Friday, June 18, 2010
Interview Friday with multi-talented author, Cheryl Malandrinos
Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor from
Western Massachusetts. A regular contributor to Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also the Editor-in-Chief of the group's quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.
Cheryl is a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book Promotion, a book reviewer, and blogger. Guardian Angel Publishing will release her first children’s book, The Little Shepherd Boy, in 2010.
VS: Cheryl, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent and writer can be hard and I find myself asking if I am giving my three children enough attention throughout the day. I am sure you have been in my shoes from time to time. So to start here is the first question, how many children do you have and what are their ages?
Cheryl: Thanks for having me at The Writing Mama, Virginia. I’m thrilled to be here. My husband and I have a fully grown son, who turned 23 before he married over Memorial Day Weekend. We also have two daughters, ages 8 and 6.
VS: Wow, your house sounds like mine. We have a fourteen-year-old son and two daughters, ages 5 and 4 months. With children still at home, and still on the younger side, what is a typical writing day like for you?
Cheryl: Honestly, my writing is very sporadic. My main source of income right now is as a virtual book tour (VBT) coordinator, which takes up a great deal of time. I write once a week, and a bit more often when I have an article deadline. This should be changing in the near future, however, as I’ve been asked to ghostwrite a children’s book, and two or three for teens.
Once I get the kids on the bus, I make breakfast and eat while checking emails. Then I promote the day’s VBTs and work on next month’s VBTs. I stop to do household chores or exercise a bit, but I’m mostly at my computer until 3PM when the girls get home from school. I work a couple more hours at night after the girls are in bed. Then I relax for a half an hour or so before bed.
VS: As much as I love our new baby, I do look forward to when all my kids are in school so I can have a bit more time writing, too. Your day sounds very busy, as it should. I am curious Cheryl; do you consider yourself a born writer?
Cheryl: I do. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I’ve had a love affair with books from the time I could hold one. Writing flowed out of that love. I was probably the only kid in my class who looked forward to book reports.
As a teen, I started writing fiction and poetry. It was a way for me to relieve the pain of losing my mother to cancer. Though I only began pursuing writing as a career in 2004 when I became a stay-at-home mom, I had been writing on and off for years.
VS: Losing your mom at such a young age must have been hard. I never considered myself a born writer, but thinking back . . . I did write some poetry in high school. Since you have been writing for a long time, have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?
Cheryl: I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. I guess one of the advantages of not getting a lot of writing time is that your mind is ready to write when you have a chance. There are moments when I’ve struggled with how to show something to readers , but I find if I’ve done my research, interviewed my characters, and have a good idea of where I want the story to go before I start, the words flow smoothly.
VS: I wish I could say the same was true for me. Even with my shortened writing periods, I do find myself, at times, starring into nowhere wondering what to write. Speaking of writing . . . what type of books, do you mostly write? Do your children inspire any of them? If so, can you share what part of the storyline, character, etc.
Cheryl: The first story I worked on when I decided to stay home with the girls was a women’s fiction book that I had begun collaborating on with my older sister. We probably had eight chapters when I sat down to read through it in 2004. It took awhile, but we finished the first draft in 2006. Unfortunately, she’s even busier than I am, so while we began editing that draft, it hasn’t done much other than collect dust in my filing cabinet. I still hope we get a chance to polish it and submit it to publishers.
For the past couple of years I’ve focused on the children’s market. My first book is being released from Guardian Angel Publishing this fall. It is a Christian picture book. I also have one other children’s picture book idea that I need to finalize and submit. My current WIP is a MG historical.
My children are not only my inspiration, they are my motivation. My oldest daughter is a reluctant reader, whereas my youngest loves books just as much as I do. I’m trying to write books that they’ll find enjoyable. My oldest daughter, Katherine, inspired a short story about a five-year-old girl named Beatrice, who has a knack for getting into mischief.
VS: I do hope you and your sister find the time to dust off your book and finish revising it. I’ve never collaborated with anyone on a book, but I’m sure it’s no easy task. However, I would love you to tell us more about your current children’s book due out this Fall with Guardian Angel Publishing.
Cheryl: The Little Shepherd Boy is about Obed, a young shepherd outside of on the night of Christ’s birth. He has been entrusted with his first flock and is hesitant to join the other shepherds to see the newborn King. He finally agrees to go, but spends the whole time anxious to return to his flock. When he makes it back, he soon discovers it is a night of miracles.
When God first placed the idea for Obed’s story in my heart, it wasn’t as a children’s story. It was the story of an adult Obed who is seeking out the apostles after the Resurrection of Jesus to find out if He was the Messiah he met as a young shepherd. When I started talking about the idea with our pastor, he asked if it was a children’s book, so the wheels started turning and The Little Shepherd Boy was born.
VS: Sounds like a great book not only for children, but also for the whole family to read at Christmas time! Now that The Little Shepherd Boy is due to come out, do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Cheryl: I’m very excited about this MG historical I’m working on. Amelia’s Mission is the story of an orphan girl sent to live with her spinster aunt after the death of her parents. Aunt Martha is a sour, stubborn woman, and Amelia makes it her mission to figure out what made her aunt so miserable and fix it.
Amelia is best friends with Ralph, the Negro stable hand who works for Aunt Martha. Since this is set about 10 years after the end of the Civil War, there are still people who have issues with a white girl and black boy being friends; not to mention their different social classes. Amelia wants to teach Ralph how to read, but he refuses and won’t tell her why. Amelia is not easily deterred and it causes a problem between them.
The feedback from my critique groups has been fantastic, so that’s a great reason to keep writing.
VS: Amelia, sounds very interesting as well. I love historical fiction. Now Cheryl, besides writing, you also work for Pump Up Your Book Promotion as a virtual tour coordinator. Can you share with us a bit about this type of book tour?
Cheryl: Authors contract Pump Up Your Book Promotion to coordinate virtual book tours. They visit a number of blogs over a month or two month span, depending upon which tour package they choose. Bloggers interview them, review their books, or allow them to act as guest bloggers for their sites. This provides authors with excellent online exposure, and especially for lesser known authors, this can be a way for readers to discover their work. It’s also a way for bloggers to drive traffic to their sites.
VS: Cheryl, besides virtual book tours, what other types of book promotions do you think work best? Any special strategies you’d like to share when it comes to promotion?
Cheryl: Since I’ve only worked in the VBT world, I’m not certain I can answer this question. I can tell you that I plan to tour with Pump Up when my book comes out, but I’m also going to plan local events too. Since this is a Christian children’s book, I am going to see if my church will allow me a table at their annual Christmas Bazaar and Tag Sale the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I’m also a presenter at a writers conference at the end of October. If the book is available, I’ll bring it with me.
VS: Sounds like you’re on the right road to getting your marketing strategy together. Cheryl, you also do a lot for Musing Our Children. Can you tell us a bit about this group? Can you also share with us what it is like being the Editor-in-Chief?
Cheryl: Musing Our Children is a group started by award-winning author and editor, Lea Schizas, to encourage a love of reading and writing in young people. Our members perform writing workshops at schools in person or virtually. We have a section of our website dedicated to book reviews written by children. We also encourage submissions from young readers to our quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens ~ your tools to imagination.
Being Editor-in-Chief is a lot of work, but I enjoy it. I decide on the theme of the next issue once an issue is completed. I send out requests to our members and other writers for contributions. I also write some of the articles. Then I format the newsletter, upload it to our website and also email it to our subscribers.
VS: Speaking of which, as a member of Musing Our Children, I do plan to be more active now that I’ve had my baby. And yes, being an Editor-in-Chief can be lots of work, speaking from experience. We really appreciate what you do, Cheryl. No one talent I didn’t know about until your email is you also do ghostwriting. Can you share with us some of the pros and cons doing this type of writing?
Cheryl: This is a new venture for me. Perhaps the most challenging in this beginning stage is to make sure it’s not written in a style that screams, “Cheryl wrote this.” Each writer has his or her own style. As I’ve been moving along, I’m trying to capture the style of the person who has contracted me to develop his idea into a manuscript. In this instance, I’ll be sharing a byline with the author, so I am free to speak of the project. That’s not always the case.
On a more personal level, my writing time is limited, so instead of working on my own projects, that time will be dedicated to my ghostwriting commitments. I have to admit, however, I am really excited about these books.
VS: That has always been my fear about even trying to ghostwrite, having the book sound as if I wrote it, instead of the person who hired me. I commend you for traveling down this writing path and wish you much success at it. Now with all the commitments you do have, as a mom and writer, what tips can you share that help you balance your writing life with your family life?
Cheryl: Even though I am an extremely organized person, it’s still a challenge. I write a weekly to-do list so that I can focus on what I need to accomplish. I use my time wisely by not playing around too much on Facebook or browsing the Net. I don’t turn on the TV when I’m home alone. I also treat my job the same as if I were working outside of the house. This helps my family take my writing and book promotion endeavors seriously.
Once the girls get off the bus in the afternoon, I spend time with them. I help with homework, we talk about their day, and we have snacks together. Our family eats supper together almost every night. I only work on the weekends if they are busy with friends.
The important thing—and the one I still struggle with—is you can’t over commit. When you do, you’re more apt to make mistakes and increase your level of stress. Stress is not good for you or your family. At the end of the night I pick up a book and soak in the tub for half an hour or so. It helps me wind down for bed so I can fall asleep quickly. I try to spend time in my garden at least once a week. I’ve begun walking at least once a week too.
VS: Cheryl, it has been a blast having you here today. I thank you for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to share with me and my readers about being a writing mama.
Cheryl: Thanks again, Bethlehem . You ask great questions. For anyone looking to find me online, they can check out my website or my blogs: The Book Connection, Book Tours and More, and The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection.
I hope the writing mamas out there are able to make their dreams come true!