Friday, September 17, 2010

Author Interview: Cheryl Landmark

Today, we have the opportunity to get to know up-and-coming author Cheryl Landmark. Be sure to read my review of her debut novel, Wind and Fire!

Author Interview: Cheryl Landmark

Jennifer Walker: What attracts you to the Fantasy genre? Do you plan to write in any others?

Cheryl Landmark: I've always been fascinated by the rich, exciting worlds of sorcery and adventure that can be created in the Fantasy genre. You have the freedom to invent worlds and characters that are only limited by your imagination. You're not restricted to human limitations and conventions. At the same time, though, I think your characters, no matter what their magical powers, still have to retain some human qualities, such as compassion, kindness, humour, the ability to experience doubt and anxiety, etc. They can't just be flawless, invincible super beings who simply flick their magical fingers and destroy evil creatures right and left without feeling the slightest qualm or twinge of terror. I also really enjoy reading mystery, suspense and paranormal novels and have tried my hand at writing in those genres as well. I have a young adult novel that I self-published last year about a young woman's adventures on her father's trapline in Northern Ontario, Canada.

Jennifer Walker: What is your writing process like? Do you outline in advance, sit down and just start writing, somewhere in between? How do you keep all the facts straight in your fantasy world?

Cheryl Landmark: Compared to other authors, I'm probably quite undisciplined in my writing process! I don't sit down and outline my book step by step. I don't set myself a strict schedule and force myself to write, especially if my muse is resting and not urging me to get my thoughts down on paper. I usually start out with an idea for a story, or sometimes simply a character, and then sit down in front of my computer. The story then takes on a life of its own and literally evolves as I start typing. I can't really explain it, but as I create each scene or character, they just seem to lead right on into the next ones. That's not to say that I don't hit snags or roadblocks every now and then. Sometimes, I know what I want the scene to be, but I have difficulty getting it to come out just right. Once I'm past that stage, then the story starts to unfold again. As for keeping all the facts straight, that entails a lot of going back and re-reading and re-writing to make sure everything flows the way it's supposed to.

Jennifer Walker: At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to become an author, and what made you write this particular book?

Cheryl Landmark: From as far back as I can remember, reading and writing have been my passions. Even as a young child in elementary school, I was constantly scribbling short stories and poems on scraps of paper and reading them to my friends. As I grew older, I started to write full-length novels in many different genres...romance, mystery, young adult and suspense in the vein of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney. But, it was fantasy that really began to pique my interest and gave full rein to my fertile imagination. I decided to invent a mystical, magical, fantastical world of my own, and thus Wind and Fire was born.

Jennifer Walker: Which is the hardest part for you: writing the book, or getting it published and marketing it? Why?

Cheryl Landmark: Definitely marketing and promoting is the hardest part for me. I'm by nature a very shy, modest introvert and it's difficult for me to go out into the public and urge perfect strangers to buy my book. But, realistically, I know that it's not enough just to have someone publish your book and then expect readers to buy it in droves. If only it were that easy! I'm quickly learning that you have to use all the avenues you can to promote and market it. It's getting a little easier the more I do it, but I definitely prefer the writing part!

Jennifer Walker: To what do you attribute your ability to tell a good story and write such fun characters?

Cheryl Landmark: What a wonderful compliment, Jennifer! Thank you. It's encouraging to hear that you like my story and characters as much as I do. I guess I just possess a bottomless well of imagination. My muse always seems to be filling my head with ideas that I simply must put down on paper. And, even though my good guys are constantly battling the bad guys, I don't want the story to be just about darkness and evil and horror. There has to be moments of humour and levity in there too to lighten the atmosphere and provide some relief and balance. I try to create interesting interactions between my characters.

Jennifer Walker: What is your next writing project?

Cheryl Landmark: Another fantasy, which is almost completed, and a humourous dog detective series. In addition, I have two boxes full of partially completed and fully completed (albeit, rough draft) manuscripts that I hope to polish up and turn into finished novels some day.

Jennifer Walker: What do you do when you aren't writing novels? Do you do other writing, work a day job, have hobbies?

Cheryl Landmark: I have a full-time Monday to Friday job as a sales analyst for a lottery corporation, so sometimes it's difficult to strike a good balance between work life, home life and writing. I live in Northern Ontario, Canada, which means I get to enjoy tons of wilderness hiking, snowshoeing and canoeing. My other hobbies include voracious, non-stop reading and challenging jigsaw puzzles.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any authors who have served as inspirations for you? Do you have any influences on your writing?

Cheryl Landmark: Anne McCaffrey is one of my favourite science fiction/fantasy authors. I fell in love with her dragons the first time I read "Dragonriders of Pern" and have hungrily devoured many more of the books in the Pern series. The dragons' ability to interact and talk to their riders is one of the elements that really intrigued and fascinated me. Other fantasy authors I enjoy are Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien. I've read all of the Harry Potter books (twice) and the Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyers. Anything that smacks of the magical and mystical piques my interest.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your family. Are they supportive of your writing?

Cheryl Landmark: My hubby, though he loves to tease me sometimes about my writing, is actually very supportive and tries to help where he can in promoting it. He often refers to himself as a "writer's widow" whenever I disappear into my writing room. Fortunately for me, he keeps me grounded in reality; otherwise, I could easily become lost in my fantasy worlds. We don't have any children, except for the fur-covered, four-legged doggy kind, so finding time to write is a little easier than it probably would be if I had little ones running in every five minutes to get me to do Mommy things.

Jennifer Walker: If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?

Cheryl Landmark: Hmm, let's see now. How about a juicy ribeye steak smothered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, a baked potato loaded with sour cream and chives, a Caesar salad, and a big slice of lemon meringue pie for dessert? Hey, if it's my last meal, who cares about calories!

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for giving me this opportunity to introduce myself to all the readers out there!

JW: And thank you, Cheryl, for the opportunity to review your book and get to know you better! It's been fun having you here on A Cup of Coffee and a Good Book.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: Wind and Fire, by Cheryl Landmark

Wind and Fire, by Cheryl Landmark

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Asylett Press (May 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1934337706
Rating (1 to 5 *): ****

Wind and Fire Book Review

Tenya has lived a sheltered life, toiling away the potato fields and performing household chores for her father and stepmother—a classic Cinderella. However, rather than being whisked away to a fantastical ball, she is instead kidnapped by a horrible old hag and a dull brute of a giant. The hag informs Tenya she is taking her to Zardonne, Master of the Dark Rift. Happily, Tenya is soon rescued by an eccentric by the name of Sindril, who brings the news that Tenya’s birth mother is alive and well—and in need of her help.

Tenya and Sindril’s journey takes them toward the Plain of Naryn, where Zardonne’s abode lies, along with the tower of ice that imprisons her mother. However, this is not just a journey to save a damsel in distress. It is a journey of a 19-year-old girl who does menial chores to become a woman with powers she never dreamed of.

In Wind and Fire, Cheryl Landmark has crafted your classic fantasy novel: a quest, a damsel in distress, a super evil bad guy, fantastical creatures, and really cool good guys. As in all of my favorite novels, Landmark writes characters that you want to know—they are good to each other (well, except the bad guys), have fun interactions and have good senses of humor. They grow in the process, and the world she created is one I liked spending time in. I do have to complain that the book needs better editing, particularly in comma and adjective use—a common problem with small presses. However, that doesn’t stand in the way of a good story, delightful characters and a fun read.

Material disclaimer: the author of this book provided a free copy for the purpose of this review.