Tell me something about yourself, Cher.
I was a Fraud Investigator for the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General for eight years. While there, I was honored to receive two awards for my investigations, one of which was for ‘removing a child from a dangerous situation’. I later opened my own Private Investigations firm and operated that until moving to Florida, where I began writing and painting.
Can you tell me briefly about your latest book? Are there any messages in the book that you want readers to know about?
My latest book, Coal Hollow: An Echo in the Abyss, was self-published in March 2018. It is a fiction mystery about two Private Investigators who have been asked to collaborate in a search for a missing child. The case has gone cold, but is not closed. One of the messages I wanted to convey is that far too often, the term ‘missing child’ actually turns out to be a child who has been caught up in a web in which children are used and sold for evil intent. Every time my phone signals an Amber alert in my area, I get chills. The intent of this book was to help raise awareness, so that as citizens, we may take these alerts seriously and guard our children from heinous criminals who lurk everywhere in our changing society.
Tell me who or what was the inspiration behind your book?
During one of my investigations, I encountered a situation similar to the one I described above. The case has stayed in my psyche, as many of my cases do.
When you get an idea for a book, what comes first? Dialogue, characters, a specific scene, or do you plot it before you write?
For me, the plot comes first. Once I know that, I begin designing characters. As a writer, you are in charge. You will tell the story through your characters, their dialogue, their ticks, their quirks, the scenery, and your plot. The story is unveiled through the characters and each must have their own voice and purpose.
What are some of the important things that you take into consideration when writing a story?
I want readers to feel as though they are in the story, waiting for each turn, twist, emotion, and to feel the environment. Once the reader understands each character, they can relate on some level, because we all share some aspect of their personas, or know people who are like them.
Why should readers pick up your book?
People are fascinated by Private Investigators. To some extent, the media has glamorized this career. To be sure, it can be exciting and challenging, but a P.I. also encounters dark forces at times. No classroom training can adequately prepare someone for that. You almost need a sixth sense, an intuitive ability, in order to be a successful investigator. I am not certain that everyone has this type of discernment, but they can live it vicariously through my book. For example, the main character has a recurring dream. She wonders why she has this bane, and in fact, whether it is a portent of things to come. Intuition is not always conscious reasoning, but rather, instinct. That, along with a strong ability for observation, is what makes a good investigator, and these characteristics in the main character.
What was the turning point when you realized you wanted to write and share your voice with others?
I began writing in earnest when my brother committed suicide. I wrote poems and short stories as a catharsis, a way of healing. It helped me more than any therapy had, but we all must find our way when tragedy strikes. I wrote my first book Gandy Dancing on the Second Floor in the hope of helping others. When we lose a loved one to suicide, we are always left with unanswered questions. Perhaps the most we can hope for is that we can work through our grief and heal. It was gratifying for me when those who read that book, wrote to me and said they felt less alone. It is a beginning from which we can move forward.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge authors face in promoting their books?
I have read many times that, on the whole, writers are an introverted lot. That is certainly true of me. I feel far more comfortable typing on my keyboard than being in social situations. Fortunately, we have social media and that does help in promoting our work. Since self-publishing my first book four years ago, however, I have found that right now the market is flooded with self-published books. Even well-known authors are self-publishing and are circumventing the go-to-Publisher route. We need to be more creative than ever in promoting our work.
Are you active in the social networks, and which is your favorite?
I am somewhat active on LinkedIn and very active on Twitter. I love Twitter because I am a political junkie, but I have also sold some of my books through connections in Twitter, as well as on LinkedIn.
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors?
If the written word is your love, then read as many books as possible, write, and then write some more. Keep a small notebook with you and jot down interesting features of people and the way they move and speak. One day when you are developing characters for your novels, refer to your notes and bring interesting characters to life through their quirks.
Where can readers purchase your books?
Give me an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
The main character in Coal Hollow: An Echo in the Abyss is Private Investigator Caroline Davis. She is a deeply flawed person, but all of this serves her well in her investigations. She knows the cons in the game and uses her past to drive her, rather than hold her back. She is undaunted in this investigation that places her in the throes of evil forces. She is not only fighting for the missing child, but for her own soul and salvation.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
When I am writing, I prefer to write through the night. I love the silence and the solitude. It helps to place me directly into the scenes, so that I am living it as I write.
What was the hardest thing about writing Coal Hollow? How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The hardest thing about writing Coal Hollow is that even when I was not writing, I was dreaming about it. I lived it. I saw the plot unfolding as though it had jumped off my outline into my psyche. It took me almost a year to write the book.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
I did not get writer’s block while writing Coal Hollow. I had an outline and only occasionally I deviated from it. I knew my characters and allowed them to unfold with the plot.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
If money were no object, yes, I would definitely use a PR agency. Competition these days is fierce.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
This is a controversial subject among authors, and I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. After putting in countless hours in writing this book, I could not give it away as a promotion. To me, this diminishes the work. It diminishes me. I set the price of my book to make it viable. Is being an author no less a career than any other profession? That is a question each author must decide.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
My website is https://www.cherduncombe.com
Thank you, Stefan, for your interest in my books and your time doing this interview.
A Pennsylvania native, Cher resides with her husband in Florida where she takes her experiences in life and from work in a career as a PI to turn to crafting compelling stories. Her first, released in 2014, was Gandy Dancing on the Second Floor and her second, Coal Hollow: An Echo In The Abyss, is now available.
In her spare time, she is passionate about turning to painting to communicate what she cannot write. Her continuing motivation comes from an artistic need to express a thought, a story or an emotion. Samples of her art can be enjoyed here on her website.
You can purchase Cher’s books on Amazon.