Canadian author Cheryl Kaye Tardif was born in Vancouver, Britsh Columbia and has worked as a journalist, a motivational speaker and a consultant in telemarketing, sales and promotion.
Her books include Divine Intervention (Trafford Publishing, 2004) and The River (Trafford Publishing, 2005). Her latest novel, Whale Song (Kunati Books, 2007), has been described as a compelling story of love, tragedy and transformation.
In a recent interview, Cheryl Kaye Tardif spoke about her writing.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer at a very young age. I used to “write” under every line of my Dr. Seuss books and would tell my mother that I was writing the story. At 14, I became a published journalist, but fiction was always my passion.
How would you describe the writing that you are doing?
I write mainly novels with suspense, mystery or horror elements. I don’t stay within a specific genre; often my novels have a mix, including some romance or sci-fi. Although Whale Song, my most recent novel, is not a hardcore mystery or suspense, it does have a light mystery element.
I also like to write novels that make people think or ask questions.
For Whale Song, my target audience is women between the ages of 30 and 65. I am happy to see that it also has a large YA (young adult) following, with boys and girls from seven to16. My other published novels are geared for an adult audience, but then again, most 14 year olds and older are reading adult fiction.
What motivated you to start writing in these genres?
I have always been fascinated by mysteries. As a girl I read Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and then latched on to Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I enjoy leaving ‘red herrings’ and clues in my writing. I thrive on creating twists and turns that keep the reader guessing. I just love a good mystery!
Stephen King has probably influenced me the most. From a reader’s perspective, I have seen his work evolve from pure horror to realistic suspense. He has persevered in tough times, and has always followed his dreams. From a writer’s perspective, he has achieved a measure of success that I would like to achieve. I have also enjoyed his book, On Writing.
How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?
I draw upon my own experiences when necessary and often there is a bit of ‘me’ in my novels.
Whale Song is perhaps the one novel that reflects my life as a child, although it is fiction. I have also drawn upon tragedies in my life. How can you truly write about grief, death, murder and supreme fear if you’ve never experienced it?
What are your main concerns as a writer?
The biggest concern for me is finding a publisher that is as motivated as I am. I believe I have found that with my new publisher -- Kunati Books. I am a creative promoter and I need freedom to be creative, as well as have support from my publisher. Of course, there are no guarantees they will take my next novel Children of the Fog, so I must always remain vigilant for other opportunities.
I don’t like to “put all my eggs in one basket”, so to speak. Finding a publisher for the next novel will always be a concern, I think.
What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?
Balancing all the aspects of being a writer, mom, wife and friend is tough. I still struggle with this. It is very easy to get caught up in “promotion mode” and sometimes it never seems to turn off. I work nearly every day and long hours.
How do you deal with these challenges?
My goal for September is to start scheduling my time more efficiently so that I have time to write my next novel, write marketing material, promote online and in bookstores, and enjoy time with my friends and family. I am happiest when I feel I have accomplished all of that in a week.
Do you write everyday?
I write something every day -- but not always my current novel. I write a lot of ad copy and marketing or promotional material, such as articles, blog posts or website updates. I have two full days that I work on my novel.
I find I work better when I can commit to a day of eight to 10 hours of writing twice a week, as opposed to a few hours a day like many authors do. It just works well for me. I get very drawn into my own plots and characters and it’s difficult for me to stop writing once I ‘get on a roll’. These days are my most favorite, a bit of Heaven! Come September, I will be increasing it to three full days.
I will spend up to two hours wading through emails, then updating blogs and sites. Then I will write. I usually edit the previous page or two and then continue writing. And I only stop for short breaks and lunch. I often don’t finish writing until 6:00 pm, and it’s not unusual, depending on my family’s schedule, to write in the evening. In the last four years, I have probably pulled six all-nighters, working two full days, if I am really inspired. Ok, yes…I admit…I am a workaholic. But hey, when you love what you do…
How long did it take you to write your latest book?
My latest book is Whale Song. It took about four months in total to write it, three and a half for the first edition and another two weeks to expand and revise the text. It was published in April 2005 with Kunati Books.
How did you choose a publisher for the book? What advantages and/or disadvantages has this presented?
I approached them after hearing about Kunati and investigating them online. At that time they were a brand new publisher with an energetic approach to marketing -- and that’s why I wanted them.
The advantage with Kunati is that they are mega marketers like myself. Kunati doesn’t sit and wait; they go after the market. I was also very proud that Whale Song officially launched their UNA trade paperback imprint. I like being first. The only disadvantage I ever really saw was that because they were new they had to prove themselves -- very much like I did. And prove themselves they did! Kunati Books now has U.S. and Canadian offices, with books printed in both countries, and they are one of the first companies to lower Canadian book prices resulting from a stronger Canadian dollar. I am quite proud to be a Kunati author.
Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult? And which did you enjoy most?
Doing the research for Whale Song was probably the most difficult part of writing the novel. I needed specific information on killer whales, the setting (Vancouver Island) and the era (late 70’s). I also needed to research native legends and find a disease or condition that would give specific symptoms and have certain results.
Strangely enough, the legends and the condition -- primary pulmonary hypertension -- were very easy to find and I still marvel over how perfectly suited they all were.
I actually really enjoy researching for my novels. I like ‘keeping it real’.
I really enjoyed reflecting on my childhood, even the not-so-good parts. I found it very therapeutic to look back and maybe even understand why certain things happened. And some of these situations found themselves in my novel. I think this is why when young people read Whale Song they can truly identify with the main protagonist. They are there, in those teenage years when life is not all roses. And adult women reading Whale Song are drawn back to a time when they were young, a time of innocence, emotional struggles and sweet first love. I have received numerous emails from fans who say: “Whale Song made me remember what it was like to be young.”
What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?
Whale Song is more of a family drama, with a hint of mystery. It is far more emotional than any of my other novels. And it is my “heart book”. A percentage of my royalties from every sale goes to three nonprofit organizations that help combat poverty, homelessness and addictions. I am proud of that.
In what way is it similar?
Like my other two novels, Whale Song features a strong female protagonist, one who has weaknesses and flaws, yet overcomes great tragedy. And like all of my novels so far, it asks, “What if?”
What will your next book be about?
My next novel is Children of the Fog. It is already completed and waiting a ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ from Kunati Books. It is a terrifying thriller, the story of Sadie O’Connell -- wife, friend, mother (and alcoholic) -- who is forced to let an abductor take her son. Not only does it ask ,“What if?”, it also asks, “How far would you go for your child?”
What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
So far, being ‘picked up’ by a traditional publisher is my most significant accomplishment. That one feat puts me up a level, onto the next rung of my success ladder. With less than two percent of novel submissions even getting picked up, this measure of success is no small thing. Especially for an author who has enough rejection letters to wallpaper her office.
How did you get there?
Two words: belief and perseverance.
This article was first published by OhmyNews International.