Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Cheryl Burman, Author of ‘Keepers’

2 April 2021

Special Guest Interview with Cheryl Burman, Author of ‘Keepers’

Available from Amazon UK, 

Maybe her mother’s right. At eight months pregnant Raine shouldn’t be on a jolting bus crawling through melting snow on a mountain track searching for her husband. He might not want to be found. 
She might not want to find him.

I'm pleased to welcome author Cheryl Burman to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

‘Keepers’ is historical women’s fiction, set in Australia post WW2. Raine’s family is living on a migrant camp, having moved from the country to the city for medical treatment for her father. Teddy’s family, and his best mate Alf’s, are there too, recent immigrants from the bombed-out East End of London. Raine faces all kinds of trials in her family and work life, and when she’s rescued by Teddy and Alf from an assault by a drunk, things get even more complicated. The story follows the three as they learn about what’s important in life, and, ultimately, who their true ‘keepers’ are. 

‘Keepers’ was a joy to write, as I used bits and pieces of family lore, dramatised them, and then added huge dollops of pure fiction to create the story. One reviewer says they found the book  ‘compelling and well-written … the characterization fascinating, the narrative thought-provoking and the novel a good exploration of interpersonal relationships and the time period of its setting.’  Can’t ask for more than that.

What is your preferred writing routine?

Mostly I spend the mornings ‘doing morning stuff’ to quote Stephen King. So dog walk, household tasks, shopping if needed, then try to get to my desk by 10.30 or so. I’m involved in a lot of community activities, so between that and all the technical and marketing-related work which befalls a self-published author, the time between then and lunch gets eaten up. Which means I normally get to any actual writing in the afternoon. I’m not a writer who writes every day, and I need a good solid block of time to really get going. But once I’m in the zone, it’s hard to pull out.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Learn the craft. From basic grammar (dialogue punctuation, please!) to how to deal with the complexities of Deep POV and novel structuring, you and your readers will get far more enjoyment from your work if you pay attention to these things. 

Read novels, stories, cereal boxes (perhaps not) with a critiquing eye to spot what makes for good reading, and practice doing the same. 

Join a writing group and listen to the feedback, taking what gels with you. Likewise, giving feedback is a brilliant way to learn, both what to do and not to do!

I’ve also learned a lot by being part of Twitter’s #writingcommunity, as well as building a great network of writers there. 

Don’t try and please everyone. That way lies madness.

Develop a thick skin! It’s your writing on the rack, not you personally.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Ah! Still learning that one. I think most writers, both traditionally and self-published, find the marketing side hard. But we have to learn not to be modest because if we don’t tell people about our books, no one else will.

Building a network of writers, both locally and virtually via social media, really helps, but they key here is to be supportive of others too. Give and take. 

I’ve started a monthly newsletter to build a loyal readership base. With that in mind, I aim to fill it with bits and pieces which appeal to readers, not just all about what I’m doing at the time!

A website is critical, as it’s where you can point people to learn about you as an author. 

Whatever you do, however, to build awareness, bear in mind it’s a long term game. Be patient, and keep at it.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Recently, in a backwards move, I did a little more detailed research on migrant hostels in the Australian city where Keepers is set, for an article for my newsletter. This unearthed one unexpected snippet: that some of the hostels were for British-only immigrants. One of the worst – converted wool sheds with chicken wire ceilings – was initially meant for European incomers, mostly displaced persons. But because of shortages elsewhere, the Brits were sent there. They complained long and loudly, and the place was shut down after a few years. The Europeans had a lucky escape!

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The one where the main characters ‘get together’ so to speak. It’s a ‘fade to black’ but writing Raine’s inner dialogue while things were hotting up took me many re-writes. I love that scene now, but I worked hard to get it to where it is.

What are you planning to write next?

Not planning, actually writing, and draft one is nearly there. Nineteenth century farm-girl Hester talks to the river, which she knows as Sabrina, goddess. The river nymphs call to her as they ride the white horses of the bore. Aaron is a wise man with the power of herbal healing, and more. When Hester persuades Aaron to teach her what he knows, he's reluctant. He's been there before.

The story was inspired by Ellen Hayward, a respected herbalist with an ‘interesting’ past, who lived in my part of the world. Ellen was tried for witchcraft, in 1906. Fortunately, she was acquitted, but not before the benighted inhabitants of the Forest of Dean were derided in the House of Commons. 

Cheryl Burman

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About the Author

Originally from Australia, Cheryl Burman arrived in the Forest of Dean, UK via a few years in Switzerland. The Forest inspired her to write, as it has inspired many before her, including Tolkien. She is the author of the fantasy trilogy, Guardians of the Forest, and of Keepers, an historical women’s fiction novel set in Australia in the 1950s. Her flash fiction, short stories and bits of her novels have won various prizes and long/shortlistings. Her latest project is set against the backdrop of the Forest and the River Severn, and is a magical realism novel about a young farm girl who talks to the river, which she knows as Sabrina, goddess. Cheryl is married with two grown children and a border collie, Sammy (who is also an author). Find out more at Cheryl's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @cr_burman

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