Monday, April 4, 2011

C - Interview with Author Cheri Crane

Cheri Jackson Crane was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The day of her birth, the doctor offered to trade his new car straight across for her. Though her parents were tempted, they decided to keep her. That has been a favorite family story for many years.

Cheri has always loved books. Her parents read to her nightly and it instilled a great love of literature deep within. After her first day of kindergarten, Cheri stormed inside the house, upset. When her mother asked her what was wrong, she exclaimed: "I still can't read!"

Reading became a favorite pastime when that skill was finally mastered. When she was in the third grade, she was checking out so many books each week, the librarian lectured her on the extra work she was causing. Cheri's mother had a little chat with that librarian, and soon, Cheri was given permission to check out as many books as she wanted. Regardless of what the librarian thought, Cheri was reading each and every book. They became some of her best friends.

In the fifth grade, Cheri tried out for the role of Lady Macbeth in the school play. She had memorized a dramatic scene of this Shakespearean classic and used it for the audition, winning the part. That experience inspired a love of all things dramatic and she participated in many plays in high school and college.

Cheri graduated as a honor student from North Fremont High in Ashton, Idaho, a place she considers her hometown. Her family moved 8 times while she was growing up, true character building moments. Those experiences taught her to react well to change and by the time she reached college, she was adept at starting over and making new friends.

She attended Ricks College and graduated from there with an Associate Degree. That summer she met a cute returned missionary named Kennon Crane. They were married a few months later in the Logan Temple. They are the proud parents of 3 sons, and now two daughters-in-law. They are also the proud grandparents of a cute little girl.

Cheri and her husband still live in Idaho, in a small town where Cheri has lived longer than anywhere else in her life. Cheri is the author of nine novels: "Kate's Turn," "The Fine Print," "Kate's Return," "Forever Kate," "Following Kate," "Sabrina & Kate," "The Girls Next Door," "The Long Road Home," and "Moment of Truth." She is currently serving as the YW president in her ward, a position she has held for nearly 5 years. She loves working with the youth and enjoys the time she spends with them.

Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Cheri: This is probably a twist on what most writers share--being an author was never one of my dreams. I grew up reading and loving books, but I had no desire to become an author until a life-changing event took place. In college, I had planned to become a high school English teacher; I minored in French and drama as I wanted to teach all three subjects. Halfway through my education, I met a cute returned missionary, Kennon Crane, and he changed all plans. We were married a few months after meeting and settled down to married life. About a year and half after that my father committed suicide. It was a difficult time and writing, something that had always been a hobby, became a healing balm. On the nights when I couldn't sleep, I filled pages with painful memories. As I shredded each page, the pain I carried seemed to fade. That experience hooked me on writing. I eventually created a story about a young woman who was trying to cope with the death of her father. It was my story, but I changed a lot of the details. When it was finished, my husband challenged me to send it in. That was the first time I pondered becoming an author.

Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?

Cheri: I began writing poetry at the tender age of nine. One of my grandmothers was a gifted poet and she taught me some basics. At the age of twelve, I taught myself to play the guitar. Eventually I began creating my own songs with some of the poems I had written. In high school, I was called upon to write special songs for different occasions like school proms, and even my high school graduation ceremony. Other things that helped: I took a lot of advanced English courses in high school, and journalism. I always loved reading, and deciding to become an English teacher seemed a natural choice. I graduated from Ricks College as an English major. That was the summer I met Kennon, and I never did complete my teaching degree. I have continued to polish my writing skills through the years in a variety of ways, including maintaining a membership in a local poetry guild.

Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?

Cheri: I find that I do my best writing when I'm upset about something. Most of my books have targeted the teen market. That is why they deal with themes like teen eating disorders, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, and so forth. Through my writing I attempt to make a slight positive difference. I've also learned that I feel better when I write. It's a great release and a lot of fun . . . most of the time.

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Cheri: Pretty rocky. I have eight year's worth of rejection letters in a scrapbook. Some of the signatures are from fairly famous people. My children will probably fight over that collection some day. (jk) It was my sixth attempt at writing a novel that was eventually published in 1994, the book that became "Kate's Turn."

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Cheri: I pouted briefly after the arrival of each rejection letter. But I had read somewhere that the best thing to do after sending off a manuscript is to start the next book. Since it usually took about 6 months to hear back from the publishing companies, I had already written nearly half of the next attempt. So I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and continued writing the next novel. I eventually learned that it is often a matter of meeting up with the right person at the right time with the right idea for a book to get accepted for publication. Don't think one rejection letter means that manuscript is ready for the trash heap. Polish it and send it somewhere else.

Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Cheri: It varies. I do my best writing in the early morning hours, before the phone starts ringing and I have to dive in on my list of things to do each day. During the early days of my writing career, I had small children at home, so I would often write during their naps, while they were at school, and at times, late at night when they were all in bed.

Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Cheri: Life. I am a people watcher and I will often get ideas from walking around a mall, or reading stories from a newspaper. And if there is a point I want to make about a subject close to my heart, I will often shape a storyline around that idea.

Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

Cheri: A laugh, a smile, hope, and a positive message.

Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Cheri: I have never created an outline for any of my books. I do make character lists that contain details about each character. And I once put a pedigree chart together to make sure I had figured dates and ages correctly. Usually I'll get an idea for a storyline, and I'll sit down and start writing. I do a ton of research for each book, and spend a lot of time making sure each detail is accurate. Though the story-lines are fictional, most of my characters deal with real-life situations.

Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Cheri: I do from time to time. Whenever it happens, I take a break from that story, and come back later with fresh eyes. Sometimes I work on a different story and give myself a change of pace.

Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Cheri: I either write when it's quiet, or I listen to music. The type of music depends on the kind of story I'm writing, or the scene I'm working on. If it's a sad scene, I'll listen to something a little melancholy, if it's a vibrant scene, something more upbeat. We subscribe to a TV satellite network, and it comes with several musical channels. There's one in particular that I like to listen to when I write and it plays mostly New Age music. I also like another channel that plays nonstop classical music. I have a hard time concentrating, however, when there's a lot of background noise going on. The creative juices flow better when things are more mellow.

Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Cheri: Music, pictures, paintings, a walk in the mountains, and often prayer, especially if the storyline involves a subject that has the potential to touch lives in a positive way.

Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Cheri: I've learned a lot from other writers. I admire so many of the LDS authors, but I hate to list names, knowing I will probably forget someone. I remember reading a biography about Mary Higgins Clark and some of the obstacles she shared about getting published. Her example often gave me the courage to keep trying.

Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?

Cheri: Surprisingly, the skills I learned in my drama classes in both high school and college taught me how to make a character come to life. In those classes, we learned how to slip inside of a character's mind, to portray that character in a realistic fashion. I use a similar procedure while writing novels. I try to slip inside of a character's mindset to portray how he or she would respond to certain situations.

Deirdra: What authors do you admire, and why?
Cheri: I have several favorite authors. I'll list some of the ones I enjoy reading most: Elizabeth Peters, Anne Perry, Mary Higgins Clark, & Nancy Atherton. Their books are fun, full of mystery and suspense, and clean. That's an important element to me.

Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?

Cheri: Ice water and cashews. As a type 1 diabetic, I'm a bit limited on snack choices. But I do enjoy a bit of dark chocolate now and then. I consider it inspirational. ;)

Deirdra: Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

Cheri: I play the guitar and piano by ear. I enjoy creating music for different occasions. I also enjoy gardening, walking with a good friend, and spending time in the mountains. I like painting ceramics, and I'm currently learning how to paint with acrylics. I'm not sure I'll ever be much of an artist, but it's fun to dabble. I've also been called upon to write the scripts for varying musical productions in our valley, and I've directed countless roadshow adventures.

Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?

Cheri: Never give up. A writer writes, and if this is something that burns inside of you, follow that dream. It will happen.

Deirdra: What are you working on now?

Cheri: I'm heading in a different direction with my writing. I was recently challenged to participate in this year's NaNoWriMo event in November. This is where you commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I survived and met that goal. I began a novel I've been contemplating for a couple of years. It's a fantasy novel I'm calling Starlight. We'll see what happens with it.

Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Cheri: Since most of my books are currently out of print, it's often a challenge to find them. Most of them can be obtained from this website: Simply type in my name in the author box and it will pull up most of my books. These are used copies, but most are in good shape. My books can also be found on and on Ebay.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Cheri: I've enjoyed being a writer. It helped me remain a stay-at-home mom when my kids were younger. It also gave me a way to help them with their early years of college. While I've never made my fortune as a writer, I've been blessed in other ways. What a thrill it is to hear from readers that something you've written has touched their lives. I've also been given a chance to do a bit of traveling while doing booksignings. Meeting readers and other authors has been a wonderful adventure. Several LDS authors are now close friends and I will always treasure what I've learned from them.

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  1. A most enjoyable interview, and a very lovely person also.
    All in all a good C word.


  2. Loved how you were able to incorporate an interview into the challenge! This was fabulous! I love how detailed you are with them all!

    Cheri sounds amazing and I'm definitely keeping an eye to snag a copy of her book to try it out!

  3. Great interviews. Always inspirational to hear about successful writers.

  4. So many authors with C names, :)

    She has some lovely book covers, nice.

  5. Wow, another amazing interview. I'm going to have to try Cheri's idea for dealing with trauma - writing it all down and then shredding it. I'm already a frequent visitor to Abe's Books - I'll be sure to look her up!

  6. Thanks for the interesting post, Deirdre.


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