Author Sheryl Hames Torres
Welcome to the Reading Room
I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.
Desert Breeze Author Interview
Desert Breeze Interview part 1
Happy Sunday, all! Today we begin new Q&A with author Sheryl Hames Torres. Let’s get started!
DBP: Sher, the right setting is critical for a story to work. Have any of your books started out in one setting and ended up in another? What changes did you make and what made them necessary?
Sheryl: When I first wrote ILLUSIONS, I set it in Fernandina Beach, Florida. This is one of my favorite places–from the Shrimp Boat Festivals, to Amelia Island, the people, Fort Clinch, just everything. There is a feeling there, I’ve never found anywhere else, so naturally, when I sat down to create this story, that was the first place that came to mind. However, there are few roads where you don’t get at least a glimpse of the ocean. That’s hardly handy for a frightened and abused woman who has to keep her brood close to home, and whose children have never even been to the ocean. So, I moved the story inland to MacClenny, a nice land-locked town, and I think it serves the story well.
Desert Breeze Interview part 2
Desert Breeze Interview October 9, 2017
It may be Monday, but that doesn't mean we can't have some fun. Today we continue our Q&A with Author, Sheryl Hames Torres.
DBP: Sheryl, Tell us something about yourself that no one would ever guess.
Sher: Growing up with five siblings, cooking was a big part of our lives. My mother could take a sweet potato, a pound of hamburger, couple of tomatoes, an onion and a few cups of flower and create a meal to die for...and feed the eight of us without breaking a sweat. For a time, my father was in food research, and created the first version of chicken nuggets. My brother is a chef, baby sister is a pastry queen and my other two sisters can surely hold their own in the kitchen. My other brother...well, let's just say, I can't imagine him in the kitchen, but I won't say for sure what kind of cook--if any at all--he is. But me? I was born without the loves-to-cook gene. I hate cooking. Passionately. I hate everything about it--planning, making the list, shopping, bringing it home and putting everything away, cooking, eating it after I have to fool with it and cleaning up. I am a go out, let someone else cook it, bring it to me, then clean it all up afterward. I can cook. I do cook, but I really don't like doing it. But, everyone knows that. What most people don't know is I love making soup. All kinds of soup. I like eating soup in restaurants, then coming home and figuring out how it's made. My family is the quintessential guinea pigs, and so far, no one's complaining.
Desert Breeze Interview part 3
Desert Breeze Interview October 10, 2017
DBP: Authors often like to spread their wings and try new things, so we asked Author, Sheryl Hames Torres: What have you never written about, but want to some day?
Sher: I think I'd like to write a dark fantasy romance, something with light and dark elements, strong decisions and promises my characters have to make that couldn't be taken back or broken. Something that mixes the real world with a world no one really knows details about, but knows exists. With characters who make the decisions they choose not because they're unhappy with the present life and need a change, but for no better reason than love.
Desert Breeze Interview part 4
Desert Breeze Interview October 12, 2017
DBP: Authors are also readers, by nature, so we asked Author, Sheryl Hames Torres what other books or authors does she believe have influenced her writing? How did they influence it?
Sher: Oh, there are so many. I think one of the first books that really lit a fire in my soul was Christy, by Catherine Marshall. For the first time, here was a book with everything I loved most as a storyteller. More characters than I'd ever seen in a book and each one of them, from Christy, herself, to the smallest of children came to life on those pages. I could not only see but smell the conditions these people lived in, and despite the sometimes, squalid conditions, there was beauty in the small things that were precious to them, a quilt, a flower, a plate of food, the quaint turn of phrase. I felt I knew these people. To this day, Fairlight is my favorite character--and Little Burl. You could see into the soul of every character and into the soul of the setting. Perhaps that's where the germ of the idea of my Moonlight Cove was born. Characters are amazingly important to me, everything from the way they look, to their foibles, to their speech patterns and dialect. Christy made it so.
Desert Breeze Interview part 5
Desert Breeze Interview October 13, 2017
DBP: Yesterday, we asked Author, Sheryl Hames Torres what other authors or books she believed had influenced her writing. Our question today is of a similar nature. Sheryl, has being a writer affected how you read other books?
Sher: Oh mercy, yes, and not just books! I tend to have to turn off my inner editor, and that's a very hard thing for me to do. Especially if I've been working on a story of my own. I can overlook a misprint or error or two, because I know these things can easily be missed, but I have a really hard time with two things: 1. When I'm engrossed in a story, invested in the characters, then the end doesn't make any sense. I can't stand it when the build-up makes you teeter on the edge of your seat and then the author hands you an "excuse me??" moment. Makes me want to put the book in the shredder. 2. The other thing is when a newspaper has more errors than correct sentences. When we first moved to a certain town, and I got a copy of the newspaper, I came upon that little peeve of mine. I swear, it was so terrible, you could have made a drinking game out of it, and been drunk as Cooter Brown by the second page. I got my red pen and started circling the mistakes, and by the time I was finished, the one page looked like a murder scene. I folded it, stuffed it in an envelope, and returned it with my subscription cancellation.
Desert Breeze Interview part 6
We've made it to the weekend again, but that means today is our final question and answer with Author, Sheryl Hames Torres. But she leaves us with some good advice.
Sheryl, what was the best advice you ever received about your writing? Something you keep in mind still today OR What was the best writing tip you ever read, learned, etc.
Sher: Way back in the dark ages, when I finally decided I'd like to get back to writing--was married, had my kids, moved home and was ready--I took an online writing workshop. I realize now, this was not the group for me, but I can't find it within myself to be sorry because I met an incredible writer by the name of John Marco -- years before the publication of Jackal of Nar, or any of the rest of his wonderful novels. This particular week, the critiques were especially harsh, and one person told me my writing was so bad, my characters so "hokey" and the whole thing was so southern, I should consider taking up plumbing because I had "a lot to flush." Aside from this being "memoir week" and well, I am southern and most of the people I know are fairly proud of the little bit of hokiness in them, this stung badly enough I was ready to quit. John said, "I promise you, if you quit writing, you'll be sorry for the rest of your life. You're never going to please everyone, and you don't want to. You're never going to write exactly the way anyone else does, and you don't want that either. It doesn't matter if one person tells you your writing is sub-par. As long as you keep writing what's true to your heart, someday, someone else is going to love it. That'll be the person who's important." One of the most wonderful things to me this twenty years later, is walking into my son's room and seeing John's first book on my son's bookshelf and knowing I had the privilege of critiquing that book long before it was published and knowing way back then I was reading greatness.
DBP:Where do you draw your inspiration from? Is it dreams? Things you see on television or in movies. Books? People you meet?
SHER: I never know where my inspiration will come from. My inspiration for Illusions came from a combination of walking along the beach during a visit to Jacksonville and realizing how much I missed the ocean, and from years of watching my mother rear six kids into strong adults without breathing hard. Kate’s House was the result of a trip to Ellijay to find a bead store and passing through the apple orchards in Cartecay and being mesmerized by a huge old farmhouse on an off road. My upcoming series, Happily Ever After, came from years of making wedding gowns, having a sister who is not only a pastry chef but a party planner, and a mother who could make floral arrangements out of anything, and a trip through the small North Georgia towns and seeing all the history there. I got the inspiration for another book I’m working on from a photograph of a young man in a top hat, tails and carrying a can--my first thought was “what a cute voodoo man.”
DBP: Are you a full-out plotter? Are you a "let's see what happens" pantser? Or do you think you fall somewhere in between? Describe your process in coming up with and executing a story idea.
SHER: Oh mercy, I'm a steadfast plotter! Before I start a new story, I spend months making a story file, complete with setting photos, casting photos, histories for each main character and some of the secondary characters. I have descriptions of every character right down to the quirks and mannerisms, and I know where all the moles are hidden. I have dates and family trees. If I create a town, I have several pages of history, historical figures and landmarks. Then I go into math mode--I will figure out how long I want the book to be, how many words, chapters, pages in each chapter, and what scenes are most important--and even write a few in advance to be fitted in when I get to their homes. Once I have all that done, I will take whatever I have jotted the original idea on--a napkin, back of a grocery list or receipt, even in tiny letters on the back of a fortune from a fortune cookie-- and flesh out the story.
DBP: How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you? Tell us why you love writing in whatever genre you consider your favorite (if you write in different genres).
SHER: I write romance, pure and simple, but that doesn't mean that's the only genre I play with. I believe in love. Love between a man and woman, parent and child, best friends. I’m a die hard believer in love. Without it, everything would be clinical but it wouldn’t matter because no one would be here to enjoy it. So whether I'm writing paranormal, or suspense, or whatever, there will ALWAYS be love of one kind or another involved, romance of some sort, but NOT the "okay, there's a lull, let's jump the main character so there's a break in the tension" romance. When I read something like that, I see the romantic almost-scene from the 1990 film, The First Power, and giggle. “Logan, what are you doing?”
DBP: Do you work any reality from your own life into your novels? If so, do you change it to make it more or less dramatic? How and why?
SHER: I’ve never heard that Peter Benchley ever out-swam big sharks, or William Peter Blatty had a family member whose hobby was spinning her head around, or for that matter that Michael Crichton grew dinosaurs in his backyard. However, like actors draw on events in his/her life to reflect emotion in a script, so does an author have to be able to connect with something in their lives to make his/her stories real.
In most of my stories you’ll find children because I believe they are the extensions of love, of growth and survival. I know what it's like to love a child with the very essence of my cells, be terrified while praying like a manic priest the kid lands on his feet with his ankles still intact when he’s done taking flying flips off buildings.If there's an argument between a married or dating couple I know just how to make him stubborn, and how far she can grind her teeth before she decides to thump him in the forehead. LOL I know what spring air/rain tastes like, what fall smells like. I know from spending July in Georgia what the backdoor of hell feels like, and I know claustrophobia from being stuck indoors for a couple of days when 3 feet of that horrible white stuff falls even though it’s not supposed to blanket Georgia backyards. So I put as much of that as I can in my stories.
Fifth question for Author, Sheryl Hames Torres: Pick five words to describe your writing style/voice... then tell us why you chose each word.
Irreverent--I’ve never been one to back down or believe or not believe something simply because that’s what I’m supposed to do. I draw characters who are the same way--be they children or old ghosts. Every character I create has at their core some belief system and they always follow it--good or ill. Which brings me to...
Emotional-- All my stories are built around the character’s emotions. Their belief systems often drag them along from chapter to chapter and decide how they’ll react to whatever situation or other character they encounter. They will defend the things they think are important to the exclusion of many other “supposed to be important” things, and the resulting feelings--happy, sad, terrifying, and exhilarating--build the stories. This very often will include the emotions in the settings as well. I met an old lady once who smoked a cigar and drank moonshine. She was the most irreverent and the most fascinating woman I ever met. And that brings me to...
Lighthearted--In the immortal words from Legend, “there can be no good without evil....No love without hate....No heaven without hell....No light without darkness.” I take it a little further--“there can be no sorrow without happiness...not pain without humor” or you dissolve. Which brings me to...
Honest--While I adore fantasy, fairy tales and make believe, I can’t stand things or people who don’t ring true. I try very hard to make my characters breathe. I want them to walk off my pages, take my readers’ hands and pull them into the stories.
Southern--I am southern. I’ve lived in Delaware and Michigan, and still I came out southern. I lived in Florida and even though it’s south of Georgia, only certain parts of the state are really southern. Ninety percent of my characters are southern. Most bleed Georgia red clay, buttermilk and cornbread. There will be “sayings”. There will be accents--if not of the tongue, surely of the heart.
DBP: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
SHER: TIME!!!! Before my children, I worked a sixty hour job as the manager of a needlework shop, as well as often taught classes on Saturday. After my daughter was born, I worked that same job and those same hours, and took her along with me. Six months later, my husband gave me the Stay-at-Home-Mom status. I did custom work and antique needlework restoration for various historical societies, even through my daughter’s illness and recovery, until she started college. She’s about to graduate with her third degree, despite not being confident enough to drive--just call me James. LOL So, through all that, I’ve managed to sneak in a little writing at a time. Most times I’m working on several stories at a time. It works.
Seventh Question for Author, Sheryl Hames Torres: And the last, best, and most visual question, referring to either your most recent book release, or your current WIP, if you were to cast your characters, what actors would portray them? Tell us about the character, and why the actor/actress fits.
ROFL...my poor writers' group members will tell you that I drive them nuts, not only casting my own characters, but almost forcing them to cast their stories as well. When I’m writing a story, I may cast someone by looks alone, or perhaps I’ll see him/her in a role that screamed my own. Often though, by the time you finish your story, that casted actor may be too old, may be starring in something else where you say, “What was I thinking??” I tend to cast because of movements or attitude. It always helps to SEE your character in motion, catch tics, mannerisms, even the speech patterns. That does not, however, mean if they have a southern accent, you can’t force them to use an Irish one. Also, sometimes I cast people from photos that fit, even though I may not have any idea who they are.
DBP: Tell us about your hometown as a child. What influence did your upbringing have on your writing?
SHER: I don’t really have a single hometown. My daddy had the itchiest feet of anyone I’ve ever known, so we never stayed in one place for more than five or six years. We lived in Georgia 3 times, in Delaware, Michigan and in Florida(where I and my sister found our husbands--another sister found hers, but threw him back.) Northeast Georgia is home, and my husband and I have stayed here for twenty-nine years and have raised our children in the same house for twenty-two. While I keep in touch with dear friends I’ve known since the third grade, my five siblings and I learned early on that we were our best and constant friends. For those reasons, my stories tend to live and grow in the south, have deep family roots, and you will always find at least one child in every story.
DBP: Who is your biggest supporter? Tell us about them, and why they are such an amazing person.
SHER: I’m probably the luckiest person in the world in that I have the most supportive family in the world. My husband believes in me no matter what endeavor I jump into, always there with a smile and a push--and a suggestion or two. My daughter is my sounding board, my research assistant, and the one who keeps me from giving up when I’ve about reached the end of my rope. My son cheers me on and celebrates with me each time I finish a story. Between them and my group of friends (heroes) who push me through all the joyous chaos in my life, and my mother and siblings who actually read my books and spread the word, who could ask for more?
DBP: Did you write stories or make up stories as a child? Do you remember what any of them were about? Tell us...
SHER: LOL! My mother had me when she was only nineteen, and by the time she was thirty, there were five more--a daunting task for anyone. I was, however, a chandelier swinger/wall bouncer--not good when you’re also the ringleader. Mama encouraged me to do two things: make up my own stories because I hated the phrase “and they lived happily ever after” and always asked “And then what happened?”--and learn to knit--I needed to learn something to keep me still. She created a monster. I taught my siblings to knit and roll yarn--even the boys--and would line them up with skeins to roll in exchange for a story. Can I remember any of them? No, and I’m sure they can’t either, but I didn’t have to roll yarn for years.
DBP: What other books or authors do you believe have influenced your writing? How did they influence it?
SHER: I love whimsy, fantasy, family drama, paranormal and mystery. Color and characters. I love the south. Christy by Catherine Marshall was the first book in which I found all my loves in one place. Kay Hooper’s Hagen series from way back in the 80s showed me that women could be smart, strong without being absorbed by the men they loved. I got my wit and fantasy need filled by Donna Kauffman and Constance O’day Flannery, my drama fix from Nora Roberts, family drama from LaVyrle Spencer, mystery from Karen Robards and paranormal from Linda Lael Miller’s vampire series (though I feel she’s one book shy of being finished.) These are my heroine authors, and when I write, I remember all the things that jump out and have stuck with me for all the years I’ve been reading them.
DBP: Did you ever write a novel with a message to the readers, or at least, a message you hope your readers garnered from it? What was the book, and what was the message. Why did you want to express it?
SHER: I do, many times. I write flawed characters. I write characters with hidden terrors and fears who find that if they voice them to someone who cares, those fears aren’t nearly so scary as carrying them around in silence. Women are strong creatures, protective and fierce, even when they are carrying their problems and everyone else’s as well--but they don’t have to do it alone. Sometimes my “messages” are subtle, sometimes blatant information that no one voices out loud--a kind of PSA in a few short pages.
DBP: How do you choose the names of your characters?
SHER: Most of my characters “tell” me their names right off. Some come already named. Sometimes I’ll get halfway through a story and think, “Okay, you are definitely NOT a Buffy!” and sometimes “you are DEFINITELY a Buffy!” Sometimes I base my bit characters on people I know or whom I’ve come in contact with and had some kind of impact on me. If I like you, you will get a glorious name, but if not, you might get a name best suited for a spider or snake. Am I ashamed of that? Not right this minute. LOL
DBP: Where is the most interesting place you have ever traveled? If you haven't traveled much, where would you absolutely love to go? (If you've been, provide photos)
SHER: Before we left Georgia the first time, my parents regularly took us to the Smokey Mountains around Cherokee, NC. My husband and I continued the tradition when he and I moved her. There is something about those mountains--unlike any I’ve traveled to or through--that are, in a word, magical. There have been instances in our lives of extreme illness, or grief, hopelessness, or just stress beyond words, when we’d go up and spend a few days, and come back with amazing results and renewed strength. There is a small campground, Big Don’s on Big Cove Road, that sits beside the river that runs through Cherokee. The sound of the water gently rushing by in that particular spot is unlike any other in the town. Peaceful, healing, and like I said, magic. Trout fishing is pretty great, too.