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.



  1. Thanks, Pamela. Nikki is a fantastic host. She gets the credit. She knows the right questions to ask.

    1. Don't sell yourself short, Peggy/Sheryl. You provided thoughtful answers.

  2. Thanks, Nikki. I love to write, and I hope I've offered other writers some tricks they can use.

  3. I like writing in the dark as well, but it's on the other side of the clock! For some reason, my muse likes to dance with the starlight. Thank you for your blog today. Cheers

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Marilyn. I have friends who also write best during the quiet of the night. But as for me, my brain is fried after work. So I use my fresh brainpower to write before I go to work, and then go to work brain fried. (Hmm. I will be sure not to let my boss know about this interview.)

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  6. I've invited my peers and alumni in the SNHU creative writing program to join us and share their tricks of the trade. I've shared some of mine. It's obvious that I'm a organizer. One trick that works for me is to color code character P.O.V.s in order to keep my story balanced. Do you know some romance publishers require the story be 50% "her" and "50%" him? I don't expect to be right on during my first draft, but seeing "too much pink" tells me where I should add or subtract, or maybe even sandwich in, an alternate scene for an equal dose of blue. If you write in only one P.O.V., have you considered color coding action scenes versus response scenes to see how that balances? I write the character-driven plot. In this type of fiction, the action scenes are the outer journey, the obstacles (including the antagonist) that force your character to go out of his comfort zone and stretch himself. Reflective scenes measure how the character is growing in order to chart the course of a believable character arc.

    1. One trick I've used when I'm stuck is to interview one of my minor characters. It can give me some insight into him/her, or into the major characters they interact with. Of course, it sometimes leads me into writing an entirely new story, or moving into an entirely unexpected direction. But when you're stuck, that might be what you need.

  7. Hi Sheryl, I really enjoyed getting to know you today. Westerns are my genre too so I look forward to reading this book. Best wishes for much success, and many more releases.

  8. Great interview, Nikki and Sheryl. I must admit I'm in awe of your planning, Sheryl. Amazing! I'd love to see one of your colorful manuscripts. And I would definitely love to read Cowboy in the Moonlight. Thank you both!

  9. Hi Tanya, I visited your page. Wow, you indeed are a fan of Westerns! It was great meeting you as well. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Thank you, everyone, for coming over to Nikki's place to meet me. And thank you, Nikki, for having me as your guest. I enjoyed meeting everyone. But it's getting late, time to call it a day.

    Now, as I promised, I have a PDF of Cowboy in the Moonlight to give away. The winner is Tanya.

    Tanya, I'll try to connect with you before sending the PDF, to ensure we connect.

    Good night, everyone.

    1. My pleasure entirely, Peggy. Best of luck with Cowboy in the Moonlight!

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