Monday, June 16, 2014

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Cheri Vause



For those who aren't familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

My vocation has always been wife and mother first, but my avocation has been teacher of theology. It's been around twenty-five years that I've taught classes on the scripture. I began studying the Talmud when I first converted to Christianity, which is a compilation of commentaries by the best and the brightest in Judaism, and the Aggadah, which is the Oral stories of the Old Testament, in order to enhance my understanding of the Old Testament, and because I have some Jewish ancestry. What surprised me is that it helped me understand Jesus better, the history and times in which he lived, and helped explain some of the thornier aspects of the New Testament. I began to teach scripture classes and used the Catholic Ladder as the structure for my lessons. It's a wonderful time line designed by a Jesuit priest to help the American Indian understand scripture. They called it the sahale stick, which means stick of heaven.

My study of the Talmud is what catapulted me into writing novels. I happened on a passage that caused me to ask the question, "What if . . ." Tolkien believed that myth could be a better way of teaching Christianity, primarily because people remember stories better than they remember doctrinal or scriptural meanings. Jesus taught in parables and those are remembered better than the rest of scripture. How many people have actually read the Exodus account in the Old Testament compared to the number of people who have seen The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston? I'm not advocating not reading the scripture, but what I am saying is that the message can reach those who are not believers and woo them into the fold.

All my stories have a moral issue at their heart because I'm always coming at a story from a scriptural view, and I explore that moral in real, human terms that everyone can relate to, rather than a scriptural verse. I also believe that every story should have a mystery within it, that the reader should have to plumb the depths of it in order to understand the story fully. God is a mystery. We are a mystery. The universe is a mystery. Most spend a lifetime just trying to understand who they are, and their place in this world. And, those of us who are Christians focus on trying to understand our relationship with God, what He expects of us, and how to use the gifts He's given to us. We have the rule book, but most people don't.

Can you tell us about your new book?

I just signed with a small, independent traditional publishing house. Around late spring or early summer I have an explosive and controversial novel coming out, The Truth and Nothing but Lies. The story centers on an FBI agent who doesn't like the direction the FBI is heading and is thinking about leaving. He is drawn by his father, who is the Governor of Oregon, into investigating a series of abortion clinic explosions in the sleepy little village of Astoria, Oregon. Once upon a time, I was a crisis pregnancy counselor and director. I used many facts from my personal experiences and ripped several ideas from the headlines to put in the story. I tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about abortion, sexual adventuring, and the dirty secrets surrounding the billion dollar industry of butchering babies and women's insides. Although, I believe every teenage girl and boy should read the story, I do recommend the parents read it first. After reading it, parents and teens should sit down and discuss it thoroughly. They should not shrink from talking about the repercussions of sex outside of marriage, how the feminists have hidden the truth from the public, and how it has affected our society. I also reveal the kinds of people attracted to the abortion industry and what their motives are.

I built the story like a mystery thriller with a strong moral structure coming from the lead character. He is grooming a first year FBI agent and teaches him to think thoroughly about his moral and political positions, and not to just fall for rhetoric that may sound good but has implications that may run deeper than he could find on the surface of sound bytes, like a woman's right to choose. I also did something I've never seen in any novel before. I wrote about women on every side of the issue, their character flaws, their illogical positions, and how they were shaped by the men and the progressive society around them. These are not cartoon women, but people who have prominent positions, or they are women who help others, or they are just victims of our promiscuous society. It doesn't matter if you have a degree, or you're religious, or if you're advocating the progressive political positions because you feel they help people, you find yourselves to be just as vulnerable as the rest of us women. We must learn this lesson well, and teach it to our children.

What are your current projects?

I've begun a mystery series with two private investigators. The first is The Night Shadow. I didn't intentionally want to write a mystery series, but I liked the characters so much after I wrote the first novel, I decided they needed to come back. I was in love with them and how far they had come. The series is based on a husband and wife private investigating team, who were former partners on the New York City Police force. The wife is a brilliant behavioral science expert, and a survivor of breast cancer. The husband escaped as a child from the war torn city of Dublin during the revolution, and he served in the US Navy during World War II. He is the perfect counterpoint to his wife's academic mind because he has instincts born and fertilized on the streets. I set the series in the sixties because that was the era in which I grew up. It was a time that was very confusing, conflicting, and we have suffered immensely because of the repercussions from that era. We lost a president, his brother, an activist, and our innocence during that time. We fought a meaningless war, and we learned how to lie. However, the second novel is a flashback to a case they worked on in 1959 when they were still on the police force in New York. This is the time when the sixties were actually born. The third in the series is already plotted, and many of the characters are already defined. It takes place about six months after the first novel, it's 1965, and my protagonists run into a college seething with communist activists like the Weathermen who have intentions of overthrowing the government.

I also have an adult fairy tale I've written that's about a vineyard, and I have a couple of novellas, all with a moral at their heart. On the back burner are two historical novels. One is about Saint Patrick's abduction and his conversion, and the other is about the daughter and the second in command of a British general during the Revolutionary War. The daughter is on the side of the Americans and the man who loves her is British. I'm still researching that one. I'm thinking of putting all my short stories together into one volume or perhaps publishing them on Amazon's new short story ezine. I haven't decided yet.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I'm going to give advice here that most writers would never give. First, last, and always you must know why you write. If you write for yourself, that's fine, but please don't publish. If you write because you want people to know something about yourself, then keep it to yourself. This includes blogs and videos. The same advice goes for those who write to be famous. Stop it. The notion that everyone has one book in them is completely false. Most people's lives are not that interesting. And, not everyone has the ability to write well.

If you write because you discovered something that will help people, then by all means write and publish. If you write to share something wonderful that happened to you, question your motives. Will it truly help others? Is it something significant or life changing, then it might be worthwhile. If you write to teach, that is an admirable motive, but what will that knowledge do for others? If your answer is that it will improve lives, bring people closer to God, or to understand themselves then publish. If it will help people cook better meals, do their job better, help improve their relationships, describes a disease or a cure or how to cope with it, share a scientific fact, or teach us how to make something, or teach us about our history, etc., then it is worth pursuing the publishing route. These are the ideas that inform and help us ferret through all the nonsense out there. These are the types of books that make our society great.

If you write because you must, because you feel compelled to write, because you can't imagine life without writing, if you sneak out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to write, if you write and forget to eat, then you are a writer. That is your gift from God. That is your vocation. If you fall into this category of write or die, then start off writing short stories. Nothing hones the writing skills like short stories. Begin with 650 words. This is just long enough to formulate a plot. You have to excise everything that keeps you from relaying the plot. Keep the adjectives and adverbs to a minimum. Use active verbs. Once you've mastered that then move on to 1,200 words, to 5,000, to 10,000 and to 15,000. Suddenly, you are writing novellas and on your way toward a novel.


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