Cherry Shephard knew she wanted to write romance novels from the time she was a teenager, when she read her mother's copy of The Last Viking by Sandra Hill under her blankets with a torch.
At age 28, she finally penned her debut novella, Masquerade. This was quickly followed by Unmasked.
Currently residing in sunny Queensland, Australia, with her partner Patrick, three children and her dogs and cats. When she's not writing, Cherry is an avid horror movie buff and WWE fan.
Now on with the interview...
ME: What is your favorite childhood book?
CHERRY: Growing up, we didn’t own a TV. My grandmother purchased a huge basket of books from a garage sale for about $20, and brought them over for me. They were the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series, and I devoured each and every one of them many times. I loved that the authors were able to weave such intricate webs of mystery, and I wanted to do the same. My favourite story would have to be Nancy Drew and the Treasure in the Royal Tower.
ME: What is the first book that made you cry?
CHERRY: Oh, this is a great question. To be honest, I’m an emotional reader. I have cried at so many books, that I can’t possibly remember which one started it. The first book that I remember crying over was Schappelle Corby’s “My Story”. It was harrowing, brutal and I can’t imagine ever being in a situation such as she was. Regardless of guilt or innocence, it sounds like a living nightmare.
ME: Is writing your primary 'job' or do you have another source of income?
CHERRY: Writing is my full-time job however, I also homeschool my three children.
ME: Do people around you know you write romance/erotica and what do they think about it?
CHERRY: I’m so fortunate that not only do my family and friends know the content of my books, but they fully support me. I have recently switched up my genre, focusing on a more romantic thriller aspect, and they have been incredibly supportive during the transition.
ME: Do you believe in writer’s block? If not why not? And if so what suggestions do you have to start the juices flowing again.
CHERRY: I don’t necessarily believe in writer’s block. I believe it is up to the individual author to get themselves into a routine, as this helps to ‘trick’ the brain into being ready for the words, making it easier to focus.
I suggest scheduling your writing, preferably at the same time and place each day. By scheduling your writing time, and sticking to it, you’re training your mind to focus on writing during that time.
ME: Great advice, so let's talk about your process for a while. Are you a plotter or fly by the seat of your pants kind of writer?
CHERRY: I used to be the world’s biggest pantser. Once I switched up my genre, I found that was no longer a viable option. Since I have begun plotting my stories, I am finding they flow smoother and read better. My characters are more developed, and the plot more intricate and thick.
ME: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
CHERRY: I think, ultimately, it depends on the story. For those who have read Flawed (Blaze of Glory #2), the first chapter is a rather detailed 9/11 scene. I spent two months researching for this, trying to give it as much realism as possible, whilst still retaining the dignity and respect of the victims and their families. I studied blue prints of the towers, detailed scenes of the disaster. I listened to phone calls from inside the towers, and watched every documentary I could get my hands on.
For my upcoming story, Dirty Little Secret, I have studied many thriller movie franchises, with emphasis on teen slasher movies such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
ME: Would you rather write standalones, standalones with connections to your other works, or multi book series with no true conclusion until the very end?
CHERRY: I enjoy writing standalones, however many of my books scream for cliffhanger endings or series. I rarely go into a series, intending for it to actually be a series, with the exception of Mortuary.
ME: Where do your story ideas come from?
CHERRY: Inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time. Most of my stories have started from something simple like a song lyric, a photograph or even a random Facebook status. I always carry a spare pen and a scrap of paper, because I never know when the creative bug will strike. I’m actually looking at buying a waterproof whiteboard for my shower!
ME: Do you ever base your characters, events or locations on real people, events or places?
Flawed was obviously based on 9/11, and the terrible aftermath that so many people experienced.
My upcoming romantic comedy, Wipeout, is set in Surfer’s Paradise. I used real business locations, I simply changed their names. Whilst you’re visiting the Gold Coast, see if you can work out the real locations.
ME: Great challenge for our attendees. So, is there a character in one of your books loosely based off yourself?
CHERRY: Absolutely not, *snort* that would be awkward to read. That being said, I model my characters after real-life traits that I admire in people, or that I see in myself.
ME: What process do you use for selecting the names of your characters?
CHERRY: If I’m looking for an unusual name, such as Shy from my Mortuary series, I’ll generally look to see if it’s been used before. Otherwise, I grab names from my Facebook friend list, or use a baby name generator.
ME: Who has been your most difficult character to write so far?
Without question, the most difficult character I’ve written so far is Keets from Flawed. He was such a tortured soul, he broke my heart many times.
ME: Have you ever killed off someone who pissed you off in one of your books?
CHERRY: Haven’t we all? I find that real anger always helps me to write better death scenes.
ME: What was your hardest scene to write?
CHERRY: The first chapter of Flawed. Writing such a detailed description of 9/11 is still the most difficult scene I’ve ever written.
ME: Does writing energize or exhaust you, and why?
CHERRY: I think it does both. As I’m writing, the creativity is flowing and I’m so energized and invigorated by that, but once I start to wind up for the day, I find myself exhausted, as though I’ve just run a mental marathon. That’s why self-care is so important as a writer. It’s so easy to be sucked into the story that you forget to eat, rest and shower.
ME: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal, and why?
CHERRY: Oh, another great question. I think I would choose a unicorn, because writers create magic every time they put the proverbial (or literal, in some cases) pen to paper.
ME: Okay, let's finish up with some advice for the budding young novelists out there. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
CHERRY: Learn the craft. You’re not going to be an overnight success, but if you work hard and stay true to yourself, every book will be better than the last.
ME: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
CHERRY: Vanity publishers. If a publisher approaches you, and wants to charge you a fee to publish your book, run – don’t walk.
Also, it’s so easy for new or aspiring authors to give up because they didn’t make a million dollars on their first book. Don’t give up. If you truly love writing, then keep going. You may never earn a million dollars, but you’ll never know that if you stop now.
ME: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
CHERRY: Editing and cover design, no question. I’m so lucky to have an amazing team behind me. Please, if you’re a new author, don’t make the same mistakes I made. You can only edit your own book so much, eventually you will need the eyes of a professional.
ME: Thanks for your time, Cherry. Looking forward to seeing you at RTC2018.