Monday, January 13, 2014

Author: Dayna Leigh Cheser

I would like to introduce Historical Romance author, Dayna Leigh Cheser.

Welcome, Dayna.  For new readers – what can they expect when they read your book(s)?
Over 50 years ago, I discovered my mother’s stash of romance books – ‘Lolita’ and ‘Peyton Place’ stick out in my mind (psst … don’t tell her, she still doesn’t know I found them).  Since then, I’ve loved romance novels.  Over the years, I’ve added historical, time travel, a bit of paranormal, and other elements but my favorite books are romances at heart, whatever other activities are part of the stories.  It’s only logical, therefore, that I write romances.  I’d like to think that, since I don’t use computer programs to write my books for me, my books bring fresh ideas to the table.  So, new readers will not find the ‘same old – same old’ when they read my books.

My favorite writers: Bertrice Small – the Queen of Hot Historical Romance (Skye O’Malley Series) in the late 70s and into the 80s - has had the most influence on my writing, followed by Lynn Kurland, early Karen Marie Moning, Jean Auel, Diana Gabaldon, Victoria Holt, and many others.

Your secret is safe with us.  How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
I mostly work at the writing (and related) tasks when my husband’s at work, or occupied with his own thing when he’s home.  I’m not sure how it’s going to work out when he retires, but we’ll adapt, I’m sure.  We just had our 45th wedding anniversary back in early July.  We’ve been ‘adapting’ for a lot of years.

Congratulations! Can you describe a typical writing day for you?
As I’m retired, I don’t have to punch a clock anywhere. Still, I’m up most days around 7:30 AM – sometimes later, on rare occasion earlier.  As I go through the waking-up process, I tend to household stuff. When those chores are done, I’m ready to fire up the computer.  I usually give myself some time to tend to non-writing tasks (correspondence, checking emails, etc.), but by mid-morning, and certainly by noon, I’m doing writing, editing, blog posts – writing-related stuff.  By late afternoon, I’m looking for a break so I stop and fix supper.  After that, I clean up and settle in for an evening on the computer.  At some point, either my eyes have had it, or I’m brain-dead (sometimes both).  That’s when I call it a day.  Most nights I’m in bed between 10 and 11 PM.  Some days are different, especially weekends, which belong to my husband, but I still get work done in between.  Some days, I have shopping or errands outside the house but rarely does a day go by that I don’t do SOMETHING in the writing-realm.

You sound very dedicated.  Can you describe your writing space for us?
Until recently, and for several years, I had a comfy old rocker-recliner I all but lived in.  For quite a while, I had a laptop propped up between my knees, or I used a small, nearby table.  When the laptop died, I got a big desktop, which required a larger table.  Then, the rocker-recliner gave up the ghost.  At that point, I got a small desk and a standard desk chair.  The whole ‘office’ measures about 4’ x 6’ in one corner of the living room.  The TV is on ALL THE TIME, but I seldom watch it – it just keeps me company. 

I know that feeling.  What are you most passionate about outside of writing?
This is actually a tough one.  I have lots and lots of interests other than writing.  Over the years, I’ve done crafts (sewing, crocheting, and more).  I also follow a number of issues on the social media.  I pay attention to what’s going on in the country (politics and national issues).  I care a lot about women’s issues (health, abuse, etc.) as well as animal issues (same scenarios).  I’m into natural health in a lot of ways, for myself and others.  But, do any of them preempt the writing?  Am I passionate enough about any one or more of the aforementioned to give up the writing?  No.  From the time I was very young, I knew I wanted to write but life kept getting in the way.  When I retired, all that changed.  I still have many interests, and I stay involved, but the writing comes first.

What genre(s) do you write?  Why do you write the stories you write?
So far, I’ve only written historical romance because that’s what I like to read the most. 
But when I’ve finished the series I’m working on now, the next book(s) may be a different genre.  My muse stopped by for a visit not long ago with an idea, which I took the time to work on for a while.  After about 3000 words, it’s definitely contemporary.  What else is it?  Where is it going? 

Is it viable?  I don’t know yet.   
I write what I write because that’s what shows up on the screen when I’m writing – it’s not a grand design of some sort to write a specific something.

Do your characters come to you first, or the plot, or the world of the story?
I’m a ‘pantser’ writer.  I don’t outline, and I usually don’t have much in the line of specifics in mind when I sit down at the computer.  I just start writing.  When you’re working on a series, it’s not that simple, of course, but from one day to the next, I don’t have any idea of who-what-where-when-why.  Sometimes, my fingers disconnect from my brain and go off on their own.  I sit and watch as anywhere from a couple of pages to a whole chapter just flows onto the page.  This phenomenon is not unusual among visual artists (painters, sculptors, etc.) but is less common among writers.  The first time it happened, it scared me half to death – as in WTF‼ - but now, I welcome it because what appears is exactly what the story needs, when it needs it, and, it’s done perfectly.  I’m not sure if it’s my muse, or just what it is … I don’t ask questions. 

Good idea.  Don't rock the boat.  What sets your books apart from other authors?
Comparing authors to each other is like comparing apples and oranges.  We’re all different. 
I think every author has something unique to offer.  What I write will appeal to some people and not to others.  What some other writer produces will appeal – or not – to completely different people. 

I’d like to think that historical romance readers who enjoy the Regency and Victorian time periods will like my books, but I know they ALL won’t.  I’ve had reviewers trash Janelle’s Timefor exactly the same reasons other reviewers LOVED it.  Who can account for that? 

All this ‘branding’ and  ‘platforms’ stuff really isn’t what it’s all about.  Oh, they might help sell books in a force-feeding kind of way.  What it’s really about is whether or not a single reader likes your work.  If more individual readers like what you write than don’t, you’re successful.  You build a readership, one reader at a time.  Branding and platforms won’t change someone’s opinion of your work.  Having a snazzy bookmark to hand out won’t change things either.  Have you ever bought a book based on the bookmark?  Writers who actually have bookmarks probably didn’t design it so, how does that count for anything?  It’s what’s between the front and back covers that matters.  For that, we’re all different – incomparable - with different stories to tell.

Very good point.  How do you go about developing your characters?
There are a number of considerations, many of them environmental.  What’s the genre of the book? (For example, you wouldn’t put a George Jetson in one of Jean Auel’s books.)  What time period do they live in?  What level of the socio-economic scale are they part of?  What age are they when they are first introduced?  How long do they stay in the timeline?  Who will they marry, if that’s part of the story?  What is their personality?  Who will they interact with most?  Will they have any special talent/skill?  Their physical description is less important to me (I suppose that’s because a person’s physical description isn’t important to me in real life) - many of my characters aren’t described in that way.  There are many things to consider before creating a character.  And, sometimes, characters just happen.  A minor character suddenly becomes a major character when a scenario presents itself. 

Out of all the characters you’ve written, who is your favorite and why?
Logan Conor, the Scots Duke of Muileach (pronounced mule-ECK).  Janelle’s Time, book 1 of the series, wasn’t originally planned to be part of a series.  In that book, I needed a character to come in and mess with Richard and Janelle’s wedding.  Picture Fabio (if you remember him – the Italian model who graced the covers of over 400 romance novels in the 70s and 80s), with red hair, blue eyes and an attitude … and make him a bit bigger, too.  That’s Logan.  He and Richard have a history that includes a drunken brawl in Paris where Logan’s paramour gets accidentally pitched out a window and, eventually, dies from her injuries.  After Minuet’s death, Logan comes looking for Richard with revenge on his mind.  He’s come all the way from Scotland (to New Hampshire) to accomplish this goal.  It’s a standoff that eventually is resolved (after a fashion) when a friend of Janelle’s, Rachel, approaches Logan. 

After Janelle’s Time was complete, Logan got in my face, wanting his own book.  Of course he wants his own book, he’s Logan!  He’s not happy with just a chapter or so in someone else’s book.  Long story short, Logan now has his own book.  It’s book 4 of the series, Logan’s Time.  It’s not a sequel as Logan is a different family, on a different continent.  It’s a spinoff and actually begins 30 years BEFORE Janelle’s Time (book 1).  I strongly suspect book 4 will be the best of the series so I’m eager to get back to it (the first draft is well over half done).  That will be sometime next year.

Can you share a little of your current work?
This is the back cover blurb of Moria’s Time, published in 2013.
Old Agnes MacKendall has a vision of Janelle Grayson’s infant daughter, Moria, as a young woman, far from home in a dangerous place.
Janelle and her husband, Richard, must prepare their little girl for whatever’s ahead.  It’s a future charged with risk that could spell certain doom.
So begins Moria’s Time – Book 2 of the TIME Series
At six-years old, Moria starts to learn about her heritage.  Like her mother, Moria is a MacKendall. The women of this Scots clan have many skills, including natural medicine – which is Moria’s gift.
At fourteen, Moria meets Elizabeth Blackwell who befriends and mentors her, guiding her toward her goal of becoming a doctor.
Later, while visiting family in England, Moria meets Florence Nightingale who, later, summons Moria to London, where she works for a while at a charity hospital and meets Dr. Simon Hensley.
Thirty-eight women, including Moria, travel to Turkey with Miss Nightingale to be nurses for Crimean War soldiers.  Dr. Hensley, in love with Moria, follows her, much to her chagrin, and she rebuffs him.
At home for a visit, Moria reconnects with her twin sister, Adelle, and her beau, Walter, who convince Moria that Dr. Hensley isn’t the enemy. Moria and Dr. Hensley work things out.
Simon and Moria return to London after the war. At Devonwood, the Grayson family estate, Moria’s Grandmother convinces Moria she can marry Simon and not lose herself. He proposes; she accepts.
After the wedding, Simon and Moria visit medical schools for interviews. Moria is rejected, simply because she’s a woman. Finally, a school in Pennsylvania accepts her.
Not sure about their future, Simon and Moria stumble upon a charitable project that fits with their combined experience and their desire to help people in need. They’ll be doctors, but where are they going?

This was a fun book because I incorporated 5 very different real-life historical characters to make it interesting.  The first, Elizabeth Blackwell, was the first female registered MD in both the US and the UK.  What she went through to achieve that goal‼  Moria went through much the same process, with Miss Blackwell’s guidance. 

Others include Frederick Douglass, American slave-turned-newspaperman/author, Florence Nightingale (by way of Elizabeth Blackwell), and, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  All of these folks interacted with at least one of my characters, if not more, and in some cases, many of my characters over varying periods of time.  It’s not easy weaving a story around real-life historical characters … there are published accountings for the whereabouts of these folks and you have to adjust your fictitious characters to mesh with the real-life activities of the real-life characters. 

At one point, I needed to have all but Frederick Douglass in London at the same time Moria’s extended family was there.  During that calendar year, I found I had a 6-week window, which, it turned out, was more than enough time to accomplish what I wanted to do.  I even had Queen Victoria be more involved in the Grayson family than I’d originally planned, even into the next book, Adelle’s Time, although the queen doesn’t know it’s Adelle she’s involved with.

I love your dedication to research.  Where can readers find more information about you?
Website:  There, in the menu, you will find an ‘About’ tab, my blog tab, a tab with lots of information about the TIME Series, a tab where you can do your own author interview (DIY Interviews), and a tab that will take you directly to my original blog (the contents there are still available).
In addition, you can find me on:
Twitter: @Writers_Cafe
Facebook Fan Page: Author Dayna Leigh Cheser
Linkedin: Dayna Leigh Cheser
I have other social media sites but I’m not active on most of them – not enough hours in the day.

Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?
My ‘TIME Series’
Janelle’s Time – published in 2012, available at Amazon (US/UK/CA) and Barnes & Noble, print book (Amazon only) and e-book (Kindle and Nook only).
Moria’s Time – published in 2013, and will be widely available as a print book and e-book.
Adelle’s Time – will likely be available in the spring of 2014.
Logan’s Time – will likely be available later in 2014.
Clarissa’s Time – will likely be available in 2015.

Dayna, thank you so much for stopping by today.  You have shed a lot of light on areas I had never considered.  Each time I read one of your books, the story will be more enriched because of knowing the attention you place on each aspect of your writing.

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