Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cheryl Russell to the blog.
Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
For many years, I was bedbound with severe ME, unable to do anything for myself. In 2013 God healed me and since then I’ve been building up my strength.
I’ve self-published 8 books which are a mix of genres. My first was historical fiction. Most of them are thrillers and one murder mystery. I wrote a nonfiction book about my life with ME and my healing.
Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
I have 2 adorable gerbils called Tom and Jerry. I had gerbils through the early years of ME but then had many years without them as I didn’t have anyone to look after them. They are such beautiful animals. Very funny and cute. When they get themselves into trouble, they only have to stand up, and I’ll forgive them anything.
Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?
I have written a few short stories about gerbils. I used to attend a writing class and they soon realised my love of gerbils as I read our stories I’d written about them. I have also written about them in an email to a friend. She loves hearing about them. They make her smile and entertain her.
What writing projects are you currently working on?
I’m editing a couple of historical fiction set around the second world war era. I’ve just begun writing another murder mystery, featuring the same female sleuths as in my last one. Its current title is Partners in Crime. Blood has been found in the bath but no body anywhere.
What’s your real-life funniest pet story?
I thought my gerbil Hattie had escaped or something had happened. I hadn’t seen her. I decided to put my hand in the cage as that would usually elicit a response. Nothing. Worried I rustled my hand in the bedding. Hettie emerged but no sign of Hattie. I continued but no Hattie. I suddenly saw the cardboard egg box move that I’d put there for them to play with. It seemed to move on its own, earning the nickname the haunted egg box. A little head peered out from under it looking so innocent, no idea of the trouble she’d been causing. Hattie had been sleeping under the box all the time.
When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer from a very young age. During those awful years when I was bedbound I’d lay there imagining lots of different stories. I pretty much had the entire plot of Lily of the Valley, my first book, in my head. As soon as I was able, I wrote all the notes I had and then the book made its way on to my laptop and then to Amazon. It was my baby and sending it out into the world was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.
What do your pets do when you are writing?
Sometimes they will sleep like they are today and other times they’ll be busy playing kicking bedding everywhere or destroying cardboard, chewing it into little pieces. They are very distracting when they are playing as I just want to watch them and enjoy the entertainment. Gerbilvision is better than television any day.
What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?
A mixture of books. Plenty of thrillers, Christian books, anything that looks good. I have no idea how many books I have. Two piles of physical books and loads more on my Kindle.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Keep going, don’t give up. Do writing courses, go to a local writing class. Practise at every opportunity.
What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?
The writing is the easy part. If you go down the traditional publishing route its easier but still challenging. I chose to self-publish. It’s the marketing afterwards that’s difficult. Don’t give up.
Cheryl is a multi-genre author. She has written one historical fiction and is working on two others currently. She has written several thrillers and one murder mystery. A collection of short stories is also included in her list of published writing. In total, 8 books now.
Cheryl was bedbound for many years with the chronic illness ME. During those awful years when she could do nothing for herself she enjoyed spending time in her imagination writing books. Her debut novel was comprehensively plotted in her head, she just had to wait until she was able to put pen to paper and write it. She was miraculously healed by God in 2013 and has since been building up her muscles to get her strength back. This continues to be ongoing in 2019. It is a slow process, but she is doing well.
She was recently a runner up in the Student of the Year Award with the Writers Bureau. Last year she also achieved finalist in the Book Talk Radio Club Awards mystery category. Cheryl is very proud of these achievements as it shows just how far she has come from those awful days, and also it validates her writing ability.
When not writing she enjoys reading, going to an aqua fit class once a week. She is crazy about gerbils and currently has two called Tom and Jerry.
Cheryl is also autistic so has to work hard on dialogue. After finishing her debut novel, a friend looked through the first chapter and noticed the dialogue wasn’t natural. Telling her how it should be has really helped Cheryl improve that novel and improve her writing since then. Dialogue, although still difficult, has become easier to write and become more natural. She still has to check it carefully in the editing stages and correct it.
Cheryl has had to overcome so many challenges to reach the stage she is at now. Her lifelong dream of being an author has been realised.