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Author Betty Dravis

Betty Dravis: Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Sally Rowland. We are mostly about writers, but we love the other arts too. It’s a great pleasure to have you here and to share your artworks with our readers.

You’ve been a Facebook friend of mine for a while, but oddly, I got to know you better when you challenged me to the Words Game. I don’t like to brag, but I beat you nine times out of ten. (laughs) Anyway, you took it in stride and when we joked about it is when we bonded even more. Needless to say, I enjoy roaming through your Facebook albums, viewing all your art and photos.

This brings me to your first question: Sally, what were you like as a child and when did you first start sketching and realize you had artistic flair?

Sally Rowland: Hi, Betty, and thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of your Dames of Dialogue family. I must say I was surprised, but pleasantly so, to be asked to share my artwork with you all.

I’m enjoying being beaten by you in the Words game–but it’s early days! Maybe we should be playing a drawing game, too, to even things up a bit? (laughs)

Artist Sally Rowland

Anyway, to your first question: I was born and spent the first ten years of my life in Bristol, England. I come from what is known as a “working class” family, which really means you didn’t have a lot of money. I think for many children back then, you didn’t have many “things” and had to rely on your imagination to have fun. I have fond memories of making mud pies in old cans, while we girls pretended we were cooking.

I remember loving to paint and draw as a little girl and I think I might have been about five or six when I won a prize at school for painting a clear plastic container with daffodils. Well, they were meant to be daffodils, but more likely just green and yellow blobs. (laughs) My biggest passion back then, though, was music. We were taught to read music and I played the recorder, finally moving up to the bass recorder, as I was the only one who had the finger span to play it.

My Christmas gifts were nearly always craft themed: Paint by Numbers, knitting kits, books and my favorite “Fuzzy Felt,” which was a box of cut-out felt pieces that you could attach to a board and make all your own scenes, pull off and do again and again.

My family immigrated to New Zealand not long after I turned ten and that was a huge change for us. The school system is quite different and I loved English and anything artistic. I did woodworking, metal craft, art, photography and so on. I think it was during that time I discovered my real love of drawing, so my essays and school projects were always full of pictures I’d drawn to go along with the required words. My favorite part of the art classes was actually doing a wood-block print and an etching on a slab of rubber that was then turned into a print. I still have a scar where the knife left the slab and went right over my thumb…

Sally Rowland – High atop the world in her native UK; an area known as Carn Brea that overlooks Redruth and other parts of Cornwall.

Betty Dravis: I have to laugh at you mentioning the Facebook game of Draw Something, Sally. I enjoy that one with my kids and a few friends. I’m such a terrible artist that I have no doubt you’d outdo me in technique, but I’m still pretty good at guessing the pictures. My drawings look like a kindergartner’s, but I’m getting pretty adept with stick figures. (laughs)

But back to your art, did you or your parents keep any of your younger works?

Sally Rowland: I’m sure my daffodils ended up in the garbage because I wasn’t really a prolific painter when younger, but I did do a wooden bird sculpture at school in New Zealand that my parents still actually have today. It’s complete with a burned beak, as I got a bit carried away when we had to use a flame to give it some color.

Sally’s favorite portrait of her “Mum” Margaret

Betty Dravis: I bet your parents really hated to part with the daffodil art. We tend to love everything our children do…good or bad, but it seems like they made a good choice, keeping the sculpture.

What’s your favorite medium?

Sally Rowland: I would have to say oil is my favorite medium. I’m entirely self-taught in regards to painting, Betty. I never had any formal training, so using oils was a way to be able to correct mistakes before the paint dried. (laughs) I also find that oils match the way I like to paint, which is a lot of blending to get my desired color and effect. I do the same when doing pencil portraits; lots of smudging and blending going on there too.

In recent years I’ve started to dabble with digital painting and I find that I do that the same way I paint with oils–lots of layers and blending. The good thing about digital is that, of course, there’s no mess–I’m a very messy painter–no time limit on drying and if I don’t like what I just did on a layer, I simply delete it and start over. Another thing I love about digital is that you can work on one thing at a time and when you’re happy with it, you can simply merge it into the main piece of work.

Betty Dravis: Digital painting fascinates me, Sally, so thanks for sharing some of the intricacies. I’ve seen samples of all your mediums and they’re fabulous. I think my favorite oil is the one that looks like a scene from a Greek isle. The colors are so vibrant… I like to think of that painting as a “feel-good” work. It really cheers me up.

Since you didn’t mention watercolors above, we would appreciate hearing a little about that. I saw some samples of your “exercises” and if I recall correctly you said on Facebook that you were beginning to try your hand at that. How’s that project coming along?

Sally Rowland: Oh the “Greek Village” painting… You have a good eye, Betty! I love that one myself, and you’re right, it’s definitely a feel-good painting. The joy in creating it is that I got to use whatever colors I wanted for the buildings, while still trying to keep it looking somewhat “Greek.” (laughs) I’m glad it cheers you up; it certainly does it for me too. I even got that one professionally photographed and sold some prints, as well.

But on to the watercolors: I’m definitely all at sea with that particular medium. My late mother-in-law, who was one of my biggest fans, used them. Although she was pretty modest about her talent, she painted some lovely works which we have here, along with lots of paints, brushes and papers she had amassed. She inspired me to give it a try and, as you mentioned, the exercises I tried were fun, but hard. I’d still like to get into it more at some point, but I’ll definitely need to take some courses. I can remember her telling me that her teacher kept saying, “More water, Patsy… More water…” (laughs) Nevertheless, it’s a whole new way of painting that I’m looking forward to trying one day in the not-too-distant future.

At the moment, though, I’m just enjoying having a room for my art supplies…one I can make a mess in and nobody cares. (laughs) We recently–well almost a year ago now–moved to a new city and home, so we’ve been busy redecorating. The first room to be finished is, of course, my art room, so I’m just settling into that and looking forward to finally having a dedicated space in which to pursue my passion properly.

Betty Dravis: If your exercises are any indication, you’ll be great at that too, Sally. I have two favorites: the red one with the chair and table and the purple viola. It will be interesting to see how you progress in the future, but never give up your oils…

So you have been traveling around quite a bit. I bet it’s exciting to be back in Canada again. I have some dear friends there; it’s a lovely country, eh? (laughs) From the few photos I’ve seen, your new home looks very comfortable and you’re making headway in setting up your work areas. I bet you look forward to getting back in the swing with the Belleville Art Association. Tell us about your plans for the future.

Sally Rowland: Yes, I guess I’m a bit of a gypsy! (laughs) I’ve always loved to travel and experience new things, and immigrating to Canada was certainly a big move. While things don’t always work out the way you expect, it’s fun to just take what life throws at you and do the best you can. Eventually, it all works out just the way it should, although it can take a bit longer than you thought to get where you want to be.

As I mentioned, we’ve been here in Belleville for almost a year now. I had intended to join the local Arts Association straight away, but thought it would be better to get settled first and get a few things sorted out so that I could make the most of what they have to offer. With that in mind, I’m looking at joining them later this year. I’m really looking forward to meeting other local artists and learning some new things along the way.

Betty Dravis: I’m really curious about digital painting, so one more question about that, Sally. Is that accepted in the art communities as “real” art? Also, I notice that most of your digital art is of movie stars. Your portrait of Sandra Bullock is certainly lifelike. Beautiful… I admire her greatly, but my favorite digital photo is of the unforgettable and gorgeous Marilyn Monroe. Are you, like most everyone these days, fascinated with movies and the entertainment world?

Sally Rowland: Ah, the good old question: “Is digital art real art?” Personally, I say yes, it is, although I know a lot of artists who disagree. To me, it’s simply another medium. You still have to have the talent to design, draw, paint, etc. On top of that, you also have to be able to use the software to bring it all together, so I view it as just another tool to create with.

I need to purchase a proper painting software package at some stage. Currently I use a photo/paint program; it’s not the best thing, so it really challenges me. To me, the process is almost the same as painting with oils, etc.: You sketch the idea, then use that as a base to add layer upon layer of color and shape until you get the final product. I mentioned the things I like most about digital painting above, but I’d like to stress the point: the flexibility is a definite bonus.

Yes I must admit most of my digital work has been of movie stars, but to be honest, I’m not really into movies/celebrities/entertainment. Photos of stars are so abundant on-line that I found them useful for learning how to use my software. (laughs) I do love trying portraits, though, so I guess that is why there are so many. Many years ago, I recall having a book of portraits of movie stars–the black and white studio shots. I didn’t really care who they were, I just loved the actual photographs. I have to admit that I do have a few books about Marilyn Monroe, though. I found her life intriguing and very sad, rather than glamorous, despite that she was quite the beauty at the time.

Betty Dravis: Sally,I think all generations adore Marilyn; she’s a real, unforgettable legend. But, OMG, I almost forgot that you also did a digital of my very favorite: Clint Eastwood. Although that’s not one of my favorites of your works, I love all things “Clint,” as everyone knows. Since I was lucky enough to interview and get to know him a little–back in the day—I’ve never forgotten him. At the time of the interview, I didn’t realize how much larger-than-life he is, but he put me so at ease that I immediately bonded with him. I made him my mentor (from afar) and tried to shape my career after his. Fat chance! (laughs)

But getting off the subject for a minute, since art is a rather passive activity, how do you keep in shape? Do you have a favorite exercise regime or do you simply rely on healthy eating? Or could it be that your husband Pete and your three cats keep you hopping? (laughs)

Sally Rowland: Oh my, Betty! Keeping in shape! I have to admit to being a passive exerciser also… (laughs) I think the biggest thing I ever did was a 10k marathon which I loved. I also used to play on an indoor cricket team (both all-girl and mixed teams). However, over the years I’ve noticed that I can’t do a lot. I have scoliosis (curvature of the spine). It’s not too bad, but one false move and I’m in pain for days. Keeping in shape now is probably limited to gardening and healthy eating. Now that we’re out of the city and living in a less populated area, I think I’d like to get back to biking, a great way to stay in shape and also see more of the area.

Oh yes, Pete and the cats definitely keep me on my toes, as well, but that could be an entire book if I told you everything. (laughs)

Sally with Tyson as a kitty.

Betty Dravis: Well, Sally, you certainly look fit and trim, and I’m very sorry to hear that you have scoliosis. With that in mind, you seem to have come up with the right solution for yourself: gardening and healthy eating. Sounds very sensible to me…

Perhaps you will write that book one day, with illustrations, of course, but the world will have to wait. (laughs) Now speaking of cats, I heard that there’s an interesting story about one of them that traveled back from New Zealand to Canada with you. Do you mind sharing that with our readers? The Dames love animals…

Sally Rowland: My oldest cat, Tyson, now almost thirteen, has probably racked up more air miles than some people. I got him as a kitten back in New Zealand and within months we were headed off to Canada. (I swear there are more paperwork and conditions for moving pets than people–at least there was back then…)

Then after a while we decided to go back to New Zealand, so off he went again… Loads of paper work and then quarantine back in New Zealand (more strict animal import regime). After some time there, and with my in-laws getting older and needing help, we decided to go back to Canada. By that time, we had adopted another cat from the local SPCA. Tyson took it in his stride, though, and was a real trouper.

The day we picked them up from the airport was so funny. We got a bit of a runaround, but finally got sent to the right ‘hangar.’ All we could hear was loud meowing as they were delivered to us, howling inside their cages–on a forklift! The silly thing about it all was that when we went back to New Zealand, Tyson had to be micro-chipped (NZ law). It was apparently so that he could be tracked. However, even with the government-approved micro-chip the cattery/pet shipping company that we used when we finally came back here said that they couldn’t read the chip. So much for that! (laughs)

Tyson has been through a lot for a cat; we all know how cats need routine and familiar surroundings. He’s now getting old and has had some health scares, but he is still my baby and we’ll do whatever we can to make sure he has a great “retirement.” (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Aw-www, poor Tyson, but he’s well loved, Sally… Truthfully, he has many more air miles than I do. I enjoyed your interesting stories about pets and airlines. I never realized pet transportation policies were that strict. With Tyson and the other two cats in mind, I hope you decide to stay in Canada for the duration. (laughs)

From little cats to big cats; Sally with her tiger print.

Now, if you don’t mind my asking, Sally, where do you get your inspiration for a particular painting or work? Art, like book publishing, is a tough, competitive field. Is your family supportive of your career choice?

Sally Rowland: In the last few years, Betty, I have to admit to not feeling terribly inspired. As with everyone, I suppose, life situations get in the way. I find I’m still trying to find my own niche. I often say, “I’m a jack-of-all-trades, master of none,” so in a way, I’m still on my own journey of self discovery. I’m definitely leaning more towards portraits, but as you say, like book publishing, art is also very tough and competitive, so I’m happy to take on anything…well, apart from landscapes. (laughs)

I’m very lucky to have an extremely supportive family. Painting had not been my choice of career at all, despite loving it. My career background is actually in finance, banking and tourism, of all things. Art had always been just a hobby, so I feel really blessed to be able to get involved in something I’ve always loved.

With my own family back in New Zealand and in the UK, it’s always lovely to send them photos of my art–what I’ve done or am working on–and get feedback. I remember when my parents had to have their dog put to sleep: He’d been so unwell and, although it was the right decision, it was heartbreaking. I decided to paint Mac as a puppy–when he was all healthy and vibrant–but it took my Mum quite some time before she could even open the parcel and finally get it framed.

Betty Dravis: It’s heartening to know that your family has been supportive of you, whether in tourism or art, Sally.That means a lot to anyone and often makes the difference between success and failure.

Speaking of support, Sally, do you have a favorite artist? If so, tell us about him or her…

One of Sally’s favorite artists is Tamara De Lempicka. Above is her version of one of her paintings; hanging on wall of Sally’s rec room.

Sally Rowland: Gosh, Betty, it’s hard to say I have one favorite artist. I love so many styles. It’s like I love ice-cream but all the flavors are delicious… (laughs) But when I think about it, my top artist would have to be Modigliani. We went to an exhibition of his art back in 2005 in Toronto. I was just totally blown away seeing them in the flesh, after only ever seeing them on-line or in a book. They were huge…vibrant…and up close you could see his brush work and the lines from his original sketch on the canvas. Awesome…

Needless to say I could never afford his work, so I decided to paint my own. I’m also a huge fan of Rosina Wachtmeister; her cat paintings are wonderful, as are her other works. I admire Vermeer for his use of light… Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Klimt, Beryl Cook …ad infinitum I’m afraid. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: I anticipated such an answer, Sally. When I ask authors about their favorite author, they almost always have a long list. (laughs)

With those choices in mind, it will be interesting to see how you answer this question: If you could spend a day with just one person (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

Sally Rowland: Well, Betty, I’ve been doing a lot of family research over the years and hit a huge road block with my own great-grandfather on my father’s side. He’s not famous, but he’s elusive and I can’t find anything much about who he really was, or his family, so I’d have to say it would be him.

I’d like to sit down with him for one day, notebook in hand, and ask him thousands of questions about his life and our family history. The most we know about him is that he was a musician in the Army back in the 1800s and spent over a decade in India and perhaps other countries; beyond that there is nothing. He’s a mystery and I love mystery…

Sally at an art show in New Zealand in 2005.

Sally poses with some of her art in Port Credit, Ontario in 2005.

Betty Dravis: That’s a very human choice, Sally. It’s too bad that so much of our personal family history gets lost because we’re too busy to ask our parents when we’re young, not becoming interested until it’s too late.

Sally, when you’re actively working, what’s a typical day like for you? Do you have any habits or established routines that work best for fulfilling your daily commitments?

Sally Rowland: I mentioned earlier that I’m a messy painter. For me, I just get absorbed in what I’m doing. I prefer to listen to music, which depends on what exactly it is I’m working on. I throw on my old clothes because I just know I’m going to get paint everywhere. (laughs) There is never a set routine; I just like to go with the flow.

Betty Dravis: Sally, I hear you loud and clear! That’s so typical of artistic types. I get so absorbed in my writing, I often forget to eat or even get out of my jammies. (laughs)

Which painting turned out to be your biggest challenge? Do you have a personal favorite?

Sally Rowland: Well, Betty, my biggest challenge–and it was actually a challenge on an art forum–was painting The Girl with the Pearl Earring. I had never attempted to reproduce or paint from a master, so I thought I should give it a go. Even to this day, I really don’t know how I did it. I just got lost in the process and loved it. It’s still my personal favorite. I gave it to my mother-in-law as a gift, and now, since she passed away, it’s back with me. That gives it a personal touch and some lovely memories too.

Sally’s version of Vermeer’s Girl With Pearl Earring.

Betty Dravis: Oh, I love that one, too. I had forgotten about it, but when selecting the Greek painting over The Girl with the Pearl Earring, I did so mainly for the cheerfulness of the painting, not for quality. I must say, the latter is absolutely phenomenal work, even if you did copy a master. Your rendition is brilliant, Sally.

Now for your next question, what advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Sally Rowland: From where I am now–at this later time in life—I would tell them to embrace their passion. Take as many classes as you can to help you, but don’t ever let that interfere with what you love to do. I hate that phrase “think outside the box”; I’d prefer to hear, “There is no box.” While I sometimes wish I had taken notice of what I loved to do, I realize there is a reason your journey takes you where you need to go first. Just keep that passion going…

Betty Dravis: That’s great advice, Sally. I never thought of it exactly like that; it’s thought provoking. I do agree about the passion; that makes the difference between winning and losing.

What is your most cherished memory of a viewer reaction to your work?

Sally’s work for Flintstone Lounge at end-of-season ball in mid 90s.

Sally Rowland: For me, every reaction is important, be it good or bad. One painting I sold started out as a really silly thing. I looked at it and went “arrghh,” so I turned it into a seascape. All in blue: clouds, sky, boat… All of it! When I posted the changed painting, someone wanted to buy it. They loved it–and that made me very happy.

Betty Dravis: Since blue is my favorite color, that sounds like “eye candy” to me. I’d like to see that one sometime. I think it may be on your lovely videotape (link below).

But now for a fun question! I waited till near the end to put you on the spot, but do you mind sharing the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you in connection with your artistic works?

Sally Rowland: Oh, this question took me all of two seconds to answer, Betty. (laughs) It has to be when I took part in another on-line art challenge. One of the pieces you could do was a Frans Hals. I loved it, so thought, “Yes, why not?” I thought not only could I paint, I could also have a go at using a palette knife. So off I went… But I couldn’t figure out why the paint was soaking into the canvas I was using. I was almost halfway through before I felt like running from the room screaming because I’d actually painted on the wrong side of the canvas! I did finish it, still have it, and it’s a reminder that sometimes mistakes are worth keeping.

Betty Dravis: Oh-hahaha, Sally. That is funny. I’m glad you treasure the work now, though…mistake or not! You certainly have a fun, exciting life…

Now before leaving, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that you also design CD covers. Please share about the ones you’ve created.

Two of Sally’s CD covers for Guitarra Azul are hanging in her new art room.

Sally Rowland: Oh yes, the CD covers… I’ve really loved this aspect of my art. I found Guitarra Azul, a Chicago-based band, through MySpace about four or five years ago and loved their music. I was lucky enough to be asked by Steve Edwards to paint something for their second CD. I love their music, so was really happy to do it. My first one was for Oasis; an 18×18 oil painting on which I had to actually change the title on the canvas itself. (McGuyver skills coming into play here.) Then in late 2011, I started work on a digital painting for their latest release Lotus Flower. I’m very happy for my art work to be a part of such wonderful music.

More recently I have designed and digitally painted a cover for Simon Allan in the UK for his upcoming EP release Demons and Dreams. We’re working together for another release later this year, also. It’s very exciting for me, and I hope, for them as well.

Sally’s digital painting cover created for Simon Allan’s upcoming CD Demons and Dreams.

Betty Dravis: Since you love music, it’s very appropriate that your work be on CD covers, Sally. I’ve seen all three covers and while I love them all, I’m captivated by the Demons and Dreams cover. Probably because my latest book, Six-Pack of Blood, is a horror anthology (co-authored with the very gifted writer Barbara Watkins) and I spent some time with the cover artist. I can picture that particular painting on the cover of a horror book. (laughs)

I also understand that one of your works is scheduled to be in a book. Please share that with us.

Sally Rowland: I guess this is where fun meets something wonderful, Betty. My friend Brian Bohnett, who is an author and also a graphic artist, has been working on a biography for many years now. Brian has done an amazing job on his biography The Remarkable Enid Markey: First Lady of the Tarzan Films. This will be an eye-opener because most people would recognize the men who played “Tarzan,” but not many would know the “Janes.”

While Brian was sharing his journey, he sent me some lovely photos; one caught my eye, so I decided to try painting it digitally. It was all in fun, but I am happy to say he has included it as a frontispiece to his biography, and it’s also part of a set of cards to go along with the book. The book is being released at a convention in California this coming August. I am so excited for him and proud to be involved, even if in only a small way.

Enid Markey

Betty Dravis: That sounds like a fascinating book, Sally. This is a coincidence, but I have a Tarzan tie-in: In my 1106 Grand Boulevard novel, I tell the story of my aunt’s first husband being Franky Johnston, the swimming coach who taught Johnny Weissmuller to swim for his role as Tarzan. Small world…and the Internet has made it even smaller. (laughs)

It sounds like you have some great projects coming your way. Since we’re almost finished, now’s the time to mention any other plans you might have.

Sally Rowland: Well, Betty, after I settle into the art community, as mentioned above, I’ve also got plans to get my own website up and running so that I can start selling my work, be it paintings, prints or digital. I like to think of myself as a bit of a late bloomer in the art world. I know how competitive it is, so I know that to be successful I’ll have to have a good business plan. That all takes time and is something I’ll be working on this year also.

Betty Dravis: I’m so happy for you, Sally. You sound so vibrant and full of life. The move seems to have agreed with you.

Before closing, I’d like to tell our readers that they can find more of your artwork in the photos on Facebook, and the YouTube video has a vast array of your works. I love the way it’s presented in sections. All your works are great, but the pencil sketches amaze me too. We didn’t get around to discussing the sketches, but an example is to the right. It all starts with an artist’s ability to sketch, so the fine examples on the video are important. The links follow and readers should keep in mind that the contact info at end of the YouTube is outdated. Sally will share that with us when she gets completely relocated.!

Black-and-white photograph of Sally, enhanced by infusion of light.

Thanks for being with us today, Sally, It’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you and to view your stunning art. We look forward to your website so we can check into buying some of your art. Until next time, please keep in touch and send your website link so I can put it out on the social media.

Sally Rowland: Thank you, Betty, for allowing me to be a part of your world. It’s always a pleasure to join with other artistic people. I know you showcase many successful people, so as a still-emerging artist, I truly appreciate that you took an interest in me. And you’ll be the first I inform when my website is up and running. Thanks again, for having me on Dames of Dialogue.


by Betty Dravis

A great character study of actor/producer Sherwin Buydens.

Betty Dravis: Hey, Sherwin! I just read your biography and am intrigued by your unique approach to life and your way of expressing yourself. After I met you on Facebook and viewed some photos of you. My first thoughts were: Wow, that guy has such an expressive face… a man of many faces… Like Robert De Niro…
I see that you’re quite versatile as an actor and are in other areas of the industry, as well. You’re not at the peak of your dreams yet, but you’re working hard and things are beginning to happen for you. But before we get to the present, let’s dig into your past. When did you know that you wanted to be an actor? How old were you at the time?

Sherwin Buydens: Well, thank you for comparing my facial expressions to Robert De Niro. He is versatile­­… Such a fabulous actor, and an actor whose career heights I can only dream of reaching.

Ms. Dravis… Betty, my whole acting career really started out with a change of mind, after taking Don S. Williams’s course “On Camera Scene Study.” Don was the executive producer and director of his own longest- running TV show in Canada, The Beachcombers (1971-1991). At one time during the course, an American actress Maria Louisa Figura was substituting for him. When she took me aside after one of the classes and said, “You could be a working actor,” I felt like the manna of Heaven had descended down upon me and rays of light had filtered their way through the clouds of Vancouver, Canada. (laughs)

I could be a working actor! I could be a working actor. Wow!

I was about 26 when Maria saw me acting in Don’s class and that was the turning point in my life! My possible destiny was then chosen for me. You see, at that time I was in a rather cushy English-as-a-second-language job that I disliked and would soon receive a settlement for a small motorcycle accident I had been in.

This Kawasaki Drifter is an imitation of an old '47 Indian that Sherwin saw at Bob's Big Boy in North Hollywood, in the same rare, baby-blue color! It was his theme picture until recently.

Up until then, Betty, I treated acting largely as a hobby. I did all right in acting class, in my opinion, and I took a Fine Arts Minor in college. My long-term friend Bob Phipps is also an actor, but I hadn’t yet connected the dots in my mind. “Don’t quit your day job” was always in the back of my head. The other thing that always concerned me was that J-O-B stood for “Just Over Broke.” I knew that if I was ever to transcend being more than middle-class in title–the prices in Vancouver are almost as high as Los Angeles–I had to think of a lasting opportunity to propel me forward in life. I had to quit treating acting as a hobby and get serious. I also knew I needed money to carry me through until acting roles came along, and that I was capable of more.

Betty Dravis: Thank God for putting people like Maria in our lives…people who first recognize that spark in us. Whether one has a talent for ditch-digging, plumbing, acting, writing, or any skill, we all need encouragement to believe in ourselves and pursue our dreams. Sherwin, I’m forever grateful to my parents and to my high school writing teacher for first believing in me. And I’ll never forget the icons that came later: Clint Eastwood, Jane Russell, the late Senator Ted Kennedy and others who spurred me on, not to mention my children, my best friend, you, my co-author Chase Von, actress Katherin Kovin Pacino, actor/director/producer Tony Tarantino, actress/singer Jenny McShane, photo-journalist C. Robert Lee and many other Dream Reachers in these books.

Let’s discuss your mentors a little later in this interview, but for now I’m eager to know what happened next. Did you make it to Hollywood? And how did you support yourself?

Sherwin with one of his mentors Rock Riddle (Ex-WWE Superstar, former World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, Beverly Hills agent/manager/promoter) at an Entertainment Industry Networking Event in Hollywood. 2010

Sherwin Buydens: It’s fun to look back on that, Betty… Fast forward six months, and with settlement money in hand I was off to Los Angeles to check out the scene. Fortunately, I was trading commodities in oil and cattle, both of which were paying handsomely at the time. I was selling short on oil because before the spring of 2005, “Crude Oil” had never traded above $40 a barrel. That meant, whenever the price of oil approached close to $40, I made fistfuls of money when the price went down quickly. If you like nostalgia, that’s nostalgic enough for me. (laughs)

Sherwin shows another of his "many faces" with actress Wendy Winters at the Silverlake Film Festival. He acted in "Mad Cowgirl" which won "Best Experimental Film" for director Gregory Hatanaka.

And I only traded “Live Cattle” because of the “Mad Cow Scare” that essentially dropped this commodity to fifty-five percent of its original price. I rode the price back up to ninety percent of the original. Ironically, later that would be the topic of a film I acted in called Mad Cowgirl. (laughs)

Fortunately, my world in commodities ended in 2005–and for the better. I discovered real estate, which was the second key to my life. I had come to discover this was the vehicle that many film producers use to finance their own films. It’s all beautiful to say, “I’ve got this project in the works,” and “I’ve got that project,” but unless you are really marketable, how is that film going to be produced? The number one challenge to all filmmakers is cash. Ideas abound, but ultimately money in your pocket is how your project gets done. The biggest stars–Tom Cruise with the Mission Impossible series, for example–largely self finance their own projects, so why should I do anything differently?

Betty Dravis: I read a story about that recently, Sherwin. With the multi-millions it takes to make a film in today’s economy, it’s a wonder any films get done, but if they get a blockbuster they recoup their investment many times over. And if they bomb, well that’s another story… But it certainly is smart of you to find something to tide you over until you establish a firm foothold in show biz. It sounds like you’re laying a good foundation. I don’t understand the world of commodities, but I do know a little about real estate. Second-hand knowledge to be sure, since my daughter Mindy James is a Realtor in Los Gatos. I know enough to know that the bubble burst, but that’s a subject for later.

But for now, Sherwin, my readers and I are eager to know if you ever hear from Maria anymore? Did she become your mentor and who are other mentors in your life?

Actress Maria Louisa Figura

Sherwin Buydens: Strangely enough, I have not kept in touch with Maria. She was like an angel that came down to me at the right time and, somehow, many like her have entered my life at just the right time. Maria is still a beautiful woman and a consistently working actor herself. Check her out on the Internet:

I enjoy remembering those days and the many wonderful people I have met along the way. Probably first in the ranks is Andrew Magliolo whom I met in Santa Monica. He is an accomplished actor /producer, an intelligent, articulate man and successful in real estate. He emphasized to me the meaning of discipline in this business because acting is part of “show business” and how having money to pay the bills should be first on any artist’s list of priorities. I remember him saying, “It took me seven years until I landed a co-starring role on Designing Women.” He has been a personal mentor to me and others in life, stressing financial responsibility, advocating discipline, not losing focus on the big prize, and making it as a working actor.

Popular actor Andrew Magliolo of the hit TV series "Designing Women" is one of Sherwin's early mentors.

Betty, another person of huge importance was Rock Riddle who preaches a similar theme, emphasizing the “business” part of the industry. Rock has been in the entertainment business for nearly thirty years, first as a wrestler, but also as a film and television actor, Beverly Hills agent, manager and now a promoter.

Through his ideas I have met a wide variety of people, including Tony Tarantino, whom you interviewed recently. Since I’m a person who wants to reach the highest echelon of achievement–and acting is one of those industries where most people are working a day job to survive—it’s instrumental to reach out and meet people of prominence and deliver excellence.

Actors Paul Alan Brown and Cali T. Rossen with award-winning actor/producer Sherwin Buydens in front of group at a 2010 Industry Event. That’s Rock Riddle, second from left, standing.

One such example was at the American Film Market where I met Bruce R. Schwartz, back in November of 2004. He is the son of Sherwood Schwartz, probably best known for being one of the head producers of the television shows Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Bruce had an upcoming educational short film titled I Stand Here Ironing that would be a period piece taking place in both the 1930s and 1950s. Even though I was slated to be only an assistant producer or perhaps an associate producer, I relished the opportunity. So when Bruce’s number-two person became ill with Lyme Disease, threatening to kill the project, I was determined to make that project work. I felt it was my calling.

I had remembered–after assisting in production at the theater level–how important details were to making a project work and what might be needed to make this project successful. Young people today may think of Elvis Presley as being an icon of popular culture for the 1950s, but for a 1950s middle-aged couple, there is no way they would be listening to Elvis Presley. Instead, we dressed this set with Mario Lanza, another icon for a different generation that my late grandmother adored.

Sherwin and Bruce Schwartz won this Telly Award at The Chicago Film Festival for "I Stand Here Ironing."

Even though I did no more than background work for this piece­­—performing the role of an out-of-work person in a 1930s soup line–I certainly was believable. I simply made the most of the opportunity that came my way, Betty, and in the end, I was given credit for co-producing this film. I was very happy when it received two awards, the best being a Telly Award at the Chicago Film Festival. I have this award posted on my Facebook page.

No matter how large or small, when opportunities come your way, you must take advantage of them whenever possible. I bet you’ve learned that along the way, too… (laughs)

Perhaps one of the most inspiring anecdotes on that note is a certain character actor by the name of Kelsey Grammer. He, as I understand it, was slated to work on just four episodes of an upcoming television show called Cheers. As we all know, through his brilliant portrayal of Dr. Frazier Crane, he became a season regular and then gained his own show.

Of course, Hollywood is known for sexy stars, but we character actors can also do very well when the opportunities arise.

Betty Dravis: Wow, Sherwin, it sounds like you moved to L. A. at an opportune time and met many successful people. That’s exciting and those are stimulating people to have in your life. I know that when I interviewed people like Tony Tarantino and others in this book and the first Dream Reachers, it invigorated me anew. And I agree with you about taking advantage of opportunities. That’s been the key to whatever writing success I’ve achieved and I certainly regret the ones I’ve missed along the way. It’s often in the choices we make too. We live and learn… (laughs)

I enjoyed the anecdote about Kelsey Grammer going from character actor to lead role all on the strength of his acting abilities. That’s awesome! He’s one of my favorites; he can sure deliver… And I’m impressed at your taking such a small part in your first movie and turning it into an award by being a team member and helping wherever you could. I wish you the same good fortune as Grammer and other TV stars that went on to major success–like the stars of the colossal hit “Friends.”

But to lighten the subject, what’s this I hear about you having an “affair” in America?

Sherwin Buydens: So you’ve heard about that, have you, Betty? Well, it’s not what you think! It’s not an affair “in” America! It’s an affair “with” America! (laughs) As you know, I’m proud to be Canadian, and it’s a wonderful country to live in, but at the moment, Canada is number two on my list. At present I’m having an affair with a lady that stands 150 feet tall, is made of copper and is proudly American. And so I am fiercely proud to be in this country too…pursuing her dream as well as my own.

Betty Dravis: I see, Sherwin! Thanks for making that clear. I love America, too, of course, and may God continue to bless us here.

You’ve been blessed by being in some movies. I know this is just a start, but you played the role of Ned in the short feature Ned the Caveman; Mo Lester in Mad Cowgirl; and an orthodox man in Driving to Zigzigland. I’d also like to share the links to two powerful videos, Crow Magnon Man and Military Man that impressed me, especially the depth of your voice and your wide range of expression, which I mentioned above:

Sherwin in "Lou, Lou, Where are You?" an art film of the painter Raffaello Grimaldi. He's in the back seat with fictional character Pat Hill. Lou is loosely based on the character Max in "Hart to Hart."

I also saw a photo of you behind the wheel of a Vegas cab and the poster for the movie Vegas Cabbie. That’s certainly a colorful, eye-catching, intriguing poster. I hear that you not only acted in that movie, but you also directed and produced it. How did that come about? Is it out yet? Please share the latest with our readers.

Sherwin Buydens: That film has not come out yet and I may have a hand in being the assistant director in it. The film needed a poster, and the best role I could fit in was the British gangster in an Elvis costume. This certainly is a colorful character role and I’m simply so grateful to have the opportunity. Even if you may not fit the role, you never know what role will make your career. Henry Winkler, who for many people defines the motorcycle-riding Fonz on Happy Days, didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle. Yet, the most memorable picture of him in my mind is in the opener where he rode a motorcycle–and apparently crashed it afterwards. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Well, good luck with Vegas Cabbie, Sherwin, and thanks for the bit of Hollywood trivia about “The Fonz.” That’s cool…

Now tell us, besides the acting classes in Canada, have you studied with anyone in the States?

Sherwin Buydens: I had taken an auditioning class with Jeff Rector some time ago, but really acting classes, overall, I would argue, are not that important once you know how the camera operates. Auditioning is important because if you can’t land the acting role, you won’t get hired. Keanu Reeves is an excellent example of an actor who made it in the industry because of his sensational auditioning skills. In my mind, film and television actors should also be strong theater actors, and if there is anywhere I want to improve, more theater is in the future for me. I have already performed as the doctor and old man in a Scottish play, as a soldier in Antigone, and as Telygin in Uncle Vanya. I am confident in my acting skills because I have had to perform the same roles over and over again with fresh enthusiasm each night, and because all of the great actors at one time came from the stage. If a person wants to have a career like Spencer Tracy or Jack Nicholson, or even Kelsey Grammar, there is no substitute for stage-acting. The same is absolutely true, too, for the women, such as Katherine Hepburn or Elizabeth Taylor who also added Broadway to their resumes.

Betty Dravis: I never thought of it like that, Sherwin, but it makes lots of sense. Show biz certainly is fascinating.

I understand that you went from commodities to real estate as a means to finance your film career, but before we get serious again, I’d like to ask you a few lighter questions. If it were possible to spend the day with anyone throughout history, who would you choose…and why?

Sherwin Buydens: Fascinating question… There are two people that come to mind. One is Nostradamus and the other is William Shakespeare. I, like most people, am fascinated by the unknown. I definitely trust my intuition, and I would say my clairvoyant skills are a fair amount above average. Because I have a certain ability to “see” into the immediate future, I find Nostradamus especially interesting for his ability to look hundreds of years ahead.

My knowledge is based on a rough deduction based on current events and their probable statistics. There’s also a certain amount I can derive from people’s personalities. Nostradamus, though, was truly touched by the finger of the Almighty, for his predictions were not even remotely conceived by anyone during his life

The other person far beyond others is William Shakespeare because he is, perhaps, the most articulate and intelligent writer in the English language of all time. By reading and performing Shakespeare, I find myself not only improving my acting, but also my vocabulary, history and general intelligence. He not only had an IQ over 200, but his wit and wisdom is truly uncanny. Shakespeare’s plays have endured thus far in history and probably will endure as long as there’s an English language because the concepts and level of meanings that he conveys speak across classes that even people today–with some practice–can well understand. The politics of art has changed dramatically since his time, yet the brilliance of the depth of the context of his characters is truly astounding.

Betty Dravis: Your choices are incredible, Sherwin, and I think you picked perfect ones for an actor.

And now, I’m going to put you on the spot… (laughs) Since most people have had embarrassing moments at some time in their lives, do you mind sharing one of yours? It can be funny or sad, but I find they are always interesting in retrospect.

Sherwin Buydens: Betty, I don’t have any embarrassing moments I wish to mention that will not get me arrested–and I have more than a few! I do have one defining moment when I was young that made me who I am today. Many people would find this embarrassing. When I was twelve I was chosen to deliver a sermon in front of the church on the topic of “Faith, Hope and Love.” Speaking in front of 400 people at a relatively young age, I believe, helped instill my confidence in speaking publicly…and even today I enjoy it. Public speaking sure can be embarrassing, as George W. Bush learned the hard way. He’s given us plenty of fodder for decades to come. Even though I’ve made an idiot of myself many times, if you don’t put yourself into potentially embarrassing situations, how will you grow?

Betty Dravis: Ah-hhh, the famous “Bushisms” of both father and son… (laughs) Their verbal boo-boos have spawned several books, Sherwin, but I think if you scrutinize anyone who speaks a lot in public you’ll find many such errors…

But moving on, since you haven’t mentioned your family, it would help us understand you better if you told us a little bit about them. Do they support your dream of becoming a great character actor? I understand that you live in Las Vegas now, but plan to return to L. A. Will that be soon? And how often do you get back home to Canada?

Sherwin Buydens: Well, Betty, to answer your last questions first, Canada is a bit of a distant memory already. Last time I was up north was in 2008, and I’ll probably make it back early next year. As for Los Angeles, it’s definitely in my near future. My feeling is, when the time comes, I will be ready and waiting. Los Angeles is already my second–nearing first—home, but when will I move? My best guesstimate is a few months…

In my family, Dad was the entrepreneur, and although he was never thrilled about me becoming “just an actor,” he definitely accepted my decision when I got involved with anything financial. As for my mom, that side of the family contains the artists and athletes, so she understood and promoted my dream with enthusiasm. My grandfather was a talented fiddle player; a cousin on that side of the family has danced for the National Ballet of Canada; another cousin has played for the women’s Canadian national soccer team. And my mother’s older brother played semi-professional baseball.

My favorite photo of Sherwin is the first one I saw on Facebook. His friends said he looked like "a mafia hitman," "agent Smith in "The Matrix" and I think he looks like Kevin Costner in this one.

Betty Dravis: Hey, you’re a pretty diplomatic man, then, Sherwin… You hit on the very things that keep both parents happy with you: real estate and acting. (laughs)

But moving on… This might seem trivial, but what are your favorite foods and restaurants in Vegas? You also appear to be slim and trim by nature. Does that make it easier for you to stay in top condition in order to keep up with your many interests?

Sherwin Buydens: Absolutely, Betty! The foremost purpose of food is to keep your mind and body healthy. Thanks to Mom, I’m slim by nature and I, generally, eat very healthy. Spinach is one of my favorite foods and if I ever grow up, I want to look like Popeye. (laughs) As far as restaurants, anything cheap and relatively healthy is good. I like hotdogs as much as the next person, but I’m more likely to eat at Subway. The Klondike has the $1.59-24-hour breakfast with eggs, bacon or sausage and toast, which can be addictive. Cici’s Pizza has an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $3.99. The Orleans has some good cheap food too. Vegas is a fun place to eat, no question about it. The area around Vegas is also scenic and wonderful for hiking and walking, which I also enjoy. Red Rock Canyon makes an excellent day trip and I can often be found there. It is easy to see why Star Trek, and other television and films have scenes that were shot there.

Betty Dravis: Having lived in Reno for a few years after retirement, I know that in “gaming” towns, it’s easy to find excellent meals at very reasonable prices; they offer lower prices on food to lure the gamblers to their casinos. It’s only good business… Thanks for that information, Sherwin, and for telling us about the scenic wonders of the Las Vegas too.

Now, before we get into your real estate interests, what advice would you give to anyone aspiring to break into the entertainment industry?

Sherwin Buydens: Well, Betty, anyone serious about acting–or any business, for that matter–needs to understand the business and learn from the masters of personal achievement. People like Bob Proctor, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Burt Goldman, Vishen Lakhiani and Earl Carmichael should be at the forefront in their world.

I also believe it’s easy to make it in the acting world. In Los Angeles the prime determining factor for people is money. Marketing is huge and your contacts will help you succeed. If you can volunteer in a worthy project you are usually “in” because people of talent with ambition and enough money to cover their bills will rise to the top.

Betty Dravis: Everyone else says it’s hard to make it in “Tinsel Town,” but what you say makes sense if one is willing to work from the bottom up. Your attitude is spot on!

What’s your favorite quote, Sherwin?

Sherwin Buydens: I have many, Betty, but I’d like to share one that will give everyone some food for thought. It’s from Napoleon Hill who wrote for Andrew Carnegie, the second richest man ever: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” I also recommend that everyone view this YouTube video:

Betty Dravis: That’s powerful advice, Sherwin. I’ve watched several of those inspiring men on TV and they are, indeed, masters at motivating people to reach the heights in whatever they do in life. Thanks for sharing that.

And now, tell us about your real estate ventures. I hear that something big is in the works. Before sharing that, please tell us your thoughts on real estate. How are you doing so well since the bubble burst and so many were hurt by losing their homes?

Sherwin Buydens: The latest opportunity in my life has been commercial real estate. Why buy houses when you can buy apartment buildings? We all know many areas of the country are in a residential-housing mess. So, too, another potential mess is coming up if one wishes to cash in at the commercial front. I am not the first proponent of the saying “Think Big and Kick Ass,” as

used by Donald Trump, because thinking small will land anyone from any walk of life in the slow lane, as I’m confident you know. These days I’m partnering in buying apartment buildings of at least 100-150 units. My position will be the asset manager. I find the deal and help implement the management which will assist in changing a potential gem of an asset into a moneymaker.

Strangely enough, I didn’t have to go out into the world and learn this skill. My grandparents were caretakers of an apartment building before they passed away and I took an active role in cleaning and landscaping it. From them, I’ve gained a true understanding of the industry from the bottom up, and yet persuing acting has led me on this career path, which is fascinating, lucrative and life changing.

Betty Dravis: You certainly are versatile, Sherwin. Most people would be happy simply to make it in real estate and own all that property, but you burn with ambition to be an actor. With that attitude, I expect you to go a long way. How did you gain such confidence?

Sherwin Buydens: I’ve always used a Raymond Aaron reference about taking a look back
on your life. Pretend this day is your last day on the planet and ask yourself what you have contributed. My life has already had some big challenges with playing semi-professional, under-eighteen soccer, playing piano and failing in the first year only to get first class honors four years later. So I’m not starting from a position of a lack of self-confidence. That’s not to say I have any greater or more obvious talents than anyone else. I simply have searched to work with the best I can, and for that reason, there will be some big challenges ahead.

Betty Dravis: Who is the man in the photo of you with a product called Elbow Friend? What’s that and why are you posing with it?

Sherwin and friend Stephen Goetsch proudly pose with Stephen's latest color in the ELBOW FRIEND product line.

Sherwin Buydens: That’s my friend Stephen Goetsch who has directed and edited numerous projects in both television and film. Like me, Stephen is an ex-athlete, in the tennis world—and girls, he is still single. (laughs) We’re posing with the pink Elbow Friend, which is the latest color in the ergonomic armrest cushion line, because he had many requests for the color pink and finally found the right fabric. You well know the line: “Know your audience,” and that line works in many genres of life…

Betty Dravis: I watched the video about that product and wouldn’t mind trying it myself, Sherwin. I have no problem with my elbows, but I do get neck tension from typing so much. I see that it could help in that area, also.

What do you hope for in your future, Sherwin?

Sherwin Buydens: I want to reach my highest purpose, Betty. (laughs) I believe what you and Chase state on the cover of Dream Reachers: Only those who strive to reach their dreams find themselves living them. And I’ll work as hard as I can to make my dreams come true. I want at least one Oscar in my future, a whole list of real estate assets, and I want to meet more people to obtain maximum growth in this life. Currently, I’m very close to signing my first apartment deal–176 units in Dallas, Texas. That’s exciting because I’ll own a full fifty percent!

Betty Dravis: That’s incredible, Sherwin. Congratulations! It appears that you’re well on your way to reaching your dreams. You may end up being a Donald Trump and Kelsey Grammer combined in one big bundle of happiness. I certainly wish that for you. That’s why I wanted you to join our growing rank of Dream Reachers.

Now, since we’re nearing the end of our interview, is there anything I missed that you’d like to share today?

Sherwin Buydens: You went into more detail than I had hoped for, Betty. I cherish the opportunity to work with like-minded people such as you, and I really wish to create a legacy I can be proud of. Then, like Andrew Carnegie, I can give away much of my wealth. My first goal financially is to obtain a thousand units. Every day I re-affirm to myself that I deserve to be great! Here is another quote for you from Muhammad Ali: “I am the greatest… I said that even before I knew I was.”

Betty Dravis: Good ol’ Ali! How right he was! And, Sherwin, don’t forget me when you start giving that money away. (laughs) You’re certainly an ambitious man… I admire that in you and let me repeat: from watching your videos, I’m truly impressed with your acting skills and wide range of facial emotion.

By now, many of our readers will want to know how to reach you, so it’s time to share some Internet links. By the way, I’m really impressed with the Internet Movie Data Base, a website that shares so much about artists in the entertainment industry. It’s a fabulous research site for writers and those in the entertainment industry too.

Sherwin’s main show business website:
Facebook page:!/profile.php?id=590900917

Thanks for sharing your busy time with us, Sherwin. This has been a fun, fascinating interview. We wish you all the best and please keep us posted about your life and your dreams. See you on the big screen.

Sherwin Buydens: Well, thank you, Betty. I’ve really enjoyed doing this. There, no doubt, will be plenty of fantastic news on the horizon and I promise to let you know when more develops. We spoke of opportunities above and I’d like to thank you again for taking time with me for this opportunity. I’ll be looking for more books written by you and Chase Von. And whatever I can do to make your dreams come true, please don’t hesitate to ask. Take care…

Interview by Betty Dravis

Jessica on vacation in Italy

Betty Dravis: Hey, Jessica… It’s great to see you. I’m overwhelmed by the number of entertainers and artists who suggested you for this interview. You’re a promoter of new talent, building fan bases for them, but it looks like you have a big fan base yourself. (laughs) On your various websites you state that you couldn’t live without music in your life. I assume that’s why you love entertainers so much and want to help them succeed.

There’s so much I want to ask you, but where to begin? Hmmmm… How about at the beginning…with your childhood in Canada? What kind of precocious kid were you, Jessica? When did you first start swaying along to music and realize you enjoyed it so much? Were you pushing your little friends off the merry-go-round, encouraging them to sing and dance instead? I bet you did something like that…

Jessica Gilbert: Hi, Betty. Thanks so much for having me here. I feel very honored to be among so many wonderful and talented people. You’re right, music (and the arts) is something I can’t live without, but I never went so far as pushing my childhood friends to perform. (laughs)

I truly love working with artists and being a part of their journey to the top. There is so much great talent out there and being able to assist an artist in even a small way makes me feel good because it’s one step closer to helping them reach their dreams.

Jessica as her fans see her; she's an MT Robison "Street Angel" too.

I was born in Montreal, Canada, but left as a baby for Houston, Texas. I spent my childhood there until the age of ten. I was, generally, a very good and independent child because I was as happy doing things on my own as I was being with other children or adults. As a child I liked creative endeavors too: drawing, painting, coloring, writing and especially puzzles. I had learned the alphabet through the medium of puzzles by the age of two, which apparently was unusual, according to the playgroup “directrice”…much to my Mother’s surprise. I loved the performing arts: took ballet and tap-dance lessons; enjoyed singing to myself and making up songs and recording them as I came up with the words. At about age eight I organized a school play, Return to Oz, in which I was involved in all parts of the production, placing myself in the lead role. (laughs) I was also engaged in fundraising activities for various causes. In fact, at my school I was the first child to initiate a fundraising activity which led to many other student fundraisers.

Betty Dravis: Just as I suspected, Jessica, you were a precocious child. (laughs) And then when you grew up, did you start attending concerts? If so, can you recall your first concert (who you were with, who was performing, etc.)? Please share the emotions the live music aroused.

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend many concerts! My first concert was Tina Turner in Målaga, Spain at age ten with my parents and sister in the summer outdoors. I can’t say it was the best concert experience because it started really late. It was also hot, buggy and I got tired of standing. However, I still loved seeing her live! Back then I played Tina’s music a lot as she was one of my top favorite artists (still is today), so getting to see her in concert was an exciting experience for me. I was overwhelmed with joy to be there.

Jessica with popular singer Kelly Clarkson


I’m not sure what I’d do without music because not only is it great for entertainment or inspiration, but soothing to the soul. Literally, I go to sleep listening to music, listen to it when I wake up and throughout the day have some music playing. Music gives me an inspiration to think, create, write and relax.

Betty Dravis: Wow, Jessica, that’s a lot of music, but if it inspires you, that’s what matters. I can understand how that works for some people, but do you choose different music to create different moods? For instance, what do you listen to while writing? While relaxing?

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, the kind of music I listen to depends on what I’m doing, time of day, how I’m feeling, etc. For instance, while writing or painting I like inspirational music. While relaxing or before bedtime I like soft music. I even have a playlist in my iTunes called “Relaxing Mix.”

Betty Dravis: That sounds sensible for a person so attuned to music, as you are. I’m curious about your writing, Jessica. In addition to articles for your new online magazine, what type of writing interests you? We’ll talk about the magazine later.

Jessica Gilbert: I’ve written short stories, and screenwriting has always been an interest of mine. In college I took a film-writing class, so learned the technique for this type of writing. For the class assignment, we had to write a seven-minute script, which turned out to be a success. Subsequently, I thought it would be great to turn it into a feature-length script. I also have an idea for another one inspired by actual events in my life. However, any screenwriting I do will be an extra thing when time permits.

Betty Dravis: I wish you luck with all your projects, Jessica. While on the subject of writing, in your Facebook notes you posted a lengthy list of biographies and autobiographies of famous people. It contains a fascinating array of movie stars from Rita Hayworth and Ray Milland to Jane Fonda. What prompted you to post that?

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, the list of biographies and autobiographies that I posted was on behalf of a friend of mine who has this book collection for sale. So, I wanted to help spread the word about it.

Betty Dravis: He certainly has an interesting collection. Do you aspire to write a book someday? If so, are you interested in fiction or nonfiction?

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, I’d love to write and illustrate a children’s book. Since I like to draw, paint, write…and I love children, I think this kind of book would be a great opportunity to combine all these elements together. Actually, Betty, I have a couple of ideas for children’s books. (smile)

Betty Dravis: Oh, you’d be a natural for children’s picture books, Jessica. I’m here to tell you that they are a joy to write; takes one back to one’s own childhood. I’ve only published one YA, The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley, but I have three unsubmitted picture books that are partially illustrated by my granddaughter, Kristy Soza. I would so enjoy doing my own illustrations, but, unfortunately, don’t have the talent of a kindergartner. (laughs)

But changing the subject, you wrote somewhere: “I’m not your average girl.” What do you mean by that, Jessica?

Jessica tours Venice in a gondola.

Jessica Gilbert: Well, Betty, I’m not your average girl because I’ve lived a life that many people don’t get to experience. I’ve lived in three countries (USA, Spain and Canada) and traveled extensively throughout much of Canada, USA, Europe and the Dominican Republic. So I feel very fortunate to have experienced living in different countries and cultures. Also to have been able to do all the traveling I’ve done up to this point in my life.

Betty Dravis: You’re right about that, Jessica: You are fortunate. I’m about twice your age and have only been in two bordering countries and about twenty of our United States. (laughs)

I hear you just returned from Italy, which is one place I would love to visit. I’d enjoy going there now while filmmaker Tony Tarantino is directing Between the Olive Trees. I could kill three birds with one stone: meet Tony, actress Susan Kennington who has a prime role in that movie, and Antonia Tosini, talented author of the book the film is being made from. Now that would be a thrill.

Was your trip vacation or business? And did you meet any new artists while there?

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, my trip to Italy was a much-needed vacation. (smile) I had such a blast traveling throughout Italy and got to see so much in twelve days. The highlights of my trip were Venice and Capri. I love Italy, so hope to make it back there again soon. I didn’t meet any new artists while there, but finally got to meet one of my MySpace friends in person…a gifted photographer.


Jessica with parents Freda and Adrian Gilbert and sister Lauren in Spain.

Betty Dravis: I saw photographs of your trip, Jessica, and Italy’s as picturesque as you say. Breath-taking, in fact… I know you love to travel and get around much more than the “average girl,” so I’m sure your time there is a treasured memory.

But I’m the most curious about the promotion aspect of your life. I know that you promote a number of talented people: musicians, authors, singers, dancers, artists, etc. But from the sheer number of musicians you help, it’s obvious you prefer them. I know you promote singer/guitarist/lyricist MT Robison and The Messengers and are a huge fan. I met you through M.T. after he was featured in our first Dream Reachers book. He’s awesome and has some clever promotion going on himself. For instance, he calls his fans his “Street Angels” and a white feather is one of his trademarks. Like you, I’m a Street Angel, too, Jessica; I adore MT. He certainly has it all “going on”: the look, the voice, and the creativity—not to mention a huge stage presence. He can’t miss with a publicist like the talented Linda Shrader in his corner.

How many fan clubs have you founded and who else do you promote besides M.T.?

Jessica Gilbert: I do promote many musicians, but it isn’t that I prefer them over the others because I love all types of artists. I just end up connecting with more musicians simply because so many more come my way on the various social networking sites. Yes, I do promote MT and The Messengers. I adore MT so much…as both artist and person. Linda Shrader is amazing and he truly is lucky to have her as his publicist.

I’ve founded eight fan clubs for various musicians. To tell you about all the wonderful artists I promote would be a whole interview itself because there are so-ooo many of them. However, to name a few: Kashy Keegan, Wildon Ash, Michael J. Scott, Neil Barlow, David Blair, David Barreto, Kadesha, Lizann, Daz, Elena Vogt, Tima Montemayor, Olivia Gray, Tobiah and Orly Vardy. They are all amazing artists that can be found on MySpace and I highly recommend checking out their music.

Betty Dravis: That’s quite a roster, Jessica. I expect many of those to be big names in the future; you certainly have an eye and ear that’s attuned to the pulse of the world. You were even kind enough to start a Dream Reachers Fan Club on MySpace and on Facebook. My co-author Chase Von and I are humbled by that. Just to be included on the same page with all your talented friends is an honor. Thanks so much for your faith in us.

Speaking of MySpace, your MS page is incredible, chock-full of talented people and current bios and links. Each time I visit your page, the photos and art are so appealing that it boggles my mind. I feel like I felt the first time my mom took me to an ice-cream parlor. How could I choose just one flavor? I wanted them all… That must be how you feel when deciding who to promote. What’s the first thing that draws your attention to a promising artist, Jessica?

Jessica Gilbert: It was my pleasure to start a Dream Reachers Fan Club for you and Chase Von. It’s a wonderful and inspirational book that everyone would enjoy reading.

When I visit ice cream parlors I always have a hard time choosing flavors too. (laughs) Yes, I feel exactly the same way when deciding which artists to promote. It’s going to be really hard choosing who to interview for each issue of my magazine because I really do love so many artists. What draws my attention the most to a promising artist is how much they give of themselves, which leads to our connection. One of the qualities I value most of all, besides talent, is originality.

Betty Dravis: You probably don’t know this, Jessica, but originality is the first thing I notice when choosing a book to read and review, also.

Since you currently do the publicity and promotion as a labor of love, do you plan to make a career of it? If so, is your forthcoming magazine the first step towards making your dream come true? I know you “wear three hats” with the business: publisher/managing editor/freelance writer. As a former print newspaper owner myself, I can testify that there are many more hats than that. (laughs) But tell us more about Talent Spotlight Magazine, Jessica. When will you launch your debut edition? And can you give us a sneak peek at a few artists you’re interviewing for the first edition?

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, I would like to make a career in artist promotions (and possibly even in other aspects of the music or film industry) because I’m passionate about promoting and working with all types of artists. Perhaps I might work for a record company in the PR department.

Talent Spotlight Magazine came into creation as a result of my desire to participate in the creative process of talent. It is very fulfilling for me to offer artists a creative venue to promote their talent. As well, selfishly speaking, I hope this creative venue will be a good means to get myself out there as a promoter. I’ve thought about doing something like this for a while now and always wanted to work with a magazine. So, now I can…with my own. (smile)

TSM will be an online magazine that will come out bimonthly, starting this October. It will feature in-depth interviews with talent from all genres of the arts: music, photography, art, film, print and more. The magazine’s primary focus will be on new and emerging artists. However, it will feature more established ones as well. Each issue will also feature an organization or cause–there are so many wonderful causes and organizations out there that I feel it would be great to promote them too–reviews and more! It will have a whole variety of different artists in each issue, making it a more diverse magazine. Some of the artists that will be in the launch issue are two of your original “Dream Reachers”: Kashy Keegan and MT Robison. I will also be featuring April Star Davis, a jewelry designer whose designs have been featured in numerous fashion magazines and in various movies. Her jewelry has also been worn by many top celebrities.

Betty Dravis: Great minds think alike, Jessica: I thought about interviewing a famous jewelry designer for Dream Reachers: Vol. 2, but due to heavy demand for the available slots, I didn’t have time. I look forward to reading your story about April Star, and of course, dear Kashy and MT. As you know, they were interviewed by my Dream Reachers co-author Chase Von for that book. Your first edition sounds like a winner.

I understand that the talented writer Michelle Jackson will be working with you on the   magazine. Did you know that she wrote the following about you?:

I am wonderfully blessed to call Jessica my friend and to be on this great journey with her. She is extremely talented in the arts and has a heart of gold, reaching out to others who possess the same passion. She is motivated and driven to help artists of all genres to reach their dreams in this great Industry. I have great hope that she will succeed in achieving these goals

That’s high praise, Jessica, and “heart of gold” is how many of the artists describe you. Can you tell us a little more about Michelle and her duties with TSM?

Talent Spotlight Magazine Writer Michelle Jackson

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, Betty, I’m blessed to have Michelle Jackson working with me on the magazine. I connected with her instantly awhile back through a friend. We share a love for the arts, plus she’s also a wonderful writer. Michelle is a great singer too and I have told her she should put her music out there. Then I can promote her as well. (smile) I didn’t know what Michelle wrote about me until it was up on the TSM MySpace site. I’m infinitely grateful to her for her kind words and generosity. She will primarily be a contributing writer with interviews for the magazine.

Betty Dravis: Michelle sounds like a real “keeper.” You two have a lot of mutual respect and admiration for each other. I look forward to reading her articles too.

Talent Spotlight Magazine–that’s a perfect, self-descriptive name, Jessica, and your logo is very attractive. It’s all the buzz with many artists that I know. I’ve been hearing about TSM for months and months. We’re eager to see your first edition and wish you incredible good fortune.

Jessica Gilbert: Glad you like the magazine name and logo. (smile) I designed the logo myself and received positive feedback on it, so am pleased that people like it. Awhile back in Canada, I took an intensive graphic design course as I enjoy playing with graphics as well. I know that many people have been anxiously waiting for the launch of the magazine and I promise that wait will soon be over. Thank you, Betty, and to everyone else for your tremendous support for TSM.

Betty Dravis: The late promoter Bill Graham, who was the best in his day, had some incredible stories to tell about how he got started. After meeting the San Francisco Mime Troupe at a free concert in Golden Gate Park, he gave up a promising business career to manage the troupe in 1965. After Mime Troupe leader Ronny Davis was arrested on obscenity charges during an outdoor performance, Graham organized a benefit concert to cover the troupe’s legal fees. The concert was a success and Graham saw a business opportunity. He was an American impresario and rock concert promoter from the 1960s until his death in 1991. We wish you fame and good fortune, too, but hope your success begins with less public scrutiny than Graham’s. (laughs)

Jessica, being such a lovely, dynamic and active young woman, when do you find time for dating? Or is that something you’re postponing for the time being?

Jessica Gilbert: That’s interesting about Bill Graham, Betty. I bet he did have great stories about his work as a promoter! Perhaps after I have more experience, I’ll write a book about it someday.

But to answer the big “dating” question: While I am busy with all the work I do, I always have time for dating. (smile) Finding Mr. Right and settling down is high on my priority list.

Betty Dravis: I thought you’d say that, Jessica, but I’m glad to hear you confirm it. All work and no play makes Jessica…well, you know how that old saying goes. (laughs) Okay, now that your priorities are settled, let’s move on…

I hear that the very talented David Barreto, one of the musicians you promote, wrote a lovely song about you. Tell us about him and how that made you feel? I find that incredibly romantic. Do you have a link where our readers can hear the song and do you mind sharing the lyrics with us?

Jessica Gilbert: Yes, David Barreto did write a wonderful song about me titled “Jessica.” I was really honored and flattered he did this song for me and will cherish it forever. Friends who have heard it said he really captured the essence of me. I don’t have the lyrics, but people can hear the song on my “Jessica’s Artist Network” page. David truly is a talented and amazing musician, one I proudly promote. (smile) BTW, he also did a Talent Spotlight Magazine jingle for the website.

Betty Dravis: Oh, Jessica, I love that catchy jingle; the way David drags out the words (Talent…Spotlight…Magazine) is so cool. Makes me want to dance…

Since you’re multi-tasking now, Jessica, do I dare ask if you have a “day job?” If so, where do you work? If not, let us in on the secret of survival without working. Are you an heiress or some rich man’s daughter? (laughs)

Jessica Gilbert: LOL, Betty… I’ve been taking Spanish classes in the mornings to brush up on my speaking skills. The rest of the day is a combination of artist promotions, magazine work and painting/drawing. Recently, I got back into my art and would like to build up a body of work to sell (originals and prints). My background is in art, as I majored in studio art with an emphasis on painting/drawing at university. Soon I shall also be offering an official listing of my services and rates for online promotions and management.

Betty Dravis: I’m glad to hear you’ll soon be going professional with your promotions, Jessica, and the news about your art is welcome too. I would love to have an “original by Jessica,” so keep us posted about that too. Meanwhile, I invite our readers to view your online gallery (under Art in your Facebook photos) and if they see anything they like, to contact you.


Landscape Near Royal Victoria Hospital in Watercolor 1998 - My favorite painting in Jessica's gallery.

Since we all must prioritize our schedules, here’s a food-for-thought question that might be fun to answer: Can you name three things in your life that you couldn’t live without?

Jessica with Joshua Radin, American folk recording artist, songwriter and occasional actor.

Jessica Gilbert: That’s an easy one, Betty… I can’t live without my family/friends, travel and live music.

Betty Dravis: Well, that’s short and sweet, Jessica, but it says a lot for your character and values. Thanks.

Another question that usually brings out the humor in people is: What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

Jessica Gilbert: You know, Betty, I really can’t think of an embarrassing thing that has happened to me. I’ll share a funny story with you instead. For my tenth birthday in Texas (it was also my last one there before I moved to Spain the first time around), my dad got a piñata. For people who don’t know what it is, it’s something made from either a clay container or a cardboard shape covered in paper mache. The tradition with a piñata is that you fill up the inside with sweets and goodies. Then everyone is blindfolded and hits it with a stick until it breaks and the sweets fall out. However, that didn’t quite work out the way it should have. My friends and I were hitting the piñata non-stop, waiting for all the sweets to come out–but no traces of any.

What my dad didn’t know was that he was supposed to fill the piñata with sweets himself. So, all the hard work hitting that piñata to get it open didn’t pay off with sweets. This was one of those occasions where you just had to be there. (laughs)

Betty Dravis: Oh, no-ooo, Jessica… That’s hilarious! You poor kids, but I feel sorry for your father too. I hope the kids didn’t get after him with those sticks… (laughs)

Now for another question: If you could spend an entire day with just one person (living or dead) who would you choose and why?


Jessica with Joss Stone, English soul and R&B singer–songwriter and actress.

Jessica Gilbert: This is a tough question, Betty, because I’d like to meet people from all walks of life who work in different fields because everything fascinates me and I can learn something from everyone I meet. But since I have to pick one, I’d choose to spend an entire day with Ellen DeGeneres because she has had all types of people on her show and must have many wonderful stories to share about her experiences meeting them all. An entire day would be needed to hear about much of them, plus I think she would just be so much fun to hang out with in person. (smile)

Some celebs I’d love to have an encounter with include: Julie Andrews, Wentworth Miller, Anthony Hopkins, Barbara Walters, Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, Robin Williams, Scott Wolf, Bette Midler, Adam Lambert, David Cook, James Blunt, Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Five For Fighting, INXS, Daughtry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jewel, and lots of others.

There are so-ooo many celebs I’d love to meet. I’ve been fortunate to have already met some of them, including: Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Rob Thomas, Rosie O’Donnell, Gary Sinise, Kurt Browning, Joss Stone, Kelly Clarkson, Joshua Radin, David Usher, Suzie McNeil and some others.

I received a phone call from Alec Baldwin when he filmed the TV mini-series “Nuremberg” in Montreal and came close to meeting him. I would still love to meet him.


Jessica with Alexa Wilkinson, singer-songwriter, guitarist and trumpet player.

Betty Dravis: Wow, you’ve met a lot of celebs, Jessica. My daughter Allie used to adore Cyndi Lauper. In fact she resembled her so much that she dressed like her one Halloween; a dead ringer in that pink dress, black mesh hose and black-and-white, high-top sneakers. A wonderful memory…

As for meeting Alec Baldwin–you and me both… The funny thing about Alec is that I like him better today in his maturity than I did when he was younger. I often wonder why that’s true with certain actors. But you must share the story about how you came “close” to meeting Alec. I want to hear all the juicy details… (laughs)

Jessica Gilbert: Well, Betty, it was simpler than I thought it would be. I just sent Alec Baldwin a note expressing my appreciation for his work; included my number and also shared some pix of my art. So, one night I got an unexpected call from him. That took me by complete surprise since this doesn’t happen often–at least not between a celeb and fan. When we spoke, he expressed interest in meeting and seeing my art work, saying that he would get in touch with me again if it were possible. I never heard back from him, so that’s why the meeting never took place.

However, a couple months later I did receive a lovely, personal note from him mentioning how much he admired my work and one day hoped to own one of my pieces. So, I actually sent him a small painting as a gift and got a nice thank you note from him.

Anyway, he’s not the only celeb I’ve received mail from; I used to enjoy sending letters of appreciation to many of my favorite celebs. I have over a hundred autographs. Some I did write to through the film’s production office when they filmed movies in Montreal (at one time they were filming tons of movies there).

However, with Gary Sinise and Nicolas Cage, I left letters for them with assistants on the movie set. I was actually one of the thousands of extras in that movie; you can’t see me though. I had an awesome day, watching the filming in action under the direction of Brian de Palma, and also had a free lunch and t-shirts imprinted with the name of the movie and cast.

In response to my letter to Gary Sinise, his personal assistant called, inviting me to the wrap party.  I went, of course, and met Gary there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic with him. His sweet, pretty assistant told me he was overwhelmed with pictures. But I received two signed pix in the mail later on. It was also unfortunate that Nicolas Cage and de Palma weren’t present at the wrap party; they had already left town. Nicolas Cage also responded back to me, signing and writing a short message on the pic I had enclosed. I want to share this story about Cage and Sinise with you, too, since it’s a nice story.

Betty Dravis: You’re right, Jessica, those are heart-warming stories, reinforcing my opinion that high-ranking people are not much different than you and me. The majority of them are hard-working, sincere, down-to-earth and friendly. I’ve seen that same caring quality in many of the celebs I’ve interviewed. It’s good to know that about Alec, Gary and Nicholas; thanks for sharing.

Well, Jessica, we’re nearing the end of the interview, so this is a good time to mention anything that I might have missed. I’ll post your links in closing, so your fans and friends can find anything else they might wish to know about you.

Jessica Gilbert: You didn’t miss much, Betty, but I’d also like to add that I have a children’s page dedicated to all causes and organizations related to children. People can check that out on my Artist Network page. It’s called “Jessica’s Precious Treasures of Hope.” At some point in the near future, I’d like to create some kind of fundraiser project to raise money for some of those that I strongly support. If anyone would be interested in working with me on something, please get in touch with me.

Betty Dravis: That’s an important point to mention, Jessica. Children are our future and I’m pleased to know you have plans to help them also. Now, so that our readers can keep track of you and your many projects, I’m going to post your main websites:

It’s been delightful chatting with you, Jessica, but the time flew and I must bid you a fond farewell. We learned a lot more about you today and definitely look forward to reading and becoming a fan of Talent Spotlight Magazine. It will be cool to follow the careers of you and your clients…your awesome artists!

Thanks for sharing your dreams with us. You’re a caring, dynamic woman with a heart of gold, as you have heard many times before. May all your dreams come true, and keep rocking to the beat of your own drummer! I’m so happy to add you to the growing list of our Dream Reachers.

Jessica Gilbert: Betty, thank you so much for inviting me to be here, and I will keep you posted on everything! Love and Blessings xo

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.

Little Cheryl "helped" Dr. Seuss

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.

Cheryl at Whale Song Launch Party

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.

Aynsley Nisbet's Painting "Whale Song," Inspired by Cheryl's Book

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 with Daughter Jessica at Divine Intervention Book Launch

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 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, and 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 at Stanley Park Vancouver

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, 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.

Shadow Portrait! Appropriate for a Mystery Writer...

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 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.

Another Whale Song Cover

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.

Cheryl's Eye-catching Website Banner

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!

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