Everyone, please put your hands together for, Cheri Gillard, the Author of “The Clone’s Mother.” Okay, Cheri, you’re on.
Before we talk about you as a writer, let’s talk a bit about how it is you came to be here today. You won a microfiction contest organized by Anela of Amid the Imaginary, right?
Yes, that’s right.
So, how did you come to participate in the contest?
When Anela sent out the email announcing the contest, my brain just started going nuts with ideas and I had to write! My fiction generally runs 120k words, so the idea of being able to tell a story in 500 words or less (and not take a year to write!) was an appealing idea.
How were you inspired to write, History Lesson?
I love Scotland, I love time travel. I love YA. So when I saw the contest for 500-word or less for fiction, my mind took off with a YA, Scottish, time travel story. What a fun way to create a story and get it done in a day, instead of a year! I love finding exact words and trimming until the prose is so tight, you couldn’t say it with any less words. My story transports a student from “show and tell” in his mundane history class to the battlefield of Culloden, a place rife with violence, atrocities, lost dreams (for the Scots), and terror. The experience changes him and when he returns, he uses his new understanding to make his own world a better place.
May I share your entry with everyone?
Sure, go ahead.
by Cheri Gillard
When I came to, the students and desks were gone. Mrs. Barry wasn’t staring down her spectacles at me. I wasn’t even in history class.
I was running—yes running—in a group of Scottish Highlanders. Scots covered in mud and blood, yelling, waving medieval weapons over their heads. I couldn’t even think of standing still or I’d be trampled by the stampede of barefooted giants around me.
And so I ran, trying to make sense of the crazy scene.
In my own hand was the hilt I’d just held up in class to show as part of my presentation, a remnant of a long-ago battle my great-great-a-whole-bunch-of-greats grandfather had proudly passed down, claiming brave heroism. Now the gilded hilt didn’t have a broken stub, but a long gleaming blade. As I ran, my knees pumped against a tartan kilt, identical to the ripped, ratted rectangle of fabric I’d brought to show with the hilt.
Then cannons blasted, blowing my eardrums. Men around me flew away, some in bits and pieces. The rest of us kept charging. A row of soldiers slammed into us, our weapons striking and clanging as men fell on both sides.
I swung my blade, nearly petrified with fright, but reacting with instinct. The battle went on and on, men dropping all around me, until only a few Highlanders stood.
The lull in the fighting gave the Scots a moment to retreat to a barn on the rocky hillside. I ran with them. We hunkered inside. They argued.
“All is lost. We must surrender.”
“Nay! Bonnie Prince Charlie will rise again!”
“His message, ‘each man, save yourself,’ ” said another. “We must flee!”
I trembled, wondering what in the world was happening.
Voices shouted outside the barn. “Come or we shall burn you out!”
When we smelled the smoke, the Scots sighed deeply, whispering prayers, and opened the doors. As we surrendered, many were slain. A soldier came at me. I cowered. He snatched away my sword. He raised it to strike, but only sliced off a rectangle from my kilt for a trophy.
The classroom materialized before me again, along with Mrs. Barry, waiting like nothing had happened.
Suddenly I knew. Grandfather hadn’t fought for the Jacobites, but had opposed them. He hadn’t been noble, but a bully.
After my report, I rushed to the cafeteria and found Leroy, a skinny kid with goofy glasses. He saw me coming and threw his sandwich onto the tray for a hasty departure. I waved for him to hold up, then sat across from him. He eyed me warily.
“Hey Leroy. I learned something today.” I reached into my pocket. He flinched. I pulled out ten bucks and tossed it onto his tray.
“I shouldn’t have taken your lunch money. Or bullied you. I’m sorry.”
He hesitated, smiled tentatively, and gave me a fist bump.
My knuckles left wet mud and blood on his as I pulled away my hand.
In the beginning is always a great place to start. How long have you been writing?
I kind of stumbled into writing, a thing I regret on really excruciating writing days. When writing hurts my brain too much (or the disappointments overshadow the victories), I want to stop, to just quit, wishing I’d never begun (as if that would have freed me from this compulsion to write!). Some days, I swear I’ll never do it again, that I just won’t. I pound my head on my desk a few times, binge on some chocolate, and scream once or twice. Then I come to my senses and realize I can’t stop. I sit back down, take a deep breath, and put my hands back on the keyboard. (And eat a little more chocolate—for the celebratory return to my passion!) Writing started when I oh-so-breezily, thoughtlessly, submitted an article to a Procter & Gamble publication. And THEY BOUGHT IT. The ease of the transaction planted in me a misconception that writing is easy. After that, I started writing freelance for a non-fiction publishing company, which led to many more freelance contracts over the last twenty-five years with several more companies. Over much of that time, I worked on my fiction too, and even got interest from a major house in New York when my agent submitted my first novel to them. But then my agent’s mother got sick and she had to quit. Which left me unagented, and New York unwilling to play with me.
The quicker we authors learn that good writing ain’t easy, the better an author we have the potential to become. Are you an independently published writer or a traditionally published writer?
Because of the stigma attached to self-publishing over the years, I avoided doing it like a colonoscopy. But with the recent changes in Indie publishing, I stepped off the proverbial cliff last year and released my first published novel, Chloe’s Guardian. Since then, I’ve released Book 2 of that series, Chloe’s Watcher. My next novel is releasing on Halloween, a stand-alone medical thriller, and Book 3 of my Chloe series is due in 2016.
Yes, keep the books coming. Do you have children?
I do. I have quadruplets! They are the reason I really pursued the freelance writing gig. I was able to do it at home between all the crazy busyness of having four babies at once. And through all the seasons of childrearing, they were a part of my process, from inspiring my non-fiction writing to giving me feedback and ideas about my fiction. Now that they’re 22 years old, they are invaluable to my writing process. One has a marketing degree, one is an English teacher, and the other two help with encouragement, hand-holding, reading & critiquing, and supplying me with chocolate.
Seems you’ve picked up on the number one secret to sustaining one’s creative juices – chocolate and lots of it. What is your writing style? Why do you think your writing style is such as it is?
I tend to write a bit snarky (snarkily?). I’ve been told by a few different professional writers that my non-fiction remind them of Anne Lamott—a HUGE compliment. Another has said of my fiction, “I’m glad we’re friends otherwise I’d be afraid of your scorching sarcasm coming my way!” I like it to be fun, even in the midst of serious subject matter. As a person, I err on the side of cynicism and I’m way too judgmental, something I’ve been working on lightening up on for a long time (but some people keep tempting me to give up the endeavor) and that cynicism has led to snarky writing. Since I can’t always say what I really want to in real life, (well, I have to use SOME discretion and self-control!) I let my characters say it for me.
For many authors, the experience can prove to be particularly cathartic. Who is your favorite character?
In my series, Nephilim Redemption, which includes Chloe’s Guardian and Chloe’s Watcher, I had a great time writing the secondary characters. Like some readers, I love the secondary characters as much or more than my protagonists. (Probably not a good thing, but there you go.) My favorite two characters are Michelle, Chloe’s sister who gets away with all the snarky, and Kaitlyn, Chloe’s best friend—who is abandoned back in medieval Scotland when Chloe escapes back to their own time (Book 1) and who has to be retrieved (Book 2) but the Chronos Band closes and prevents any more time travel.
I’ve had conversations with authors who actually become good friends with their characters. Which one of your publications will you be sharing in the interview?
The Clone’s Mother is my next novel to release, which will be available on Halloween, with pre-orders starting in October. It’s a medical thriller with some science-fiction thrown in for a creative twist. Kate, a Chicago nurse, who is totally content to spend her nights at home with her cat and Wheel-of-Fortune, is knocked off her feet by a suave, classy doctor. But she isn’t sure he is what he says he is. His lab partner has a lot of dark secrets and Kate starts finding out that those secrets might just involve her new boyfriend. She pokes around a bit to learn what she can, but she better hurry. People start dying—people she loves. Someone knows she’s working things out, and that someone is working overtime to keep her quiet. Maybe permanently.
Some of the best thrillers I’ve read are set in the medical arena. Why did you choose this one?
The Clone’s Mother is my strongest novel so far. I actually wrote it several years ago and put it aside when I was busy getting my kids through high school. I got it back out a few months ago and read it again and really enjoyed it. It was so cool to read something of my own that I had forgotten. I didn’t remember what happened! That is a great way to look at your own writing more objectively. I laughed out loud, I felt tension, interest, suspense! I was so excited to truly enjoy what had come out of my own imagination (especially when the bumps in the road of getting published knocks the wind out of one’s writing sails so often).
Not unlike the experience when opening a time capsule. Talk to us about your cover.
The cover design is my own creation. I had a fun time making it (and my friends were very patient with me when I’d call them suddenly and ask if I could come take photos of their hands). I had a completely different design in mind and had completed the photo shoot, had done most of the Photoshop work, and most of the layout was finished. I showed my daughter (who is very exacting and talented—a set designer for theatre) and she said, “It doesn’t do anything for me. It’s boring.” So after I did a little head pounding and chocolate consumption, I started brainstorming again. Then it all just came. A totally new direction. Like hands grabbing up the neck of a baseball bat to see who wins, I wanted hands to grab up the shaft of a test tube. I wanted it to be a giant test tube with a baby in the bottom. (My kids were “test tube babies,” so I am experienced in these things!) Each hand represents a significant character in the book. The hands have tension and conflict. I want the cover to give a hint to what is to come within the pages. About the cover, one of my sons said, “It’s really creepy, Mom,”—thus the Halloween release date.
A creepy thriller is even better, especially with the lights out except the reading lamp. What do you think and feel about this publication?
I think this book is going to do very well. My beta readers have given me incredibly positive reviews. It has kept them up at night reading, caught up in the story and unable to put it down. They’ve laughed out loud and been held by the suspense. I am excited to get it into readers’ hands and find out what they think. I want them to love it too!
A good beta team can be difficult to impress, unless your stuff is truly good. How did you decide on the title?
Originally, it was called Cloneception, a portmanteau of Clone and conception. But an agent I was working with didn’t like it. She wanted different ideas. I came up with three or four possibilities and she chose The Clone’s Mother. It has been a big trend to have relational titles, like The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Husband, etc. So though I’ve played with the idea of going back to Cloneception, I’ve stayed with The Clone’s Mother. I like it too.
The title suggests a certain detachment in the relationship between mother and clone. Are any of the scenes or storylines in your book real life experiences?
Before I was a mother of quadruplets, I was an RN in Chicago. I worked in the neonatal ICU at Children’s Memorial, then I changed into surgery, then labor and delivery at another hospital, and then back to NICU. So I drew much from my life in both Chicago and in nursing. I’ve delivered babies on my own, I’ve scrubbed for many types of surgery, I’ve done CPR on dying people, and I’ve held dying babies, helping them feel loved and cared for as they slip away. All of those experiences impacted my story of The Clone’s Mother.
Reading a story based in truth to some degree resonates, in my opinion, more deeply with the reader. Is there anything else you’d like the reader to know about yourself?
Violin is another passion of mine. Playing helps balance me so I don’t only write. My group, Acoustic Springs—four of us: violin, cello, piano, and guitar, with two singing—plays together frequently. Making and sharing music fills me up and makes life joyful, just like when a reader tells me how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books. It’s fulfilling and satisfying. When you play a song and look up to see a listener crying because they are so moved, it’s an amazing experience to know you helped transport someone to a place of emotion and joy.
And there you go folks, an interview with the wonderful Ms. Cheri Gillard. Give it up for today’s author, everyone! Thanks for stopping in, Cheri. It’s been great having you. Please do visit again and don’t make us wait too long!
BIO: A long time ago, in a far away land (namely Chicago), Cheri Gillard was an obstetrical and neonatal nurse. Then quite unexpectedly, she and her husband had quadruplets. She hung up her nurse’s cap to stay home, and she started a new career as a mom and a part time freelance writer and editor. Now twenty-five years later, and after many non-fiction projects and books with a variety of publishing companies, she has released two novels, with a third due out this Halloween.
Cheri Gillard has been a freelance writer and editor for twenty-five years, working for several publishing houses and companies writing or editing projects, books, magazines, and curricula. She has released the first two books in her Nephilim Redemption Series, Chloe’s Guardian and Chloe’s Watcher, with the third due next year. This Halloween, her next novel releases, the medical thriller, The Clone’s Mother. Before writing, she was an obstetric and pediatric registered nurse, but she hung up her nurse’s cap when she gave birth to quadruplets. She is also a musician, regularly playing violin in Acoustic Springs, her folk-style band. She lives in Colorado with her family.
All she wants is to be safe and ordinary. All he wants is his dead children back. They can’t have it both ways.
Kate has a date! An actual date, with a real person. Not just a Friday night with her finicky cat or a movie marathon with George Clooney. Mack is more than she could have ever hoped for. But there’s one catch: Mack’s lab partner, Kate’s creepy gynecologist, is up to something. Something dark. Kate finds evidence that the unethical doctor has used his patients as guinea pigs to make a breakthrough in his cloning research. She sleuths around, afraid she’ll scare Mack away if her paranoia is too obvious, but what she discovers might mean Mack isn’t what he says. Is he using her too, like all the men from her past? She won’t risk losing him until she figures out what’s really going on. But time is running out. People start dying. She’d better hurry. Someone knows she’s sorting things out, and that someone is working overtime to keep her quiet. Maybe permanently.
I want to thank everyone for visiting today. Again, a round of applause for our author today. Please hang around to visit and comment below.
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