Today Mama Writers welcomes award-winning inspirational romance author, Cheryl Wyatt. Cheryl is generously GIVING AWAY a copy of her latest Love Inspired romance, READY-MADE FAMILY, to one lucky person who comments today! Thanks, Cheryl! Check out her Wings of Refuge series from Steeple Hill.
MW: When did you start writing? Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?
Cheryl Wyatt (CW): I’ve written since I could hold a crayon. My mom still has this picture book I wrote and illustrated with crayons and construction paper. It was a story about a dog named Blue (long before Blues Clues! LOL). When my debut novel arrived my mail, I took it to my mom, who has always championed this dream, and said, “Mom! Look. This is my first book!”
She smiled in her sweet way and said, “No, actually, THIS is your first book.” And she took me to a filing cabinet FULL of papers from my sister and I that she’d kept since we were children. Things we’d drawn her, poems I’d written. And she pulled out that tattered construction paper book that I’d written at around age 5 or so. I hadn’t even remembered it…but my mom never forgot. She said, “I always knew you could do it.” And my dad was the same way. They never let me believe that I couldn’t accomplish my dreams. Of course I now know that it helps if those dreams are governed by God. And that it is from His maneuvering that things happen, and not by our own doing. Because even the creativity and talent and the will to persevere and to learn comes from Him.
MW: Your current release, Ready-Made Family, is an inspirational romance from Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired line. Can you tell us a little about it?
CW: Ready-Made Family is the third book in Wings of Refuge. Each book is its own story and a person need not have read the previous books to jump right in. Each WOR book features one man from a fictional Pararescue Jumper (PJ) team. This is Ben’s story. And here’s the back cover blurb:
April 2009-Steeple Hill Love Inspired–IN STORES NOW!
(Received 4.5 Stars from Romantic Times–WTG Cheryl!)
Wings of Refuge Series
Back cover blurb:
A PLACE TO CALL HOME
Amelia North needs refuge, and finds it–in Refuge, Illinois. Stranded there after a car wreck, the single mother expects to be cold-shouldered. After all, she’s already been rejected by her parents, her church and her daughter’s father. Instead, she finds a town full of people with open hands and hearts…including pararescue jumper Ben Dillinger.
Ben wants to help Amelia and her daughter find safety and stability. Instead, he finds himself freefalling—right into love with the ready-made family.
MW: How did you come up with the idea behind it? And do you see some of yourself in the characters?
CW: My books are character-driven, so part of the idea came from my love for disabled people. Hutton (brother to the hero) has Mosaic Down Syndrome and I got the idea for his character when a friend of mine lost her daughter Emily, who had Down Syndrome. I was so inspired by Anna and how she interacted with Emily and how she made Emily’s life so very full and fun and how Emily enriched and enlivened everyone’s life she touched. I often characterize my lead characters by showing their relationships with secondary or ancillary characters, so it was in this relationship between fictional Ben and his brother Hutton that I knew part of the story line.
Then on the heroine’s side, I have a heart for single mothers and for people who’ve been wounded by toxic churches, and a heart for praying for churches to be healthy. So while I don’t write agenda-driven books and really don’t like reading agenda-driven books, somehow in the writing of this book, readers are seeing the difference between a healthy church and a toxic church and how that can adversely or positively affect a person’s faith.
The opening scene idea came to me at Disney in Florida one evening sitting by the pool at our hotel. A woman and I began talking when she asked me about the Alphasmart I was typing on. Our children were splashing around in the kiddie pool together. I told her about the story I was working on plotting, which was RMF. So she shared with me how she once passed out from an electrolyte imbalance while being alone with her children and how that was a terrifying wake-up call to take care of herself physically. So that became the premise for the opening scene where my heroine passes out from an electrolyte imbalance while alone with her young daughter in a strange town.
Tell us a little more about the hero, Ben. He’s a pararescue jumper…sounds dangerous and very attractive…
CW: There are real PJs out there, though not many. Most people do not know or hear about them because they are silent heroes, sort of like Navy SEALS, but PJs are Air Force. They were used as far back as Vietnam and are still used today. I love being able to honor the real heroes by highlighting their career. Sadly I have to cut out most of my action-rescue scenes because they really don’t fit the romance aspect of Steeple Hill. LOL!
Ben is a multi-layered hero in that, yes he’s this brave, elite special forces soldier. Strong and stalwart and willing to risk his life so others can life, which is the PJ creed, exactly like the Coast Guard creed. Yet he’s dimensional in the fact that I also made him a worship leader in his church. So he has this romantic/poetic side that he really doesn’t like his team mates to see because they razz him about it. But that side comes out when he meets the heroine and freefalls for her and her little girl. Ben struggles with knowing how to relate to his brother, who has a disability. So while Ben is perfection physically with all those muscles, he’s not perfect and has issues to work through, though I didn’t traumatize him with as hard of a past as I did my heroine. LOL!
MW: What do you love about writing romance? About writing about families?
CW: Oh, great question! I LOVE writing romance because there is ALWAYS a happy ending. Guaranteed. Although your job as an author is to make the reader wonder and keep them guessing and bring them to a point where they truly question whether the hero and heroine are goint to get together in the end. Maneuvering the conflict in the story so it’s believable yet engaging is a challenge I love. I love writing romance because I am an avid romance junkie. I read for the escape that a happily-ever after provides. Life has so many sad endings, that I love being able to entertain people for a couple of hours. If they come away from my books having laughed at a line of dialogue or feeling uplifted or entertained by the story, then I’m satisfied. I feel so blessed to be able to do something I love. I’ve been blessed with two careers in my life. an OB nurse (not doing that currently) and being an author. If you find something you love to do, it won’t ever feel like “work.” It will be a delight rather than a duty. Writing is a great delight. And I’m very, very thankful to get to do it.
MW: Do you plan to venture out into any other genres?
CW: Well, I think I will always love and write romance. I would like to branch out into single titles so that I can focus on action-romance with more emphasis on the action. But I will never not write category romance because I love doing that too. And of course God only knows what the future holds. But I would love to be able to write worship songs some day.
MW: What are you working on now?
CW: Multitasking. LOL! Just finished sending in my Dedication and Acknowledgements and Bible verse (front matter) for Soldier Daddy (PJ commander Aaron Petrowski’s story) which releases in October of this year. Finishing up PJ Vince’s story which is titled A Soldier’s Devotion and releases in January 2010. It was an absolute blast to write. And getting ready to finish PJ Chance’s story. Then after that, I will try to come up with a storyline for PJ Brock that will hopefully make his story irresistible to my editors. Those of you familiar with my Wings of Refuge series….PLOT IDEAS WELCOME FOR BROCK! He needs a heroine too! Feel free to e-mail me your plot ideas and if the book sells, you will be acknowleged in the book.
MW: What do you tell your kids about your writing?
CW: Well, they sometimes have cyber rivalry but for the most part they just see me as mom. I really try hard not to write while they’re home. I set definite writing hour and stick strictly to those hours which fall while they are at school. Then I try not to write on weekends or in the evenings until they go to bed. A few times a year if I have a looming deadline, I do have to end up writing while they’re home and awake. But I bribe them with activities and try to make up the time with them by doing something special with each of them. They all love books and reading and they consider it a reward to get to go to a bookstore and choose a new book to read. I love that they all have a love for reading. And my middle daughter has already won a creative writing award in school. With her imagination, she actually came up with one of the lines in a single title I was working on. The heroine said, “I hope you don’t think I’m playing hard to get.” And the hero comes back with, “You might not be playing hard to get, but I fully intend to play hard to get rid of.” That line came from my daughter saying two boys were fighting over which one could kiss her on the playground. And she said to the little boy, “I’m not playin hard to get! I’m playing hard to get rid of.” I laughed so hard when the teacher and my older niece and other children told me that. I HAD to find a place for it in a book.
So to an extent I let them help me as much as possible. They put the stamps and the address labels on any mailouts I do. They also help me stuff my influencer envelopes with pens and bookmarks. So allowing them to help gives them a sense of ownership over it. But for the most part, I try to stress to them that just because my writing gift is visible and people can get my books at the store, that everyone is gifted and that I’m not special just because I’m published. I try to help them understand that anyone using their gifts for God makes God’s heart smile. My main gift is intercessory prayer. And I try to focus more on that invisible gift. I prefer the hiddenness of the prayer gift because I am shy/introverted. But the writing gift and publication has forced me out of obscurity where I’d rather stay hidden. I just want my children to know that every gift means something to God and that anyone can make maximum impact on this earth if they just ask God to make it so. Then obey.
MW: What is the best thing about being a mom writer?
CW: My children are such an inspiration and a joy. Not a day goes by that they don’t do or say something that has me howling with laughter. And not a day goes by that they don’t do or say something to make me learn something about how God sees me. The fierce love that I have for my children and the great joy they bring to me, makes me in awe all the more of the love of Abba Father.
It’s HARD being a mom writer on days the kids are feeling cyber-rivalry though. They KNOW which guilt buttons to push. So I try to stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His nudgings. He lets me know when I need to set the computer aside and cuddle with one of my children.
MW: What is the most challenging?
CW: Finding uninterrupted time to write during the rough draft which comes out better if I can take a week and blow through it without stopping. Also, writing through distraction and joyful chaos is challenging. LOL!
MW: What do you personally look for in a book, and who have been some of your influences?
CW: Dee Henderson. Love her military stuff. I read secular military authors too. There are so many authors I love, it would be impossible to name them. But some of my favorites are on the Seekerville blog with me www.seekerville.blogspot.com.
And Cynthia Ruchti…I love anything she writes. Even e-mails! She has a book releasing from Abingdon and I believe she will be well-loved by her readers. I loved reading her stuff and always told her she was my favorite author even before she got a contract.
I also love Camy Tang’s stories for the humor and spiritual lessons. Robin Carrol’s suspense as well as my fellow Steeple Hill authors books.
Cathy Marie Hake is a definite favorite.
MW: Where can readers find you?
CW: I am on most social network sites. There are links on my Web site www.cherylwyatt.com
Folks can also sign up for my newsletter for more information. I give away lots of goodies and have lots of extras exclusive for my newsletter subscribers.
MW: Okay, for the fun questions: what has been your biggest shopping splurge?
CW: Oh, wow. This is hard because I normally spend money on other people. Okay, recently I am embarrassed to admit that I spent 25 bucks on a WALLET. But! But! But it was zebra print pink and black and matched my purse! That’s been the biggest. But, I tell you, I am DROOLING over the Kindle 2. I would love to have a Kindle myself but first I’m going to put my readers first and give one away to them and envy the winner myself. LOL!
MW: And…what would someone be surprised to learn about you?
CW: I am tomboyish. Love guns and knives and wicked-looking swords and NASCAR and anything military. I’m addicted to McDonald’s Sweet tea at the moment and I am an organ/tissue donor recipient (bone). I was an archery whiz, a chess champion and a poolshark once upon a time. Though we still have a pool table in our game room, I don’t play much anymore. I have been a short-term missionary to India. I love orphans and widows and most of the time they’ll make it into my books.
MW: Thanks for letting me interview you, Cheryl!
CW: I’ve had a blast. Thanks so much for the opportunity!
Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin’s Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.
To receive her quarterly newsletter for updates on new releases and contests with GREAT prizes (think: free books, CDs, iPods, and a Kindle!), visit her Web site at www.cherylwyatt.com and sign up in the space provided. Cheryl respects your privacy and will not share your e-mail address with a third party.
Check out Ready-Made Family at Amazon and eHarlequin.com!