by Betty Dravis
Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Cheryl. It’s our pleasure to have an award-winning author from north of the border with us. I know you have more going for you than your passion for writing, but it’s all related, so I hope you enlighten us about the many plates you juggle. Thanks for taking time from your multi-tasking to visit us.
I heard about you a few years ago from your fellow-Canadian who is an Amazon reviewer. Since then I’ve read all of your books and enjoyed each one. We’re always interested in how an author gets started, so please clue us in: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Multi-tasking is right, Betty. Whewwww… It never ends! But I always make time for an interview; it’s the best public relations authors can get, and everyone knows authors love good press. (laughs)
But to answer your question, I recall the first stirrings of interest in writing when I was in elementary school. Every time I was assigned a story to write, I was ecstatic. And I always got high marks and praise from my teachers. My mother says this passion started even earlier. Apparently, when I was very young, she discovered me scribbling lines underneath each line of a Dr. Seuss book. She thought I was defacing the book. Horrified, she asked me what I was doing. I replied, “I’m writing the story.” I guess I felt Dr. Seuss could use a little help.
As a teen, I started writing creepy short stories. At sixteen I began my first novel titled Beckoning Wrath, inspired by my author idol Stephen King. After completing my horror novel in just under a year, I brought it to school, anxious to get my Language Arts teacher’s opinion. But someone broke into my locker and stole my manuscript. Sadly, this was way before Microsoft Word and the “save” button. I’d typed that manuscript on my mother’s typewriter; it was the only copy and I think it was about 60,000 words. I never saw Beckoning Wrath again and I don’t remember the plot. Even so, my desire to become a published author was strong and it never wavered, even though I was distracted by life.
Betty Dravis: I love Stephen King, too…and Dean Koontz, John Saul and James Patterson; great horror and thriller writers. But what a precocious little kid you were, Cheryl. I can just picture you “helping” the famous Dr. Seuss. (laughs) And it’s too bad your first novel got lost that way. I can’t imagine losing 60,000 words, but we’ve all experienced similar losses…not from theft, but from computer crashes when we failed to back-up our works in time.
Even though you must have felt crushed back then, your readers are lucky that you were persistent enough to keep on writing. Otherwise we wouldn’t have such great books as The River, Divine Intervention and Whale Song. I read somewhere that you call your first published novel, Whale Song, your “heart book.” I’m dying to hear why it’s so dear to you.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Betty, Whale Song is–and always will be–my “heart book.” I say that because I am connected to it on so many levels. The story was in my head and heart for two years before I wrote one single word. I knew the title instantly… And I knew it would affect people who read it; I just didn’t know how much.
It’s also my “heart book” because of a sadder connection. My younger brother Jason was murdered in January 2006. Police were having problems finding his next of kin. I was his only family in Edmonton, but our last names were different. When detectives questioned Jason’s friends, all they knew was that my brother had a sister who wrote a book about whales. Police then searched online. And they found Whale Song…and me.
When I went to empty my brother’s apartment, I found the battered, stained copy of Whale Song I’d given him three years earlier. To understand how that impacted me, I must explain that my brother was living on the street for a while and had lost most of his belongings along the way. He also suffered from alcoholism and mental illness. For him to have held onto my book meant the world to me. I later heard he’d told his friends he was proud of me.
Shortly before my brother was murdered, he called me. We talked about forgiveness, something that is very key to the theme of Whale Song. During that call, I forgave my brother, he forgave me, and more importantly, he forgave himself. Whale Song is my “heart book.” How could it not be?
Betty Dravis: Oh, Cheryl, I’m so sorry about your brother. What a tragic loss! Please accept my belated condolences.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Thank you, Betty. It was tragic. My brother’s murder was very hard on everyone in my family, especially my parents. Jason was so young (only twenty-eight) and hadn’t even begun to live. Our only consolation is that he is at peace now.
Betty Dravis: I read on your website that since Whale Song was first published in 2003, it has gone on to great success, winning book-cover awards and achieving bestseller status on Amazon. Some of your fans have said Whale Song changed their lives. Do you mind sharing a few of those stories and how they make you feel?
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: It is one thing to write a novel that is so close to your heart, like Whale Song is for me; it’s another thing to have your writing impact people’s lives in ways you never expected. I’ve received emails from people who have said Whale Song literally changed their lives. From my words they found some message, some form of redemption or help. How powerful is that?
I am awed by the response my novel has received. Aynsley Nisbet, a struggling artist, had found herself in a rut–with her art and her life. I believe she was going through depression. She saw the cover of Whale Song in the window of a bookstore and was drawn to it. She finally bought it and read it. Ever since then, she has blossomed into an amazing artist. I’ve bought many of her works, including the first one she painted after reading my novel. She aptly titled her painting “Whale Song” and she allowed me to share her story on my blog and site. I was so honored and so proud to see all that she has accomplished since I first met her.
Other testimonials to my “heart” book: One adult daughter read Whale Song after her mother died and she said it helped her deal with the loss of her best friend–her mom. A man in his sixties read it and tearfully shared it with his lady friend. A mother and daughter who hadn’t spoken to each other about anything important because of resentment and old grudges read Whale Song and told me it changed their relationship–for the better.
There is power in my novel and I’m not sure I’m completely responsible for the words. Maybe I was led to write them. All I know is that Whale Song has become more than my “heart book”; it has become a message of forgiveness, redemption and love that has crossed borders and countries.
Betty Dravis: Those testimonials are awesome, Cheryl, and Nesbit’s painting is lovely…so cheerful and bright. What a rush that must give you to know your book helped her and so many people. I’m sure there are more who never contacted you to tell you. I’ve read it and it’s a very moving story. I know how great that makes you feel because I’ve had reviews of my book Millennium Babe: The Prophecy wherein people share how the story moved them. My favorite is from a woman in the wine country of California who bought Babe to read during a long-anticipated trip to Russia. Unfortunately, her husband had a heart attack en route. To relieve the stress of waiting, she read Babe and said she completely lost track of time and was grateful to me for “writing a really exciting book that filled up every moment” she sat in that waiting room.
Thanks for sharing those touching stories, Cheryl. It appears your books are just as popular with school administrators and teachers. I hear they’re using them in classrooms for novel studies. How do you feel about this?
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: I feel completely honored, Betty. I’ve had schools from across Canada and the U.S. inform me they’re using Whale Song, The River and even Divine Intervention in their English classes. I’ve even done some Skype visits with some of the schools. I recall the first student to email me, telling me she’d written a book report on Whale Song. I ended up surprising her at her school and she rewarded me with her book report. She’d received an A. I surprised another student with a school visit. These are two great memories for me. And recently, I was told that a NATO school in Germany was using Whale Song and The River for book studies of Canadian authors. Since then I’ve sent more books to the students.
Betty Dravis: That’s very impressive, Cheryl, and kind of you to drop in to surprise them. It just gets better and better as word spreads, doesn’t it? Now tell us about other projects on your plate. I hear that you and your daughter Jessica appeared on a Celebrity Chefs TV show a few Christmases ago. Share the buzz on that little adventure.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Yes, that was one of the crazier things I’ve done as an author, and this time I dragged my daughter Jessica along for the ride. Celebrity Chefs is a CityTV program and when I was asked to appear on it, I knew it would be a blast. The TV crew came to my house and while I was being interviewed about my novels, Jessica and I prepared strawberry dumplings, a dessert that my mother used to make quite often; it was my brother Jason’s favorite. It’s safe to say that no fire extinguishers were harmed while making this short clip, which aired on television and was posted on CityTV’s website for a while. (laughs) The strawberry dumplings turned out divinely and the cameraman and host settled into a bowl once we were done filming.
Betty Dravis: I don’t consider that crazy at all, Cheryl; it’s part of the fun of being an author and another great way to get noticed. Besides, TV seems a natural for someone with your outgoing personality; you’re definitely not known to be shy. (laughs)
I hear you have other claims to fame–besides being a respected author and a “Celebrity Chef.” You’ve also done a little acting along the way; no stranger to cameras and directors calling “Action!”
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: You caught me, Betty. (laughs) While I’d love to say that I’m really an A-list actress hiding behind a pen name, I can’t. However, I did work as a background actor in Vancouver for a year. My agent was Ralph Streich with Local Color and he got me work on two hit TV shows (in the ‘90s). During filming of The Commish, a popular crime series that starred Michael Chiklis, I was fortunate to meet the lead actor, though I’m sure he doesn’t remember. I think when I was introduced to him, they thought I was one of the other major actors. At the same time, I also met one of my producer/author idols, Stephen J. Cannell.
The other TV series I worked on was The Heights, produced by Aaron Spelling. That show came out around the same time as the original and very popular Melrose Place. In one episode I played a female escort to an older man. At least that’s what I told my background actor partner. We were having dinner and champagne in a lounge, while a terrible singer performed. I think that was my first “role.” I recall another episode where two of the stars sat on a bench. One was eating a hot dog and every time we did a new take, they gave him another hot dog. He didn’t look too good after the tenth or so take. (laughs)
I guess I should confess that I was also a contestant in a wacky TV game show called A Total Write-Off! In my segment I was paired with another writer and a ventriloquist. (Yeah, a real dummy! lol) We had to write a short story based on cues from the host, actress and comedian Barbara North, and from the live audience. A Total Write-Off was produced by Panacea Entertainment and aired across Canada, including Book Television. Sadly, my team lost, but it was a crazy, exciting moment I’ll never forget.
Betty Dravis: Way to go, Cheryl! I admire your versatility and acting sounds like great fun. In fact, the more life experiences authors have, the more “rounded” we are, in my opinion. Who knows when some of what you learned from acting will work its way into one of your novels?
As a writer who writes mainly suspense–The River, Divine Intervention and your YA novel Whale Song–you’ve explored death, murder, conspiracies, stem cell research, psychics, serial arsonists, native lore, assisted suicide, racism, bullying and more. Cheryl, I also know you’ve crossed over to the dark and steamy side of romance, and that you have a new pen name. Tell us about Cherish D’Angelo.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: You’re right, Betty. Cheryl Kaye Tardif writes suspense thrillers, horror, and YA. Cherish D’Angelo is my alter-ego and she gets to delve into the world of romance, love, lust and danger. I just can’t seem to write a novel without killing someone off, so when I decided to venture into writing romance, I felt it had to be romantic suspense. Cherish writes books with passion and about passion. These ain’t your Gramma’s romance novels. (laughs) While I don’t write erotica, some scenes Cherish writes may be more explicit. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to separate her writing from Cheryl’s. I don’t want my young Whale Song fans reading my romance novels–not until they’re mature enough to handle the language.
Betty Dravis: Well, Cherish, (laughs) I may be your old-fashioned grandmotherly type because I don’t enjoy erotica at all…but to each his own. I have read portions of one of Cherish’s books, however, and after I skipped through the in-depth romantic description, I truly enjoyed your story. It kept me turning pages as fast as I could. But for many reasons, I think it’s wise of you to use a pseudonym. But that aside, how did you pick your pseudonym?
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: I wanted a name that meant something. Cheryl, my real name, means beloved, dear one. So does Cherish… D’Angelo came to me when I was trying to find a last name that also meant something to me. I collect angels so that was an easy choice. Put them together and Cherish D’Angelo means “cherished one of the angels.” Mostly, I think it looks awesome in a flowery, romantic-looking font.
Betty Dravis: I think that name is perfect for your pseudonym, Cheryl. In addition to having special meaning to you, it’s a lovely name that conjures up an image of a beautiful, sexy woman.
You might get a laugh from this: I once did a skit with a friend who speaks French. We chose names and I chose Chou Chou LaRue off the top of my head. I thought it was “cute” and it sounded like a can-can dancer to me. Later I looked it up and learned that chou had two meanings: cabbage and darling (or pet). I prefer the “darling,” of course. And LaRue in French is “the street” or “the red-haired one.” Go figure…but guess which one I preferred. (laughs)
But getting back to Cherish D’Angelo, what works has she written?
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: I’m happy to talk about Cherish, Chou Chou, you darling red cabbage. (laughs) Cherish D’Angelo is the proud author of her first novel, a romantic suspense titled Lancelot’s Lady. This novel first started as a contest entry in the Dorchester Next Best Celler contest that was hosted on Textnovel.com back in 2009. Lancelot’s Lady made it to the semi-finals. Not only was it a semi-finalist, it was voted by readers as the #1 Most Popular entry for the first three months of the contest and the #3 Most Popular for the remaining three months. Though it didn’t make the finals, Lancelot’s Lady went on to win a 2010 Editor’s Choice award from literary agent and CEO of Textnovel, Stan Soper, before its publication and release as an ebook in late September 2010. Cherish is working on another romance novel.
Cherish’s catch-phrase is Cherish the romance.
Betty Dravis: Great catch-phrase, Cheryl, but you’re very creative with those. You use another one I like in describing the promotional side of this book business. You call yourself “shameless book promoter.” I love it! Aren’t we all… in this day and age? (laughs)
But since I’ve read parts of Lancelot’s Lady and like the storyline so well, I hope you’ll give a brief description of that romantic suspense.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: I’d love to, Betty. Lancelot’s Lady is a contemporary romantic suspense set in Florida and the Bahamas. Here’s my tagline:
A Bahamas holiday from dying billionaire JT Lance, a man with a dark secret, leads palliative nurse Rhianna McLellan to Jonathan, a man with his own troubled past, and Rhianna finds herself drawn to the handsome recluse, while unbeknownst to her, someone with a horrific plan is hunting her down.
Lancelot’s Lady is available in the Kindle Store, KoboBooks.com and Smashwords.com. It should also be available through various apps on the iPhone and iPad.
Betty Dravis: Simply hearing you describe Lancelot’s Lady brings back the story to me and I’m happy to tell our readers that Cherish may write in a different genre, but her work is just as intriguing as Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s.
Cheryl, I mentioned how great you are with taglines and promotion above, so this is a good place to tell about your career in advertising and promotion. How did you learn how to successfully promote yourself?
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Betty, though I’d love to say I’ve always been a writer and found success easily, I can’t. From the time I left home and studied hairstyling to just before I published my first novel, I worked in fields that required me to learn how to market and advertise myself and my other business endeavors. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, my desire to become a published author was put on hold for many years after facing rejection after rejection, and this led me to try other things.
Years later, I analyzed my careers and realized that in every one of them I had to sell or promote something. I went from hairstyling apprenticeship and owning my own salon (I was the youngest salon owner in BC at the time) to leading hundreds of people weekly as a motivational speaker for an international company; from there to managing a telemarketing division for a home security company. Then I ran a private home daycare, developed and published a childcare directory, sold Pampered Chef tools…and other jobs in between. In each career I found ways to write something and my creative and entrepreneurial spirit helped me with advertising and marketing in these fields. It was this experience that I brought to the table when I was finally ready to delve into my dream to become a published novelist.
Betty Dravis: All of your experiences not only have made you a better writer, Cheryl, they have also made you more proficient at “selling yourself.” You now help other authors with your “book marketing coach” business. I would appreciate your sharing a bit of that and your marketing website link.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: While marketing my own books, I discovered that some methods work better than others. Some are less expensive. Some are more fun, while other marketing approaches are grueling. As with everything I ever tackle, I instinctively analyze what works and what doesn’t, what is time efficient and what’s a time suck, and cost versus value. Most published authors will tell you it’s the marketing that is the hard part. Not everyone has the knowledge or talent, but marketing techniques can be learned.
Over the past seven years, I’ve been helping my fellow authors by writing articles that teach them select promotional strategies. My nickname in the book industry is “Shameless Promoter,” though I’ve also been called a “marketing whiz” and “guru.” I don’t really consider myself a “whiz” or a “guru,” though. I just love sharing what I’ve learned in my journey–and what I’m still learning. I’ve had emails from writers who have used my techniques and become successful as a result. This led me to branch out last year as a book marketing coach. While I gave away my methods years ago and still do at times, I’ve realized that many authors need a more personal approach and want a marketing plan that will work specifically for them. The only way I could justify spending the time and effort in helping them to this degree was to charge for it.
With me as your book marketing coach, you get a business partner of sorts, a cheerleader and, hopefully, a friend who is very interested in your success. I am so pleased when a client reports they followed my strategies and something wonderful happened as a result–whether they get more sales, more traffic to their sites, more hits on their blogs, or more interested agents or publishers. Clients can run their own ideas past me, too, and many times I can help them iron out the details or get organized. Four of my most popular coaching topics are creating an internet identity, agent/publisher queries, virtual book or blog tours, and sponsorships. Clients also ask me how to handle pitching to agents/publishers at writers’ conferences, physical book tours, promotional items and web design or creation.
You can learn more about what I do as a book marketing coach at http://www.shamelessbookpromoter.com, and be sure to check out my prices as I often have specials on. While there, take time to read endorsements by satisfied authors who have benefitted from my experiences.
Betty Dravis: Cheryl, I hope I haven’t kept you too long, but I assure you, I’m almost finished. Just a few more questions, if you don’t mind… I always ask celebrities I interview who their mentors are and if they could spend an entire day with any person in the world (living or dead) who would they choose. It will be fun hearing your response to those questions.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: First, I have to thank you for even considering me a celebrity. (laughs) It’s not something I’m really used to. I have a few mentors. Stephen King is my author idol and I guess you could call him a mentor, even if he doesn’t know it. Through reading about “The King” and his career, I have learned so much about writing and marketing. His book On Writing is in the drawer beside my bed, and at one point I owned every Stephen King novel, including his Bachman books. As a teen, I knew I wanted to be just like him, which was why my first two novels were suspense/horror. I would give anything to spend a week with him, follow him around, see what he does during the day, watch how he writes–basically be his stalker for the week. I’d need a week because I’d have to decompress after each day so as not to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. I am positive he would scare me…
Ironically, I almost had lunch with him a couple of years ago. I was invited to be a guest speaker and panelist for a writers’ conference in Valley Forge and they were hoping to have Stephen King as the keynote speaker. They’d arranged a special lunch and I was one of the honored few invited to it. To my dismay, he couldn’t make the conference.
My other author idol is Gail Bowen. She’s a Canadian crime novelist with a series of books featuring Joanne Kilbourn. Gail is one of the most gracious authors I know and she’s helped me in many ways, including critiquing some of my work and providing a wonderful review blurb for Lancelot’s Lady (it’s on the front cover). I am inspired by her journey as a writer, by her commitment to a series and set of characters and because her books were made into TV movies starring Wendy Crewson and Victor Garber. I would love to spend an entire weekend with her…by a lake, sipping tea and chatting about who dies next in our books.
One of my other mentors is Jerry D. Simmons. Jerry worked for Warner books for about twenty-five years. When he left, he was the VP, Director Field Sales and he has seen both the publishing and self-publishing sides of our industry. Because of his unique experiences, he shares his knowledge with writers of all genres at his site WritersReaders.com. I admire him so much and had the great fortune to meet him (at that same Valley Forge conference). Since then, he has become my greatest mentor in all things publishing and marketing. He has given me fantastic advice on many areas of my career and has been extremely supportive. I’ve written articles for his newsletter many times. Jerry now offers another option to writers–the option to self-publish as an independent author yet still have distribution similar to what traditional publishers offer. His company, Indi Publishing Group, offers many services to writers.
Betty Dravis: As to what constitutes a celebrity, I and Chase Von, my co-author on the Dream Reachers series, think that anyone who achieves a dream–whether large or small–is a celebrity. You, Cheryl, have dreamed big, worked hard and definitely are a celebrity, in our book (pun intended). (laughs) In fact, every life is a celebration…or it should be.
As for your mentors, I think King is every author’s idol, but Gail Bowen and Jerry Simmons are great role models too. I’ve been in contact with Jerry Simmons and he is, indeed, all you say; that man has it all together.
Before finishing, I’d like to mention one more honor you’ve received: you were nominated for the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award in 2004. That’s quite an honor; belated congratulations on that and all your successes.
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Thank you, Betty. Though I didn’t win, being nominated for the 2004 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award was such a huge honor. I was nominated by a fan who had read Whale Song (2003) and Divine Intervention (2004). Before the nomination I hadn’t even heard of the award and I was so surprised when I got the notification of nomination. I have never forgotten that fan. She made me believe that I had talent and a gift, and it kept me strong in my motto: “Dare to Dream…and Dream BIG!”
It’s reviews like this that give me confidence, also: “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada…a name to reckon with south of the border.” – BOOKLIST
As a child I had a big dream. I wanted to be a published author and to write stories that people would remember. As a teen and in my early twenties, I attempted to start on that path, but hit so many roadblocks that I thought my dream would never happen. Instead, life happened. And that’s exactly what I needed. With life came experiences that only served to deepen my writing and marketing abilities. Throughout this, I kept my eye on my main dream. Then in 2003, I made that dream happen and Whale Song was born. I’m very fortunate to be able to do what I most love, what my heart has always yearned to do.
Dr. Seuss, move over! Cheryl Kaye Tardif and Cherish D’Angelo are in town, and they don’t plan on leaving… lol
Betty Dravis: What feisty ladies you are, Cheryl and Cherish! (laughs) So to help you along, I’d like to share links to your various websites, the places where people can reach you.
This is your last chance to share anything else you’d like to mention that we might have missed. I would also enjoy hearing about your current WIPs (works in progress).
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: I have so many WIPs that I sometimes wish I could clone myself, though I’m sure my husband would say something like: “One of you is quite enough.” (laughs) I never run out of ideas and he’s so used to me telling him about my newest plot idea. Currently, I am working on Submerged, a thriller that explores drug addiction and redemption. I am especially excited about Submerged because it has a cool tie-in to a thriller my agent is pitching right now to publishers. In Children of the Fog there is a secondary character and a main setting that overlaps in Submerged, though the two novels are complete stand-alones and unrelated other than this. I am so intrigued by the main character in Submerged; he’s based on a high school friend who went through a similar battle with drug addiction. My friend Mike has been an awesome source for research purposes. In many ways, Submerged is his story.
I’m also working on a YA novel titled Finding Bliss. It will definitely resonate with Whale Song fans, and I believe schools will be especially interested in it for novel studies. I have no idea when either of these works will be published.
Betty Dravis: They all sound intriguing and we wish you as much success with them as you’ve had with your other novels.
Well that’s a wrap, Cheryl… Once again, thanks for sharing your interesting life and all about your books with us today. In closing, I’d like to also share with our readers something I wrote long ago in my review of your novel Whale Song: “One doesn’t simply read a Tardif story, one experiences it!” I mean that, Cheryl, and I wish for our readers to have the same delightful experience. You are a master wordsmith…
Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Thank you so much, Betty. You are a doll! Your quote above expresses my deepest desire for my readers, that they “experience” my stories, hopefully in ways that move them emotionally. I’ve enjoyed your questions and as always, I’m in awe of your own exciting life story. Thank you for allowing me to share mine. I wish you huge success with Dream Reachers: Vol. 2. I am so honored to be featured in it, and I wish you the very best in all your endeavors. Dare to Dream…and Dream Big!