Born on a naval base on Valentines Day, Cheryl Wyatt has more than enough credentials to pen inspirational military romance. She is a prolific writer, releasing seven books with Steeple Hill Love Inspired since 2008, and she has earned a stack of accolades—going as far back as her pre-published days—with book debuts that have earned Romantic Times Top Picks and the Number One and Number Four slots on eHarlequin’s Top Ten Most-Blogged-About-Books.
Add to that a great sense of humor—and the fact that she is a lover of dogs—and you’ve got a terrific interview.
Creativity is often innate. Did you begin writing as a child?
Yes. I’ve been scribbling stories from the time I could hold a Crayon. LOL! My mom still has the first construction paper “book” I wrote when I was around five.
Was there an a-ha moment when you decided to turn writing into a career, or did your interest develop slowly?
I’ve always wanted to write. I went to college for nursing though because a writer’s income isn’t always stable. After a couple decades in health care, I was able to write full time.
Do you (or did you) have other career aspirations? What would you want to do if you didn’t write books?
Can a person get paid to read books? LOL. I’d want to either be a librarian or a trauma flight nurse specializing in high risk obstetrics if possible.
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food? Why?
Nuts! I am a texture person and love the crunch. The only kind I don’t like is macadamia nuts. Any and everything else is fair game…even pine, pumpkin and pomegranate nuts. I love pumpkin and sunflower seeds too. Almonds are my favorite, followed closely by cashews, Brazils, pecans and walnuts. Man…my mouth is watering as I type this.
It’s difficult to break into book publishing. What was your big break?
I don’t know that I had a big break other than taking extreme measures. LOL! I worked and prayed my tail beyond off and went without television and other media for three solid years in order to have time to write and write and write and read and read and read and write and write and write some more. I determined to keep submitting until Steeple Hill bought one. Three rejections, a complete rewrite followed by extensive revisions later…WAHOO!!!!
Actually, I believe it helped that I went to conferences and met editors from the house I was targeting. It showed them I was serious about becoming a career writer and willing to spend my own time and dime to learn from and network with them. For more info, check out www.acfw.com. They have a fabulous conference each September that I HIGHLY recommend to anyone pursuing publication in inspirational fiction.
What advice would you give other writers who are looking for their first break?
Pray. Write. Read. Pray. Write. Read. Repeat until published. Write as worship and strive to write to make Jesus famous rather than yourself.
Who/what influenced your career the most?
Dee Henderson, Margaret Daley and folks from the Steeple Hill message boards and American Christian Fiction Writers. Also, Dave Fessenden, my first instructor from Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers Guild. He was a TOUGH editor but EXACTLY what I needed at that stage. I’m so thankful for everyone who has mentored me along the way…honestly too many to name. Many of them are my fellow Steeple Hill authors.
How does your faith play into your writing?
It’s everything because Jesus means everything to me. No way could I leave Him out. I would dearly love to cross over to reach those who don’t necessarily read Christian fiction but I would have a tough time not writing characters who are radically in love with Jesus and running hard after God and who live their lives by His word and trusting the Holy Spirit to order their day. I can’t imagine a world without God…not a real world and not a story world. To me there is no hope in that. I love reading secular books too…but something always feels MIA. LOL!
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Wow. I think my life is a constant series of divine detours. LOL! I can think of many. A decade ago I was placed on bedrest with preterm labor and it was during that time that I was able to start writing full time. It was either write or lay there and face death by boredom. LOL! Writing helped alleviate fear about losing the baby too…only I thought the continual stream of stories was a gift of mercy and distraction from God to get me through a tough time…but the stories kept flowing after the baby (safely!) arrived.
Let’s talk about Steadfast Soldier, which released on June 1, the seventh book in your Wings of Refuge series for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Please tell us about the book and the series.
The series features a U.S. Pararescue Jumper (PJ) team. Each story stands alone and features one man from the elite special operations rescue team. My medical background came in handy because these guys are military skydivers and combat paramedics. They are who go after downed allied pilots and other injured military personnel behind enemy lines. They also perform civilian rescues for every disaster you can think of. Steadfast Soldier is Chance’s story. The heroine uses rescued animals to help rehabilitate humans. It has a secondary romance in it too but I won’t put out spoilers. : )
What’s your secret in being able to turn out so many books in such a short time?
Honestly, it’s completely by God’s grace. Him granting me the ability and drive to do so because He knows the nature of my life and where I’m at with raising a family and my commitment to prayer and how important time with Him and my family is to me.
Besides providing entertainment, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away from your books?
Of course I love to make people laugh. I desire them to be touched by “Awwww” moments but more than that, I wish to impart “Awe” moments. Places where God reaches through the words and applies the balm of laughter, healing or insight to thin places in their heart. I would feel so blessed if people could come away from the book wondering if God would respond to them with the same love, mercy, grace, compassion and kindness that He shows to my characters in the books. If the words I write as worship could cause their hearts to stir enough to whisper, “If this is really You and how You really are, I want to know You.”
Above all else though, I just want God to continue to receive my writing as worship. That eases some of the sting out of rejections and redirections too. LOL!
Which genre do you prefer when reading for pleasure?
This website features writers as well as musicians, so I like to mix it up a bit. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
NO. Trust me…you do NOT want to hear me to sing. I sound like something between a severely tone-deaf crow with a corn cob stuck in its throat and an asthmatic blow horn with a confused larynx. LOL! I can play a few chords on the acoustic and I played the harmonica as a kid…but other than that, I totally missed the music genes. LOL!
My husband is very musical though. He is an audio visual tech and does shows for just about any major Christian band you’ve heard of and some you haven’t heard of but will soon. He also runs sound for many well-known country and rock artists.
What kind of music do you listen to when you’re relaxing with the radio or an mp3 player?
Daughtry, Three Doors Down, Twelve Stones, Jennifer Knapp, Hillsong Worship, Third Day, Kutless (Strong Tower), Mercy Me, Lo Cash Cowboys, Caedmon’s Call, Rita Springer and many more along those lines.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
I’d hope to be a sweet but sassy worship song that would touch God’s heart to the core, rip the rug out from under the devil and make Heaven rock out from shore to endless shore.
Are you a major or a minor chord?
Mostly E minor. : )
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
LOL! It depends on the circumstance. The surgeon who reconstructed my hip, femur and pelvis after an accident banned me from wearing heels…so I guess I’m probably the one who appears to be the girl next door yet who is a secret ninja tomboy. LOL. I love to write women snipers and female fighter pilots as leads…so that should tell you something.
I’m a dog lover, so I like to ask about pets. Do you have any?
OOOH! I’m glad you asked. We just got two new puppies! I’ll attach pictures. We now are the proud owners of two Yorkies and a Morkie whose favorite toy is a plastic spoon that he runs circles with and yelps when I try to throw it away. We have a beta fish too. IF dust bunnies count as pets…trust me, I have plenty of those running around the house as well. LOL.
They’re adorable, Cheryl! You may have just started a new tradition of including guest pet photos on Divine Detour. : ) Thank you for sharing your personal story with us!
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For more information about Cheryl, visit her website at www.cherylwyatt.com