About Cheri Vause:
There have been many twists and turns in my life I like to mirror in my books, like being homeless, and to finding my one true love. I’ve had many careers, including making period lighting fixtures, organizing weddings and special events, and as the Company Manager of The National Theater of the Deaf. I’ve done many ordinary things, like being an administrative assistant, a bookkeeper, and wife and mother. However, the one I enjoyed the most (besides being wife and mother) was teaching theology with a mystical bent, using the Talmud, the Aggadah, and the Kabbalah on the Catholic Ladder, a biblical time frame developed by the Jesuit priests to teach the native Americans several hundred years ago. Those sources bring a wonderful zest to the subject matter, and connects you on a much deeper level than just using feelings, or the cold facts of the historical view of what’s printed on the page. It was only natural that I progressed from teaching theology, the mysteries of the universe and creation, to writing full-time.
With our children all grown, my husband and I have retired to a small ranch in the heart of Texas. Feeling the pinch of missing our children, we have adopted a coydog named Scully, and her partner in crime, Mulder, a Great Pyrenees. Yes, they are both an X-File.
What inspires you to write?
Everything is inspirational to me. I could be reading, watching a movie, having fun with my dogs, or having a deep conversation about life with my hubby. I’ve been known to dream ideas. So, I never know where they will come from, but I’m open to anything being inspirational.
Tell us about your writing process.
I tried once to use cards and an outline on big sheets of paper taped to the walls of my dining room turned office, but I would change things around too often to keep up. It became a chore rather than an aid. I find if I give a quick sketch like color of eyes, hair, height, name, and then let my characters develop in a natural way, as the story unfolds, works much better for me.
When you meet someone you don’t know everything about them. It takes time to learn things. That is how I learn about my characters. The only thing that is important to me is that my heroes should be truly heroic. I don’t care much for the anti-hero. I can’t identify with an anti-hero, but I can with someone who is ordinary. I like my protagonists to be like you or me, with their small quirks and opinions, but basically decent. I read once that Philip K. Dick said he liked to have an ordinary businessman get caught up in something extraordinary. I like that. I like that a lot.
I even find something to like about my villains. I try to make them as real as possible. People are never just one way. Sometimes, like in The Night Watch, you might feel sorry for them, that is until they are tested by circumstances, then you hate them. I like people to feel passionate about all my characters. I want you to love them, to become friends with them, or to hate them, or feel like they should be pitied. See, passion. I love that.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Not only do I talk to them, I play music for them, cry with them, and laugh with them. I see these people as a friend, and if I can’t emote with my characters, then I haven’t written them to be real enough. If I cry, then my readers will cry. If I laugh, then my readers will laugh. If I see the conversation happening in the room with me, then I know that they’re real. That is my litmus test. It works for my editor, too.
What advice would you give other writers?
Learn everything you can about the craft. You don’t necessarily have to take classes, but you must read and learn. And you must read a lot. I’ll repeat that. You must read a lot! I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve read too many books where the writer rushes to publish their story and they haven’t learned how to tell a story. I read a story where the (POV) point of view was in the first person present tense, and written so poorly that I quit reading on the first page. It was choppy and annoyingly abrupt. I couldn’t see myself reading page after page being annoyed. I know they meant it to be immediate, like it was happening right now, but they missed. And it was a dreadful miss. They should have chosen a different path, like a third person. I also read a book where the author revealed the mystery so quickly I was bored to tears by the time I reached the end because I knew what happened. It wasn’t much of a mystery.
The other thing that bothers me about many self-published books is the formatting. If the book doesn’t look like a real book, it screams, “Amateur!” That means the spacing is right and the entire manuscript is justified. No ragged edges. And paragraph indentations should be consistent.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My first book was self-published. It did well, but I found it to be quite limiting. You’re competing within 12% of the market and among some really terrible books. My second book I submitted to a small press calling for manuscripts. My books now are edited appropriately, and if I miss something, my editor catches it. For a mystery writer this is crucial. You certainly don’t want your mystery to be DOA.
I prefer going through the process of the traditional route because I know my product is very professional. I feel good to be on a shelf next to James Patterson or Dennis Lehane. Too many self-published authors skimp and it shows. If you decide to self-publish, don’t spare the expense of editing and formatting. Make sure you get the best cover you can, otherwise you’ll end up looking like you don’t care enough to put out an excellent product. I think it’s an insult to your readers to do less.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Everything is in flux now. I think that the self-publishing industry is going to change dramatically, and it might become even more limiting than it already is. Amazon is making deals with the big houses and we in the small and independent presses are already feeling the pinch. Did you know that Amazon hasn’t made a profit and they are losing money on Kindle Select? Everything could change overnight if they decide to do away with that program, or change it dramatically.
The traditional houses are going to catch up with social media, and if the Twitter Buy button ever makes it off the drawing board that will change things in a big way. And professional writing organizations are helping writers more than ever before. We’re gaining more clout, but only if you are a true professional. Self-publishers might start feeling the squeeze as Amazon begins to target them even more by removing reviews and limiting their accessibility (which they’ve been doing to the small houses and self-published already), and making it more difficult to sell on their site, including all the freebies. They’ve been playing games on the Kindle Select program, and not paying the authors appropriately. Writers are finally beginning to scream loudly about these unscrupulous tactics and games. Yay!
But who knows. We really don’t have any idea how it will play out. These are educated guesses based on what’s being discussed in the trade.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: Mystery, Mystery Thrillers, Mystery Suspense, Mystery Romance, Crime Fiction, Thrillers, Action Adventure, Noir Mysteries, Psychological Mysteries, Literary Fiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print