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Archive for August 8th, 2007

The Dark Phantom recently had the pleasure of reviewing WHALE SONG. Click here to read the review.

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Welcome to The Dark Phantom Review, Cheryl! It’s nice to have you here. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?

Thank you for having me here.

Whale Song is an emotional novel about choices and consequences, suitable for adult and YA readers. It’s the story of Sarah, a young woman who is haunted by her past and by the assisted suicide of her mother. A teenaged Sarah moves from Wyoming to Vancouver Island where she is suddenly thrown into a world of racism, hatred, school bullying and more. Thankfully, Sarah befriends a native girl, and through stories told by her friend’s wise old grandmother, Sarah learns the legends of the animals around her–of Seagull, Whale and Wolf. As these legends begin to parallel her life, she moves through the tragedy of her mother’s death and the partial amnesia that has blocked out the truth, becoming a jaded young woman who has hardened herself to love and life. And then someone from her past returns to make her finally face all that she has forgotten. Whale Song is a mixture of coming-of-age, family drama and mystery, and it’s a novel that will change the way you view life…and death.

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The story was inspired from two separate influences. The first was a native legend I had heard when I was a teen growing up on the Queen Charlotte Islands (north of Vancouver Island). The legend stated that if you saw a killer whale close to shore, it was really someone’s spirit coming to say goodbye. The very thought of that haunted me and has always stayed with me. The second influence was the controversy surrounding the assisted death of someone who was dying a painful death. I wondered about that, about why it is so easy and acceptable for us to put down our family pet when they are suffering and yet we can’t find a more humane way to help the dying to pass on. The two elements combined, and for two years I played with the idea of writing Whale Song. And when the time was right…I did.

Did you have to do a lot of research about whales and Indian myths?

I pride myself on my research. If a writer wants a story to ring true and be believable, it’s vital to check facts and sources. I researched killer whales and myths for close to 2 months. There is so much material out there that I could have read about both subjects for years! I found the information on killer whales to be very enlightening, especially about echolocation and adoption. Since writing Whale Song, I have found some awesome sites, such as: http://www.orcagirl.com. There is just something about killer whales that intrigues and mesmerizes me.

And even though the main Indian or native myth was one I knew, I still believe in researching everything. As I began to delve into native folklore, I discovered so many stories that I had grown up with, and so many more that I had never heard. They all entranced me. And strangely enough, when I needed a story to fulfill a particular ‘duty’ or parallel a certain aspect of Sarah’s life, I always found one that was perfect. The Bridge of the Gods, for instance, was a legend I found fascinating. Of course, I won’t tell you…you’ll have to read Whale Song. 

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

For Whale Song (and all of my novels), I have allowed the story to brew and simmer in my mind. For two years I thought about writing it, and by then the characters were almost lifelike. Finally, I began. And yes, it was more a stream-of-consciousness event. Writing the story was like a journey in some ways…one that had been planned and plotted, the course already lined out. All I had to do was get from point A to B. And then to C. You get the picture. There was no struggle in writing the story—other than I can’t type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. Like good beer or fine wine, the story had fermented into something wonderful when I gave it the time it needed. There was no outline, maybe a few notes. Whale Song was written, edited by me and 2 editors and at the publisher’s within 3.5 months.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

No, writer’s block is not something I get. Part of me simply doesn’t allow it. I will, however, get “I can’t write now because I have to do laundry” block. Or “I don’t want to write it today because I want more than an hour to focus on it” block. But even when I am not working on my current novel, I always seem to be writing something—from posts on my blogs, to posts on MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/cherylktardif), to writing book reviews on other authors’ books. Every day I write. It is oxygen to me. 

The true secret in unleashing my creativity is the brewing, simmering and fermenting stage. Every novel I have written has swirled around in the somewhat murky depths of my mind for months, maybe years, before I start writing. All I need to do is think of the title and I am brought back into the plot instantly. It is much like watching a movie unfold. The stronger the ‘vision’, the more compelled I am to write it. And I get story plots from the weirdest things—often from my own fears or my dreams, which don’t seem to be as sweet and fun as everyone else’s. Sometimes I get inspired from seeing a word or phrase, or from the news.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

I started searching for a publisher when I was about 18. I sent out query letters, outlines, synopses etc, but didn’t have one bite. I did, however, get a lovely collection of rejection letters. Since then I have collected more. I think I have enough to wallpaper my office!  Back in 2001, I started considering self-publishing again. I realized that if I took a risk and self-published that I would have a way to test my novels in the real world. And I would also have a track record of sales and experience to show to a traditional publisher. So I self-published 3 novels and found that being a published author was “it”. I had finally found myself. But my goal was (and is) always to be published by a big NY publisher like Bantam or Warner. I dream BIG…and in full color. So…if someone from Bantam or Warner happens to be reading this…please email me. I am also looking for an agent.

I receive lots of emails from aspiring or novice writers, and I tell them all the same thing. Self-publishing is a viable option, but you should pay your dues and submit to the traditional publishers first. Aim high! But keep in mind that less than 2% of manuscripts are accepted. To some, this may seem a defeatist attitude, but it’s reality. So be prepared to work hard and look for opportunities. I spent years doing it the “right” way and I don’t regret it. I learned so much. And I think that is one of the reasons why I was finally picked up by a traditional publisher. I had walked the walk. Self-publishing was an option and a choice. It won’t work for everyone. I think of it as building a ladder and climbing it, one rung at a time. You have to start somewhere—usually at the bottom–and work your way up. I meet too many authors who want the quick fix. There really is none. Just as you should be honing and perfecting your craft of writing, you should hone the business side. Getting published is business. And it’s not for everyone. That said, if you want it badly enough, MAKE it happen. Dare to dream…and dream BIG!

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

I really enjoy book signings. That’s where I get to meet existing and potential fans. I love talking to people about my novels. But really, at a signing I only see so many people. The best promotion is online. Using my blogs, MySpace, and networking groups such as Ning, I am able to connect to hundreds of thousands of people every day…and I don’t even have to change out of my housecoat! Just like today! 

What is your favorite book of all time? Why?

I knew you’d ask me a really difficult question eventually. I have so many favorites, it’s hard to choose. But I guess the one that has always stayed with me is The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. King Arthur, Camelot, forbidden love, bloody battles, a mystical hidden island, beautiful women and handsome warriors…what more could you want? I loved being thrown into a world of conspiracies, damsels in distress, the heroes that rescue them–and the magic that surrounds them. Talk about escapism. And don’t we all need to escape once in a while? That’s what a good book does. It offers a retreat from reality…even for a short time.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

I have many sites and blogs. I’ll list the main ones here.
http://www.whalesongbook.com
http://www.cherylktardif.com
http://cherylktardif.blogspot.com

Do you have another novel in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I always have other novels at various stages of completion. I recently finished Children of the Fog, a suspense thriller about a woman whose son is kidnapped—before her very eyes. This is one of those terrifying moments we never want to think about: if someone threatened to kill you and your child if you didn’t allow him to take your child, would you let him do it? I like to ask these kinds of chilling questions.

For fans of Divine Intervention, I must apologize that I have not finished Divine Justice. I am waiting to hear whether my new publisher (or another) wants to take Divine Intervention first. If they pick it up, then I will be free to continue with the series. I’m sorry it’s taking so long. If you want to, feel free to post to my guestbook on my publisher’s site. If you mention that they should take Divine Intervention and that you’re waiting for Divine Justice, they may just make a decision soon. http://www.kunati.com/cheryl-kaye-tardifs-guest-book (my publisher reads these posts).

I am currently working on: Divine Justice, Submerged and a terrifying thriller/horror (thinking of it makes MY skin crawl). I’m not sure in which order they will be published. I also have a list of 20+ future works, and I occasionally write short stories, some of which are now Amazon Shorts (Picture Perfect and A Grave Error), which you can buy for .49 cents on Amazon.com.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

Thank you so much for inviting me and for being part of my virtual book tour. I hope your readers will join me on my tour. I’ll be chatting about all sorts of things related to Whale Song and writing, and there will be prizes at some of the stops. 

To view my next stop, please see: http://www.whalesongbook.com/virtual-tour-2007

Interview by Mayra Calvani, aka The Dark Phantom

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