Monday, November 30, 2015

Sheryl Marcoux: Cowboy in the Moonlight

It is my great pleasure today to host author Sheryl Marcoux. Sheryl recently released Cowboy in the Moonlight through Pelican Book Group. It's a wonderful story, complete with great historical detail, romance, and a touch of humor. Full disclosure: Sheryl was a member of my writing group for several years, and we had the pleasure of midwifing Cowboy.

Make sure you leave a comment. One lucky reader will win an e-copy of Cowboy in the Moonlight!

Thank you, Nikki, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. I’m excited about the release of my debut novel, an historical inspirational romance.

Tell us a little about Cowboy in the Moonlight.
An 1880s attempt at scientific matchmaking goes awry, and a woman who wants to be loved for more than her beauty is challenged to look beyond a cowboy's scarred face and into his Godly heart.

How did the story come about? Did you base it on any life experiences? Do any research?

I always loved the “Beauty and the Beast” plot.  In Cowboy in the Moonlight, the common interest between hero and heroine is music, and that idea came about from listening to Josh Groban while I exercised on the treadmill. I have no clue what led me to write a western, because at the time I was living in New Hampshire. By the time I got the novel published, I’d moved to Arizona. Go figure.

Talk about your writing process: Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you work on a novel every day? How do you revise? How long did it take to write your book? Do you have any rituals, such as selecting music, when you write?

I treat novel-writing as an art as well as a science. I’m a plotter to the extent I’ve spent years studying story structure. Since my plots are character-driven, my first step is to understand my main characters. What are their special abilities, flaws, and needs? Once I determine how my characters are going to grow, I outline their character arcs. This is their inner journey. Then I follow a template I’ve designed to plot an outer journey that will logically stimulate these changes.

Now that I know what’s going to happen at the milestones of the story, I draft it. I color code point of views and highlight where certain objectives are met. By now I also have a strong sense of character voice—and a very colorful manuscript. Then I rewrite for story balance, and fine-tune details of place and sensory information.  Then it’s time to submit chapters for critique. After I’ve integrated feedback, I find a fresh reader to see how the story flows.

My preferred ritual is to write every day, first thing in the morning, when it’s still dark. I love the serenity of writing in the quiet of the day and by the soft glow of a lamp.

Who are your favorite authors, and why? How do they influence your work?
I don’t have a favorite author or genre. I’m a fussy reader.

Do you have a day job? Tell us about it.
I have a military background as a behavioral science specialist and then I worked as an executive secretary for twenty-some odd years. This adds up to a winning combination of an insight into human behavior and speed typing.

Finding a publisher can be difficult. How did you find yours?
I found my publisher by entering Cowboy in the Moonlight in the 2013 Lone Star Writing Competition.  It won third place in the Inspirational Romance category. The publisher was one of the final judges.

What inspires you? How do you keep the writing fresh?
First, I accept reality. Storytelling has been going on for thousands of years. There are only so many plots that exist. For instance, Taming the Shrew, My Fair Lady, and 10 Things I Hate Most about You are all the same plot. I’m not going to invent a new plot, and so I begin by identifying and understanding the plot I want to use. Once that’s established, I integrate new characters and places to refresh the old story. I really believe we love to read the old plots over and over again, but we need that “something new.” Not only does this technique keep an old plot fresh, but I find it also makes a story fun to write.

If you could set a novel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would advise any new writer to begin by writing about what you know best—your own backyard. Research can be tedious. Worse, we can also get our facts wrong. So why do we always think the grass is greener in another place and time? Yeah, I’m guilty.

Where can readers find your book ? 
Cowboy in the Moonlight is available in paperback at

Sheryl, it's been a pleasure having you. Best of luck with your book! If you're ever back in New Hampshire, be sure to stop in for a Talespinners' meeting. We miss your insight and gentle humor.

Nikki, I enjoyed being your guest. I want you to know that your editing expertise and the heart you’ve put into helping me improve my story have been tremendous assets. You’ve been my mentor on this quest toward publication.