Welcome to our Author Interview series. Today we're featuring an interview with Cherese A. Vines, author of Countercharm and Countercharm 2: Of Stars and Dreams. Our author interview series provides an opportunity for our readers to get to know our authors on a deeper level and also learn more about the types of books we're publishing.
Cherese A. Vines was born into a military family during the late 1970s. She has lived in a number of different cities throughout her life, including Chicago where most of her family resides. Although she has a background in Journalism, her love of reading fiction led her to creative writing pursuits. Cherese has incorporated her experiences and travels into her writing, which includes young adult fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. She currently resides near the Atlanta area with her husband and two children.
Sydnie Knight never knew how much her life would change when her mother sent her to Seattle. Upon her first meeting with a strange young man named Ron Andres, she has a foreboding feeling about him. After a series of dreamlike visions, bizarre behavior, and a near-fatal drowning accident, Sydnie is sent to “talk things out” with psychologist Dr. Neal Vaughan. From the doctor, Sydnie learns frightening realizations that only get more fantastic as time goes on. Who can she trust when she finds out her mother is missing and everyone seems to think she’s gone crazy? Including herself.
Synopsis: Countercharm 2: Of Stars and Dreams
After Sydnie Knight called on the stars to destroy the man who terrorized her family, everything should have returned to normal. But as dreams reveal that he may have survived, Sydnie also discovers that she must stay on guard against her mother as well. Her only hope against the evil energy threatening to consume her is to find her father.
Can Sydnie change the horrible visions of her future, or will unlimited power seduce her and destroy any hope of reuniting her family?
Tell us about Countercharm.
Countercharm is about 16-year-old girl Sydnie who is sent to her aunt's house in Seattle for the summer. She misses her mother who travels constantly. When she finds out that her mother is missing, Sydnie's search for her reveals fantastic things about her family, one of which is that she may not even be from Earth.
In this modern fantasy, readers can imagine "what if" there is some other reason they have to go on boring family visits over the summer. What if there is something out of the ordinary their parents are keeping from them?
How did your book come to life?
I was about thirteen when I wrote the first draft of Countercharm. It was the early 1990s and the revival of the television show "Dark Shadows" was airing. I was really into that show and thought about writing a story about a vampire as well. However, I thought better of the vampire theme, but kept the mysterious nature of Ron and Sydnie's origins. I received a lot of positive feedback on it and many requests for a sequel. I thought I had wrapped it up pretty well, but I kind of left it a little open-ended about Sydnie's father. I wrote the first draft of Countercharm 2: Of Stars and Dreams within a year of publishing the first book. I had the climax of the story complete. However, it took me another seven years (2009) to get it the way I wanted. I guess I was a little nervous about my fans liking the sequel and I wanted to build around the climax and make it just right.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Sydnie is my favorite of course because she has a lot of me in her. But it was fun writing Ron's and Neal's characters as well. They are almost complete opposites of each other and they both have agendas for Sydnie.
Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?
There are a lot of people who never understood and probably never will understand why their parents did and do what they do. In Sydnie's case, her mother sends her to stay with her aunt and she doesn't understand why she can't just stay with her mom. As we get deeper into the story, we find out that there is a very good reason for Sydnie and her mom not being together. I think it's great to imagine that the boring and difficult things in our lives are actually just to keep us safe from something exciting and extraordinary.
The Countercharm series is about a normal girl who finds something extraordinary about her family. Even though there are more fantasy elements about Sydnie's story, it has a present day setting. It's easy for the reader to imagine wonderful things going on just beyond what they know about their own family. Family trees can reveal exciting things we didn't know about.
How long did it take you to write your book?
I hand-wrote the entire first draft of Countercharm during my lunch breaks when I was in my freshman year of high school. I didn't work on it at home, so it took a few months to finish although it was very short. I revised it many, many times over the next ten years. It was sporadic. I would put it down and then not think about it for years. I found Infinity Publishing and self-published in 2001. Countercharm 2: Of Stars of Dreams took me less than six months to write. I made myself write one hour a day, and one hour only, to get it done. Some days I was really into it and didn't want to stop and then some days it went slowly. So I was grateful for the left over ideas from my really good days to help me through those slow ones. However, just like the first book, after it was finished I spent years revising. I was happy about the years spent revising. I think it made my story, writing style and structure much better than it would've been. I still have the handwritten draft of Countercharm and it seems comical to me. I can definitely tell a 14-year-old inexperienced writer wrote it.
Who inspires you as an author?
When I read books by other authors I enjoy or when I see a really well thought out and exciting movie, it inspires me to write. I think of variations on the stories I've read. I think about how I would change a character or the ending. This usually gets my creativity going.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do?
I write to take an adventure. I see these people and places in my head and I just want to flesh them out and see where they take me. It's kind of like an escape, a mini-vacation. Making up stories is something I've always done. Writing them down came a little later. Then when I realized I could actually have a book (actual paper and ink) in my hand with my words for other people to read...I was ecstatic.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I'm all for self-publishing obviously (smile). I think there are a lot of good books out there that are getting overlooked because traditional publishers don't think it will sell. I think it's a good outlet for people to share their creativity with others or just with family in a way that will last lifetimes. It also leaves a lot to be desired from a quality standpoint. There are many writers who are not editing or getting professional help and that kind of turns readers against reading independent authors. Self-publishing is also a homegrown business where the author is in charge from writing to editing to formatting to artwork to promotion and the list goes on. It's not for everyone. I still think self-publishing is a great thing that has happened to the publishing industry. Also, I still think there is a place for traditional publishing. It is a staple that just needs to grow and change with the world. I compare it to the film industry. Traditional publishing is like the big studios and blockbusters and the array of locations film throughout the world. It's big and beautiful and entertaining. Self-publishing is like Cannes and Sundance. It's the thought-provoking, edgy, truly creative side of film. They both give us great entertainment and can work together to give us what we all would like to see.
Why did you decide to publish with Infinity Publishing?
This was about ten years ago and I discovered that I could self-publish my book through on-demand publishing. So I followed the guidelines in a Writers' Digest magazine on what to look for in an on-demand publisher. I came across Infinity Publishing. The package they offered, the fact that I could retain the rights to my book and the price were very appealing. Infinity matched well with many of the suggestions from my magazine article and I decided Infinity was the way to go. I published my second novel with them because I liked their author-oriented focus. I recommend them when anyone I know is considering self-publishing.
What is your favorite book?
The Princess Bride is the best book I've ever read. I'm not sure if it is because I loved the movie version (which I saw first) so much. But just reading the book brought me to a deeper understanding of the characters. The adventure is wonderful. It is filled with pirates, princesses, romance, true love, giants, and miracles! Love, love, love it! It has everything for me.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Loving my family. Housework. Reading. Writing. Not necessarily in that order. If I'm writing, the others kind of get neglected especially during National Novel Writing Month in November. This is year six for me and I'm excited, so I might not see my family for Thanksgiving. Sorry, kids. Mommie still loves you!
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