Welcome to the two hundred and sixty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with romantic suspense, mystery, short story author, journalist, writing guide guru and spotlightee Chelle Cordero. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Chelle. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Chelle: I’ve always been interested in the arts – once an artist, always an artist even if the medium changes. I always dabbled with short stories and loved to rewrite some favourite TV shows. When I was 18 years old (yeah, a while ago) I was asked to write an article for a community organization I belonged to; it was published in a local weekly newspaper and the “light bulb” went off, I thought of adding writing to my repertoire. But it wasn’t until I was expecting our first child that I considered doing it as a full time freelance job from home. I began as a journalist and later added novelist to my credits.
Morgen: I had the light bulb moment in my late 30s when I went to creative writing evening classes and started to create characters. Once they took over I knew that was it. It took me another three or four years to really do something about it (quit the day job) but it’s such a thrill after having left school ‘falling’ into being a secretary (handy for typing speeds) because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, to finally know. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Chelle: I love to read romance and mystery / suspense stories. I also love to write what I read. Two of my novels were written as psychological thrillers (Final Sin and Hyphema) and that is a genre I’d love to delve into more deeply.
Morgen: I heard on the radio this morning that more people are reading crime now than romance and you have both the most popular genres covered. What have you had published to-date? Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?
Chelle: I have 9 novels (Bartlett’s Rule; His Lucky Charm; Within the Law; Final Sin; Courage of the Heart; Hostage Heart; A Chaunce of Riches; Common Bonds, Tangled Hearts; & Hyphema). I also have 2 writing guides that are based on my successful Amazon Kindle blog Living, Breathing, Writing.
I have a habit of falling in love with each of my heroes so it isn’t easy to choose a favourite. I MIGHT have a preference for Tom Hughes (from Within the Law). Tom was created as a secondary character in His Lucky Charm and his personal story was so compelling and a bit tragic, I was duty-bound to give him his own story and happy ending. Tom is not a saint, he’s got a bit of a temper, a whole lot of passion and is the kind of hunk I find attractive.
Morgen: I love it when a minor character is given (or demands) a meatier role. I read Kate Atkinson’s Not The End Of The World’ collection of short stories when I was starting out and she had a some characters in more than one story and it’s something that’s never left me so I’ve started doing the same with some of mine. And it’s often the background characters that a reader loves the most. If applicable, can you remember where you first saw one of your books in a bookshop or being read by a member of the public?
Chelle: A local indie bookstore ordered my novel Bartlett’s Rule for a book club reading and asked me to come in for a discussion. While I had the expectation that my book had been read, it still amazed me when the attendees pulled out their copies and made references to specific sections. They were overwhelmingly supportive and indicated that they liked the book. This was also the first time I was ever asked to autograph one of my books.
Morgen: Yay! That’s the downside to only having eBooks – to not be able to see it in someone’s hands (never say never :)). What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Chelle: I emailed my manuscript for Bartlett’s Rule to my current publisher, Vanilla Heart Publishing, after the managing editor responded to my query. She promised me a response in 3 days, but later that night I received an offer for publication! I was so excited I couldn’t even speak. I dragged my husband into my office to read the email for himself. I still get a thrill whenever I see my name on a book spine or my by-line on an article.
Chelle: While I am sure that there are authors who have never seen rejection, maybe they have marketable fame, were fortunate to make the right query at the right time, or haven’t submitted after a successful publication, most writers can boast about papering their office walls with the rejection slips. So yes, I do know the feeling of rejection. But I also know that I am not interested in every book at the local bookstore – different people have different preferences – so I understand that what I write might not strike a chord in a particular reader. I do, however, listen carefully to reviews and other comments and try to learn as I write my next book.
Morgen: It’s a continual learning process, isn’t it, and how we improve. Have you won any competitions (or been a runner up) and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Chelle: A few of the plaudits my books have received are: Hyphema won the Dec 9, 2011. Friday Book Cover Vote on the Shades of Love website; Final Sin was an Honorable Mention in the Fiction Category of the 2010 NY Book Festival & a 2009 Pushcart Prize nominee; and Bartlett’s Rule was named one of Carolyn Howard Johnson’s Top Ten Reads for 2009. While the mentions might help impress some new readers, I think the author receives so much encouragement that it helps us keep on doing what we do best.
Morgen: Absolutely – a nod from our peers. I mentioned eBooks earlier – are your books available as eBooks?
Chelle: E-book sales have taken off and I think are definitely the way of the future. All of my novels with Vanilla Heart Publishing are available in both print and multiple e-book formats. I credit our managing editor for being so proactive and jumping into the e-book market early on.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Chelle: I do a lot of marketing and promotion on my published works, but I do it as a team member of VHP. Our managing editor helps with promotion on the VHP sites, book trailer videos, press releases and professional designs for marketing materials. Our author group helps with lot of cross promotion events as well.
I try to be “out there” as much as possible and let the public get to know me, the author, as well as have ready info about my books. I use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, I have an online presence with my author blog and website and I arrange personal appearances locally whenever available.
Morgen: That’s the thing – you get back what you put out (without feeling that you’re touting and have nothing else to say). If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Chelle: I don’t have full casts, but as I wrote my novels I did picture certain actors in various roles. Here are a few: In Final Sin Julie is Anna Belknap (Lindsay on CSI-NY) and Jake is Alex O’Loughlin (McGarrett on Hawaii 5-0). In His Lucky Charm Caitlyn is Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer) and Brandon is a young Pierce Brosnan type. Ryan Hunter in Hostage Heart would be played by Eric Martsolf (Brady Black from Days of Our Lives). Reshma Shetty (Divya on Royal Pains) would play Sudah in Hyphema.
Morgen: Ah Hawaii 5-0, now there’s a blast from the past. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Chelle: The cover is the first impression potential readers have of your books; the title is the second. If the cover is attractive and eye-catching, they may be willing to browse through your book. Vanilla Heart Publishing provides all of the covers for our books but works with each of us to make sure the cover and the title truly represents the story.
Morgen: Regarding your characters, do you have a method for creating them, their names and what do you think makes them believable? Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Chelle: I start with a premise of an idea, sort of “what if” about a conversation, news story or even a random glance at strangers on the street. Then I create my main characters I literally give birth to them and give them full histories and personalities. After that I just let them interact. While I do have to corral them now and them, my characters pretty much write their own stories. My characters react to every situation based on their personal backgrounds. This makes them very consistent throughout the story, sometimes a little problematic, and makes every action driven by the individual and not the author.
Morgen: That’s my favourite part of writing – when the characters come alive. Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Chelle: I still write as a journalist and my articles and columns appear throughout North America in various newspapers and magazines. I use the same name for both fiction and non-fiction.
I do have short stories in anthologies from both Vanilla Heart Publishing and from Mandimam Press (UK): Forever Friends; With Arms Wide Open; Nature’s Gifts; Forever Travels; Love & Chocolate; and Nature’s Gifts 2011.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Chelle: As a journalist I like doing research when I write. The accuracy also makes my stories more real and easier for a reader to get lost in. Since I cannot possibly be knowledgeable of all trades, cultures, conditions and locations, I need to research these topics. Even though I may do extensive research though I try to remember that my stories shouldn’t read like textbooks; instead I pepper the story with bits and pieces of information and give it a realistic sound.
Morgen: Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc., do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Chelle: I need noise and action around me as I write my fiction, it keeps my mind active and I think it helps to keep my writing lively.
Morgen: You’re definitely in a minority there but then you have the journalistic background – the ones I’ve spoken to revel in noise. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Chelle: Several years ago I wrote a story about two police officers who fall in love and their love is marred by both family problems and crime. The story underwent several revisions and to me no longer feels the same. Aside from the loss of the original story it was very time-sensitive (referring to the attitudes about female police officers). I put this manuscript to bed a long time ago and don’t think I will ever attempt any more rewrites.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Chelle: My favourite aspect of my writing life is the creativity I am allowed, the chance to “get lost” in other places and situations, and the opportunity to make people think. The least favourite aspect is the uncertainty of a sale and income and having to constantly tell people that yes I do have a job and I am working.
Morgen: I have the ‘uncertainty’ to look forward to, although I’ve temped over the years so always have that to fall back on – hopefully I won’t need to and can just do bits and pieces to meet people (characters). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Chelle: Never allow anyone to talk you out of your dreams. Writing is a hard life, it isn’t always glamour and pats on the back – it is a business. But if writing is what you really want to do and you are willing to put the effort in, it is a very rewarding and satisfying accomplishment. Keep writing.
Morgen: I love that: “never allow” – if you want to be a writer nothing else (or no-one else) can stop you. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or invite three people, hiding the takeaway containers)?
Chelle: Two would be ancestors – on my dad’s side I would want to invite my great-great-grandfather, he was a ship’s captain travelling between the Netherlands and the Caribbean, his ship sank and I believe he was lost at sea. I would also like to invite my maternal grandfather who passed away long before I was born; he saved a young boy from death threats by smuggling him out of the deep south. I think for the third person I would invite Golda Meir; aside from being Prime Minister, she was involved in the formation of the State of Israel, and worked towards peace and the welfare of immigrants. In addition, Ms, Meir had become friends with my great-uncle and I heard stories of his visiting her family in Israel a few times. Each of these people got to see and do fascinating things, exhibited huge courage, made crucial decisions and truly made a difference in the world around them – it would be wonderful just to hear them talk about their lives.
Morgen: Wow – you have some great stories there from your own family – wonderful fiction fodder… or non-fiction perhaps. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Chelle: I have 2 quotes I like. The first is from the song by Chad Brock, “Thunder’s just a noise, boys, lightnin’ does the work.” The second is by author Elbert Hubbard, “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.” Both quotes explain a lot of the philosophy I live by. It’s more important to get the job done and not worry about the recognition, and you have to have a sense of humour.
Morgen: Absolutely. I try not to worry about life – my mum’s a dreadful worrier. I read a quote recently about comparing worrying to a rocking chair – neither get you anywhere. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Chelle: I spend time with my family when I can. I’m also very active in my community and volunteer as an Emergency Medical Technician with my local ambulance corps. Many of my readers have noted the strong influence of emergency services in my stories.
Morgen: Ah ha, write what you know. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Chelle: It is easier than ever to get published with the amount of small press publishers, ebook publishing and self publishing opportunities. And because it is so easy, it is more important for each author to maintain professional standards, edit well, and market their works.
Morgen: Absolutely. My only expenses is my editor and she’s worth every penny. Where can we find out about you and your writing, Chelle?
Chelle: My website http://ChelleCordero.com is a good beginning point since I also have links to many of my other sites. I also have a blog at http://ChelleCordero.blogspot.com. Readers can find me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. All of my books can be found through major online retailers, some indie shops and places like Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/chellecordero.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Chelle: Thank you Morgen for posing sometimes challenging questions which made me think and for allowing me this opportunity and forum to be heard.
Morgen: You’re so welcome, thank you for answering them. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Chelle: Your website is awesome – how do you find the time to do it all?
Morgen: Ah, thank you. The quick answer is not enough sleep. I really enjoy it and used to be a 8-9 hour sleeper but now it’s more like 4-6. The day job is going soon so I hope to get someway back but I live and breathe writing so if you do what you love doing, that’s the main thing, isn’t it?
Chelle has come a long way since first joining the Vanilla Heart Publishing queue of authors nearly two years ago with her first novel, Bartlett’s Rule. Now with nine novels on the market, she has solidified her standing as a Romantic Suspense author (7 romantic suspense & 2 mysteries.) She also has short stories in the VHP anthology With Arms Wide Open, Mandimam’s Press anthology Forever Friends, the VHP anthology Nature’s Gifts, VHP anthology Passionate Hearts and Mandimam Press anthology Forever Travels.
Bartlett’s Rule was named one of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top Ten Reads for 2009; Final Sin was a 2009 Pushcart Nominee; and Hostage Heart, Final Sin and A Chaunce of Riches were nominated in the 2009 Preditors’ and Readers’ poll and had top-ten finishes. Chelle Cordero was recently featured as one of the authors in “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” published by The Author’s Show in 2010.
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