Today’s blog post is a feature interview with contemporary women’s fiction writer Cheryl Robinson. Cheryl is a Detroit native and recently released her novel Until Ray, which is also set in the City of Detroit. Until Ray will be part of a trilogy and the first book is available for a free eBook download! Read today’s blog feature to learn more about Cheryl Robinson and how you can get a free digital copy of her novel Until Ray!
Contemporary women’s fiction writer Cheryl Robinson is homesick for Detroit. So what do you do when you miss your home city? You write a book about it, of course! More specifically, you create a work of fiction which takes place in your hometown. For Cheryl Robinson, that place is none other than Detroit, Michigan.
Robinson was born and raised in Detroit. She grew up in Palmer Woods, a historic district located between Highland Park and Ferndale. She is the youngest of five children and a graduate of Cass Technical High School and Wayne State University. She currently resides in Florida but plans to return to Detroit next year.
The fiction writer has been writing for sixteen years now and she has published ten books: six for Penguin/New American Library and four independently through her publishing company Rose Colored Books.
Robinson recently released her latest novel Until Ray. The book will be part of a trilogy and is also available for a free eBook download (see details below).
When I asked Cheryl why she decided to create the setting of Until Ray in Detroit, Michigan, she said, “It is where I feel most comfortable in setting an environment for my characters to live in because I know it firsthand.”
Cheryl says creating Detroit as the setting of Until Ray gave her an opportunity “to reconnect with a place that I left in 1998.” Her sister still lives in Michigan and Robinson also has many friends who reside in Detroit or the metro area. “I hope Detroiters feel an immediate connection to the novel because of their familiarity with the city.”
Pointing out examples from her novel, Cheryl says main characters Ray and Sarita live in Detroit-based neighborhoods.
“Ray lives on Stoepel around the corner from Trade Winds. Most people from Detroit, especially the northwest side of the city will be familiar with that area. Moreover, Sarita lives in Palmer Woods, which most Detroiters are familiar with because it is a historic neighborhood. Throughout the three books that I have written for the Until Ray trilogy, Detroit will seem like a character because it is displayed so prominently. So not only will readers see the characters change, they will also see the city change over a thirty-year span.”
Cheryl also says, “despite the negative media coverage that Detroit has received over the years, I showcase both a positive and realistic side of the city.”
“I hope Detroiters feel an immediate connection to the novel because of their familiarity with the city.” -Cheryl Robinson, author of Until Ray
Interview with Cheryl Robinson, Author of Until Ray
Good Life Detroit (GLD): After working in the corporate world, how did it feel to publish your first novel and pursue writing full time?
Cheryl Robinson (CR): I was at work, in 2004, and my literary agent called and told me he secured a two-book deal with New American Library, which was an imprint of Penguin at the time. I remember that day and how ecstatic I was. Not long after, I started daydreaming at work about landing on the New York Times Bestseller list and going into HR to give my notice. That was the dream that I held on to for years. Moreover, I would walk around the office with a smirk on my face because of it. Knowing that one day I would be able to say, “See ya would not wanna be ya.”
However, they beat me to it. I came to work one day, and no one’s computer was working. Roughly, an hour later, we were informed that due to the recession the company was closing, and that day was our last. I had been with the company for eleven years and had made four company-related relocations. I had not planned on Florida being my last stop. We were each called into an office separately to discuss our severance package. People were crying and saying they did not know what they were going to do. I viewed it as my opportunity to write full time. I was nervous, and, at times, I still am, but writing makes me happy.
GLD: What inspired you to write the Until Ray Trilogy?
CR: I heard about something that happened to a man that intrigued me, so I decided to write a love story that was complicated. I carried the idea around in my head for months. I started asking myself a bunch of what-if questions to tailor the situation to my character. I finished the first draft of the second book in the trilogy, which, at the time, I thought was going to be a standalone novel.
However, there was much backstory, so I decided to move that into a novella as a free eBook and promote it as a prequel to the main novel. As I started writing the novella, the characters had a lot to say, and it grew into a novel. I then made adjustments to the second book based on the first book, which turned into a third book and now a trilogy that spans thirty years.
“…despite the negative media coverage that Detroit has received over the years, I showcase both a positive and realistic side of the city.” Cheryl Robinson, author of Until Ray
GLD: Why did you choose the 1980s as the period for Until Ray?
CR: The main characters are coming into adulthood in the 1980s. It was important for me to introduce them at that time because I want readers to follow Ray Saint and Sarita Deering from their early twenties all the way into their mid-fifties. I want readers to witness these characters grow and connect the dots from one book to the next. It is a journey.
GLD: Give us a little insight into the main characters Ray Saint and Sarita Deering.
CR: Ray Saint was a popular guy at Cass Tech High School. Most of his classmates, particularly women, liked him. He always wore suits and still does. He was voted Most Likely to Succeed, but he would have rather been voted Best Dressed. He has always felt the burden to live up to his Senior Superlative.
When the story opens, he has been out of high school for six years, but he has started to run into people returning from college, who are either furthering their education or starting a career. Ray is still stuck working a job he hates as a salesperson at Hudson’s in the women’s shoe department. For Ray, it is about finding himself. He feels lost.
Sarita Deering has done everything right in her life. Most parents would probably describe her as the perfect child: obedient, loving, caring, and smart. She graduated at the top of her class from Our Lady of Mercy High School and Georgetown University. At twenty-four, she has an MBA; she is a CPA, and she works in upper-level management at General Motors. However, she feels there’s a big void in her life. She has never had a boyfriend and has never been on a date. She wants to fall in love, get married, and have children. She has two prospects: one of them is a childhood friend. Then, there’s Ray, who she meets through her best friends. She struggles between which one to choose as her mate.
GLD: How long do you spend researching before you begin writing a new book?
CR: I research as I write. On average, it may take me six months to a year to write a novel.
GLD: Which writers, past or present, inspire you as a writer?
CR: Maya Angelou, J. California Cooper, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Terry McMillan, Kimberla Lawson Roby, and Jodi Picoult.
GLD: You are now an independent author and the owner of Rose Colored Books. What does it mean to be an independent author? Has becoming an independent author and publisher changed your creative process as a writer?
CR: When you are an independent author, you are not going through a publishing company. You are the writer and publisher. I love being an independent author. I was an independent author before I landed a publishing deal. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to publish six books with a major publisher because had I not that would have continued to be one of my goals. Also, I learned a lot about the publishing industry as a result.
Now, as an independent author, I decide on every facet of my book’s production. I also get to tell the story that I want to tell, instead of the one I can first sell to an editor at a publishing house. I find the marketing aspect to be the same. When I published the traditional route, I was still responsible for my marketing, because the publisher did very little marketing on my behalf.
What I could count on with a publisher was distribution, which, for me, as an independent author is the hardest part. Even though the eBook market is growing, there’s still a huge market for physical books. I will have a paperback version of the second and third books in the trilogy. I also plan on releasing an audiobook for both as well. My biggest challenge will be getting those books into stores and libraries.
GLD: What advice would you give to aspiring creative writers?
CR: Write the story you want to read, not the one you think publishers will buy because if you write what’s truest to your heart you will be able to speak on it with more passion.
To learn more about Cheryl Robinson and her new trilogy, please visit www.untilraytrilogy.com. You can watch book trailers and more at her official website.
You can also, download a free copy of Until Ray on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.
For direct links to each online bookstore, please visit https://www.untilraytrilogy.com/single-post/2017/06/27/Until-Ray-Book-Release.
Special thanks to Cheryl Robinson for taking the time to answer interview questions and share her novel Until Ray with Good Life Detroit!