Cheryl Kaye Tardif's work is called Canadian suspense with a killer twist. The bestselling suspense author from north of the border tackles sensitive and terrifying scenarios that most people wouldn't want to consider. From psychic investigations to serial killers and assisted suicides, she delves into the human psyche and spotlights our worst fears.
Cheryl, how did your first novel, Whale Song, come about and had you written/published anything prior to it?
Whale Song was in my head for two years before I ever wrote down the title. In fact, I wasn't even sure I was going to write it. At the time, I had pretty much given up hope of getting published; I had tried for years. But the story of Whale Song haunted me. I couldn't shake the characters or the plot. Finally, a friend said, "Cheryl, don't worry whether it gets published.Write it for yourself. Write it because you have to." That was the best advice I've ever been given.
Since Whale Song, which was first published in 2003, I've had six more novels published (Children of the Fog, Devine Intervention, Devine Justice, The River, Lancelot's Lady and Whale Song: School Edition), as well as Skeletons in the Closet, Other Creepy Stories, and Remote Control, a novelette. All my works are available in ebook editions and all but the novelette are out in trade paperback. I've also had a short story published in What Fears Become: An Anthology From the Horror Zone.
You've written in a number of genres and under a pseudonym. Which genre do you prefer and which has been the most successful?
Suspense is my forte. And any combination of suspense, mystery, paranormal has been successful for me.
Why do you think all your novels have made the bestseller lists?
In general, readers don't like predictable, formulaic works. They'll never have that with my novels. I strive to be unpredictable and I don't use any kind of formula when writing my books. My stories are a mix of plot-driven and character-driven tales. And I bring emotion into each story, whether it's fear, sorrow, happiness, excitement or another emotion. I want my readers to feel like they're right there in the story, seeing everything, feeling everything.
How do you promote your work?
I have two main websites and a blog, plus I belong to various social networks. Most of my marketing is done online through various websites and promotions. And my books are promoted via Imajin Books, my publishing company.
Why did you decide to go the indie route with your own publishing company and how long was it before you began publishing the work of other writers?
I began my career as an indie published author, self-publishing three titles from 2003-2005. With their success I was able to secure a New York agent and a traditional publisher. I recognized a lot of serious problems with my publisher early on and ended up removing my books just before they went under. My experience wasn't entirely negative though; I learned a lot from them--especially what NOT to do as a publishing company.
After leaving my publisher, I decided to return to indie publishing and set up my books again under my publishing company, Imajin Books. Over the next year or so I was approached by other authors who asked me if I'd consider publishing them. I said no, but it made me think. I realized there was a need for what I could offer.
So, on January 15, 2011, I opened Imajin Books to accept other authors. We now have a great group on board; some will be publishing their second book with us this spring/summer.
How does your publishing company differ from other small presses?
Imagin Books is an innovative company. We offer a hybrid form of publishing, kind of a cross between indie publishing and traditional. We offer a small advance and much higher than average royalties on ebooks and trade paperback sales. We consider ebooks to be primary rights, with print a subsidiary right. We only secure these rights so authors are free to purse film and other rights.
Our authors have more input into the creation of their books. We go through various editing stages, which they're part of, and they have input into their cover and trailer as well. We treat our authors like partners. Yet they pay nothing up front. We are NOT a subsidiary publisher. We focus on ebooks sales and market accordingly.
How do your print books sales compare with ebooks? And when did your ebooks begin outselling print editions in Canada?
Print sales are a small percentage of what we sell. Our ebooks far outsell our paperbacks. Last time I looked at the numbers we were selling 50 ebooks for every paperback. We have always sold more ebooks than print.
What's your work schedule like?
I work six to seven days a week. My hours vary, but I rarely work less than eight hours a day and often more. I love what I do and I take frequent breaks, so it doesn't really seem like I'm working that long. The great thing is that I can take days off when I need them.
My schedule is divided between answering email, reading submissions, coordinating editors and authors, assigning covers to designers, checking back with everyone, arranging our promotions, updating the website and blog, and anything else that comes up.
Advice for novice writers?
Facebook account BEFORE you query a publisher or agent. A book won't sell without consistent marketing on the part of the author.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Friday, October 7, 2016
New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny lives and writes in a small village near Montreal, not far from the U.S. border. She's the multiple recipient of the Agatha Award as well as other honors for her work.
Louise, you've had a long career as a journalist and radio host in your native Canada. When and why did you decide that you would rather write novels?
Well, I've wanted to write since I was a child, and tried every decade of my life. But the sad fact was, I had nothing to say. I was way too callow and self-absorbed. And while I feigned interest in others, I really wasn't listening. These are not promising traits for a writer.
There's a wonderful line from Auden's elegy to Yeats in which he writes, 'Mad Ierland hurt him into poetry.' How searing, how true must that have been? And I feel the same was true of me. Not poetry, of course, but writing. I was finally buffeted and bruised and hurt enough by life that I started to empathize with and feel the pain of others. I understood loss and sorrow and aching loneliness. What it felt like to make dreadful mistakes. And what it felt like to be forgiven. And to forgive. And to love with all my heart. How friendship really felt.
And then I was ready to write.
Your work has taken you from Toronto to Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, Quebec City and Montreal. Have any of those cities served as a backdrop for your books?
My books are actually set, for the most part, in the fictional village of Three Pines, which is south of Montreal, near the border with Vermont. It's the area of Quebec I live in, called the Eastern Townships. However, Chief Inspector Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie live in Montreal, so I'm able to use my familiarity with that gorgeous city.
I know that you’re a fellow dog lover. Have canines inhabited your novels?
Yes! I love writing about dogs, and have given almost every character, including Clara and the Gamaches, dogs. Clara has a Golden Retriever, like us - and the Gamaches have a German Shepherd. Both are adoption dogs.
What did you find the most difficult when you made the transition from journalism to fiction?
There were actually a lot of challenges. In radio journalism I was used to a story being half a page long. Just the facts. No plot, no character development. Few adjectives. I was convinced that when I set out to write my novel it would be a page and a half long. What I found quite easy, though, was dialogue, since when I wrote for radio I wrote for the spoken word. And I had 20 years of listening closely to how people talk.
Did marrying later in life influence your work in any way?
Certainly finding love influenced it. My books are about murder and the terror that comes from a crime of such violation, but mostly they're about love. My husband is the first and only man I have loved. With all my heart. I know how Reine-Marie loves Gamache, and he her, because of how I feel. And Michael has also served as an inspiration for Gamache - a mature man, who is happy and content. Not because he's never known sorrow, but because he knows exactly how terrible the world can be, and chooses to stand in the light anyway.
What’s the best part of mystery writing and the worst? And what's your writing schedule like?
One of the great things about a career hosting a daily live radio show is I learned discipline. And perseverance. Two qualities I think are more important even than creativity. I write from January through until the book is finished...generally eight months for a first draft and re-writes. Though I am thinking of a book, and making notes, for about a year before I actually start writing.
Everyday I write at least 1,000 words. Even if they're stinkers...I can always take them out afterward. But I know myself. I can be very, very lazy. So I can't afford to even think about flagging!
In terms of mystery writing, there are so many great things beginning I think with the community of writers, editors, booksellers, bloggers like Jean and of course, readers. It is unbelievably supportive. What a relief not to be around people who smile to your face but stick a knife in when your back is turned.
And the people who read mysteries are the best! Genuinely interested in other cultures, in emotions. They're smart and thoughtful.
There really isn't a downside to writing mysteries--not that I've seen.Though the slight thorn might be when people - some other writers and some readers-look down on the books as 'simply genre' and don't see the depth and power of a well-written mystery. It saddens me a bit, and sometimes it angers me. But mostly I don't notice.
How did you celebrate your first New York bestseller?
First, I shrieked! My publisher and editor called on a conference call from New York to tell me. But Andy Martin, the great publisher at Minotaur, started by saying, 'Do you know why we're calling?'
I, of course, immediately presumed the book, A Rule Against Murder, which had just come out, was such a failure they were about to fire me. And it took two to do it.
When he said, 'You've made the New York Times Bestseller list!' I think there was a moment of silence - then a scream. Poor Michael, in another room, came running. Wow. I will never, ever forget that feeling. Then Michael took me out - we were in Quebec City researching an upcoming book-to a wonderful restaurant for dinner.
Advice to fledgling writers?
Believe in yourself. Never give up. Make sure your 'critic' isn't trying to write the first draft. And a bit of advice I got from an editor who turned down my first book. He said, 'New writers commonly make three mistakes, and you've made all three. The book is too long, too many characters and too many ideas.' I decided he was right. I'd tried to put everything I'd ever learned or thought into that first book. Every character I'd wanted to write showed up. And as a result, it was WAY too long.
But mostly, never forget what a privilege it is to write. I once heard a writer, after she'd won a huge award (not a mystery writer) say that writing is the hardest thing you can do. And I thought, Good Lord, has the woman never waited tables for minimum wages, serving people who sneer at her? Does she realize there are coal miners, daycare workers, teachers, firefighters, doctors who sit by sick children.
Writing is a blessing and a gift, and if you forget it you might win awards, but lose yourself.