Monday, January 28, 2008

A Soldier's Promise by Cheryl Wyatt

Today, I’m featuring my friend Cheryl Wyatt and her debut novel A Soldier’s Promise. Last year I got to know Cheryl through e-mail as a judge in several contests she coordinated. I don’t know how she had the time to do all that as well as find time to write, but she did . . . and she did it well. We finally met at the 2007 ACFW conference, and when she asked for people to be involved in a blog tour for A Soldier’s Promise, I jumped at the chance. Here’s an interview I had with Cheryl. And I’ll add a short review at the end.

Thanks you, Cheryl, for joining us today.

How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?

I’ve written and journaled all my life but I didn’t start seriously pursuing fiction until about seven years ago while on bed rest with a pregnancy. Writing has taken me into a world with wonderfully supportive people who I might not have met otherwise. People who’ve become some of my closest friends. What a blessing. Writing has taken me into some verrrry strange places for research. LOL!

How do you balance family life with writing?

Ha! Prayer and patience is the only way. It is a challenge, but my husband works with me as best he can. He runs his own business so we do have some leeway. We trade time. It helps that I’m a habitual organizer and that I’ve simplified my life and am fiercely protective of my family and writing time. Asking God to order my day every day is a must. Asking Him to help me focus and know exactly what needs to be done that day. I try to only write when my children are sleeping or at school, and I have regular date nights with my husband. When I Matthew 6:33-it and put God, his stuff, and my family first...things go much better. Thankfully God has blessed me with the ability to write extremely fast.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?

I touched on this a little in the last question, but I try to always put God first. There are days when I don’t but I try. Then I start feeling empty, out of sorts and overwhelmed with tasks. So I have to stay connected with Him because if I don’t, things start unraveling fast. LOL!

Since this blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?

I research and get to know my characters first. I figure out my structural point, which is goals, motivation, conflicts. Then I do a scene index and dive into my rough draft. The research and character development takes way, way longer than the rough draft. I usually get my rough draft out in a matter of days. Then comes rewriting and layering. This also takes longer because there are several passes. I usually spend a few weeks doing this. I am now turning in proposals so it’s challenged my system in that I have to write the synopsis before finishing the story. LOL! In self-editing, it’s helpful to have a list of things to go over as you make passes through the manuscript. I don’t self-edit as I write. I wait until the chapters are finished. I have a list of things to look for. Many of those things can be found on various contest score sheets. Some of it I can spot, but some of it others have to spot, such as have I kept my characters consistent and are they likable and endearing? It’s best to ask someone other than yourself that questions because there can often be a chasm between how we picture our characters and how they’re actually coming across on the page to others. So self-editing, for me, involves feedback from tough, honest critters who aren’t afraid to hurt my feelings.

What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?

It has been different things, but I break revisions down into two categories. 1-things to add, and 2-things to delete. I go through the manuscript and delete everything I need to first, so I know what kind of word count I have for scenes that I need to add or build up. I always make a second copy of the manuscript in my computer, or make a hard copy and print it out before beginning though. It is very important to do this because your editor will give specific pages and lines they want you to address. Once you make one change, that automatically changes the line, so it can be hard to figure out if you don’t have a copy of the original manuscript as the editor’s line notes.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?

Right now I am working on proposals for the next PJ’s (Pararescue Jumper) stories. There are seven stories total, but I’m not sure if they’ll all be contracted. Three have so far. There are seven men on the pararescue team, and each guy gets his own story. I’m working on the next proposal this week and, of course, finishing my contracted novel.

Finally, would you discuss A Soldier’s Promise? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?


“My name’s Bradley. I’m eight and have cancer. I want to meet a Special Forces soldier more than anything. Well, almost anything. Having a family would be nice.”

U.S. Air Force pararescue jumper Joel Montgomery promised to make a sick child’s wish come true. Well, not the family part—not with Joel’s past. And so despite vowing never to set foot back in Refuge, Illinois, Joel parachuted onto the boy’s school lawn to a huge smile. But another smile unexpectedly stole Joel’s heart: that of Bradley’s beautiful teacher, Amber Stanton, who was trying to adopt the boy. And trying to show Joel it was time for new vows.


Joel’s story is the first one. He’s the team leader. USAF Pararescue Jumpers are basically Special Forces skydiving search and rescue paramedics. They’re the ones who often jump behind enemy lines to go after downed US pilots. Their training is as rigorous and only the elite make it, similar to training SEALs go through, only PJs have more air training whereas SEALs have more water expertise. PJs will leap into any kind of terrain, in any territory in pitch black from heights requiring oxygen administration. Part of their creed is, “So others may live.” They risk their lives to rescue others. I thought this career would make for fabulous heroes so I researched and ran with it. Joel’s story is the January release and received a Top Pick from Romantic Times. Manny’s story releases in March of 2008. Ben’s story releases in April of 2009. For more information on the next PJ stories once they get contracted, readers can visit my Web site and sign up in the space provided. (Join Cheryl Wyatt’s Author Mailing List).

Thank you for being with us today, Cheryl. I've really enjoyed chatting with you.
Thanks so much, Margie. This was great fun!


Margie’s comments: I like my romance reading to have some meat to it rather than just a sweet story. In other words, I like to read about real people with believable problems who grow and learn in the process of falling in love. Cheryl did that in A Soldier’s Promise. I’m a teacher, so I could relate to Amber right away. I’m a mom, so I could relate to Bradley’s illness and request. My mother was a nurse, so I grew up being familiar with nursing. But I’d never heard of the pararescuers, so Joel’s occupation intrigued me. And each of the problems with their pasts, Bradley included, were very believable and touching. This was a book I had a hard time putting down, and one where the characters are so real, I wonder what they’re doing today. I look forward to reading others in this series.

Please go visit Cheryl’s Web site to learn more about her and her books.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 17–19, Mark 5:1–20


Pamela J said...

Isn't it amazing what people can do when they put God first? Or is it God who does through people if He is first in their lives? I have a copy of "A Soldier's Promise" and looking forward to all the next stories in the series. When Cheryl talks of layering, that term goes right over my head and I'd like some day to know other things that would be in lists to look for while self-editing. I am just beginning to learn in the world of writing. Thanks for your sharing of the process, Cheryl.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Margie, thank you for hosting me on your blog.

Everyone...please scroll down and read the post about Margie's mom's will be SO encouraged. Grab tissues.

Pamela J, thank you for being so faithful in the stops of my blog tour. I cannot tell you how much that means.

Layering is just a word I use to mean that the book is far from finished after the rough or first draft. After the story is finished, I go back through it several times. Each time I add or change things. This adding is the layering I mentioned. I'm sparse on setting and sensory (five senses) in the first draft because I'm in a hurry to get it down.

So layering helps me also to tighten my sentences and find any places where I've used cliche phrases and make them unique. These are just a few things I do with layering. Basically it is making several passes through the manuscript after it is finished from beginning to end and adding depth and dimension to it in various ways. Layering in more emotion. Layering in more plot and character-career-specific analogies, metaphors and imagery.

For instance if I have a child character in a story and the first draft says:

She walked across the floor. Ben knew the moment her eyes found the toy because they brightened.

I'd change it to a more child-specific descriptive passage. Something like:

Her feet frolicked over the carpet and her ger gaze skipped across the room. She must have found the toy because her eyes lit like a superhero sword.

Hope this helps! Layering is different for each author and merely a term for self-editing.



Brandi H. Roberts said...

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