For those who haven't met us yet, I'm Cheryl Brooks, a new author with Sourcebooks Casablanca, and that totally hot dude to the left is Cat! My first published novel is The Cat Star Chronicles: Slave. A native of Louisville, KY, I was transplanted to Indiana nineteen years ago and live on a farm with my husband, two sons, a dog, five cats, and five horses.
I didn't start out as a writer—unless you count charting on patients or writing term papers in nursing school! I've been a critical care nurse since 1976 and an avid reader all my life, and romances have always interested me more than any other genre. I've always been a bit of a dreamer, and at the age of twelve, saw Star Trek and fell for Mr. Spock at first sight! Several years later, I went to see Star Wars and knew that the combination of romance and science fiction was something I wanted to see more of.
However, if there was such a thing as a science fiction romance in those days, I hadn't seen it, so I decided to write one. That was back in the days of typewriters (at least mine was electric!) rather than word processors, and, being the lousy typist that I am, I didn't get very far! I did have fun writing a few short stories using the people I worked with as characters, and I can say without reservation that nurses get a real kick out of reading about doctors getting the shaft!
Some years later, with the aid of a computer, I wrote two novels, one a romance between a horse breeder and a drifter who comes to work for her, the other about an office manager on holiday who gets tangled up with drug dealers and a suave, Latin lover bent on making a conquest. Only one of those had any paranormal aspects—though that chapter is the one most people recall whenever the book is mentioned! I'd never been completely happy with those two books, and it took me writing a third one in first person to make me realize that the point of view was what had been bothering me all along. I'd grown up reading Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier, and had always preferred their first-person style to any others. Encouraged by friends who had read my work, I sent a query letter to Harlequin. Their polite lack of interest stopped me cold and that third novel was never finished, nor did I write anything else to speak of for the next ten years.
Then, in 2004, the writing bug bit me again, and, to be honest, publishing wasn't my purpose. My overactive brain just needed a creative outlet of some kind and my husband said, “Write!” So I wrote! This time, I not only wrote in first person, but increased the erotic content. Romance novels had always bothered me with their lack of detailed love scenes--along with their refusal to use certain terms--but giving myself a free rein, the books just poured out of me. I'd write one, print it up, put it in a box, and it would get passed around the hospital. Before long, I had people chomping at the bit for the next one.
My characters were very ordinary people; nurses, farmers, farriers, writers, carpenters, and even a guy who ran a health food store. I was still writing contemporary romance rather than paranormals, and I'd never heard that there even was such a thing as erotic romance—I thought I was writing something entirely new! I wasn't, of course, and a trip to the bookstore proved it. However, most of what I found there didn't seem to have much heart to it; it was just continuous sex with men I didn't even like and women I could have cared less about, so I kept writing.
With each new story I'd push the erotic envelope a little farther until I wrote one called The Boy at the Bar about a fifty-year-old nurse and a twenty-eight-year old home builder who had some rather unusual sexual preferences. In writing that one, I lost any inhibitions I might have had left; it's so hot that some who've read it still get all hot and bothered just thinking about it! Later on, I explored my masculine side, writing from the point of view of a big, blond ex-quarterback who fell in love with a male coworker, and then they got a girlfriend!
Again, I was encouraged to try to get a book published. My first attempts were met with disinterest by agents, but then I came into a little extra money and self-published an erotic paranormal romance called If You Could Read My Mind under the name Samantha R. Michaels with AuthorHouse. I had high hopes, but, as anyone who has gone that route can tell you, without someone to promote them, books simply don't sell! After that, I decided to go back to the science fiction that had gotten me started in the first place and wrote The Rescue, a 72,000 word futuristic erotic romance. With that story, I finally had the chance to let my imagination go beyond the confines of this world and into space, and writing it was an absolute blast!
With everyone around me egging me on, I submitted to a few more agents and the occasional publisher and then wrote one book specifically for an erotic romance line. I don't think the editor read beyond the first three pages before sending it back, telling me to rewrite it in third person—which should have been my first clue that writing in first person was a Romance genre no-no! Then I read in my trusty Romance Writers Report that Sourcebooks was a newly recognized romance publisher and that they were taking erotics and paranormals. Based on that article, I sent them The Rescue, not knowing that they were only interested in single title length manuscripts, and promptly forgot about it.
When the editor, Deb Werksman, called to say she wanted to read the rest of the book, I had worked the night before and was asleep, so my husband was the one who got that first call, and you can just imagine what fun he had telling me about it when I woke up! I emailed her the rest of the book and she liked it, but it was too short and she had some “editorial concerns,” and said that if I liked, I could call her and talk about it—which, of course, I did! The things she wanted me to change surprised me a little, (and some who've read the original are still miffed about what I had to rewrite!) but I said I'd work on it and get it back to her. Writing like a fiend, I made the requested changes and added a couple of new scenes and got it up to 92,000 words and sent it back in. Little did I know that Deb had hung up the phone thinking she'd never hear from me again! Now, you writers out there, tell me, can you imagine not altering your book just a little if it meant getting that first one published?
Well, I did, and the result is Slave, and now I'm here with a whole gang of talented authors blogging about it. Who'd have thunk it?