Cheryl Barton lives in Maryland and in her spare time she loves to read espionage, crime and romance novels, cook, watch Sci-fi movies, spend time with family and friends and enjoy Maryland steamed crabs. Cheryl is celebrating 30 years as a government employee and loves writing romance novels when she’s not working. Cheryl is the author of 31 romance novels, 3 inspirational novels and is proud of 4 book compilation projects with several other incredible women called, “One Sister Away: Encouraging Words from One Sister to Another” – a series of books meant to encourage, empower and inspire other women. People often ask Cheryl which book is her favorite of all of those she’s written. While she finds it hard to select one favorite, Cheryl still looks to her first novel, Bachelor Not for Sale, if she had to pick a favorite because it was her first novel and the one that inspired her to continue writing.
Cheryl was a 2018 Finalist of the Literary Trailblazer of the Year award, given by the Indie Author Legacy Awards’ yearly event. Cheryl is a member of the Romance Writers of America – National Chapter and the Maryland Romance Writers. She is also a member of the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland and a member of the International Women Writers Guild.
Indulge in more romance and inspirational novels by visiting her website at http://www.cherylbarton.net and connect with Cheryl on social media at:
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my writing journey. I get excited anytime someone asks me to talk about my books and the process to getting them in the hands of my readers. There are times when I still can’t believe that I actually have readers and fans of my books. I didn’t expect that in 2022, I would still be writing full novels and having fans ask me for more. When I released my first book back in 2013, I had no clue that I was meant to be a writer. My mother would say that I’ve been writing since I was young, but I don’t recall any writing that wasn’t school related. I can say that I have loved reading since I was a little girl and I still do. Writing and being serious about it didn’t come along until 2010. That was the year that was the most trying for me mentally and emotionally. My oldest brother passed away suddenly that year. I’m often known to be the strong one in my family, but trust me, that’s a public appearance. In private, after he passed away, I struggled with sleeping through the night. I went through days of wondering how to make it in a world that no longer included my big brother. That was a very hard time. In my grief, I turned to writing. I would write these little letters to him, but more to myself, questioning why he was no longer here; why he had to go. I saw the pain my parents went through, and I didn’t want that for them. I didn’t want that hurt for anyone. I discovered that writing out my thoughts and feelings was therapeutic. Over time, my heart began to heal through those small writings. I also dived even deeper into reading, letting the stories take me to a nice, happy place. I fell in love with reading romance novels and I remember saying to myself, “I can do that; I can write this mushy stuff too!” I decided to take a creative writing class to see if I had what it took to do more than write out a few passages. I enjoyed that class so much that I turned my final class assignment into my first novel, Bachelor Not for Sale. What started out as a twenty-page writing assignment turned out to be the catalyst that launched my desire to write a novel. That led into me now having over 40 published romance and inspirational novels. I framed that class assignment to remind me of where I started and how far I’ve come. The love for that novel from those who read it and the remarkable feedback I received was all the encouragement I needed to stay the path. That was the moment I knew that I was called to be a writer. Others besides my mother bought my book and continue to do so. When you’re blessed with a gift, you’re not supposed to sleep on it; so, I didn’t. The fact that I’m still at it nine years later and still enjoying it tells me I’m doing what I was meant to do; bring joy and happiness into the life of a reader. My mom has a saying, “what I am to be is up to me.” I could have walked away after that first book, but the tug to continue to write was too strong. Writing is now a permanent part of my life.
I love telling good-hearted stories, especially the ones that warm a reader’s heart, making them feel good about the possibility of having the greatest love. I overjoyed when I get an idea for a new book. I’m happiest when I’m picturing my main characters going through ups and downs and then falling so in love with each other that they can’t imagine being without each other ever again. It’s the characters that I write about that keep me coming back with new ideas. Bringing them to life in my head and on paper means my stories will be around long after I’m not. People will be able to pick up a copy of my book many, many years from now and know that I loved writing about love.
I often get frustrated with myself when it comes to writing if I have plenty of free time to work on my word count for a book, yet I can’t seem to focus on writing. Once I’m easily distracted, it’s hard to get my focus back. Long weekends and quiet evenings are prime for writing, but I find that those are the times when I get the least amount of writing done. I plan it out by setting the time aside but then I sit down at my computer and hours later, there isn’t single word on the screen. I’ve had full days where I start early around six in the morning and at the end of the night, I’ve done everything but write. The next day, I look back on the previous non-productive day and realize the wasted time. I make up for it by pushing myself to do better. My readers depend on me to keep the great stories coming.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My books are found within two genres; romance and inspiration. I am a huge fan of any and everything happily ever after. We are living in trying times with pandemics, wars, hatred, racial disparities, which are all causes of stress in people’s lives. I have romance novels that go from clean romance like my Christian romance series, When God Says Yes, to sexy like my A Lovers’ Heart series, to very steamy like my book, Being Neighborly, which is a free book found at the end of my Seize the Moment novel. There is something for everyone’s taste buds.
My series are very popular, especially my Bachelor series, which is where my first novel is included. I also have another very popular series, The Brothers of Chi-Town. I’m currently working on book seven of that series of eight books.
One of my favorite books is I wrote, And Then There Was You, is one I am most proud of. The love story is set in Malibu, California. I the entire story while on a trip I took to the Los Angeles. On my first day, I took a drive up Pacific Coast Highway and into Malibu, fulfilling a life-long dream. I’m a movie buff. I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve loved simply because there were scenes shot from that highway. Malibu is so pretty and pristine; it was prime for the perfect romantic setting for a novel. I eventually sat on the beach to take some pictures, took out my iPad and wrote out an outline. Before I left to return to Maryland six days later, the draft of that book was complete using the locations I encountered as the backdrop for the story. Making the locations for my stories is key when I’m writing. I want my readers to feel like they are in the same place as the main characters. It makes the stories more real to them and to me.
I mentioned that I also write Christian romance. That was something I decided to try one day on a whim. I am a Christian and the love of God is a very important part of my life. In the series, When God Says Yes, I have two books so far, Rescue Me and Release Me. I’m working on a third in that series called, Restore Me. I love this series because the point of it isn’t about the love and romance between the main characters or even finding the perfect love within each other. It’s about forgiveness and finding your way out of a situation while learning to trust the love of God and the path He’s chosen for your life. This series is about the love of being in God’s arms and living according to His plan. Every book in this series connects back to my favorite scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” NIV
I also want to highlight an inspirational compilation book project called, One Sister Away: Encouraging Words from One Sister to Another. In this four-volume series, I partnered with women from all walks of life to share words of love and inspiration from their heart with poetry, short stories, testimonies and short passages of encouragement. The goal of this project, which is very dear to me, was to remind women that we are our sister’s keeper. Each volume has a new batch of powerful words.
All of my books, romance and inspirational, can be found on my website as downloads and paperback at https://www.cherylbarton.net or https://www.crbarton.com. I encourage everyone to check them out and share with their family and friends. Again, there is something in my collection for every reader.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
I draw my inspiration for the stories I write from everyday life; from the things and people around me. I tell people that I can look at anything and out of what I’m seeing comes an entire story. I can look at a tree and think of a love story where two people met under that tree, but life separated them; coincidence and love brought them back. I could look out of my window at the snow and I would imagine a story about a woman being stranded in her car in the snow. A good Samaritan comes along and it turns out to be a friend from her past that she once had a crush on. There are twists and turns to the story where her father paid his father to send him away because her father had bigger plans for her. When you are born with a creative mind and it took you a lot of years to tap into that, once you do, that creativity flows like a fountain. That’s where I am in my writing career. I should have started it earlier in life. With no regrets, I’m making up for lost time now. I jot down ideas for stories no matter where I am. I was once in a restaurant enjoying breakfast and a group of men in biker gear walked in. I immediately outlined a storyline in my head and couldn’t wait to get it down on paper. I’m hoping to release that story in 2023. There is a love story in every aspect of life. I choose to focus on it every chance I get.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I don’t think writing on a schedule actually exists for a writer; at least not for me. I’ve tried that and failed. As writers, we plan for it, we have high hopes for it and there is a level of excitement to knowing that the desire is there to knock out another book, uninterrupted, but everyday life intervenes and becomes the priority. As much as I try, things don’t turn out that way for me. I’m best if I never write on a schedule. When I do, I end up with writer’s block. What I do now is, I write when I feel inspired. Some days it may be for a few minutes and others, it may be a full day. I work full-time during the day, four days a week, so that time is off my schedule for writing. The good thing about that is, I have three days in a row, Saturday to Monday evening, to write until I’m exhausted. I also write in the evenings when I can.
I find that my mind flows best during the early morning hours. I’m a four or five in the morning kind of writer. My creativity works best when I’m not tired or exhausted; it’s that freshness of the day that pushes me.
Some writers work best when they outline all of their novels. That’s definitely not me. There are times where I’ve sat down with no outline in place and I write based on where my mind takes me at that moment. Most of my standalone novels are done that way. It’s just that one story. When I do outline, it’s done when I want to write a series, whether two books or eight books. The stories need to connect somehow, and so, outlining is the best route to take. I like to lay out how each book will intertwine. I will say that I try not to put myself in a box when it comes to writing. I don’t like to do things one way all the time. Creativity doesn’t flow on a schedule and therefore, my process doesn’t flow on a schedule either. I like to explore where a story goes without knowing the end when I sit down to write in order to surprise myself.
The timeframe for me to finish writing a novel goes from two days to several months. One of my favorite books, and a fan favorite, Seize the Moment, was written in one day. I wrote that during the height of the pandemic. I woke up around four in the morning with the idea of a story around rekindling a relationship and understanding each other’s worth when they are forced, by way of lockdown, to spend time together. Prior to that, both of my main characters were busy achieving their next career goal while not focusing on each other and the love they share. Of course, it was the state of the world at that time that inspired that book, which was a favorite of my readers. When I was done writing it, I decided to add a short story as a free book with every purchase of Seize the Moment. I wrote, Being Neighborly, on that same day, so that’s two books in one day. I have a book, Xavier’s Plan, the first in a new series, that I’ve been working on for years. This is one that’s dear to me because the entire series is set in Baltimore, Maryland, where I grew up. I want to get it right. I can’t seem to get those six books exactly where I want the storylines to go. I think I started that one about five years ago. There is no rhyme or reason to my process. I go with what works and what I’m feeling. Whether it’s one day or one year, the end result is to give the readers what they want and what I love to write.
I have several books I’m working on at this time. I never focus on just one book at a time. I’m excited that I’m finally releasing book one of a military romantic series called Game Changers. The first book is called, On the Lam. This is another series that I had plans to release several years ago, but the stories were never right for me. For years, I couldn’t get beyond the idea for the first book. I wanted to know the beginning and ending of all five books in that series. I’m getting close. The first will come out later this year. That’s exciting because I’ve had readers who follow my books closely who read the book, Un-Break My Heart, where I first mentioned the new series. They ask me all the time when will the Game Changers series be coming out. I’m happy to tell them that the series is on the way this year!
There is also book three of my The Sullivans of Montana series, On the Right Track that I just finished. That’s my black cowboy series about brothers, love and ranch life in Bozeman, Montana. The preorder is available on my website and I’m going to release a chapter teaser in April for those who are VIP members on my website. That book is currently going through editing right now.
When I stated I never work on one book at a time, I can tell you that I love all the feels holiday romances bring me. I’m going to be releasing a Christmas romance novel in July. Who says Christmas love stories are only for the Christmas season? No one. The book, The Christmas Layover, is funny and sexy with a winter resort setting. What better love is there than being snowed in together and slowing life down just enough to realize what you’ve been missing. The preorder for that is also on my website with a huge discount until the day the book releases. Romance readers should check that out now on my website at https://www.cherylbarton.net. I have a couple of other things in the works. This is going to be a good year for me. The pandemic forced me to stay indoors more than I usually would. Because of that, I was able to get more writing done.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
I don’t know if I could categorize this book as moving me emotionally, but it definitely made me want to read. That book was Robert Ludlum’s, The Chancellor Manuscript. That’s the first book I remember reading that was a teenage girl book and I loved it! I get my love of reading from my dad, John Barton, Jr. I grew up watching him read one back after another and books stoked my interest. He had finished reading that book and I saw it lying around one day. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. I still have that actual book in my home library. I’m never letting it go. I loved the imagery that book provided in my head. I could see each scene as I was reading it. There are times when I’ve been known to read a book a day. When it comes to romance novels that moved me, I have to give credit to Brenda Jackson for her Madaris book series. I picked up a book that was a collection of the first three books in the series. The love and sexiness that flowed from the pages of those stories sent my heart fluttering for everyone to have that kind of love. After reading that, I can happily state that I own over a thousand romance books either in paperback or hardback. I haven’t been able to stop reading romance since her books. She was my biggest inspiration for me writing romance today.
I know this interview is about me being a writer, but even more than writing, I love to read. When I read, these days, it’s not typically a romance novel. I love crime, mystery and espionage novels over everything. I’m currently reading The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly. Ever since I discovered his Bosch series on Amazon Prime, I’ve been going back and reading other novels by him. I do love to read more than one book at a time just as I do with writing more than one book at a time. I’m also reading High Stakes by Iris Johansen, another of my favorite authors. A perfect evening for me is a snack, a good book, my favorite blanket, stretched out in front of my fireplace with a book in my hands. I think I’ll do that tonight!
My favorite author of all-time is hands-down, Stephen King. Yes, I know, he’s not a romance writer, but he is at the top of the game when it comes to telling stories. His books, The Stand and Needful Things are my favorites, if I had to pick two. There are many more and I own all of them in either hardback or paperback. I even own the books he wrote as Richard Bachman. He is the guide by which writers should mirror what it means to be creative. His stories are so wild and out there, you can’t believe someone actually comes up with the storylines he has. You can’t go wrong with any of his books. A close second would be Tom Clancy. Yes, another non-romance writer. I’m on a roll here! The first book I read by him was Executive Orders. The book starts out with both houses of Congress wiped out in an attack by a plane. That book was a wild ride from beginning to end. I then went in search of more of his books and I do believe I own all of his as well.
As for my favorite romance author, that would have to be Brenda Jackson. She is why I began writing romance novels. I have a special shelf in my home library of nothing but her books on it. A huge thanks goes out to her for birthing my love for romance novels.
Christian fiction, since I write it, my favorite authors would be Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, who wrote the Left Behind series, based on the book of Revelation. I was gifted the first book in that series. I remember reading Left Behind in one day. It was that engaging. I purchased each one in the series, each being better than the last.
As you can see, my interest as a reader is widespread, not just in one genre. My love of reading reaches far and wide to a lot of other authors; Patricia Cornwell, Iris Johansen, Rochelle Alers, Stuart Woods; the list goes on and on. I love a good book where I keep telling myself, one more chapter. There have been many nights where I’ve fallen asleep with my face literally planted in a book. That makes for some good reading.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I would consider my most significant achievement as a writer to date is that since 2013, I have self-published over forty romance and inspirational novels. When I wrote that first book in 2013, I never thought I would be an author of so many books. I thought it was a good idea to do that one book to see where it would go. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever foreseen becoming a writer of forty books. Trust me, I’m just beginning. There’s a plethora of other stories that I want to get out. I’m working on that.
Still writing as a hobby. I have thirty-four years at my current full-time job, and I plan to see that through to retirement. I don’t know when that will be at this moment, but I’ll know when it’s time. I am hoping to take the leap from self-publishing to traditional publishing sometime within the next couple of years. I’m ready to turn my love for writing into a stronger career path for when I do retire. I’m looking forward to a larger platform that will provide a much wider reach to romance readers. I’ll one day have more time to meet the kind of deadlines traditional publishers require. I doubt if I’ll retire in the next five years, but I will continue to push my writing more into the forefront. As an introvert, that’s not always a comfortable position to be in, but I think I’m ready. I do have a dream – don’t we all? I would love to see some of my novels on the television or even the movie screen. The current environment of streaming services have allowed more writers who may not have a platform through a large production studio to get their work on the screen. That’s something I would love to work on one day when I retire. If it happens sooner, I’m rocking with that too! I believe in all things in their time. My time is now with the ideal that a much greater time as a writer is coming. I can feel it in the air.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
I can’t say that I’ve dealt with any real rejection. I have my thick skin, strong personality and a self-worth that’s through the ceiling to thank for that. I don’t let much get to me when it comes to what someone else finds interesting or not about my writing. The wonderful thing about people being different is that it comes along with different tastes. What someone doesn’t find interesting, there is another person who loves it. I focus on the positive and continuing to write for those who enjoy my writing. I also decided a long time ago that I would put out the kind of romance that I would love reading. Doing that, I can put out the kind of novels I want to put out; I do what makes me happy. As a self-published writer, that means I don’t have to answer to anyone when it comes to asking and pleading to be taken on as a client. Rejection is a part of everyday life; things happen. I am the kind of woman who knows my self-worth. I know I have a creative mind. I write love stories that people swoon over. That’s the kind of response I like to see. As a reader, there are a lot of books that I’ve tried because friends recommended them. I found they weren’t for me and I kept it moving. That’s because our tastes are different, as they should be. That’s why I love seeing a large variety of styles in writing. Not everything should be the same.
The greatest advice I’ve been given and that I would give to another writer when it comes to navigating the process to publishing is to never, ever give up. Stay the path that takes you to your dream of being a published writer whether it’s through self-publishing or traditional publishing. I would also tell them to not be discouraged by naysayers. Social media has allowed people to display the worst in themselves when it comes to criticizing someone else’s talents. Negativity will always be around. It’s meant to hurt, harm and kill a dream. I say, don’t let it. Find what you love and do it no matter what. If no one likes my books, it’s okay. I do know that I will always have at least one sale of every single one of my books. My mother is my biggest supporter and she always buys a copy of every book. On that, life is good.
Every writer should know that there is a lot of help all over the internet in blogs, groups and yes, social media sites. There are some great people who will provide the best advice if you need it. Don’t be afraid to reach out. We are truly in this together. The writing community is strong. If you’re a writer, get involved and ask away.
Last, I would tell a writer to stick close to what’s good about their writing. Whatever started them on the path, nothing should make them give it up. It takes a lot to write a novel. Most critics have no idea what it takes to write a sixty- or seventy-thousand-word book and most never will.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
It’s extremely hard considering the time I have left over after working 40 hours a week. I write outside of that timeframe which means writing, marketing and promotion. The biggest saving grace is social media. There are so many ways to promote as an Indie author and I’ve built up a nice platform of followers who love my novels. I’m always searching and researching for more ways to reach more readers. The past two years have been a test because prior to the pandemic that started in 2020, I was able to participate in various events where I could display my books and potentially meet new readers. Taking that online only has been hard, but I’m a person who perseveres. I was forced to work more on my online presence than ever before. Building that up has led me to the decision to start working on shifting from self-publishing to traditional publishing. I’ve got several books I’m hoping to pitch this year. We’ll see how that goes.
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
No, I’ve never gone back and read my own books unless it’s during the editing process in order to fix errors. Once my book is completed and out in the public, I don’t pick up a final copy and read it like a reader would. I already know my book from cover to cover. As much as I love to read, I have a large stack to pull from when I want to read. I love to be comfortable with what I produce, again, unless there is a reason to fix something wrong. I’m busy working on a new book and choose to not go back to my book just for the sake of reading it. I’m always thinking ahead to what’s next.
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Absolutely not! As long as there is breath in anyone’s body, there is time to continue following your dreams. Age should never be a factor in reaching for a goal. I started writing at forty-eight years old. I still have the best stories ahead of me. In 2023, my plan is to add another genre to my palate. I’m going to tackle writing my first science fiction novel. I’m a huge science fiction fan and I’ve always wanted to write my own. That’s an exciting goal. I can’t wait to get it out and connect with an entirely new audience.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
When I think of how authentic I am as a writer, I look at how far I’ve come since 2013 when my first book was published. I believe in the gift that lives in me and continues to grow and expand every single day. There is a line from a movie that resonates in everything I do as a writer. In the movie, Sister Act II, Whoopi Goldberg’s character was speaking to Lauryn Hill’s character about music. Whoopi, as Sister Mary Clarence, told her that if she wakes up and all she can think about is singing, then she’s supposed to be a singer. As for me, I wake up every single day thinking about writing; thinking about my next great novel. All throughout the day, books are constantly on my mine. As big of a part as books play in my life, yes, I’m supposed to be a writer; therefore, I am.
I believe when I awakened the gift that was planted in me at birth to be a writer but took me many years to understand it being manifested in my life, I understood that I was never, ever to let it die or become dormant. I am to live and breathe the gift of writing that God gave me. Creativity explodes in my mind every day. Each new day comes with a new story; a new way of empowering through love in romance and empowerment through inspiration. I’m am far from perfect, but God’s gifts are perfect. The vision for my life is clear – I am to never give up on my dreams. I am never to believe that I’m not worthy of greater. I’m authentic because I believe in greater for me and those around me. I pour my heart into every single book project. I write about love just as much as I make sure my characters feel and find the kind of love that we all would love to have. I’m unique because I believe in me. I believe that all things are possible with faith. I have faith in me. I matter and so does my writing. If one person smiles after reading any of my books, then every single word that I write is well worth it. I write for others, yes, but most of all, I write for me.