We’ve made it to the weekend again, but that means today is our final question and answer with Author, Sheryl Hames Torres. But she leaves us with some good advice.
Sheryl, what was the best advice you ever received about your writing? Something you keep in mind still today OR What was the best writing tip you ever read, learned, etc.
Sher: Way back in the dark ages, when I finally decided I’d like to get back to writing–was married, had my kids, moved home and was ready–I took an online writing workshop. I realize now, this was not the group for me, but I can’t find it within myself to be sorry because I met an incredible writer by the name of John Marco — years before the publication of Jackal of Nar, or any of the rest of his wonderful novels. This particular week, the critiques were especially harsh, and one person told me my writing was so bad, my characters so “hokey” and the whole thing was so southern, I should consider taking up plumbing because I had “a lot to flush.” Aside from this being “memoir week” and well, I am southern and most of the people I know are fairly proud of the little bit of hokiness in them, this stung badly enough I was ready to quit. John said, “I promise you, if you quit writing, you’ll be sorry for the rest of your life. You’re never going to please everyone, and you don’t want to. You’re never going to write exactly the way anyone else does, and you don’t want that either. It doesn’t matter if one person tells you your writing is sub-par. As long as you keep writing what’s true to your heart, someday, someone else is going to love it. That’ll be the person who’s important.” One of the most wonderful things to me this twenty years later, is walking into my son’s room and seeing John’s first book on my son’s bookshelf and knowing I had the privilege of critiquing that book long before it was published, and knowing way back then I was reading greatness.
DBP: Yesterday, we asked Author, Sheryl Hames Torres what other authors or books she believed had influenced her writing. Our question today is of a similar nature. Sheryl, has being a writer affected how you read other books?
Sher: Oh mercy, yes, and not just books! I tend to have to turn off my inner editor, and that’s a very hard thing for me to do. Especially if I’ve been working on a story of my own. I can overlook a misprint or error or two, because I know these things can easily be missed, but I have a really hard time with two things: 1. When I’m engrossed in a story, invested in the characters, then the end doesn’t make any sense. I can’t stand it when the build-up makes you teeter on the edge of your seat and then the author hands you an “excuse me??” moment. Makes me want to put the book in the shredder. 2. The other thing is when a newspaper has more errors than correct sentences. When we first moved to a certain town, and I got a copy of the newspaper, I came upon that little peeve of mine. I swear, it was so terrible, you could have made a drinking game out of it, and been drunk as Cooter Brown by the second page. I got my red pen and started circling the mistakes, and by the time I was finished, the one page looked like a murder scene. I folded it, stuffed it in an envelope, and returned it with my subscription cancellation.
DBP: Authors are also readers, by nature, so we asked Author, Sheryl Hames Torres what other books or authors does she believe have influenced her writing? How did they influence it?
Sher: Oh, there are so many. I think one of the first books that really lit a fire in my soul was Christy, by Catherine Marshall. For the first time, here was a book with everything I loved most as a storyteller. More characters than I’d ever seen in a book and each one of them, from Christy, herself, to the smallest of children came to life on those pages. I could not only see but smell the conditions these people lived in, and despite the sometimes, squalid conditions, there was beauty in the small things that were precious to them, a quilt, a flower, a plate of food, the quaint turn of phrase. I felt I knew these people. To this day, Fairlight is my favorite character–and Little Burl. You could see into the soul of every character and into the soul of the setting. Perhaps that’s where the germ of the idea of my Moonlight Cove was born. Characters are amazingly important to me, everything from the way they look, to their foibles, to their speech patterns and dialect. Christy made it so.
DBP: Authors often like to spread their wings and try new things, so we asked Author, Sheryl Hames Torres: What have you never written about, but want to some day?
Sher: I think I’d like to write a dark fantasy romance, something with light and dark elements, strong decisions and promises my characters have to make that couldn’t be taken back or broken. Something that mixes the real world with a world no one really knows details about, but knows exists. With characters who make the decisions they choose not because they’re unhappy with the present life and need a change, but for no better reason than love.
It may be Monday, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun. Today we continue our Q&A with Author, Sheryl Hames Torres.
DBP: Sheryl, Tell us something about yourself that no one would ever guess.
Sheryl: Growing up with five siblings, cooking was a big part of our lives. My mother could take a sweet potato, a pound of hamburger, couple of tomatoes, an onion and a few cups of flower and create a meal to die for…and feed the eight of us without breaking a sweat. For a time, my father was in food research, and created the first version of chicken nuggets. My brother is a chef, baby sister is a pastry queen and my other two sisters can surely hold their own in the kitchen. My other brother…well, let’s just say, I can’t imagine him in the kitchen, but I won’t say for sure what kind of cook–if any at all–he is. But me? I was born without the loves-to-cook gene. I hate cooking. Passionately. I hate everything about it–planning, making the list, shopping, bringing it home and putting everything away, cooking, eating it after I have to fool with it and cleaning up. I am a go out, let someone else cook it, bring it to me, then clean it all up afterward. I can cook. I do cook, but I really don’t like doing it. But, everyone knows that. What most people don’t know is I love making soup. All kinds of soup. I like eating soup in restaurants, then coming home and figuring out how it’s made. My family is the quintessential guinea pigs, and so far, no one’s complaining.
Happy Sunday, all! Today we begin new Q&A with author Sheryl Hames Torres. Let’s get started!
Author, Sheryl Hames Torres, the right setting is critical for a story to work. Have any of your books started out in one setting and ended up in another? What changes did you make and what made them necessary?
Sheryl: When I first wrote Illusions, I set it in Fernandina Beach, Florida. This is one of my favorite places–from the Shrimp Boat Festivals, to Amelia Island, the people, Fort Clinch, just everything. There is a feeling there, I’ve never found anywhere else, so naturally, when I sat down to create this story, that was the first place that came to mind. However, there are few roads where you don’t get a glimpse of the ocean. That’s hardly handy for a frightened and abused woman who has to keep her brood close to home, and whose children have never even been to the ocean. So, I moved the story inland to MacClenny, a nice land-locked town and I think that serves the story well.