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"With great risk comes great rewards." Cheryl Eager shares her writing and publishing experience.

Cheryl Eager's newest young adult romance book is set in Dallas, Texas, where she was born and raised. Cheryl explores the reality of coping with the consequences of a devastating life-changing event despite the characters attempting to do the right things.

A Blonde Woman, Cheryl Eager, wearing a black shirt next to a tree. She is the author of the book, A Kiss to Wake Me.
Cheryl Eager, author of A Kiss To Wake Me

Hi, book lovers! I’m Cheryl Eager, a native Texan born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which is the setting of my first novel, A Kiss to Wake Me. My undergraduate degree is in Interdisciplinary Studies and English, and I was the nerd who enjoyed writing research papers and explicating poetry. My publishing history includes having my own op-ed column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after entering and winning a writing contest. Until recently, I had mostly focused on writing nonfiction.

I was an elementary school teacher and an English teacher for over a decade before obtaining my Master of Library Science degree. I believe teaching writing and loving to write helped inspire and motivate me to become an author myself. Also, serving as a school librarian for many years, including reading and purchasing various genres of books, has helped me learn what novels students enjoy, and why. I get to ask a lot of kids what their favorite parts of books are, which I think has helped me become a better writer. Unboxing new books in the library has always been a motivator to want to someday see my own books in print.

From a young age, I wanted to become a writer. I began writing my own short romance stories, hiding each of them under my mattress. But I had a sneaky suspicion my dad found them and read them because the next time he “caught” me writing, he asked if it was a story for school (as though I was doing something wrong if it wasn’t—eye roll.)

You could call me a later-in-life author. I have a large family and have always had a busy full-time job. Therefore, I had only ever finished writing the first few chapters of a couple of books before obligations and too little time precluded me from going any further… until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

If there was anything good that came out of this horrible pandemic, it is the time it gave me to reflect and write. For most educators like myself, Spring Break 2020 turned into two weeks, and then a month... In-person school was then canceled for the remainder of the school year, leading into summer. During those months of lockdown, I made a vow to finish a book I had started a few years ago. The rest, as they say, is history.

The best writing time for me now is in the early morning from my home office while having my coffee. We live on several acres of land, and the pastoral view from my office window is serene and inspirational. Since I have a full-time job, leisurely writing in the morning is only feasible on the weekends and on my days off from work. I also sneak a little writing time in whenever I can throughout the day and before I go to bed at night.

I wrote my first two novels quickly with a sense of urgency, not knowing if I would ever have such a long stretch of time again. It took me about four months to write both books, but, of course, going back and editing takes a good amount of time. To quote James A. Michener, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”

Also, I'm definitely a pantser, not a plotter. I probably have some sort of mental outline knocking around in my head when I write, but I enjoy being surprised (and sometimes devastated) at some of my characters’ actions. The element of surprise—not knowing beforehand what is going to happen next or how my characters are going to develop—creates one of the greatest joys of writing, in my opinion.

I need complete silence to write my first drafts and then I can have music or the TV going in the background while editing. It’s kind of along the lines of Stephen King’s advice: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

People ask me what motivated me to write A Kiss to Wake Me. My honest first response is to say I have no idea. However, if I delve a little deeper into my psyche, I think it started with the types of books I enjoyed in my youth. I read a lot of Judy Blume novels because I enjoyed the themes of romance, growing pains, and real-life issues. She did not stray away from writing about the heavy situations teens sometimes find themselves in.

Sometimes good kids make choices that lead to dire consequences.

I wanted to portray a scenario of older teens struggling against the expectations and rules set for them by a conservative culture when their love and hormones dictate contradictory wishes and desires. Sometimes good kids make choices that lead to dire consequences. I wanted to explore the reality of coping with the consequences of a devastating life-changing event despite the characters attempting to "do the right" things, which I feel A Kiss to Wake Me accomplishes.

I can’t even describe the initial excitement and satisfaction of signing the contract for my book, knowing many people would soon be reading and enjoying it. 5310 Publishing asked me to record the unboxing of my debut in real-time, knowing the genuine excitement motivates and inspires other writers. My publisher is all about spreading goodness and meaningful information that will benefit the entire writing community.

Eric Williams of 5310 Publishing is the mastermind behind the beautiful cover of A Kiss to Wake Me. He designed dozens of covers for the novel before he finally knew he had it just right. I had a lot of say throughout the process, and his intuition of knowing the story and my vision culminated in the best cover for the book. The dogwood flower featured on the cover was solely his idea. The flower represents love, durability, and the ability to withstand various challenges in life, important themes in A Kiss to Wake Me. Through my experience of getting my first novel published, I learned quickly how much goes into the process. The publishing company must negotiate contracts, take the time to comb over the novel, add blurbs and reviews, typeset the book, and then send it for printing, which I have learned is quite expensive. Of course, this is only after hours of getting the front and back covers just right, not to mention all the marketing that must be done to promote the completed book. It all takes more time and effort than most people realize, and we’re discussing only one book here among many the publisher is working on to get to market.

With great risk comes great rewards. If you want something badly enough, the time and effort are worth it. I would advise writers to just keep writing until the end of their novel without looking back at what they’ve already written. Set a time daily to write without stopping. Only after you are finished with the entire first draft, should you allow yourself to go back to edit and revise.

My current WIP is a rom-com, and, it’s coming along quite well, albeit slowly, as I have limited time this go-around. I am not putting any time constraints on myself with this novel, which is liberating. It remains to be seen if it’s beneficial in the long run to have an open deadline. Aren’t we all just still experimenting with what works best for us on our writing journeys?

Click here to learn more about my romance novel, A Kiss to Wake Me, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!


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