Pen Name: Cheryl Holloway
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Chicago and reared in Gary, Indiana. In college, I studied Journalism, butI knew from a very young age—pre-school—that I wanted to be a writer. My first official published article, when I was fifteen and I won the State Crime Prevention Contest in Indiana with an outstanding essay.Then, when I was eighteen, just before college, I published an autobiography with a vanity press. I majored in Journalism at Indiana University in Bloomington.I was on the journalism staff, in both, high school and college. My career goal was to never take a job, unless it involved writing. I am proud to say that all of my jobs have involved some type of writing—from technical writer to writer/editor. I was the first African American editor for Road & Recreation Magazine (Air Force); and Proceedings Magazine (Coast Guard);as well as, the first African American writer/editor for the Social Security Administration, Headquarters.
In addition, to working full-time as a Writer/Editor for the military, I often worked part-time as a newspaper community reporter and worked throughout the United States, including several cities in Indiana, California, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and Maryland. I won the prestigious National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) Blue Pencil Award on several occasions for Road & Recreation Magazine (Air Force) and Proceedings Magazine (Coast Guard), the oldest military magazine in U. S. history. I also worked as an intern at the distinguished Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press to prepare myself for the private publishing arena. I retired early from the Government in 2006 to begin a new career as a full-time writer/author and writing instructor.
I have published eight books (one book is out-of-print) and I am working on two new projects that will be published shortly. I am an avid reader, dedicated writer, and amazing blogger, who loves to payitforward to other authors.
How do you feel that your career, educational background and overall life experience contribute to your writing?
My life experience been reflected in my writings from the early beginnings when I wrote stories for my family and friends. When I was three years old,my mother purchased Golden Books for me once a week and taught me how to read. These books were to keep me occupied, while my mother was pre-occupied with my new baby brother. I wanted more books and stories and began writing my own stories, which became my solitude.
Once again, it was my personal experiences that started my writing of the Cougar Tales series. So, I have plenty short stories to add to the series. Most of my romance books are based on real-events, whether mine or a friend’s, and I just add a little excitement and some imagination to the stories, which makes my books come alive for the readers. I offer my readers entertainment and a good storyline, whether it is a short story or a novella. But most of all, my books reflect on a life experience and a life well lived.
The Proposal: A Leap of Faith, was a well-talked about short story that kept readers discussing it for quite some time. Most of the readers were surprised when the ending wasn’t a “Happily Ever After” ending. The book had a surprise ending—just like real life, which most readers understood, and they enjoyed the book.
Besides my romance books, I have another book, A Forgotten Negro League Star: A Personal Look at Al Burrows, written under my other pen name Cheryl Robinson. I met Mr. Al Burrows in a memorabilia store Christmas 2002, where he was a “Living Legend.” I asked him if anyone had ever written a book about him and his baseball journey. He said, “No.” I felt that it was important to bring awareness to Al Burrows and let the world know about his journey. So, I began the research and in January 2004, the book was in his hand. He was so proud!(This book is currently out-of-print.)
I have one book that is a fictional storybased on a real-life event from a friend,The Bane Bath Salts, which was written specifically to help parents and teens understand and prevent designer drug use in teens. I wanted to educate parents about this designer drug, bath salts. I wrote a short story about two families dealing with the prospect and reality of a drug-using teen.
Just as overall life experiences vary, so do the experiences that contribute to my writing.
Where is your favorite place in the world to live and why?
My favorite place to live would be any beach in the world. Why?…because I love writing on the beach. The smell of the fresh water and the warm breeze relax me and make my creative juices flow.
Where is your favorite place in the world to visit? Why?
My favorite place to visit would be France. I have planned several trips to Paris, to Josephine Baker’s home and to the Côte d’Azur, but for some unforeseen reason the trip always got cancelled. I did, however, get to go to Montreal and to barter “enfrançaise.”
What is the funniest thing about your personality that fans would love to know? What are your quirks?
Here are a few things that most people do not know about me. I love to be around other people, but I don’t say much when I am, unless I’m very comfortable with the person. I’m shy and definitely an introvert. I only sing in the shower or when I am alone. I only dance when I’m by myself. I have two left feet. I studied French in junior high, high school and college. I speak French fluently and later became an Interpreter for the United States/Military, while my husband was stationed overseas. I buy very unique pens, such as a handmade wooden pen. I have a small collection. Recently, a very close friend gave me a jeweled purple (my favorite color) pen engraved with my name and immediately, it became my #1 prized possession!
What drew you to writing?
I have always liked telling stories, and making my characters do what I want them to do and making them say what I want them to say—my world building. When I write community reports for the newspapers, I like to find one small tidbit about that person that no one else has reported. For example, years ago, I interviewed John Carlos (1968 Olympics Black Power) and he told me that his father was a shoemaker and created the shoes he wore to win the Olympics. When I interviewed Rosa Parks (mother of Civil rights), she told me that her husband was supposed to sit on the bus, but the NAACP felt that it would have more impact if a woman refused to give up her seat on the bus. When I interviewed Catherine Ryan Hyde, she told me that one of her other passions is photography and I saw some of her photos, which are stunning and breath-taking.
Do you have anything special, a habit, that you do that gets you into the mood of writing? Favorite object, desk, pen? Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?
I drink herbal tea—hot tea in the winter and ice tea in the summer. I like to work on a PC. I only use my laptop or tablet when I’m not at home. I listen to music when I write. It’s too quiet and I can’t think without music. I listen to R&B and Gospel music.
Do you have a special place you like to go to write? Do you do a retreat?
I like to go to a comfortable Bed & Breakfast when I’m finishing a book. Yes, I do several writing retreats a year (I’m always finishing a book.). I’m in a women’s writing group where I live and we go on various retreats throughout the year. I also put on writing retreats for a small group of serious writers at a comfortable bed & breakfast in the county section of the city.
Does your life experience influence your writing?
Yes, I think different life experiences influence different books that I write. I am an experienced writer who has lived life to its fullest over the years. I frequently include various events that happened in my life in my books. Of course, I add my writer’s voice to make that event unique for my characters and believable for my readers.
I wanted to give my readers—a sisterhood of women of all ages—something to read and enjoy. So, I created short stories for the young and the old to laugh, cry and love. I do a lot of research to make my stories very realistic and believable, but the foundation is basically real-life experiences.
A Sisterhood of Women Living Life: A Short Story Collection Book 1, has five short stories about women from 25-50+ and five really short stories. These are very interesting stories.The stories will make you laugh, cry and want to give them a hug…
The Dreaded After Call—a young editor runs away from a love triangle and works to drown out the pain but …Will she have a second chance at love?
Wine A Little or A Little Wine—a beautiful overweight woman can’t find love and all she does is wine…Will a bottle of wine help?
A Widow Moves On—an older widow opens her heart to love again but…What skeletons does he have in his closet?
Rape’s Revenge—her boyfriend rapes her young daughter…rage and revenge prevails…Will she kill him?
Dark Secrets and White Lies—she’s dating two men of different races and is pregnant with interracial twins…she is in a dilemma…Who will be the father?
The book features ten must-read stories, including 5 really short stories. It introduces an interesting collection of characters, who are just like your best friend and your sister. The characters are each very unique with a compelling story to tell.
The readers have labeled this short story collection as a signature blend of heartfelt contemporary romance that poignantly touches your soul and gently warms your heart.
If you use a pseudonym, why? What are the pros and cons of using a pen name?
I don’t use a pseudonym. I do, however, have two pen names Cheryl Holloway (maiden name) and Cheryl Robinson (married name). I used Robinson for a while, but readers kept confusing me with another author with the same name. When a family member purchased the wrong book (one by the other author), I decided to use Holloway.
What is your biggest writing challenge?
My biggest writing challenge is deciding which point-of-view I want to use. My other writing challenge is marketing and publicity. In 2005, when I couldn’t get any publicity for my baseball book, I created an internet radio talk show, Just About Books Talk Show, where I provided 1-hour live interviews for any author. It was the same pay-it-forward concept as my blog, which I created in 2012. I guess, it’s what I do best—help promote other authors. I think,the radio show and the blog stand out because I wasn’t seeking anything in return.
Are you easily distracted when trying to write? Or are you very focused? If you are easily distracted, what are some of the things that distract you?
I’m not easily distracted. My grandkids come in my office frequently when I’m writing. They know and will tell you, “Grandma is in her office writing her new book.” And they love to find my picture on the internet.
Did you study any other authors before you embarked on your first novel?
I studied literature extensively when in college and perfected the writing craft after college. I was early-on influenced by Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Later on, I was influenced by Marita Golden, and James Baldwin
Who influences you now?
Sue Monk Kidd, Cormac McCarthy, Nicholas Sparks, Terry McMillan, and Alice Walker. I met Alice Walker in San Francisco years ago, when I was lost and knocked on her door for directions. I was so excited when she answered the door and I recognized her. We talked for a long time about writing and she invited me into her garden.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Mostly, I read romance novels. I’m a sucker for a good love story. I also enjoy thrillers. I love solving a mystery—whether it’s a murder or not.
Do you have any favorite authors? What is it about their writing that really grabs you and pulls you in?
One of my favorite authors is Alice Walker. I have the original version of TheColor Purple where the story is written in letters. I was so impressed that her book won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. I studied her writing for many years. Another of my favorite authors is Amiri Baraka. I remember when I was a teenager and seeing his poems printed in Ebony magazine under LeRoi Jones. In my latter years, I met him and we became friends when he would visit DC for the teen’s Slam Jams. Another one of my favorites was Alex Haley. I was so impressed with Roots: The Saga of An American Family. I was star struck and almost fainted when he signed a copy of an old article he had written that I carried around with me.
What do you love about writing?
I love the feel of creating something readable and enjoyable on a blank page. I also love to help new writers and give them tips and secrets that I wish someone had told me when I first started writing. I enjoy teaching writing workshops and from time-to-time presenting writing webinars.
I firmly believe my quote, “To Pay-It-Forward means that we must serve others in order to lift up ourselves.”
What do you hate about writing?
There is nothing that I hate about writing. Oh…possibly the pay. But that should change soon.
Do you have a good support network around you? Do you find that people understand how writers work? Or do you encounter people who just don’t get it, the process we go through, the way we see the world, the way we think, the way we need to be inside our heads so much of the time?
Yes, I make sure that I always have a good support network. I join writing groups, critique groups, and book clubs. So, I’m always surrounded by writers and readers. At one time, I was in four book clubs at once in different cities and states. Some people really understand how writers work and others just don’t get it. That’s why I surround myself by those who do.
My family understands me. They know that I keep a pad and pen on my nightstand, so when I get an idea while sleep, I will wake up and write it down. They know that if I’m on a roll writing, I may stay up all night or at least until I get the majority of the story written. They can look at me and tell when I’m working an idea out in my head. And they will not disturb me during those times.
What did your family think when you told them that you wanted to write a book?
My family knew that it was just a matter of time. While I was working a full-time job, they knew that somehow I would find time to write—whether it was early morning, or late night, or while waiting on an appointment.
Was there anything about the industry that surprised you?
Yes, that it was so hard to find a traditional publisher or agent and that I would get so many rejection slips.
What did you most learn about yourself through the writing process?
Over time, I learned that I had stamina and that I could hang with the best of writers. I also learned that success as a writer comes in different ways to so many writers. I don’t write for the money—I write for the privilege of writing and being me!
Do you have a favorite fan reaction that you can share with us?
Yes, my favorite Uncle said, “I didn’t know you liked baseball, especially enough to write a book about it.” I responded with, “You’d be surprised what I know and what I can write about.”
How did it affect you when you first began to realize that people responded well to what you present as an author?
I write to entertain people and it always puts a smile on my face, if someone has enjoyed one of my books, novellas, short stories or articles. When I was Managing Editor for Road & Recreation Magazine, an Air Force magazine, I wrote an article in the late 80’s or early 90’s, Pump Up the Volume, about boom boxes making a generation of teens go deaf. We received so much feedback and after the article, I was known for writing up-to-minute topics for our military troops.
How has being an Independent Author affected you? Has it been positive? What are the down-sides of being an Indie Author?
I take being an independent author in stride. It has indeed been a positive journey. The down side is getting the word out there to the readers. I’m diligently working on that through my blog. Thousands of people read my blog on a daily/weekly basis. The hard part is getting those same thousands to subscribe and give me their email, so that I can communicate with them on a regular basis; however, social media does help. I have followers on facebook and twitter. I was old school and said that I would not go with social media, but I had to finally do it to sell more books.
Where do you think publishing is going? Some have predicted that readers are waning and that in years to come, few people will read anymore. Do you believe that?
No, I believe that people will always read, just in different ways. The eBooks and eReaders are changing times. People still read, if not a hardback or paperback, they read on their kindle or nook. Reading is reading.
How do you think technology is affecting writers? Both good and bad?
I believe that if you are a dedicated writer, you will go with the times. People used to use pen and paper, now they use PCs, laptops and tablets—it’s just a different instrument for the task. The bad part is that some older writers will not conform with the times and eventually, they will get left behind.
What do you love most in life?
Writing…I write every single day of my life—even when I’m sick. I had surgery and when I came to, I asked for a pen and paper to write about my experience. When family and friends ask me what I’m doing, the answer is always the same—writing. LOL
What is the best advice you would give a new author?
My advice is to write about what you know and research the parts that you don’t know. Write a book that you want to read. You will need plenty of conflict, but it must be believable. You will need to know and develop your characters. You must use professionals, such as a cover designer, an editor, and a formatter. Get others to read or critique your book before publishing (do not use family/friends for this), such as beta readers and other writers/authors. You must learn your craft. Get advice from other writers/authors. And…read.
What advice would you give an author about negative reviews?
My advice is everyone has a right to their opinion. Everyone is not going to like your writing. Negative reviews will help you to improve your writing. And…they sure do mess up a five-star rating!
If you could, what would you do to change the world?
I would like more peace among all people. If we could all, just get along.
Is there anything more you would like to add?
I would like to thank Best Indie Book Awards for the opportunity for this exciting interview. I hope this interview will allow readers to get to know the real me that’s inside of the writer. And finally, I hope readers will continue to enjoy my writing.
How to find Cheryl Holloway:
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2d27Tl1