As a writer, I often draw inspiration from others who are working hard to bring great stories to life. Cheris Hodges is an author I admire for obvious reasons: she’s an African-American romance writer from South Carolina! Besides that, I really enjoy her books. I was first introduced to Cheris when I read her novel Betting on Love, and to my absolute delight, later “met” her via Twitter. She graciously agreed to let me interview her for my blog. Please check out her interview, then go and check out her novels.
Me: Describe your journey to becoming published.
Cheris Hodges: I thought I was a brilliant writer at 16. So, after reading Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale, I wrote my first manuscript. Without an editor or a clue, I sent it off to Penguin Books. About three months later, I received my first form rejection letter. I received about 100 before I self-published my first book with iUniverse.com in 2001. When I finished my second manuscript, I knew I didn’t want to self-publish again. So, I found a literary agent, Sha-Shana Crichton and from there it has been a wonderful ride.
Me: What made you not want to self-publish again?
CH: Self-Publishing is a lot of hard work, especially when I did it in the early 2000s, your books weren’t stocked in the stores and people didn’t want to allow you to sign in their stores because self-published books aren’t returnable. However, it’s easier to be a successful self-published author because of ebooks. While you have more creative control, self-publishing can be a full time job without a lot of pay.
Me: Who or what inspires you as a writer?
CH: I was initially inspired to write stories about my friends and write about things that I couldn’t do – running away from home, building a house in the woods and the like. But when I started reading Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou, I knew I could never ever write anything like that, but it didn’t stop me from trying. LOL!
Me: What made you pick your genre?
CH: Romance is a genre that stretches your writing ability because everyone pretty much knows how your book will end. Therefore, you have to create characters and stories that the readers want to connect with and spend between 80,000 and 90,000 words reading about.
Me: I once had a co-worker ask me if I wanted to write “for real” when he learned I wrote romance. Have you ever experienced the same down play of the romance genre, and if so, how do you deal with it?
CH: Romance writers are always fighting to get taken seriously. But I’m proud to be writing in the ONE genre that has an increase in sales yearly. Like I said, when folks know how your story is going to end, you have to be more creative to keep the reader engaged. And I may write romance, but I curse like a sailor (LOL) so no one has said anything like that to my face. The media tries to downplay the romance genre as well – still calling our books BODICE RIPPERS! But the truth of the matter is, a good romance novel makes the world go round. 🙂 And when you look at African-American fiction, romance is the main genre where you see positive images of black men on a regular basis. (Great point! I must agree with her on that!)
Me: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
CH: Keep writing and learn the craft. Don’t be afraid to allow other people to read your work and develop a thick skin. You also have to learn how to take constructive criticism. Also, in order to write well, you have to read – a lot!
Thanks so much to Cheris for agreeing to my interview. You can check her out her blog http://www.cherishodges.blogspot.com or on Twitter @CherisHodges