Cheryl, tell us about your Wings of Refuge series.
The series is actually connected by a pararescue team. Each man on the team will hopefully have his own story plus the commander's story, which was a pleasant surprise because I didn't start out planning to write it and my editors asked for it. That's Aaron Petrowski's story (Soldier Daddy) an October 2009 Love Inspired. The series is also connected by locale, meaning each story is set in the small fictional southern Illinois town of Refuge, which I planted an unmapped military base around.
Each book in the series stands alone though, meaning readers can jump in at any time without being confused. Each book is its own complete story. None of that frustrating "to be continued" stuff. LOL!
Where did you get the idea for Wings of Refuge?
From hearing about the loss of real PJ Jason Cunningham. I grew up in New Mexico and there's a base there that's part of the PJ pipeline training. His story inspired the series because I didn't see a lot of authors writing about PJs. Many military romance writers write about Navy SEALS, but I've only read one other story that mentioned a PJ and that was one of Dee Henderson's Uncommon Valor stories from her phenomenal military series.
Which book (published or upcoming) has been the most fun for you to write and which character is your favorite? And why.
I think Celia from A Soldier's Family because she's so feisty. And Vince who I'm writing now for his story which releases in January 2010 (A Soldier's Devotion) because he's been such a pickle. I really enjoyed writing the twins from Petrowski's story (Soldier Daddy) which releases in October of this year.
In your first book, A Soldier's Promise, Amber does a tandem jump. Did you jump before writing that scene? (And if you did, did you scream all the way down, too?)
I didn't jump only because I discovered I was pregnant exactly at that time. I had called and ordered tandem jump tickets for my husband and I then cancelled because I was feeling nauseated. I thought I was just nervous about jumping. But alas...I was expecting! So it's a really good thing I didn't jump. LOL!
Celia is outrageously funny. I was thrilled to see her appear in Ready-Made Family! If Celia (from A Soldier's Family) could write your bio blurb what would it be?
HA-HA! LOVE this question. Celia would first wave her arms in wild-windmillish-mutant judo chops and rattle off something like this: (and you have to understand that Celia is a fireball and never takes a breath between sentences. Anyway, she's say about me:
"She's in SERIOUS need of one of my famous makeovers. You should see what she shows up for work in. SNOOPY jammies! I mean, come on! Sometimes she doesn't even put makeup on until 3.5 seconds before her hotsy totsy hubby gets home. Talk about a jalapeno! Her dog even freaks out and starts trembling violently when she puts on a pair of jeans because he knows she's actually leaving the house for longer than a day. And don't tell her I told you this but if you REALLY wanna mess with that white girl's head, walk behind her and try to talk to her while she's typing a sentence. Because her answer will show up in the book. She once had my big, bad special operations airman drinking out of a SIPPY CUP rather than a canteen because one of her kiddos ran behind her asking for a drink while she was typing a paragraph. Thankfully her stellar editor caught the error before the book went to print. OY! That girl...." clicks tongue, waves arms, dances off doing the cha-cha.
Where do you find your inspiration for writing?
Everywhere. In things I see. People I hear. I constantly eavesdrop on conversations. LOL! My friends and family know that they have the right to remain silent. Anything they say can and will be used against them in the craft of fiction. LOL!
You're a registered nurse by training—what was the turning point from nursing to writing? (how you started writing, how long have you been writing—any kind of writing) any turning points in your writing career?)
I went on bedrest with a pregnancy due to preterm labor and started writing for two reasons: One, do prevent death by boredom and 2) to distract me from fear of losing the baby. Being an OB nurse whose specialty was high-risk labor and delivery enabled me to envision ALL sorts of horrible scenarios. So I distracted my overactive imagination by starting to jot down the stories that had been running around my head for years. Soon my mom sneaked me a laptop and I click-click-clicked away under a blanket until my husband finally figured it out and asked me what I was writing. Once I told him I was attempting to learn fiction, he told the entire church and all of our friends and family that I would soon be on the NYT bestseller list. Gotta love his optimistic enthusiasm! When I hadn't sold five years later, he started to wonder what was WRONG with all those editors. LOL!
The writing journey isn't a short one. How long was it before you received The Call and your first contract?
I wrote and studied fiction for 7 years before selling. My 7th completed manuscript sold but I'd finished 15 by then. The first 4 were practice runs. LOL! About 3 years in the middle of the 7 though I did not submit except to contests for unpublished authors.
You were in a car accident the night before your first book signing, has that changed your life? Did that slow you down?
It slowed me down for a few months literally because I was on crutches. LOL! I had several resulting surgeries but I'm back up to speed now as far as physically. Spiritually it made me thankful that I wasn't killed or harmed worse and that my children all ended up okay. The police said if I'd been one second sooner or the impaired driver (who ran the stop sign speeding) been one second later, the wreck most likely would have been catastrophic for all passengers in my vehicle. THAT changed me definitely and made me release even more commitments so I could spend more time with my children. Because no one is promised tomorrow and I now fully understand the concept of "came out of nowhere" in a wreck that was completely sudden and totally unavoidable.
I love how you weave faith into your books. How much does your relationship with God play when you go to write a story? How much do you draw from Cheryl, and how much do you draw from Him?
Thank you! I try to mostly draw from Him and hardly from me. He's FAR more interesting. LOL! But my friends and family tell me they see aspects of me in every book I write. So I guess some me-isms just naturally bleed through. LOL!
I've heard that you've pulled a few pranks on your friends. What was the funnest one?
I would have to say a prank we pulled on a doctor once where we dressed up another male doctor in a maternity gown and ran to get the first doctor, telling him a patient just walked in with the baby crowning (meaning birth was imminent). He comes rushing in and jerks back the gown and thankfully the other doctor had boxer shorts on. LOL! Hilarious. So the pranked doctor "delivered" the eight-pound-four ounce "pillow." Normally hospitals are very serious and that kind of stuff doesn't happen. But we had a RARE slow couple of hours and the pranked doctor was getting ready to move out of state and was a known prankster himself. That was probably one of the funniest pranks I've been involved in because the pranked doctor said he'd never fall for a practical joke. And he did. Big time.
The most recent prank was when we got word that we were going to be TPd. So hubby and I filled up a bunch of water balloons and got the paint guns and got on top of the roof. When the kids showed up after dark and started toilet papering our trees, we let them get one tree really good to let down their guard, then we launched a major counter offensive that sent them all shrieking (even the guys) down the street. Really funny. And SO worth having to clean up the toilet paper and smashed water balloons the next day. Our yard was completely splotched with paint too. Very comical. We also stuck about 300 Republican signs in the small yard of a staunch Democrat in our neighborhood who will remain nameless because he's also a family member. LOL!
Oh my goodness! Knowing how Southern Illinois is in their politics, that was almost taking your life in your hands--as my hubby found out a few years ago! LoL
Your next book, A Soldier's Reunion, is due out in June. Can you tell us about it?
It's PJ Nolan's Story. It's a high-school reunion romance and more! :-) Here's a backcover blurb:
A MAN FROM HER PAST
Despite a decade apart, this isn’t the reunion Mandy Manchester expected! She thought she’d put high school sweetheart Nolan Briggs behind her. Now he’s back…and the pararescue jumper literally sweeps her off her feet. He’s ready and willing to rekindle what they once shared. Mandy, though, isn’t prepared to put her heart at risk. He left her before-she won’t trust him again. Can Nolan teach this grounded girl to take a leap of faith?
Wings of Refuge-These soldiers of the skies are fearless, faithful and falling…in love!
I can't wait to get my hands on that one, too, Cheryl! Can you tell us about ACFW and the role they've played in your writing career?
ACFW has been the most beneficial thing I think to my career. The conference networking and the friends I've made who've supported me are so valuable. The things I've learned from seasoned authors, editors and agents on the ACFW loop has greatly benefited me and my writing and my knowledge about the industry.
How can readers keep up with you and your new releases?
By signing up for my quarterly newsletter. To do that, visit my Web site and input your e-mail address in the newsletter space provided. If it doesn't work, e-mail me at Cheryl[@]cherylwyatt.com (remove brackets) and let me know that you need manually added. My newsletter is the best way to keep up with my releases. Also some people subscribe to my blog as well because I try to stay pretty active on it.
Cheryl has offered to give away a copy of A Ready-made Family, so leave a comment and an email addy (so I can contact you if you're the winner). She's also hoping to stop by and say hi, so if you have any questions, ask away!
Thank you so much, Cheryl, for being with us today!
Next week's interview is with Linore Rose Burkard. Hope to see you there!