Today I'm happy to welcome another of my "Casa Sisters" to the Lair! Cheryl Brooks is a critical care nurse by night and the author of the super sexy sci-fi romance series The Cat Star Chronicles by day. The first book in the series Slave was released back in March and the second, Warrior was released last month.
Cheryl kindly agreed to sit down and chat with Aunty. Please join in the fun!
AC: Please tell us about your debut series "The Cat Star Chronicles" and your current release "Warrior."
CB: Debut series? You make that sound as though there will be more! As to that, I'm not sure.
AC: Never say never! ;-)
CB: I didn't set out to write a series to begin with. What I had written was a book called The Rescue which introduced Cat, the only survivor of the destruction of the planet Zetith who was captured and sold into slavery and then bought by Jacinth “Jack” Rutland to aid her in rescuing her kidnapped sister. When I got the call from Sourcebooks, they said they wanted this book, and five more in the series. And I was like, um, Cat is the only one left. To which Deb Werksman replied: “No, here's what you're gonna do: Cat was NOT the last of his kind, and each book will be about other survivors.”
So that's what I did. Instead of one man being sold as a slave, there were several from the same military unit who were captured and sold as slaves rather than being executed. Warrior, the second book, is about Leo, another Zetithian, and Tisana, a witch who can heal you with herbs, start fires with a glance, and communicate telepathically with animals. Together, they are on a quest to find the missing sons of Tisana's former lover, Rafe, who just so happens to be Leo's current owner.
AC: What inspired you to write a sexy science fiction/fantasy?
CB: Star Trek, Star Wars, you name it! I've read plenty of books in that genre, too, but most were written by men, and I wanted a sci-fi adventure written from the female point of view with plenty of sizzling romance!
AC: We love call stories here in the Lair. Please share yours with us.
CB: Actually, the original call was answered by my husband. I work nights, so I was asleep when Deb called wanting to see the entire manuscript, but refused to let Bud wake me up so I could talk to her! I emailed the rest of it to her, and after she read it, she talked to Bud again, telling him what editorial changes she would recommend. Then I called her and got more specific information, rewrote the manuscript and emailed it to her—after she had sent me the rejection letter for the original! I was like, does she still want this or not? But I sent it anyway. The result was that, having returned my original query, Deb no longer had my phone number. Not sure how she got it, but she did, and she called and said, “Do you want to play?” I said yes, of course!
AC: Being a new author means a lot of new experiences and a huge learning curve. Please share a few of the highs and lows of your first year as a published author.
CB: “Playing” turned out to be more work than I ever bargained for! Wish I could say that I make as much per hour as a writer as I do as a nurse, but it's not even close. This is not a get rich quick kind of job! Maybe it is if you write Harry Potter, but romance writers rarely earn enough to make a living by their writing alone.
I've learned a lot of new jargon—Aunty Cindy comes up with more abbreviations than anyone and it usually takes me a while to figure them out!
AC: I'm afraid that's a holdover from my days as a government bureaucrat and we spoke entirely in acronyms and initials. (Not joking!)
CB: I didn't know what ARC meant, have learned all kinds of Internet things: I can now make a hyperlink without batting an eyelash and have built my own website. I'm blogging regularly on Casablanca Authors and Wickedly Romantic, and when all of this began, I didn't even know what a blog was!
The absolute best high was when I received my first email from a reader. I was at work at the time and was able to share the fun with all of my hospital buddies.
AC: Anything you wish you'd known then that you know now?
I've read blogs by other writers who went about their journey toward publication with a very definite strategy. Me, I just wrote the kind of books I wanted to read and sent them to some agents and publishers who then rejected them—and some of those rejections were barely civil! I'd never sent The Rescue to anyone before Sourcebooks because most weren't interested in paranormals, but I saw in the Romance Writers Report that Sourcebooks was a newly recognized publisher and they were taking erotics and paranormals. So I sent in the manuscript, not really expecting any positive response, and promptly forgot about it, until the day Bud said: “—and then this publisher called. . . .”
AC: Anything you'd have done differently?
CB: I wish I could get it through my head that this is a BOOK I'm writing, not giving meds or CPR to someone who might die if I don't get it right! I have applied the same ethic to meeting deadlines and expectations that I follow in my nursing career, with the result that I've been under more stress than ever before! I have to ask myself this question frequently: “Will anyone die if I don't do this?” The answer to that is no, of course, but I still feel the pressure.
AC: Any sage advice for the AYUs here in the Lair?
CB: See? There's another one I don't understand! AYU? Aspiring, young, and unpublished, perhaps? (AC: Close enough!) If that's the case, my advice is that if you want to be published, you have to write, and you then have to submit your baby to some people who will hate it. This will prepare you for negative reviews when you do get your book in print—hopefully!—though I'll admit, some of the bad reviews I've gotten make me feel like I've been stabbed through the heart. I don't take them as hard as I did when I read the first ones; perhaps I've grown a thicker skin or at least become more philosophical about it. You have to remember that not everyone likes the same things; there are songs on the radio, TV shows, and movies that I can't stand, but that other people love and vice versa. Unfortunately, those who like your book will email you and perhaps blog about it or write a nice review. Those who hate it will post their displeasure on Amazon!
AC: Your books have very hot and graphic love scenes. How do you respond to people who say you write chick porn/pornography?
CB: Actually, Aunty Cindy, you're the first to suggest that! (Aunty lifts eyebrow with Spockish disbelief.) My response to that would be that yes, I do write porn, and I enjoy every minute of it! (Aunty loses Spockish demeanor and rolls on the floor laughing!)
I received this email from a reader, and I want to share it with you here because I think it proves my point better than any review or comment I've seen so far:
I do not usually read romance novels---EVER!!. My 78 year old mother is the same. But we grabbed this book(Slave) up for her, thinking it was just a small book for her to read. WOW were we wrong!! She called me and said, You got me a nasty book. I said what do you mean "nasty"? She said she's talking about p****'. Well then I cracked up. We did not know it was a romance book. She told me to come get it because she was finished and I just HAD to read it. She said that it was nothing like what she's ever read and wants the next in the series. I would have to agree on that one also. I am in the middle right now and can't put it down.
Just wanted to say very nicely done Cheryl.
I'm a Laurell K. Hamilton fan and never thought that I would like romance books. Thanks a million, we can't wait for the next book.
So, you see, even a 78 year old can appreciate a little chic porn! I started writing because I wasn't finding what I wanted on the bookshelves. I was sick of reading vague references to sex, or having the door closed in my face just when things got interesting and, apparently, I'm not alone! I wanted sci-fi that was hot, so I created a race of men who were so irresistible that someone destroyed their planet. To tell that story required some descriptions and terms that used to be taboo in romance novels, and it may surprise those who have read Slave that the published version was toned down from the original!
To be honest, however, I must say that what I write is more correctly termed erotic paranormal romance. Porn is just sex, and there's a whole lot more to what I've written than that!
(Aunty stands to give a round of applause!)
AC: What new and exciting things are on the horizon for you?
Rogue comes out in March 2009, Lover in June, and Fugitive and Hero sometime after that, but I have no idea when those release dates will be. Beyond that, I have absolutely no idea. I think I missed the most exciting event in my career when I didn't go to the RWA nationals in San Francisco. Sourcebooks gave a copy of Slave to every attendee, and I missed that!
AC: What are you most looking forward to?
CB: I would like to go to a conference and actually meet another author face to face. Unfortunately, to do that, I'll probably have to fly, which is something I hate! Aunty Cindy has promised me a heavy-duty glitter-covered barf bag to get me to RWA in Washington next year, so maybe I'll make it.
AC: Yes, if that's what it takes, Aunty is up for the task! I'll even include some lucky shamrocks with the glitter.
Finally, do you have a question for our readers?
What sort of book would you like to read that you've never found on the shelf?
Cheryl will be giving away a copy of Warrior to one lucky commenter!