Friday, 6 September 2013

Interview with Cheryse Durrant - Author of stunning debut novel THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED

Meet author extraordinaire Cheryse Durrant. 

She's the author of

I asked Cher for an interview and she was kind enough to say yes. Folks, this is one amazing lady and it's time her words were shared with the world. Happy Release To My Beautiful Friend. 

Firstly, I wanted to get some background information for you...
Name: Cheryse Durrant
Birthday: Between August 22 and 31 - I have about eight DOBs spread across ten years in the cyber world and I bet everyone's wondering which one's correct (But yes, I am Virgo!)
Place of Birth: Roma, Australia (as opposed to Roma, Italy)
Place of Residence: Bargara by the beach, Queensland, Australia.
Marital Status: Married to both Husband and Cat. They regularly fight over the best spot in the bed. Cat always wins.
Favourite Food: Figs, cherries and mangoes. Korean chapchae, Peking duck and this incredible double crispy skin duck with ginger sauce served at Kacy's Restaurant, Bargara.
Favourite Drink: Half-strength cappuccinos.
Favourite Place: A little farm outside Yuleba, that's where I grew up, but any place is special as long as it's with family.
Favourite Sinful Indulgence: Rich chocolate ice-cream. My favourite is the locally-made Mamminos Double Chocolate Ice-Cream from Childers, it's sinful. Also Sara Lee Ultra Chocolate.
What You Are Most Passionate About?: Bringing joy to people through books and helping bring out the best in people.

Now for the Q&A session:

1) Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
Since I was seven. Growing up, I cherished books and there were always original stories and characters swirling inside my head. I even had imaginary friends. I wrote my first story on one of my Aunty Miriam's walls when I was very young. Sadly, it didn't attract the literary acclaim I deserved, though I was commended for recapping the felt pens afterwards!

2) If you couldn't be an author, what do you think you would be?
A Taloner. I can't even control my chocolate cravings so I'd be putty when it came to that niggly heartlust, but it'd be nice to have super strength and healing - and talons to swipe back at my cat when she's in a nasty mood.

3) Who would you say are your influences, both literary and in life?
My parents and extended family have been amazing role-models. Mum and Dad taught me the importance of family values and commitment - and helped me believe I could achieve whatever I wanted with hard work and persistence. Many authors and journalists have inspired me, both in person and through their books and how-to articles. The list includes LJ Smith, Louise Cusack, Marianne de Pierres and Sandy Curtis.

4) Who are your favourite authors?
Too many to list, from LJ Smith and JK Rowling, to Cassandra Clare and Marianne de Pierres. My favourite childhood author was John Christopher (the late Sam Youd).

5) What is your favourite book?
That Highlander film was wrong when it said “there can be only one…” My fave book is whatever I'm reading at the time (as long as it's a good book), but I'm particularly fond of the Vampire Diaries (LJ Smith), Burn Bright (Marianne de Pierres) and the Sword of the Spirits (John Christopher). My favourite fairy tale was always Beauty & the Beast and my fave childhood novel was The Ordinary Princess (M.M.Kaye) - even back then I liked fairy tales with a difference. I'm also (at least I was when I had time) a big romance reader so there's a lot of single titles on my bookshelves that I'll never part with.

6) Is THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED the first thing you ever wrote?
As a child, I wrote lots of short stories and often published them in my elaborate “Cheryse” magazines, handmade from butcher's paper and illustrated with cut-out pictures. I started penning my first novel (a YA high fantasy) when I was 14 but didn't finish that first draft until my late 20s. The first novel I ever completed was a YA sci fi (about an Aussie superhero - of course!) when I was 16. Since then, I've written nine novels, spread across various genres. Some of them I hope to rewrite one day but others will remain curiosities for my nieces and those I leave behind.

7) Where did you get your inspiration for THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED?
A child's fingers curled around the outside rim of a partially-open coffin… my courageous Heart Hunters heroine Shahkara evolved from that single, spooky image after it flashed through my mind more than five years ago. Those tiny, lifeless fingers didn't belong to my Shahkara, but their discovery forced her to unearth and expose a horrifying cover-up - which originally led to a failed short story.

8) What do you mean “failed”?
I'd just won an Australian-wide story competition with my fantasy short, The Pool of Rathorne, and I wanted to write another prize-winning story. The fingers curled around the coffin inspired me to write about Shahkara searching for the culprite behind a trail of missing bodies in her castle home on Gorias. The twist for the reader was that, by the end, she found the Taloner and killed him with her own talons - deftly revealing that she, too, was a Taloner and harbouring her own deadly secret inside the castle. The story couldn't work because to only reveal her as a half-Taloner at the end meant I was cheating my readers of her true viewpoint. Taloners smell, taste and sense differently to humans and my readers are smart. I realised I needed to reveal who and what she was from the beginning and thus THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED was born.

9) Did you always want to write within this genre and did it come easily?
As a teenager, I read voraciously across genres but I LOVED fantasy and sci fi, especially Dr Who and Blake's Seven, the only non-animated spec fic shows that screened on our one-channel TV. It was natural for me to dream up stories about teenagers set in spec fic situations. As I reached late high school and university, I branched out into high fantasy - Tolkien, Feist, Eddings. I was overwhelmed by their epic plots and landscapes and stopped writing because my “little stories” could never compare to their greatness. About 15 years ago, I was writing in another genre when suspense author Sandy Curtis read the prologue of one of my fantasy manuscripts and encouraged me to return to my first love… spec fic, but with a strong dollop of romance (because why spoil a perfectly good story by not including true love?).

10) How long did it take to write THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED?
Shahkara started to evolve when I wrote Cry of the Taloner (my failed short story) back in 2008. I spent 2009 and 2010 writing the novel. I'd wake up at 4am to sneak in two hours of writing before getting ready for my full-time day job at 6am. A lot of days that didn't happen, but I finally completed the book that Christmas. When the acquisitions editor of one of the big six publishing houses loved my partial and requested my full manuscript in May 2010, they suggested I lengthen it from 60,000 to 85,000 words so I spent another seven months re-writing it with a secondary story arc, another new character and a revamped ending. The story languished inside this publishing house for 19 months until another publishing company, Clan Destine Press made me an offer in August 2012. I then spent another six months polishing it for publication. During that time I rewrote every sentence and sometimes I spent days on the one scene. Fortunately, by the time the copy editor saw it, it only needed a few more tweaks.

11) Do you find the voice of a character comes into your head and begs to be written?
All the time! It's why I'm driven to write. You hear their voices, their dialogue, and you're forced write for fear you'll go mad if you don't!

12) Is there a character you most identify with and why?
I'm a very different personality to Shahkara but I strongly relate to her because, like her, I'm a fish out of water. As a child, I tolerated mustering and branding but didn't relate to the farming environment my sisters loved. As a teen, I spent my lunch hours in the library because I couldn't understand my peers and now, even as a “grown-up on the outside”, I often feel out of my depth, especially when it comes to music and fashion, culture and technology. But when I write, I've found my pond. I love swimming there with my imagination and my characters. Books, both reading and writing them, has given me my place in the world - and I think a lot of readers and writers feel that way.

13) Was there ever a time you felt you wanted/needed to scrap the project?
Interestingly, THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED is the novel I've ever written that I've never scrapped. There were times when I doubted my ability and wanted to give up, but I knew I had to finish it. Author Isaac Bashevis Singer once said “Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.” I disagree. Sometimes, our ultimate expression can end up finer than our inner vision and that's what I eventually achieved with THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED, even when there were many, many days I thought that I could never do.

14) How many drafts were there before the FINAL draft?
Roughly four, but within that there were some scenes that were rewritten a lot more times. The fifth draft was my final draft, not including copy edits.

15) Did you ever end up cutting a character or a scene that you later wish you'd kept?
There are scenes that I haven't wanted to remove because I'm personally attached, but I knew removing them made the storyline more believable for the reader. One day, I'm going to blog about these delicious deleted scenes. People with my sense of quirky humour will probably appreciate at them. Other readers? Maybe not so much…

16) Did you ever cut anything that you later put back in?
There are a few scenes in THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED that I tried to cut during my final draft but my husband Shane made me put them back in. They all pertained to non-main character viewpoints: Carly's kidnapper, pathologist John Darcy and the Taloner Coven gathered in their secret chambers. I feared they might be too much for my reader and draw them out of my story-world, but Shane insisted they added flavour. My Clan Destine Press editor Samantha Christie liked them and kept them in the manuscript.

17) Do you spend a lot of time writing things you don't include in the final draft? If so, were there any regrets?
I think my record is writing 45,000 words on one of my previous novels before I realised the point of the book. I had to hit delete and start again at Chapter 1 - but that was an exciting moment for me - realising where I was going. I've always been a pantser, but I'm now more structured in my planning and spend time working on my characters and their motivations before I get too deep into the book. I do wish I'd learnt some of these tips earlier in life (like not spending six months polishing two chapters at the start of a book only to discover a year later, when I've written the first draft of that book, that those chapters don't even belong in the story anymore). But there's no regrets. It doesn't matter how long it takes to become a published author. The view at the top is still magnificent J

18) How did you come to be published by Clan Destine Press?
I'm a volunteer for our city's annual Bundaberg WriteFest, a day of workshops for aspiring and emerging writers. Each year, writers get to 'pitch' their manuscript to a publisher or editor. Last year, Clan Destine Press Publisher Lindy Cameron flew from Melbourne to interview the shortlist - I made the shortlist. Three months later, I was at the Gold Coast for a writers conference when Lindy flew in and offered me a three-book contract. Then we went shoe shopping. You can read about it here… (

19) How long did it take for you to become a published author?
A LONG TIME, but it was worth it J

20) Who has been your support throughout that process?
Read my acknowledgements page! Many, many people have helped me on my journey, but I'm especially grateful to my family and friends, including authors like Sandy Curtis, Louise Cusack, Dean J Anderson, David Russell, KA Sheather and LJ (Lisa) Smith (The Vampire Diaries), who read THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED when I entered it into her novel-writing contest in 2011. Lisa's belief that it was a good book and deserved to be published helped me through the tough times. Because she wasn't a biased friend or family member, I trusted her opinion more.

21) Now THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED is out there, do you think it will do well?
I hope so. My Publisher believes in it, but there are a lot of other fabulous books out there. Publishing is a dicey game and sometimes there's no reason why one book sells two hundred copies and another two million. Authors need to be pro-active these days and they rely, more than ever, on friends and fans so please spread THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED good news. If you enjoy my book, please let others know about my Heart Hunters series - and my fabulous Hearts & Talons Tour and giveaway. All the details are here.

22) Are you critical of your own work?
Super critical. So critical that there were times I almost gave up, but I couldn't. Writing is what compels and propels me. Being a journalist and sub-editor for 15-plus years taught me to be extra critical of my product. I hope this has helped hone THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED into something unique.

23) Do you have anything that you can share with us about the future of the Heart Hunters series or its characters?
Penning THE GHOST SHE KILLED, the second book in my Heart Hunters series, is a wild ride. I'm loving every minute of it. I get to see my characters tested and developed further and Carly plays an integral role. Wait until you find out what she gets up to! This story also has some fabulous settings, including a huge, fictitious casino/hotel complex in the heart of Brisbane. Let's just say I was inspired when I stayed at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and wanted to bring a little bit of LV Roman empire Down Under. This is also where my Heart Hunters series evolves from Young Adult to New Adult. There's also lots of twists and turns. Every. Single. Page.

24) When do you hope to publish THE GHOST SHE KILLED?
Next year, but I'm a slow writer and editor so I'll send you a memo… If readers want to know when it's coming out, they can email me via cheryse (at) quietdawn (dot) com and I'll add them to my personal mailing list. I'll send out a newsletter a month or so before its launch. While you're at it, drop me a line and let me know what you thought of the book. It's always great to hear feedback.

25) How many books do you expect for the Heart Hunters series?
I'm a pantser so I haven't a clue. Max and Shahkara's Elnara story arc finishes at the end of book three, THE WORLD SHE LOST (even though THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED is a complete story in itself, with a happy ending). I suspect Carly will take over as the main viewpoint character in book four but I won't know for a while. I'm a bit believer in not taking a story further than it's meant to go, I'm not into 'jumping the shark', but I think I've definitely got enough fodder to give Carly her own trilogy once Max and Shahkara get their happy ending after completing their major quest. I love writing so I can find out what's going to happen, too. The twists and turns always surprise me!

26) What do you think you will do once the series is over?
There's a lot of new ideas spinning around inside my head but I'm trying to shelve them all so I don't get distracted. Once I finish my Heart Hunters series (or in-between times), I'm keen to rewrite two of my old manuscripts, a children's trilogy and another YA trilogy. Both are crossworld fantasies. Do you see a re-occuring pattern?

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. I am sure your readers will be just as interested as I am to find out the answers.

Personal note to Cher:

Cher, thank you for letting me read THE BLOOD SHE BETRAYED. I absolutely loved it from beginning to end!
I am truly excited about THE GHOST SHE KILLED, I know it will be amazing.
You are most definitely a ROCK STAR of the literary world. I know you will always continue to shine! :)

I heart you Doll <3

Keren xoxo

Thank you everryone who came by to read this interview. I hope you enjoyed finding out more about Cheryse and her debut novel. 
I was lucky enough to be the first person to read this novel (after her immediate family  and friends) and I am so honoured.

Hearts & Talons giveaway celebrates launch of Heart Hunters series
To celebrate the launch of her debut novel The Blood She Betrayed, Cheryse Durrant and her publisher, Clan Destine Press, are offering four giveaways as part of the Hearts & Talons tour running until November.
Prizes include a $AU50 Amazon gift voucher, a $AU50 Clan Destine Press (CDP) book pack, a $AU130 heart-shaped crystal pendant, signed paperbacks, swag, and the chance to have a character named after you in Durrant’s second Heart Hunters book, The Ghost She Killed.
To be part of the draw, readers must email proof of purchase (a receipt, screen grab or their order confirmation number) to cheryse (at) quietdawn (dot) org.
People who buy the book can gain extra entries in the Hearts & Talons giveaway by writing a review of The Blood She Betrayed and emailing the online link to Durrant, and/or emailing the Hearts & Talons promotion to 20 friends (cc’d to Durrant).
What you can win: Hearts & Talons giveaway
September – $AU50 Clan Destine Press book pack + signed paperback
October pre-paperback launch – Get a character named after you in Cheryse Durrant’s next novel, The Ghost She Killed + a signed paperback.
October – $AU50 Amazon gift voucher + signed paperback
November – $AU130  9ct gold crystal pendant + signed paperback
NB: Entrants are automatically entered into every month of the promotion.

To buy The Blood She Betrayed:
The Blood She Betrayed eBook is available from Clan Destine Press (, Amazon, iTunes and Kobo.
The paperback can be pre-ordered via Clan Destine Press ( ) or Booktopia (, but will be available in all good bookstores from October.

To contact Cheryse:
Twitter  @CheryseDurrant

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