Cheryl Shireman took some time out to speak with us this week regarding her novel, Life is But a Dream. A sweet woman with a creative spirit, Cheryl told us about the inspiration for her book and the journey she took to create it.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live on a lake in the Midwest. I am married, have three children, and one absolutely adorable granddaughter who calls me Bomb Bomb.
2. How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was a teenager. And even before that, I loved the feel of a pen in my hands. I used to write down the words to songs (capturing the words by playing the songs over and over again or by catching them on the radio!) and poems in spiral notebooks (long before the internet made this easy). So, even before writing my own words, I fell in love with the arrangement of words – whether in song, poetry, or favorite childhood novels.
3. What is Life is But a Dream about?
It is about a woman who is going through a very tough time. Her marriage seems to be ending, her only daughter is leaving home for college, and due to her husband’s job loss, she has also just lost her home. She retreats to a secluded lake cabin to escape her misery. While there, she begins to think about the possibility of suicide. Ending her life suddenly seems much easier than living her life. The reader follows her through the journey, and ultimately, the novel is about a woman who redefines her life and displays a courage she never could have imagined. In short, it is about the search for meaning, the power of love, and the discovery of the untapped strength that is within every one of us.
4. How did you come up with the plot?
I liked the idea of a woman going to a secluded area to redefine her life. With that premise, I started thinking about the character. What would drive her there? Why is she alone? What is important to her? What is she afraid of? How did she get to this point in her life? And what is she going to do about it?
5. Tell us about Grace Adams.
Grace begins the novel very depressed. She has devoted her entire life to her husband and daughter and now feels as if she is no longer needed by either of them. Facing an empty nest and the possible demise of her marriage, she feels as if her life no longer has meaning. At the beginning of the novel, she is passive in many ways, and is so overwhelmed with grief and self-absorption that she is not thinking clearly. As the novel progresses, the reader follows Grace on her journey and watches as she struggles to find meaning and significance in her life. Grace is also quite funny. Despite the often serious nature of the novel, there are scenes that will make you laugh out loud as Grace ponders all of the possibilities life has to offer.
6. What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?
Grace is a character who is realistic and very easy to relate to. That was important to me. I wanted the reader to pick up the novel, begin reading and think, I have felt that way too. I think I have accomplished this, for, over and over again, I have been asked if this character is based on a real person. This is, of course, the ultimate compliment for any writer.
7. Did you have any specific goals when writing Life is But a Dream? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?
I wanted to explore the devastating consequences of depression, the pain of losing a job, the grief associated with losing a home, and the realities of the empty-nest syndrome. And I also wanted to include humorous situations, because I think humor is a great part of all of our lives.
8. How long did it take you to write Life is But a Dream? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?
It is difficult to say how long it took me to write the novel, because I worked on it off and on for ten years. There was one point where I put it away and didn’t even look at it for probably three years during that period. So, it went through many rewrites, changes in the story, and even changes in narration. Originally, it was written in third person, but I felt that I could not develop the intimacy between Grace and the reader unless I told the story through her eyes. That was a major turning point.
And no – no outside help. At least none that I hired. My husband designs websites and he designed my website and also helps me to create my covers. I am the creative side and he is the technical side. We make a good team.
9. Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?
Easy answer. My husband and my children. They have never given up on me. They have always encouraged me. They have always believed in my writing ability, and without a doubt, are my biggest supporters. And they love me a lot. Which is a pretty great bonus.
10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?
Yes! Thank you for asking.
Website - http://cherylshireman.com/
Facebook – http://facebook.com/cherylshireman
Twitter – http://twitter.com/cherylshireman
11. What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?
Great writing and realistic characters. I love novels with scenes that I must highlight or read aloud to someone. And I love characters that I think about long after I am finished with the novel.
12. Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?
Yes! Not only a scene, but the entire book! In Life is But a Dream I planned to introduce a minor character in one chapter. But as I wrote that chapter, I became fascinated with the character and he ended up becoming a major character and instrumental to the novel (Paul, the detective). I never saw that coming! In my latest novel, Broken Resolutions, which is about a bunch of friends who get stranded together after a New Year’s Eve snowstorm, I began the novel with a specific ending in mind. As the novel progressed, my main character seemed to develop a mind of her own and I ended up with a different ending. For me, those kinds of developments are part of the appeal of writing. Sometimes, it is as if the characters in a scene just take off and I have to type really fast just to keep up with the action – not entirely sure where they are headed. That doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it really is magical.
13. And just for fun, favorite vacation destination?
Ah…another easy answer. Colorado. Colorado. Colorado. And just in case you didn’t catch it – Colorado. I love going there in the summers and exploring the mountains. Always my favorite vacation destination.
Thanks so much for stopping by! Best of luck to you!
Incidentally, if you'd like to stop by and say hello to Cheryl or any of the authors I've been interviewing, head on over to the Readers and Writers United group on facebook! We all gather there to interact with our readers and each other. Feel free to drop by!
Life is But a Dream on Amazon.com
Life is But a Dream on Barnes & Noble.com
Life is But a Dream on CreateSpace
Cheryl Shireman on GoodReads.com