to research. It helps keep me immersed in the story. Alternatively, I’ll type notes or thoughts in ALL CAPS, highlight them, and move on so I know what I was thinking at the time. After the first draft is completed, I address all the highlighted areas, usually moving from easiest to resolve to most difficult, because I’m a procrastinator. I also have assorted notebooks and a giant whiteboard behind my desk for jotting down everything from random snippets of dialogue to themes and character names. I’m a visual/kinesthetic thinker and learner, and writing these things down helps me remember little details so my subconscious can mull them over while I sleep. Lastly, I brainstorm. A LOT. The give and take aspect of talking about my story with others is highly clarifying, particularly if I’m struggling to articulate some aspect of a character’s motivation or actions. The tough questions like “why?” that are thrown at me are key to forcing me to think things through and making the story the best it can be.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I envy writers whose characters will plop in a chair like they’re Barbara Walters and chat away, desperate to share their story, as if they’ve just been rescued from a desert island. My characters, on the other hand, tend to lie to my face. You see, they are coy. I have to eavesdrop on them, listening in to their innermost thoughts and whispered conversations as I write. But, I have to be careful about it, because when they know I’m here, they clam up. I don’t mind this, because there are times that I can sneak up on them when they are unguarded and see what is truly going on, then I wave and smile, knowing I’ve got my million-dollar snapshot.
What advice would you give other writers?
1.) Go buy yourself a copy of Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict. (I’ll wait.) You’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration. 2.) Don’t apologize for wanting to be a writer of popular fiction. I spent too long worrying what others would think of my choice, but I’m over that now. Romantic fiction celebrates love, life and community in an unpredictable world. So, what am I apologizing for?
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I originally began writing with the intent of selling a category romance to a traditional publisher. And, while my work was requested and ultimately rejected by said publisher (with a very nice, encouraging letter, mind you), the industry underwent a sea-change. I found myself struggling to be noticed with agents and editors who now wanted the next break-out novel or nothing. I was told small-town settings and humorous romances were OUT. Could I write romantic suspense? Erotica? Um, probably not well.
It was through witnessing the self-publishing success of fellow chapter-mates in my writer’s group that I finally got the courage to publish on my own. Now, I hope to find the readers out there who read what I want to write: hopeful, humorous contemporary romance. Plus, I like having a hands-on approach (i.e. Control Freak alert!) so that definitely appealed!
The one downside is that you are ULTIMATELY in charge. Which is scary in all caps like that. Even with a traditional publisher you are, but self-publishing takes away that thin veil. If you are considering self-publishing, take a good hard look at whether you want to control the process from cover design, editing, to distribution and promotion OR if you want people (agents, editors, a marketing department…) to walk through the process with you. They charge a fee for that service, but if you don’t think you want to do it ALL yourself (or hire out tasks) then traditional publishing may be the way to go. If you decide to self-publish, educate yourself by subscribing to forums and groups that share information. It’s an amazingly supportive community, so don’t be shy. Ask questions!
And remember, there’s no right way to get a book in readers’ hands. But there is one best way for YOU at any point in time. Be realistic. Be honest. Be brave. Then do it!
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Book publishing has launched like a roller coaster down the tracks, and there are just as many people who are thrilled with the ride as there are those scared out of their wits. I’m confident, however, that the more books become widely available in all formats–print, ebook and audio–the more luck readers will have finding *exactly* what they most need and want in the marketplace. The ride may look unsafe and wild, but we’ll find a new equilibrium. No worries!
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print