Orsayor: Hi, Cheryl. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Cheryl: I have been writing fiction for the past seventeen years, publishing both independently and with a major publisher. I am now an independent author. I’m a native Detroiter, and I currently reside in Central Florida in an area that was hit by Hurricane Irma. We lost power for close to two weeks, and that experience reminded me of the importance of appreciating the small things. I’ll never forget how happy I was when those lights came back on.
Orsayor: What inspired you to write Ex-Ray?
Cheryl: Imagine being on the same job for fifteen years without a promotion. That’s how I felt in my writing career. I didn’t see much progress. Most readers still didn’t know me. Then, after a series of losses, one very tragic one, I decided to put my pen down. So, for several years, I didn’t write anything and didn’t think about writing. I just had fun, watched a lot of scripted TV, fell in love with characters on the small screen, made meals from scratch, perfected the green smoothie, and watched tons of natural hair videos on YouTube.
Then, as I was looking over my late father’s medical records, I kept staring at the words X-Ray, and I thought to myself that would make an interesting title, instead of X, change it to Ex, and it would be about someone’s ex-boyfriend or ex-husband named Ray. At that point, I wasn’t sure what the story was going to be about, but for once I had a title when usually it was the other way around and I had the story, and it would take me forever to come up with a title—one that I was rarely satisfied with. So, from the start, things were looking much better.
I am excited to return to writing with my first trilogy. I told myself I was going to let the characters lead me and that I was going to let them be as honest as they could to readers.
With eleven books under my belt, even though most readers have never heard of me, I now look at that as an opportunity to introduce myself.
Orsayor: Do you work with an outline or plot, or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
I prefer to see where an idea takes me, but I love using Scrivener. It’s an excellent way to keep track of characters and timelines for those who feel outlines are too structured for them. I highly recommend Scrivener to all writers, but I’m sure most writers have Scrivener or have heard of it.
Orsayor: Was there a scene in Ex-Ray that was hard for you to write?
Cheryl: Yes, but I can’t say which one or why because it would probably be a spoiler. What I can say, however, is that as I was reading for the audiobook and had distanced myself enough from when I’d written the book, I was finally able to empathize with Sarita and what she was going through. Imagine, it’s your first anniversary and you can’t find your husband. She was so excited because it was a special day for them, and then for her to discover what actually happened was devastating. I felt for her.
Orsayor: Give readers an insight into one of your main characters from the book.
Cheryl: To some, Sarita will seem naïve, and often female characters are criticized very harshly. I personally believe a lot more is expected from a female lead character, and especially a black female because it’s as if they’re representing all black women, which just isn’t fair. Black Hollywood actresses have spoken out on that and on how they often get criticized for taking a certain type of role, such as a prostitute or drug addict. As if they have to always be the role model.
Sarita isn’t representing all black women. Sarita is naïve to love, but she’s also a very intelligent woman. Evidenced by her two college degrees and her upper management position as well as being a CPA. The real issue with Sarita is that she listened to her mother and tried to obey her. I’ll go out on a limb and assume that most mothers would like for their daughters to listen to them and do as they say. Children are taught to obey their parents. Even as a young adult, Sarita’s mother had a tremendous hold on her. And for the most part, she allowed her mother to dictate her life until it came to Ray. Until Ray. Sarita listened to her heart when it came to Ray, but when it didn’t work out it made her trust her mother’s words even more. In Sarita’s mind, if she’d only listened to her mother, she probably would’ve been happily married to a different man. I definitely don’t agree with some of Sarita’s choices, but when I write, I try to do so without judgment for the reader’s benefit. I want my characters to take on a life of their own without any interference.
Orsayor: What’s one valuable piece of advice you were given that helped your career?
Cheryl: I often repeat to myself what I heard an NBA coach say to his players. I believe it was Doc Rivers. “Never get too high on the highs or too low on the lows.”
With fiction, there are a lot of highs and lows. As a writer I want readers to fall in love with my books and the characters and go on a journey with them. But in reality, one person may love it and rave about it, while another may hate it and rant about it. It’s because readers bring their own experiences and beliefs into a story. But as long as I, as the writer, pen something that I want to read, I can ride the waves—the highs and lows. When I was published by a major publishing company, there were books that I wrote to fulfill a contract, but I just wasn’t feeling it. There were books that I wrote that weren’t what I pitched to my literary agent, but it was what the publisher came back and said they were interested in buying. The Until Ray trilogy marks the start of me writing the types of stories I also want to read, and I’m hoping readers will also.
Orsayor: Can you tell readers about any upcoming projects?
Cheryl: In February 2018, Ex-Ray will be available in audiobook, and I’m doing the performance. I really put a lot into it to try to bring all of the characters to life, so I hope listeners enjoy it. I hoped it would have been released with the book, but editing is a very long process.
In June 2018, I will release the third book of the trilogy, and I will do a cover reveal in either March or April. Then, in January 2019, I will release a standalone book revolving around a character from the trilogy.
Orsayor: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Cheryl: My information is below…