Interview with Cheryl Murnane, author of “Steady as You Go”

What inspires you to write?

I feel that I have a lot of romance running through my mind ~ I see people living life and it inspires me. I see nature moving along without people getting in the way and it inspires me. I believe that I was created to write, so that I could share my visions of life with the world. When I see heartbreak, I think, “oh but the love they shared must have been strong if they are crying so hard at the loss.” That’s what inspires me to write…being able to teach and show people that there is an alternative to living a stressed or fearful life. Not making things personal, but viewing as they are. It’s empowering.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Highly important because it’s the first introduction to the story. As an author you have but a moment to capture someone’s eye and reel them in. In designing my covers I want them to look like a coffee table book. A piece of art work that will be an accent in someone’s home as much as the story will touch someone’s heart.

Have you ever designed your own book cover?

I work with a cover designer, but I have the final say in how the cover lays out. It’s a collaboration between us. I choose the picture and she uses her talent to tweak it. She lays the title over image and adds shadows and highlights to make the image pop.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

Yes, I’m writing a novella as “book one” of a new series I’m building. It will take place in a small American town on the east coast, following two characters, a paralegal and a police officer who meet through a child abandonment case. It will also have a holiday theme to it and I hope to have it ready for release in November 2016.

Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

NOT AT ALL! It’s about getting the story out. In my case, it’s about moving thoughts from the mind to the screen because I write on my laptop. Clean up can start later! You don’t want to lose a fresh idea. Sometimes I get so caught up in writing that secondary characters have two different names and characteristics! That stuff can be worked out during editing.

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

Not in my opinion. Having the basics down is a start, and working with a great editor is key. Writers write, let editors edit. As long as someone has the ability to tell a great story, tell the story and let a grammar Nazi clean it up for you. The story has to come first.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I will edit my work to make it as clean as I can and then I send it to my editor, Sue Ducharme. She brings things to my attention that aren’t clear, character inconsistencies, or grammar issues. We work together to clean it up. Hiring an editor is so important to ensure that the story a writer is trying to convey is actually told. Fresh eyes on a manuscript pick up errors in a snap. No matter how many times I read through my work there is always something to find.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”?

How long do they usually last? When I feel a block coming on, I begin to meditate. I go inside and wait for an answer to reveal itself. Initially, it may not be the way I want the story to go, but I follow it knowing at any time it can be moved to my “extras file.” I start with something and it can bring me somewhere amazing…a place I couldn’t see in the beginning, but a place that was waiting for me all along. It’s the space between a thought and a dream.

Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

I find that if I stay open and not freak out that I’m lost, ideas will come to me easier. Walking away for coffee or stretching is always helpful. Distance can be your friend!

Do your novels carry a message?

Yes, they do. I write from my heart and bring the reader on a journey through experiences to an understanding that all things are possible in faith and hope. I want to share the peace that can be achieved in life when you don’t force your way through it, but allow the force to guide you.

Who are your books mostly dedicated to?

My dedications serve to thank people that have impacted my life in a way that when I think about them it’s as if we are one in the same. The stories in the two books I’ve written have revealed to whom the dedication should go. In During the Fall, I knew it would be my grandmother and mother because of the story line. I would not be the person I am today without their influence in my life. In writing Steady as You Go, the fire element reminded me of the love and respect I have for my grandfather and knew I would dedicate it to his memory. Unfortunately, he passed while I was writing it and he didn’t know that I honored him. Also, the respect I have for firefighters, is immense so I wanted to spotlight them as well. As I write more books I will continue to choose dedications to those people who are close to me and perhaps inspirational to the story.

It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?

Yes, I go deep into the pain I’ve suffered and offer light or hope to those who suffer or are confused in how to accept an issue in their life. I feel helpful to share a different approach to living…from a curious mind instead of a closed mind. At the same time I get to heal something within me. So it’s a double healing!

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Yes, the scene in During the Fall in which Jenny tells Alex she is moving to California the night before he proposes. I did that to my husband, and all these years later I still don’t know how he felt that night when he knew what he had prepared for the following day!

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My daughter! My mother is the most proud though. I think she’s told everyone she knows that I’ve written books.

Do you enjoy book signings?

Yes! I’m a people person so I love to meet book lovers! It also gives me an idea of who my readers are so I can connect with them through emails or social media.

Do you reply back to your fans and admirers personally?

Absolutely. If someone takes the time to write to me, it should go without saying that they deserve the same in return.

They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

I think that a book whispers the words and imagery in your mind and a movie is yelling, “Look at this, hear that!” You can’t reinvent an emotion between a book held in your hands and a movie viewed outside of your body. It can come close, but I always enjoy the book more than the movie.

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

I spend the time away from my laptop working in my salon making my clients beautiful! I have been a hair stylist for many years and have owned my salon, Accents on Hair, for 18 years. I love what I offer people…good conversation and a peaceful place to be themselves and relax! I will not, however, use my client’s stories as my own. Unless they beg me to write about something that happened to them and only then with their permission.

What do you do in your free time?

With two children and a dog, it seems I’m always doing something, but I love to spend time in my flower gardens and I like to exercise to stay fit and keep my mind sharp. Also, getting lost in a book is a great way to pass the time.

Have you ever taken any help from other writers?

When I first started out I was part of a writer’s group and worked through some of the plot line of During the Fall. Also, I have a client that has become a writing partner/supporter. We meet to discuss our current projects and help each other with marketing ideas and other things that pop-up while trying to publish and promote our books.

What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?

I haven’t done anything with another author as far as joining together to write, but I bounce ideas off of my writer partner. I would enjoy working together to create a book…two minds are better than one, right? I think working together may have a rich effect on the story. Having two opinions on how to move the story and creating the extra incidentals would be real interesting.

Are you satisfied with your success?

I never want to be satisfied because complacency follows in its wake!

Do you keep a diary?

Yes, I do. It’s productive for me to cleanse my mind of daily thoughts and it’s really fun to read through them years later! It’s a place where I can be brutally honest about my feelings and not hold back. I believe it helps keep the creative juices flowing.

Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?

I’ve had the experience of having a dream present an ending to the story or a solution to a plot issue. I have turned daydreams into stories! I wander around life always thinking how an experience that I had would make for a great story! I believe as a writer you never stop thinking of how to create stories! It’s life impacting art at its finest!

Do you think the charm of public libraries has toned down much in the last decade?

I sure hope not. I love the feeling of calm that comes over me when I enter my local library. It feels as good as the first cup of coffee in the morning. Having the resources and endless selection of books to choose from keeps a reader in touch with discovering new authors and gives them an opportunity to search for new genres or books – risk-free. I’ve found some of my favorite authors by walking up and down the aisles searching for the book that pops out at me. I wouldn’t want to think that we are in jeopardy of losing a great institution.

Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?

I took a writing class just before writing During the Fall. I wanted to freshen up my skills and I needed some feedback on my approach. My instructor, Julieanna, wrote me a note on my final piece saying, “Don’t stop writing. You have a voice the world needs to hear.” It was the push I needed and I know she would be proud of what I have accomplished in only two years’ time.

Which writer’s work do you believe most resembles your work?

I find it hard to say I’m like this person or that person…it crosses the line of saying that I think I’m that good, when in effect I may be way off the mark. So, I have had readers tell me that they would compare my books to Susan Mallery, Nora Roberts, and Jude Deveraux. To that I say, I’m in great company!

What would you say is your biggest failure in life?

All the times I didn’t try something I should have. I have learned that there are no real failures in life only experiences you didn’t take. You can turn it around and start saying yes at any moment!

Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

I enjoy both, but I love to travel! I love meeting new people, seeing new places and the feeling of coming home is even better! To experience life I feel that it’s important to see the world and know that we are smaller than we think. It’s a big world out there and it’s crazy to think I won’t see most of it in my lifetime.

How liberal are you in term of expressing ideas in your books?

I’m very open in my writing. I write from my heart and work to connect to my readers. I try to guide them on a journey that is available for them to incorporate in their own lives. My impactful and meaningful style of writing, is true to who I am.

Are you working on something new at the moment?

I’m currently building the start to a series that takes place in small town America in the New England area. The books will be romantic journeys in which the characters will “find” themselves or realize their life’s purpose along the way. I have a rough outline for books one and two. As I write them, more characters will reveal themselves and interesting story lines.

If you die today, how would want the world to remember you?

As a loving, kind, generous, and fun soul. Someone that tried her hardest to make others happy and share the gifts that God put in her. I feel fulfilled with the life I’ve lived and if I was to die today, I have no regrets!

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