Interview with Cheryl McIntyre

Published 2018-07-11.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Absolutely. Haunted by R.L. Stine. It's part of his original Fear Street series. I purchased it at my grade school's book fair when I was ten years old and it changed my life. It awakened the reader, as well as the writer, inside me. I'm pretty sure I read that book at least 10 times. And then I began crafting my own stories that I wrote by hand in spiral notebooks. I owe my love of books to Mr. Stine.
How do you approach cover design?
I think it's different for me every time. Often an image of the cover begins to form in my head as I write. Sometimes I have no clue what the cover should look like. And occasionally, I'll come across an image and just KNOW that's my cover. I once came across this image of a hot guy online and used him as a side character muse. Later, when I wrote Park's story in Before Now, I hunted down the photographer via the internet, and purchased that picture to use as the cover. (The male model was Brandyn Farrell, the photographer was Vince Trupsin, and the cover designer was actually my stepfather.)
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Just five? I'm not sure I can do that, but I'll try. I think the best books are the ones that stick with you, so here are the stories I couldn't shake (in no particular order):

Shatter Me Series by Tehereh Mafi, because it's not only wonderful story-telling, but each sentence is so beautifully and poetically crafted it moved me to tears by page six. I've read it countless times and it's the only hardback book I've ever highlighted for my own benefit.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay. It's an incredible story that broke my heart and then pieced it back together, filled with realistic characters I could relate to. It's always stuck with me and I've reread it several times. I'm not sure I rooted so hard for a couple before or since, either.

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick. This book. Oh my goodness. This book completely messed with my head in the best way. It's unique, raw, realistic, and I walked around in a mind-blown haze for days after finishing it. I often find myself reflecting on it all these years later. If you asked me who the good/bad guys were in this book, I honestly couldn't tell you because they were all good and they were all bad. They were all so damn real--flawed and perfect at the same time. It's such a good read.

Slammed by Colleen Hoover. Not only is the writing wonderful, Colleen Hoover just knows how to tell a damn good story. Her characters are so incredibly crafted, I honestly felt like I knew each one of them personally. I cared about them. I laughed and cried with them. And when it was over, I wasn't ready to let them go.

Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, because Jennifer can write you directly into her world. Her characters are sexy, sassy, and funny as hell. Her story-telling is probably the best I've ever read. I honestly forget I'm reading a book when I crack one of her stories open. Any novel that can pull me in so deeply, make me feel like I'm living the character's life, is amazing to me.
What do you read for pleasure?
It depends on my mood. I'll read YA, NA, Dystopian, SciFi, Paranormal, Suspense... Pretty much anything. My only major precept is the book has to have some romance. I'm a sucker for a good love story.
Describe your desk
When it's clean, which isn't often, my Funko Pops keep me company: Jamie and Claire (Outlander) offer inspiration, while Bernie Sanders and John Oliver keep me on task, but also remind me to not take myself, or my work, quite so seriously. A large array of Post-Its keep me semi-organized, a pile of notebooks filled with writing ideas help when I'm stuck on a scene, and of course my trusty laptop. I have a few trinkets I've accumulated from book events over the years. And my most prized possession, a review that meant a LOT to me hangs right in front of me so when I need a boost, all I need to do is look up and remind myself that even if all I ever accomplish is reaching one person, it's worth it.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Perry Township, Ohio. Our middle school, junior high, and high school are all side-by-side, and right down the street from our police station. I didn't realize it when I was young, but I come from a pretty small and close-knit town. I write what I know best, so most of my books take place in small-town Ohio.
When did you first start writing?
I began writing poems and unfinished stories when I was around 11 or 12, but I didn't finish my first novel until I was 31 years old. The book ended up being well over 100,000 words because I had no idea when to stop. Even as I wrote it and watched the word count grow and grow, I still wasn't sure I'd actually complete the story. And when I did, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Each book after came a lot easier. And I learned quickly to plot my books with a clear end point.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
When I published my first novel in 2011, self-publishing was still pretty new, but the idea intrigued me. No searching for an agent, no submitting work, nobody to tell me what to write or how to write... It sounded pretty damn good to me. I was still reluctant at first though. I really wanted the confirmation I was truly an author that I thought could only come from traditional publishing. My sister, who is not only my biggest cheerleader, but also my editor, encouraged me to try it. So when I finally finished my first book, I self-published, but nothing really happened. Mostly friends and family purchased that book and that was about it. But I kept writing and I tried again with another book, my first New Adult novel, Sometimes Never, and it kind of BLEW UP. I published mid December, and by Christmas, it reached the top 100. And I realized having a traditional publisher didn't make me an author. People reading my stories made me an author. Who knows if that ever would have happened had I pursued the traditional publishing route. I have no regrets and am thankful every day that indie books not only exist, but are easily made available to readers.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Not to make this sound like a Smashwords ad, but this site has helped my career tremendously. When my first two novels were only available on Amazon, a lot of people reached out to tell me they wanted to read my books, but didn't have a Kindle. I didn't know about Smashwords, so at the time, all I could do was apologize and let them know there was a Kindle app. My agent actually introduced me to Smashwords and encouraged me to upload my books in order to reach these readers. I did it immediately and never looked back. I like to give people the opportunity to read my books anywhere they like, on whatever device they choose, and Smashwords allows me to do that. It's translated into more income, which is awesome for my family, but the real success, I think, is in helping me find readers I otherwise would have never reached.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I have so many ideas, stories, and characters all living inside my head on a daily basis. So giving life to them and sharing them with others is, without a doubt, the greatest joy, and my whole reason for writing.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm pretty boring. I'm a home-body and a mom. My family is very close. We spend a lot of time together and even have extended family over every week for dinner. We're also big TV/Movie buffs. We all love to geek out over Marvel and DC movies and we never miss an episode of Preacher. So when I'm not writing, editing, plotting, or reading, I'm with them.
What is your writing process?
It usually begins in the shower. All my best ideas happen there. I rush through the rest of my morning routine so I can write those ideas down ASAP.
I typically begin crafting my characters using a character profile I've pieced together over the years. Getting to know my characters--who they are, what they look like, what motivates them--that's really important to me.
Next, I put together a loose plot line. Even though I usually change the plot line several times while writing, I still like to have one to help me remember where I'm going, what all I need to cover, and when to stop writing.
Finally, I start the actual writing. Sometimes, if my opening scene isn't clear in my mind, I'll skip it and come back to it later because I think the first chapter is the most important chapter of a book. It needs to capture and hold a reader's interest or why else would they continue reading?
At some point while I'm writing, I'll call my sister and tell her I shouldn't be writing because I have no clue what I'm doing and every word is terrible. After she talks me down, and I get back to writing, my next call is usually to tell her what a genius I am because I thought of the best twist. This goes back and forth, and on and on, until the book is finished.
Last is the editing, but I'm pretty good about going through and editing the last chapter I wrote before moving onto writing the next, so I don't dread edits. Much.
What are you working on next?
I'm currently co-writing a New Adult Romance duet with a friend. You can find books one and two in A Permanent Rain Duology by myself and KA Stalter on Goodreads. These books are very special to me because not only am I writing them with a great friend, but I feel like I'm getting back to my Sometimes Never roots with this story. It's focuses on family, friendship, loyalty, and most importantly, love in it's truest form--raw, gritty, and imperfect.
Which other authors have most influenced or inspired your writing?
I pay close attention to the writing in every book I read, so I think I am influenced and/or inspired by every author I've read, whether it be remembering a word choice I really liked, or a perfectly written sentence, or even just what not to do. There's something to learn from every book.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Bloodrose (Nightshade #3) by Andrea Cremer. I can't tell you why I cried, but I can assure you I did, in fact, cry. Hard. In fact, "cry" probably isn't the best word to describe what happened. It was more like wailing and sobbing, and possibly (definitely) some cursing. It's also the first and only book I threw across the room because I was so emotional. But please don't let that deter you from reading it. The Nightshade series is a wonderful paranormal romance. Just keep your tissues close--and maybe don't read on an e-reader...
Who’s your book boyfriend or secret book crush?
Boys in books are just better than boys in real life. But if I had to make a list of my top favorites (because who can choose just one?), it would be Kellan Kyle from S.C. Stephens' Thoughtless, Travis Maddox from Jamie McGuire's Beautiful Disaster, and Will Cooper from Colleen Hoover's Slammed. I can feel rereads coming up in the very near future.
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