The great thing about doing anthologies is spending time with the other author or authors. Sometimes there are stories to coordinate, but there's always promotion to do together. I was glad for this opportunity to connect with Debra Ullrick. Hopefully you will catch our other blogs around the blogosphere this month as well as pick up a copy of our anthology.
For something different we thought it would be fun to interview each other. So here you have it.
Debra: When did you decide you wanted to be writer?
Cheryl: I used to read horror, true crime and westerns—primarily those by Louis L’Amour. Through a book club, I discovered gothic mystery-type romance and had my first peek into the possibilities of great storytelling plus a romance. Wow, I was hooked and started reading romances.
Up until then I’d been dabbling at writing, but I‘d never gotten serious. The defining year for me was when my youngest daughter went to first grade. I had been at home raising four children spread out over several years and felt the void of sending the youngest to school all day. Until then I’d been playing at writing, keeping handwritten notebooks and dallying with the stories like a hobby. Then and there I decided I was actually going to do what I’d always dreamed of doing and write an entire book. I started the manuscript in October and finished it during that school year.
I had the time of my life. I had no idea what I was doing, so it had no plot or conflict, but the characters were fun and I enjoyed creating a romance. I even submitted the manuscript to every publisher and agent I could find. Only years later did I understand how embarrassing that was. I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I chose an unmarketable time period, and I even bound my submissions in pretty folders. The story is still in a box where it deserves to be.
The thrill of creating those first stories is a good memory. The job suits me perfectly. I set my own hours; I'm my own boss, and I don't have to get out of my jammies or put on makeup if I don't want to. Romance is what I love to read, and one of the first things we hear in writing classes is "write what you love" or "write what you know" -- well I don't know all that much, but I know what I love.
Debra: Do you have a favorite out of all the books you've written? If so, why?
Cheryl: SAINT OR SINNER and JOE’S WIFE have a couple of my all-time favorite heroes, and SWEET ANNIE and HIS SECONDHAND WIFE are two of my favorite heroines. THE DOCTOR’S WIFE and PRAIRIE WIFE are favorites because of the depth of emotion and healing.
Debra: What do you like to write about most?
Cheryl: Anything with deep emotion. My critique group says I love angst, and I guess I do. I enjoy taking a character out of a familiar setting and placing him somewhere completely foreign. I also like stories of false pretense or masquerade, where a person is pretending to be someone he or she is not. I love to put a character in a place where he or she has to feel strongly and react. I write about underdogs who deserve better, people who get second chances, those who need redemption or forgiveness. Love might make the world go around, but these things keep it on its axis.
Debra: What is one myth you think people have about authors?
Cheryl: That anyone could do it.
Debra: What inspired you to write Winter of Dreams?
Cheryl: I had been wanting to write a story about an undertaker for a while, and when this opportunity for a novella came along, that was the first think that popped into my head. Novellas are great for writing that story that doesn’t have enough plot for a full-length novel. Once I had my undertaker, the rest was easy: Create a heroine with built-in conflict.
Debra: What do you want people to take away from Winter of Dreams?
Cheryl: Just as people come in all shapes and sizes and colors, love happens in many shapes and forms as well. We are faced with situations every day, not romantic situations necessarily, but circumstances in which we can recognize love and share kindness. In my Love Inspired books I hope readers recognize God’s limitless love for us.
Debra: What is your favorite quote?
Cheryl: "I do not sit down to work because I am inspired. I become inspired because I sit down to work." - Oscar Hammerstein
Debra: If you could sit down and talk to any author, even one from the past, who it be and why?
Cheryl: There are two authors I’d like to talk with:
LaVyrle Spencer, because, even though I always wanted to write and dabbled at it here and there, her books inspired me to get serious and go for it. She wrote some of my favorite books of all time. Rye Dalton from <em>Twice Loved</em> remains my ultimate hero.
Stephen King, because, well, he’s Stephen King. I’m in awe of his brilliant ability to create characters and scenarios that engage readers on an astonishing level. I know it seems odd for a romance writer, but before I read romance, I read western and horror, and he was my go-to author. When my kids were young we had a pool, and every summer I read The Stand while lying on the deck. I enjoyed both mini-series versions too. I really like his book On Writing, and I’d love to pick his brain.
Debra: What does your writing cave look like?
Cheryl: Messy. Papers everywhere. Books all over. I’m known far and wide as a collector and my office reflects that particular gene as much as any room in my house. In my office have a curio full of old and new dolls: Barbies, My Scene, Ginnys, Disneys, Madame Alexanders, and any others I can’t resist.
There are framed writing awards on the few visible walls—most of the wall space is taken up by bookcases. The color of the walls is called Strawberry Pot, it’s a soothing and inspiring teal, my favorite color. I have a comfy rocking chair piled with pillows, a TV on an upper shelf, a counter full of office machines like copiers and printers and two computers. My book covers are thumb tacked to the bulletin boards that back my desk area on three walls, along with pics that readers have sent. I have half a dozen oil lamps, a row of Angel Cheeks, framed photographs of the cutest kids ever, a jeweled tiara and paperweights. A vintage globe that belonged to my grandmothers sits atop one of my cabinets. There are many things I love about my space, and one of them is that it’s sound proof. You can actually hear the difference when you come into the room—the effect created by four walls of books.
Debra: When you are not writing what do you do?
Cheryl: Probably not sleeping, LOL My husband and I like to garden together, so many of our weekends are spent creating arbors and gardens and ponds. We love to shop flea markets and browse antique malls. More often than not you could find me selecting paint, then watching him roll it on or arranging a spot in the house just so. I like to make interesting displays of vintage collections and have so many I have to change them out to enjoy them. I’m a movie junkie, so late at night I watch movies (and take plotting notes—it makes me feel like I’m working). December found me watching every Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movie there was.
Cheryl: What was your first novel and what do you remember most about it?
Debra: My first novel was The Bride Wore Coveralls. I love the heroine because if I could be like anyone, it would be like her. She's tiny, petite, feminine, yet rugged, she's feisty and spirited, a woman who doesn't let people bully her around. Plus, she's a great mechanic who repairs autos and builds and races mud-boggers as well, if not better, than any man.
Cheryl: Do you have a favorite character you’ve written so far?
Debra: Yes! Selena Farleigh Bowen, the heroine in The Unlikely Wife. I fell in love with this heroine because what you see if what you get. She's not out to change who she is for anyone or to put on a show for anyone. She's real and genuine. Despite her Kentucky hills upbringing and those who think less of her for it, she's content with who she is and where she comes from. She's kind, caring, and yet she doesn't let people walk all over her. She's a woman who can take care of herself, and I admire that. She's also a woman who loves deeply and enjoys the simple little things in life.
Cheryl: What can your readers expect from you in 2013?
Debra: Well, I'm working on a three-book proposal and a contemporary single Christmas heroes novel. Plus, <em>The Unintended Groom</em>, the last in the Bowen series, is coming out in June and, of course, our novella anthology <em>Colorado Courtship</em> is coming out in January.
Cheryl: What is your favorite thing to do during a relaxing evening at home?
Debra: Watch a good movie or TV show with my sweet hubby. Boring, I know, but just being in the room with my husband is a joy to me, no matter what I'm doing.
Cheryl: Do you enjoy hobbies or creative pastimes?
Debra: I used to love to draw western art, using acrylics, charcoal, and pastels, but not anymore. (You can see some of my drawings on my website at www.debraullrick.com I also used to crochet dolls, but I don’t do that anymore either. I do love to go to classic car shows as often as I can. Not sure that's creative or not, but it is to me. hehe Actually, writing has taken over all of those creative pastime activities. Shame on me. Tee hee.
Cheryl: What book is on your desk right now?
Debra: None. If I had one on my desk I wouldn't get anything done. However, I have a ton of them on my headboard, my bookshelves, and my two Kindles.
Cheryl: List your top five favorite movies of all time:
Debra: All of Jane Austen novel movies - every version of them, Wives and Daughters, While You Were Sleeping, You've Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle.
Cheryl: What is your favorite quote?
Debra: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." By Eleanor Roosevelt.
Cheryl: Do you make New Year’s resolutions or set goals in January? If so, will you share one or two?
Debra: Yes, to get better organized, to completely read through another devotional, and to pray more, especially since I have a better understanding of what prayer really is all about - connecting with God.
Cheryl: What is your guilty pleasure?
Debra: Hidden Object and Match 3 computer games. I'm addicted to them and find them very relaxing. I have almost 300 pc games. Talk about guilt.
Love Inspired Historical
2-in-1 January 1, 2013
Winter of Dreams by Cheryl St.John
If Violet Kristofferson had known that her new employer was the town undertaker, she might never have come to Carson Springs as his cook. Yet she needs a fresh start away from scandal. And Ben Charles's unflinching faith could be her path to something truly precious—a new family.
The Rancher's Sweetheart by Debra Ullrick
The cowboys on her uncle's ranch show Sunny Weston no respect—except for foreman Jed Cooper. A riding and roping contest is Sunny's chance to prove herself. But now that she's falling for Jed, will she find courage to take the biggest risk of all, and trust her heart?