Debut Author Spotlight: Cheryl Ann Smith

Name: Cheryl Ann Smith 

Book: The School for Brides 

Age: 40-ish 

Current Home: SE Michigan 

Author Icon: My favorite book is Shanna, so Kathleen Woodiwiss. 

Number of manuscripts hidden under the bed: 8-10 full manuscripts and many, many partials.

Time it took to sell first book: This book took only a couple of months to sell once my agent read the finished manuscript and submitted it to editors. But I’ve been writing for about 16 years.  

Writing The School for Brides: The easy parts are always the hero and heroine. When I got the idea for the courtesan school, I wanted a heroine who was living a double life. To hide her mother’s courtesan past, Eva rescues and schools the courtesans wearing a drab disguise. She also had to be strong and spirited as she challenges everything the hero stands for. Nicholas had to be totally alpha and rigid in his beliefs so that everything Eva does ticks him off and notches up their conflict. Other challenges for me are punctuation and adding too much detail in my books. I’m mediocre with the first (thank goodness for copy editors!) and my wonderful editor somehow manages to rein me in on the second. But I am getting better!

Inspiration for writing: I’ve always loved both history and a good romance. When I was fourteen, my mom brought home Kathleen Woodiwiss’The Flame and the Flower. I stayed up all night to read that book. I was hooked! She wrote such richly wonderful romances. Kathleen was certainly my inspiration. However, it wasn’t until about 15 years later that I decided to write my own book. It took 5 years, was too long and thin on plot, but I knew from those first pages that I wanted a writing career. Thankfully I’ve learned a lot about writing and plotting since then!  

Why historical romance: There is something romantic and sexy about the Regency period; clothing, coaches, society, servants, everything. Also, the people seemed so proper from the outside, but they were quite a salacious group! I’ve heard that as long as a wife gives her husband a legitimate heir, then the rest of the children can belong to whatever lover she chooses. True? Who knows? But is there a better time period to set my courtesan school?

Researching heroine Eva Black, the daughter of a courtesan: There are many stories about courtesans and their relationships to kings and other powerful historical figures. Some courtesans were very highly placed in certain parts of society and even held positions of power themselves. Before I started my book, I learned that many Regency courtesans had not only married, but married well. What frustrated me with these stories was the lack of information about the courtships between these couples. This made me curious as to how those women went from courtesans to wives. Did they have help? Did they use seduction to hook their men? And what made these men choose a courtesan wife? There were all sorts of things that I really wanted to know. This led me to write about a heroine matchmaker who could answer all my questions. Thankfully, as a fiction writer, I can make up stuff to fill in the blanks!        

The making of hero Nicholas, Duke of Stanfield: I’ve always liked an aggravating hero; the one you wish would fall off a cliff at the beginning of the book, but who is changed by his relationship with the heroine. The challenge was to keep Nicholas’s alpha personality in place, yet, give him enough sympathetic traits to draw in the reader. He also required a history to show why he is the way he is. His father was horrible to both Nicholas and his mother. This was the only role model he knew, so Nicholas grew up to be much like his father; cold, distant, and very authoritative. I had to do something to shake him up, and what better way to accomplish that than to use passion as a catalyst? But the Eva he knew was a dour and unappealing spinster. He needed to see past this and I wanted his first small glimpse of the real Eva to come as an intriguing surprise. Then he is no longer just a cold duke, but a passionate man on the hunt to uncover all of her secrets.   

Writing advice to live by: First, keep writing and submitting. A writer can’t get published if he/she doesn’t send out manuscripts to agents or editors. The second tip is to always have a back-up book in the works. This worked for me! My agent passed on another manuscript I’d sent her but loved my voice. She hoped I would send her future projects. So I e-mailed her a partial for this book that same day, and signed with her seven hours later.      

Writing routine: My routine is simple. I get up early when my family is asleep, read a few e-mails to help me wake up, and then write as many pages as possible until my brain freezes up. For the first few months I put down a rough draft of the entire book from start to finish (about 250 pages). After, I go back and weave in more detail, dialog, etc., until I hit my 400 page goal. That’s my favorite part. For me it’s like saving the best writing for last.

Work in progress: The Accidental Courtesan is Eva’s sister, Noelle’s, story. In her attempt to help a courtesan in trouble, Lady Noelle Seymour stumbles onto the hero when she sneaks into his bedroom to return a stolen necklace, and is caught. In order to extricate herself from the situation, and distract him from her real purpose, she makes him a seductive proposal. This proposal comes back to haunt her when he eventually learns her true identity and pursues her with a single minded focus. As with all the books in the series, this story has passion, fun, and a little bit of mystery. There’s an excerpt of the first chapter of this story at the end of The School for Brides.