I am so excited to introduce Wicked Romance’s next guest for Author Open Mic, YA author Elizabeth Cheryl. Her debut novel ,The Summerland, is due out any moment now. I can’t wait. Elizabeth has an amazing heartfelt story of love, courage and determination. I wouldn’t do her story justice so I am glad she is here today to share her journey to publication with you. Above are some snapshots of Elizabeth in Salem, MA (the setting of her book) and the individual her book, The Summerland, is dedicated– her mother.
Take a look at this beautiful cover…
When Abigail Parker moves to Salem, Massachusetts, with her Aunt Bridgette, nothing makes sense from the moment she arrives. A familiar but unknown voice whispers words of reassurance. Her aunt’s behavior is confusing at best.
When Bridgette’s gravely injured, Abigail desperately seeks help from a spell book she found in her closet. But something goes terribly wrong. Abbey is hurtled three centuries backward in time, landing in a vastly different Salem.
It’s summertime 1692 – the infamous witch trials are in full swing and Abigail’s sporting pink nail polish and a tattoo. Abigail finds William, the source of the familiar voice and something much more. However, she must return to modern Salem to retrieve the spell book.
Can she do so in time to save her family and without exposing herself to accusations of witchcraft? Most importantly, how does she leave when she’s just finding love?
Before we get to the interview questions below, I want to give Elizabeth the opportunity to tell her story, and the journey that brought her to this moment and time. Get your tissues out, because I don’t think there will be a virtual dry eye out there. When I first heard it, my breath caught in my throat. The amount of love that went into the writing of her book is astounding.
Elizabeth, thank you for coming today. Can you please take a moment to tell us your story and the significance of your journey?
Hi Jean…First of all I wanted to start off by thanking you for including me in such a wonderful blog. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work with such talented authors like yourself at Crescent Moon Press. Second I would like to acknowledge the loss of one of our own at Crescent Moon Press on Saturday. I just sadly read the news of Judi McCoy and we all will experience her absence in some form or another.
As for my story about how I ended up in such a wonderful family of writers is an interesting journey. About 2 years ago I had a dream about a couple in the Seventeenth Century. They were young and so in love. I wanted to create a world for them to belong to and a story that would touch hearts as they touched mine. I had decided to write about what life was like for them during Puritan Times and the torture endured during the Salem Witch Trials. What would one do if the man or woman you deeply loved were to be hung in front of you and your children. The thought gripped me. I began researching more about those times and the stories of the accused. During this process I had a notion to have my main character, Abigail live here during modern times and somehow time travel back to Salem, Massachusetts where the story takes place.
I had just recently learned that my mom was ill, possibly cancer but we were not sure of the severity back then. As I created Abigail’s story it took on a very similar spin as my mom’s life. My mom was born in raised just outside of Boston in a town called Millis, Massachusetts. She was about a half hour or 40 minute drive from Salem depending on traffic. I spent countless hours with my mom who needless to mention was also my very best friend. We would sit together in her office as I wrote each page picking her brain about Massachusetts and its scenery, smell, people and so on. Each page I wrote became a part of us. Her past, a history lesson for both of us and a bond of a story that we began to fall in love with. I would write a page and hand it to her in anticipation to see if she laughed at the right parts or cried where I had hoped she would.
So many times over that 8 month period of writing the book she shared that, “I was a wonderful writer” and I would crack up laughing because I had never written a damn thing in my life. I figured she just really loved me…
As the book came to an end, I had written an 85,000 word novel and she had edited her first book. We were so excited with what we had done together. But as life seems to have its own plans, my moms cancer had suddenly worsened. On January 31, 2011 I had just finished the last chapter of the novel when I received a phone call from my mom that she was having trouble breathing. My mom had been diagnosed with Non-Smoking Lung Cancer during our process of writing the book. I drove quickly to her house which was only 7 minutes from mine but seemed like 70 minutes knowing she was struggling to breathe. I had called 911 on the way to her house to make sure they would be there when I arrived. After viewing her CT Scans of her lung our worst nightmares had come to life. My mom was given 2 weeks to live.
I stood motionless in the hospital room with my brother and sister. We had decided to take my mom home with hospice to my bothers 5 acre house at the top of the El Dorado National Forest. There we cared for my mom until 13 days later she passed away in our arms on February 12, 2011. I had painted her toes that day and read to her the first three chapters of the book hoping it brought her some peace. You see Abigail, my main character ended up in Salem after losing her mother to cancer. Before I had any idea that I would lose my own mother to the same fate as the novel unraveled.
The Novel is called The Summerland because according to Pagan belief that is the place where the soul goes to rest before it is reincarnated into another human body for another life again on this planet. My mom had been Pagan most of my life. So this was a familiar concept to me.The day before my mom passed she was able to whisper a few words to me, her last words were, “I will see you in The Summerland.”
Those words run circles in my head as every day passes but aside from the irony of Abigail in my book and my mom with cancer there was another undeniable coincidence. My mom was very into earthly and spiritual things. She studied many religions but felt a deep connection with the more Pagan beliefs. With that came her appreciation for the cosmic realms of life including the moon. Being that it is one of the most fascinating things in the night sky it can easily become a favorite amongst paintings and jewelry and so on. Her favorite moon was the Crescent. It was her earrings and her pictures and rings…
When I wrote out my submission letters for publishers I was unsure of writing ever again. I lost my desire because she was not sitting by my side reading every page anymore. I had no one to write for. I only sent out 6 submissions at midnight one night. A day later I received a request for my manuscript and 4 days later I was signed with an amazing publisher, none other than its name being, Crescent Moon Press.
You mention that your heroine, Abigail has suffered a similar loss. Was it difficult putting your experience into words? Do you think your story will help other young adults understand how to cope with loss?
Yes, Jean it was very difficult. But you have to understand that when I wrote the novel my mom was still with me. I had never imagined what that type of pain could feel like. It wasn’t until I lost her that I actually could really relate to Abigail’s loss of her mom to cancer. After about a two month period of time, a time when I thought I would never write again was when I had to go through the manuscript and rewrite many parts of the book. From an actual perspective that was so hauntingly familiar to Abigail’s. I can only hope that from reading this story that it would give some peace of the healing process.
Your novel The Summerland is scheduled to release next month, March 2012 and what a beautiful cover. Not every author gets input into their own cover, but at Crescent Moon Press the authors get to communicate to the cover artist, key elements from their book. Themes, symbols etc… What input did you have in its creation? Tell us what you love best about your cover and how best it represents your story?
Well the cover was an interesting project. When I first wrote the book, and Summerland was in its baby stages I knew Abigail was young and blonde. I pictured her in a flowing white dress amongst a field of flowers. When you look up the definition of The Summerland on Google many images are described, many that sound similar to heaven. Warm and full of flowers and nature. I pictured that for the cover, but I also pictured an Oak Tree as well. The Oak Tree was a symbol in the book as the tree where the accused were hung on Gallows Hill. I pictured a beautiful strong tree with its mighty branches, but its once strong and magnificent arms had been turned into a killing machine to hang innocent people. That tree was not meant for those purposes and it took away from its pride and beauty. I felt that was significant as well for the cover. Crescent Moon Press created a cover that was beyond what my mind could had imagined. I could not be more proud, it was everything my mom and I had discussed. I can only hope she is looking down to see the beauty we had envisioned together.
What inspired you to write a YA story? What do you find most challenging and fulfilling about writing for this particular genre?
Hmmmm… My inspiration to write this story was my yearning to share with our generation of teens what life was like three hundred years ago. I took Abigail who was immersed in Facebook and iphones as most teens are and I slammed her into the Seventeenth Century. I felt it was important to explore life then compared to the freedoms we seem to take for granted now a days. Our history books only scratch the surface of what life was really like during Puritan times. How far we have come with our civil rights and how far women have come from being dunked in chairs or beaten with sticks for mis-spoken words. It was a harsh time to be a woman or to just be alive then.
I found the most challenging part of writing a young adult novel was tactfulness. I wanted to throw in some swear words every once in a while and maybe a steamy love scene but that was out of the question. I had to stay in the mind of an eighteen year old and that was difficult to do sometimes.
I love that this book travels back in time. What a shock it would be for a modern teenager to end up in Salem, MA. Without giving away any secrets… How does Abigail manage?
Haha…That’s a good question! How does she manage? Not very well I guess. She faces a lot of challenges and witnesses a society that is un-accepting of anything that is different, and lets face it, Abigail is very different. But one thing I can say is that she grows on this journey. As we all do in life, we will grow with her in this book and the next three sequels to follow….
Describe Abigail in five words or less… What about William?
Abigail in 5 words or less…. Naive, Passionate, Awkward, Caring, and on her way to becoming very strong.
William is Handsome, Well Mannered, Humorous, Compassionate, Sheltered
Do you see a little of yourself or your own children in Abigail?
I see a lot of myself in Abigail as far as her will to try to make a difference. She wants to change history and save the ones she loves. She is absolutely a gluten for punishment as I believe I can be that way and she loves with reckless abandonment. I might have a little of that too….Maybe…
The story’s setting is in Salem, MA. What inspired you to use this location? Have you been to Salem and do you have a favorite location you have been or would love to visit?
Well this is a heavy hitter question for me…I had not been to Salem when I first wrote the book. All the information I had gotten about the area I had to research through the internet and see through my moms eyes and her stories. We had a trip planned for last October to go there to visit Gallows Hill and Salem itself. It would be my first trip to the East Coast and Boston. We were going to see where her little house was and her high school. We had bought our plane tickets and were both so excited to go when the leaves were changing. She was so proud to finally share with one of her kids her home town. We were going to stuff our backpacks with food and go on adventures back there for about a week. But my little 4-year-old had gotten sick and I had to cancel our very special trip. She was devastated, she must had known she didn’t have much longer to live but never shared that disappointment with me. She passed away a few months later.
When I was offered a contract with Crescent Moon Press it was around the same time as the NEC Conference in Salem, Massachusetts. Not only was this conference right after I was offered my first book deal but it was in Salem!!! I knew I had to go. I flew out to Boston by myself in May of 2011 on a trip that was supposed to be with my mom. This was our trip, our time and extremely bittersweet…I cried all the way there on the plane because beside me was her ashes. I wanted to bring her on the trip but I also wanted to bring her home. I spread her ashes in Salem Harbor and in the Atlantic Ocean. I went on to Gallows Hill and most places she and I had discussed and I knew she was with me, just not the way we had planned.
I did have a chance to go back again just this last October 2011 for Halloween! It was amazing. I did tons of research on Gallows Hill. Walked Abigail’s street on Belleview Dr and even visited her coffee shop and bookstore from the book. It’s all really there in Salem. And the crazy part is I wrote all of that before I had ever been there. I feel and so does my family and dear friends that as I wrote the book everything that was in it has happened and is real…even finding true love..
Care to share some interesting facts from your research?
I can say one fact that I have learned is that they have said that the exact location of the 1692 hangings is unknown on Gallows Hill. There is a lot of information out there and I have made a commitment to myself over the course of my journey with this series, to find or come close to that infamous oak tree…I know its wishful thinking but I will have many adventures trying to find it.
Do you have a favorite author you would like to emulate? Or one that has influenced your writing?
Thats actually kind of funny because as a writer I am not exactly inspired by a specific author, I am inspired by history.
So, what do you have planned for your big launch? Where can readers find you next month and the weeks to come?
The big awaited launch??? I guess all over Northern California. I am going to RT in Chicago in April 2012 and I am very excited about that. I have many bookstores in Salem that want to do launches there and carry the books and a few things planned locally in Sacramento. I had Sacramento News and Review approach me a few weeks back about doing an article and interview. It will be out the first week in March so that is some great promo and I’m very humbled by the opportunity. I have a few other things up my sleeve over the next few months so I will keep you posted…I am just honored at this point to be able to breathe life into this story. It has so much meaning to me and my mom and I want to make her proud. Everything I do is in her light and its all dedicated to her. She was my everything.
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I want to thank Elizabeth for sharing her story with us today. It takes a lot of courage to be able to speak about something so painful, as the loss of her mother. Her and her mother’s journey inspires me and I have no doubt that Elizabeth will be successful in her endeavors. Her mom’s legacy will live on in her writing.
I can’t wait to read Abigail’s story. March can’t get here quick enough. The Summerland releases next month. Look for it on Amazon, B&N, and Goodreads.
Also, I want to second Elizabeth’s acknowledgment of Judi McCoy. She was a great mentor to those of us at Crescent Moon Press. It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Judi. Crescent Moon Press & RT Book Reviews have posted a tribute to Judi’s long-standing career, not only as an author but an avid mentor and teacher. May we all send our love and prayers to her and her family during this great time of loss.