Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a friend of mine from the Class of 2k9, ya author, Cheryl Renee Herbsman. Cheryl has written this wonderful gem of a book, Breathing (Viking, 2009)–the paperback version of which has just been released. (Great news for those of you looking for a great summer read). Breathing is a charming love story which I could not put down.
Here’s a bit about the book:
Savannah would be happy to spend the summer in her coastal Carolina town lying in a hammock reading her beloved romance novels and working at the library. But then she meets Jackson. Once they lock eyes, she’s convinced he’s the one — her true love, her soul mate, a boy different from all the rest. And at first it looks like Savannah is right. Jackson abides by her mama’s strict rules, and stays by her side during a hospitalization for severe asthma, which Savannah becomes convinced is only improving because Jackson is there. But when he’s called away to help his family—and seems uncertain about returning — Savannah has to learn to breathe on her own, both literally and figuratively.
DL: Cheryl, you did such a wonderful job with the pace of the romance in Breathing. Did it just unfold naturally or did you have to plot it out?
CRH: Thank you! It did unfold naturally. I’m what some call an “organic” writer, others call a “pantser”, as in fly by the seat of your pants. I never outline stories and usually don’t know what is going to happen until it does. When I sit down to write, I read over the last scene I wrote, and then just listen for what comes next.
DL: The setting in Breathing is almost like another character–it is so much a part of the book. How did you decide to set the book in this location?
CRH: Breathing started with a character sketch. I met Savannah and her family during a writing exercise. The setting was so much a part of who Savannah is that it came as part of the package. I never considered setting it anywhere else. Savannah had lived and breathed the coastal Carolina atmosphere her whole life. So it was a part of her, a part of her family, a part of her community. It’s a setting I know from my own childhood, one I love. I grew up in North Carolina and every summer my family would spend time at the beaches in North and South Carolina. Those are still some of my favorite beaches. It was fun to immerse myself in my memories of the place and to even take a family trip there for “research”
DL: I loved the ending of the book. So many times, when I get to the end of a book, I am disappointed. But your ending was so perfect. And I wondered if you had considered a sequel?
CRH: Thank you so much. Endings are always tricky. I find myself second-guessing a lot. “Is it too this or too that” type of concerns. But I try to let it unfold naturally. I’ve been so fortunate that many readers have written to me to ask about a sequel. My feeling about it is that right now the story Savannah had to tell has been told. But you never know, she might drop back by with another story to tell. And if she does, you can be sure she won’t give up until I write it!
DL: For those of us who are authors, can you tell us how a paperback release differs from the initial hardcover release?
CRH: For me the paperback release was different in the sense that I had very little to do with it. There were some minor changes made to the paperback cover from the hardcover. I wasn’t involved in those at all. And really the only contact I had with the paperback publisher was receiving my author copies. It feels like a quieter sort of event. But I’m very grateful for it nonetheless, because it means my story is accessible to more readers and has the opportunity to stay in print longer.
DL: What is your favorite sentence in Breathing and why?
CRH: Ahh! That’s a tough question. But I think I’ll stick with the one I had printed on my bookmarks. Savannah says: “I know it’s only dreaming, but I reckon if you go on and act like something is real, sometimes it just believes you.” I think that sort of sums up what I love about her, her dreamer nature, her courage, her boldness, her willingness to try.
DL: That is my favorite sentence, too. It really resonated with me. What tips can you share with other writers who are working on getting their first manuscripts published?
CRH: Don’t ever give up. I’d been trying to sell a fantasy manuscript for about two years. Friends encouraged me to work on something else while I was trying to sell the fantasy. So just as a distraction, I started something else, which ended up being Breathing. It sold very quickly. Keep at the craft, keep reading and writing and learning about the business of publishing and it will happen!
DL: What can we expect from you next?
CRH: I have a manuscript out on submission now. It’s a story I dearly love. And while I’m waiting to hear … I’m working on something else!
DL: Thank you Cheryl! And I can’t wait to read your next book.
You can find out more about Cheryl Renee Herbsman and her books at her website.