Monday, February 27, 2012

Q&A with bestselling author Sherryl Woods

Sherryl Woods is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 100 novels. The Summer Garden, released January 2012, is the ninth and final book in the Chesapeake Shores series about the O'Brien family.

I'd like to say a special thank you to Ms Woods, as well as Eric from Planned Television Arts for making this Q&A possible! Be sure to come back tomorrow when I'll have a review of The Summer Garden, as well as a giveaway of the book!

Describe your book in five words or less.

Satisfying finale for the O'Briens!

How did the title for your book come about?

Several pivotal scenes in the book take place in Nell's beautiful garden. For me, The Summer Garden evoked that setting.

What was the inspiration behind your book?

Luke, the last of the O'Brien grandchildren, needed his own story. I wanted to explore what it would be like to be the youngest in a family of over-achievers and, of course, all readers of the series knew he couldn't possibly end up with the manipulative Kristen Lewis. In Moira, I hope I found the perfect challenging soulmate for him.        

At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I'm still trying to figure out if that's what I want to be. I certainly didn't have an inkling it was a possibility until I was into my 30s!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love lots of the writers who write books similar to mine -- family and community oriented stories with a distinct voice and some humor. Among my favorites are Jan Karon, Carla Neggers, Robyn Carr, Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, JoAnn Ross. I also love a number of mystery series, including those by Sue Grafton, Earlene Fowler, Earl Emerson, and most recently Louise Penny.
What are some of your favorite books?

I suppose on my all-time favorite list I'd put Little Women and the Little House on the Prairie series, which take me back to the days when my Mom read to me. Recently I was blown away by The Help and sobbed my way through the closing pages of a wonderful upcoming book by Emilie Richards called One Mountain Away.

What advice do you have for people who want to get into the writing business?

Put your butt in a chair and write! Then be prepared to re-write. Listen with an open mind to criticism. And find one professional -- agent, editor or a fellow writer -- whose advice you trust implicitly. For me that's been my agent, Denise Marcil, with whom I've worked almost my entire career.

What is your favorite scene in the book and why do you love it?
Without going into details that could spoil it, I'd have to say the final scene. For me it was the perfect finale -- lots of emotion, a few chuckles, maybe even a tear or two!

Did you model any of your characters after anyone in particular?

Not that I'll ever admit to!

How do you keep your characters fresh after so many books?

Whenever I'm creating characters for a new book or series, I approach them as I would a person I've just met, slowly peeling back layers and getting to know them. The world is filled with fascinating people and, as I'm constantly reminded, each one has a unique background or perspective.

What are you currently reading?

Louise Penny's latest, A Trick of the Light. I just finished Lover's Leap by Emily March.

If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing?

Retired!! I've already had three other careers -- journalist and critic, hospital program administrator, and bookstore owner. I'm not sure I have a new challenge left in me.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? What's the easiest?

Actually writing the story is the easiest. I love sitting down every day and getting caught up with my characters and the world they live in. The hardest is dealing with all of the many other aspects of publishing, all of which are incredibly important to the process of getting books into the store and sold.

If your book were turned into a movie, which actors/actresses would you like to play the main characters?

That's a really difficult question for me. I just want to meet Kevin Costner, but I'm not sure there's a role for him in this story!    

Can you tell us three things about yourself that you can't find on the Internet?

Isn't everything somewhere on the Internet these days? If it's not, it's probably something I don't want revealed.

What do you love to do when you're not writing?

My favorite things are reading, which there's never enough time to do, gardening, which also involves the dreaded weeding, and going to the movies. I also enjoy the hard-fought Scrabble games I play with friends on various vacations. Sadly, though, I'm an easy mark. I always lose.

Is it difficult to write about another country, such as Moira's homeland, Ireland?

I doubt I would ever write about a foreign country if I hadn't been there. A recent trip to Ireland, though all too brief, gave me just enough of a feel for Dublin, at least, to feel totally comfortable writing about it.

You often write series/trilogies. Do you prefer that to stand-alone titles?

I absolutely love getting to create a world for a series or a trilogy and having the chance to go back and be with those characters over time. Once I've established that world and the people in it, the writing flows so much more quickly. That said, there are some stories that lend themselves to a stand-alone -- Flamingo Diner, Seaview Inn, Mending Fences to name a few. These all had serious topics that I felt worked most effectively in the stand-alone format. 

Who is your favorite character from the Chesapeake Shores series?

I'd have to say Nell in many ways is my favorite. She's so strong and wise and non-judgmental. I've been fortunate to have some very wise older women in my life just like her.

The women characters you create are usually strong, independent-minded women. Are they based on anyone in particular?

Not on any one person, though I think my mom was definitely the role model for my own independent and strong-willed -- okay, stubborn -- personality, though many say I picked up a double dose of the stubborn gene from my dad. My aunt, who died last spring at 98 and my mom's friend who was 99 when she passed away -- all shared similar traits and were role models for me, as well, and perhaps for my characters.

Is there anything specific you would like to say to readers while we have you here today?

I absolutely love hearing from you, especially via my Facebook fan page. You can link to that from my website -- You can also email me directly from the website.

What do you have coming up in the future?

I'm so excited about the return of the Sweet Magnolias this summer. Not only will there be three new books  -- Midnight Promises (July), Catching Fireflies (August) and Where Azaleas Bloom (September) -- but there will be a Sweet Magnolias cookbook in September as well. It was written with a real southern chef, Teddi Wohlford, whose recipes have my mouth watering just thinking about them. If you love to cook and have been dying to try some of the delicious dishes mentioned throughout the series, this is your chance! Mark your calendars.  
Find Sherryl online: 

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