“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees - my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath - a source of little visible delight, but necessary.”—Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights
I didn’t like to read as a teen. I didn’t like English class, either. I fell in love with reading as an adult, when it wasn’t “assigned reading” from a class or teacher. I fell in love with reading so much, ideas for books started running through my head so I decided to start writing a book. (I have a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Psychology and a master’s degree in Industrial Relations – both of which don’t have anything to do with writing a book.) Seriously one day I sat down and just started writing.
Since I first fell in love with romance novels, my first book was a Native American historical romance novel. I tried to sell it, but didn’t have interest from agents or editors. Then I wrote Perfect Chemistry, but wasn’t able to sell that book either (it was the 2nd book I wrote but the 4th book I sold). I was on a writers retreat and my writer friends told me I should write “what I know” and since my father was Israeli and my husband is Israeli they said I should write a hilarious book about a girl who travels to Israel. I did, and entered a writing contest with the book. To my complete surprise, I won the writing contest. Less than a week later, an agent offered representation and sold the book two months later. She then sold two more books on proposal (three chapters and a synopsis). All my books are teen romances, because I love reading romances…I love happy endings more than anything!
I’ve won a lot of awards and am so happy that I found a new agent who saw potential in my bestselling novel Perfect Chemistry and sold it to a wonderful publisher Walker Books. My editor Emily Easton loved Perfect Chemistry immediately and I’m excited Emily is letting me write a trilogy (the second book Rules of Attraction hit bookstores this week and I even hired a film company to film a book trailer for it that looks like a movie trailer with actors and snippets of scenes acted out - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhEx0kaUlrU)
My advice for writers is to never give up and always work on your craft. Sometimes it takes setting aside that first book and moving on to write your second and third book. (knowing you can always go back and sell your first novel) I also read manuscripts from new writers with stilted dialogue. Write how you talk and your dialogue will come out naturally.
It’s always difficult for me to decide what my absolute favorite book is, but this list is my current top 5.
1. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen This book is by far my absolute favorite and it probably will be until the day I die. Sarah Dessen’s novels are absolutely amazing. My first young adult novel was by her and it was called This Lullaby and as much as I loved that novel, this novel just stands out the most to me. It may be because of my love of music and it may be the cover. But overall, this novel is one of her best.
In Just Listen, Annabel Greene finds herself dreading the new school year and seeing everyone again, especially her ex-best friend Sophie. Annabel finds herself on the outside looking in and just as she expects, every person she sees in the hall hassles her about what happened over the summer. And to top it all off, her sister Whitney has severe anorexia and Annabel tries to keep up with her mother’s approval by living out the dream of being a model. It’s not long until Owen, a loner who comes off as a bully, appears at Annabel’s side without any judgements. He teaches Annabel how valuable life can be without any judging in it and gives a new meaning to the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.”
2. Private Series by Kate Brian Although there should be just one book on this number, the whole Private series by Kate Brian, the pseudonym for Kieran Scott, is one that cannot be just listed as one book. It all begins with Reed Brennan, a girl from a low-class family, who gets a scholarship to Croton’s most elite school - Easton Academy. And she will do anything to avoid going back to her broken home with her drug-addict mother. She never feels fully accepted into Easton until she meets the Billings Girls. Everyone wants to be a part of Billings - Billings practically owns the school. But behind the doors of Billings lie dozens of skeletons concealed in closets protected by the girls who are willing to do anything to keep their secrets safe.
3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold The Lovely Bones was one of the best books I had ever read. I honestly could not put it down for the life of me. My Aunt told me about it a couple of years ago while she was reading it and my cousin even recommended it to me. I’m not exactly sure why I never read it after they told me about it, but I’m glad I did at some point. Better late than never, right?
The Lovely Bones is the heartwrenching story of Susie Salmon, a girl who was raped and murdered in 1973. Readers are pulled into the novel as Susie goes through her transition into Heaven, where each person has their very own customized version. And as she meets other victims that her murderer cornered, she also watches over her family and friends as they all grow up without her. It has a very realistic feel to it as her family goes through rough patches as a result of Susie’s death and every emotion displayed as the story goes on is felt by those who read it. I highly recommend it to all who love to read.
4. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson Laurie Halse Anderson’s style in this novel is absolutely brilliant and captivating - a style that is so unique and can never be done by anyone other than Anderson herself. And she has the perfect bite to back it up.
Lia and Cassie have been best friends for years and together developed an eating disorder. Eventually they turned it into a competition of who could become skinnier, resulting in Cassie’s death when the two are eighteen. Lia faces the guilt weighing down every organ in her body as she constantly reminds herself about Cassie’s thirty-three calls the night before she died seeking help. Anyone reading this novel can feel the emotions that Lia goes through as she reminds herself of how she could have possibly saved her best friend’s life by as simple a gesture as answering her phone along with her attempts to keep her secret under the baggy clothes she wears to look like a normal, recovered teenage girl.
5. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer I know most people are tired of all the Twilight mania going on right now, but this novel is one of the greatest novels I’ve read. I loved each book in the saga, but the original is the one I’d have to keep as my favorite of the four.
I was never into the kind of stories involving vampires (or werewolves, for that matter) or anything sci-fi/fantasy until this novel. I was a little skeptical with it when my friend Ashley was telling me about it while having to read it over the summer for her English class, but the more and more I kept hearing about it, the more I wanted to check it out. Besides, the cover was attractive to me as well. And when I found out that it was about a mortal girl falling in love with a vampire boy, that pulled me in as well and made me want to read it even more, because my vision of vampires was that they did nothing but kill people after biting their necks. But I stood corrected after this new view of vampires came along.
It started out slow as some novels do, but as I kept reading I got pulled in more and more each time I turned the pages. This novel has everything I love about books - romance, mystery, humor - and I couldn’t put it down. It changed my view of fantasy novels and now I am open to reading any kind of fantasy novel. I even got my mother into it and she was just as skeptical as I was when I gave her her own copy for Christmas. She finished the series in just a matter of weeks.
Editors at HarperCollins Publishers have put together an online community that welcomes aspiring writers to post their work and gain feedback. And by signing up for the site, you can come one step closer to the dream of becoming a published writer. How does this come into effect? I’ll tell you.
Authors can be recommended through what is called “My Picks” on every members’ profile page. What you do is (when you are registered) you read someone else’s work and decide whether or not you like it (maybe even love it) and you add it to your Picks list. What this does is it increases the reputation of the author and their rank increases. And each month the top 5 books/poems/short stories are read by the editors of HaperCollins and they critique your work and give advice on how it can possibly be improved.
Not only do you get the chance to become published, but you also get to meet fellow writers who are in the same boat as you are and who can relate to your love of writing (and possibly reading). And you don’t even have to worry about someone copying your work, because the copy and paste feature has been disabled on the site preventing anyone from stealing your material and claiming it as their own.
Any questions can be answered at the site’s Frequently Asked Questions section at www.inkpop.com/faq
Maybe I’ll see you there. =)
P.S. I would like to thank our friend Marshelle Cheree for showing me this site and for getting me involved in it =)
Cheryl Herbsman: Hi you guys, thanks for having me!
The Book Queens: Tell us about yourself.
CH: I live in Northern California with my husband and two children and our dog, who is a Border Collie mix. I love sunny weather and chocolate and get gloomy on gray, wet days. I grew up in North Carolina and came to California to go to graduate school in psychology.
BQ: For those who haven’t read Breathing, tell us about it.
CH: Breathing is the story of fifteen-year-old Savannah Brown, who is growing up on the coast of the Carolinas . Her mom calls her a hopeless romantic, but Savannah prefers to think of herself as a hopeFUL romantic. When she meets Jackson on the beach, she becomes convinced that he’s not only her true love and soul mate, but the cure for her life-threatening asthma. When Jackson is called away to deal with some family responsibilities in another town, Savannah has to learn to breathe all on her own. It’s a romantic story, but it’s also about family relationships and following your dreams.
BQ: Were there any true experiences you’ve had included in the book?
CH: When I was a young teen, I fell in love with an older boy and we carried on a long-distance relationship. So that played into Savannah and Jackson ’s story. I married my teen sweetheart, which explains why Savannah is such a hopeful romantic.
BQ: Where did you get the idea for Breathing?
CH: Breathing was inspired by my own teen romance. But the idea came to me one night in my writing group. A woman joined the group that night who had a very strong Carolinian accent. I grew up in the South, but hadn’t been back in a long time. When I heard her speak, it somehow brought Savannah to life. Once Savannah existed, she always had a lot to say and wanted to tell me her story.
BQ: Do you prefer hand-writing or typing?
CH: I usually prefer writing by hand. I feel like it taps into a more creative part of my brain.
BQ: I read this thing in creative writing last year that had all the weird ways authors like to write. What are some quirks you have while you write? Like, maybe you need snacks or music playing or like to be outside when you do.
CH: I need to be in a quiet room with no distractions. I absolutely cannot write in a busy, noisy place like a café, though I know a lot of writers who do that. I prefer to be in my bedroom. I always light candles and sometimes incense to create an atmosphere that is different from the everyday.
BQ: Which character was the easiest/most fun to work with? The most difficult?
CH: Savannah was the easiest for me because she just told me everything I needed to write. All I had to do was listen. I guess the most difficult character was her mom’s boyfriend, DC.
BQ: Do any of the characters in Breathing reflect people that you know in real life?
CH: Jackson is inspired by my husband – just a good, caring, decent human being, who always wants to do right by others. Savannah’s little brother, Dog, was loosely based on the brother of one of my friends growing up.
BQ: What were you doing as a job before becoming published?
CH: I was, and still am, a full-time mom.
BQ: To finish up this interview, can you tell us about the whole process of finding an agent and publisher and whatnot?
CH: Before I wrote Breathing, I wrote a young adult fairytale/fantasy. I tried to sell it for about two years and found a lot of interest and received a lot of rejection. It was hard to go through that, but in the process I learned a lot about how to do it right. So when Breathing was ready to send out, I knew how to write a really good query letter and how to research agents. At first, I sent out only three query letters. One of the agencies was really excited, but asked me to do a revision. They gave me lots of good suggestions for how to strengthen the manuscript. Ultimately, they sent me a rejection letter. But I feel really grateful for the feedback they gave me. Then I sent out five more queries, got three requests, and had an agent within a week. She sold the book two weeks later. It felt like a whirlwind and was really exciting!