Bec Stafford interviews Bundaberg writer and newly minted novelist Cheryse Durant.
Cherie: How does it feel? Like unsheathing my sword for my first-ever battle and discovering my blade’s been changed to rubber – I can either dash off the battlefield and hide behind the geraniums, or stay and face the critics. Fortunately, I’ve been buoyed by some fabulous reviews and gorgeous fan mail since The Blood She Betrayed was published. Readers have written to me and told me how much they’ve loved my characters and storyline. One reader has even begged me to write a new Heart Hunters novel every week (I wish! It takes months and months to put a story like this together – for me, at least).
As a newly published author, I wanted to spin a book that touched people’s hearts. I’m hoping I did that. My second hope is that people will read and share my book and give it the chance to become known not just in my neck of the woods, but around the world.
My biggest fear? Will I be able to write future Heart Hunters novels that resonate with the same magic as the first? My second novel, The Ghost She Killed, is due at my Publisher by March so once my author tour is over, I’ll be typing my little fingers to the bone to get the manuscript finished. For me, writing is therapy. There are all these images and conversations exploding inside my head and I need to pour them out onto. The hard work is making sense of all the characters and plot arcs and shaping it into a story that deserves to be read by readers. Readers are, after all, very discerning
Bec: The Blood She Betrayed is Book 1 in the Heart Hunters series. Can you tell us a bit about your gutsy heroine, the half-Taloner Shahkara, and your plans for Book 2, The Ghost She Killed?
Cherie: Seventeen-year-old Shahkara is a warrior princess from another world who comes to Brisbane, Earth, to find an ancient artefact, the Elnara, which can wipe out the heart-devouring Taloner demons plaguing her kingdom. As she arrives on earth, she manages to save the life of Max, brooding, directionless son of the enigmatic billionaire Liam McCalden. Max discovers that Taloners are trying to kill him and Shahkara discovers she needs an Earthern guide so they team up to find the Elnara together. The only problem: Shahkara’s hiding a deadly secret of her own. She’s half-Taloner. This gives her enhanced strength and sensory perceptions, but it also means she shares the same dark heart-lust and fears getting too close to Max in case she rips out his heart. You can watch the book trailer here:
Shahkara evolved from an image that flitted through my head – one of a warrior princess with gritty determination and fighter’s heart. I knew that, for her, I needed to create a story where the stakes were high and the sacrifices great. The Blood She Betrayed is a story of life and death, good and evil and an apocalypse that needs to be thwarted… within three days.
Shahkara’s not a brilliant swordswoman or magician or mathematician, but she knows how to hold her own at court. Stripped of royal title, she becomes a stranger in a strange land, fearful of relying on anyone, but determined to forge her way through the murky, technologically-driven Earthlands so she can save her people. She’s every young woman I know, facing challenging circumstances with no easy answers. We may not be saving the world, but we use our courage, compassion and smarts to wade through the mire, whether it’s an overdue assignment or a dying friend with cancer.
The Ghost She Killed is the second novel in my Heart Hunters series. Without giving away an spoilers, I can say that it has a lot more action and adventures for my main characters. A chunk of the book is set in a huge, hotel/casino in the heart of Brisbane, inspired by a stay at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, a few years ago. There are also new threats, new demons, new ancient artefacts and a lot more magic.
Bec: You’ve just chaired a panel at GenreCon 2013 in Brisbane. Authors are famously pretty introverted creatures. Do you get the jitters, or are you confident when it comes to public appearances? What advice would you give first-time panel members?
Cherie: As a child, I was quite shy around strangers. I was more comfortable making friends with books than real-life people – but real-life people are so fascinating! Since my late teens, I’ve learnt to overcome my nerves and step out of my comfort zone so I can talk to strangers.
Some people say imagining their audience naked helps overcome their fears. I’ve never remembered to do that, but I also think it probably wouldn’t work for me – it’d just freak me out!
My advice for first-time panel members:
- Know your subject but don’t feel nervous about any areas that aren’t your expertise – that’s why there’s a panel.
- Write the three or four most important areas of discussion in short, sharp bullet points on a palm-sized piece of cardboard – so you don’t forget to bring these subjects up.
- Imagine you’re only talking to the panel – that the audience doesn’t exist.
- If you’re asked a question that you really can’t answer, say: “That’s an interesting question. Panel member B, how would you answer this?”
- Remember to breathe!
Bec: You come from a strong writing community in Bundaberg. Can you tell us what’s happening up there?
Cherie: Bundaberg has a vibrant writing and arts community and one of the best libraries that you can find down under. Bundy writers are particularly proud of our annual one-day WriteFest in May each year, which brings authors/presenters from across Australia together to deliver cutting-edge info on craft and publishing. We attract attendees from as far away as the northern tip of Queensland and the far south of New South Wales. It’s a warm and close-knit gathering and gives writers like myself the chance to learn heaps – and pitch to top Australian publishers, including Hachette, Random House and HarperCollins. Speakers at next year’s event include international best-selling author Kathryn Fox, children’s picture book author/illustrator Jacque Duffy and industry stalwart Jo Butler who will present a masterclass on fitting your book into the changing shape of Australian publishing. Details will soon be available via bundywriters.com
Bec: Where would you like to be as a writer in ten years’ time?
Cherie: My ultimate goal is to write full-time – and to find beautiful friends/fans who help spread the word about my stories to others. I write to unleash the characters and stories cluttering my mind. I can do that anywhere, anytime, but I often feel stretched because I’m trying to juggle work, writing, family life and community. My dream is to earn a full-time living from my fiction writing and if I could do that within the next decade, that would be fabulous. I have some amazing stories that I want to share with the world. Watch this space.
Dead fingers curled around an ancient crypt and a love of Celtic mythology were the two inspirations behind Cheryse Durrant’s The Blood She Betrayed, the first novel in her Young Adult Urban Fantasy Heart Hunters series, published by Clan Destine Press. Durrant grew up on a small farm outside Roma where she chatted to scrub faeries and imaginary friends, including a superhero. She wrote her first story on her aunt’s bedroom wall when she was roughly four, but it failed to attract literary acclaim. She worked as a journalist for 15 years before trading her soul for fiction. The coffee/chocolate/strawberry addict now lives at Bargara on the central Queensland coast where she teaches writing through Creative Dragons (www.creativedragons.com.au) and is an avid WriteFest (www.bundywriters.com) fan.
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