Cheryl Holt

Cheryl Holt
Complete Abandon

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
October 10, 2003

Q. Who is Cheryl Holt?

A. I am a lawyer, novelist, and mom. (Not necessarily in that order!) I live and write in a small town on the Oregon coast.

Q. What inspired you to write COMPLETE ABANDON ?

A. I wouldn't say I was "inspired." I have a much more technical approach to my novels. Because of the type of mass market fiction I produce, I work under many constraints that hamper my choices, such as a Regency England time period, a virginal heroine, but an extremely sexy story--with the sex brought into it on the first page.

Considering these strictures and many others, I find it very difficult to draft an erotic novel, particularly to come up with a storyline that's plausible and workable.

Typically, I keep a notebook going, where I jot down various story premises as they occur to me. (These are only a two or three sentence blurb about a possible love scenario). When it comes time to pick an idea for a novel, I go to my list, and I fuss for weeks about which one I should use, which one will work, which one will get me into the sexual storyline fastest, which one will the readers find most credible.

Its' a very tedious, time-consuming process, with many factors coming into play.

Q. How did you come about the title?

A. I don't pick the titles for my books. It's a drawn out process between my editor, the art department, and the sales people who work for my publisher, St. Martins' Press.

When I send in a finished manuscript, I usually mail a long list of "possibles", but I'm really bad at choosing a title, so the ones I come up with are never picked.

Q. How did you come about Emma and John's characters?

A. Up until I wrote COMPLETE ABANDON, my personal favorite of my all my novels had been my first published book, THE WAY OF THE HEART. I liked it because when I wrote it, I was unpublished and free to make the characters anyway I wanted them to be, and the hero was really despicable, arrogant, macho, a gambler, a womanizer, a drunkard, and it was so much fun to write him, because he was so redeemed at the end.

I wanted to do something similar with COMPLETE ABANDON, but it was risky because romance fans expect a certain type of hero, plus my editor demands the highest integrity from my heroes, so it was hard to sell her on the idea. I really begged her to let me go forward, because I knew I could make him turn out great.

He's a narcissist, a pompous, vain, overbearing aristocrat, the ultimate alpha male, and as many of my fans have pointed out, he never alters into anything softer--which they all love. No feminine sides for my heroes!

My heroes are the ultimate bad-bad boys, and they stay that way to the end. Romantic Times Magazine agreed with me that John Clayton was a great hero. They presented me with their K.I.S.S. Award for writing the best hero of any book that came out in Sept '03.

Emma was an easy choice, because I wanted someone who was his exact opposite so that more sparks would flare in the love story. She had to be someone who was hard-working, poor, kind, and considerate, so that she could bump up against all his selfish traits.

They're a phenominal combination.

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. I've been writing for ten years. I've been published for three. I had babies back to back at ages 38 and 40, so I dropped out of the job market to take care of them. I decided I would try to write commercial novels as a home business, which was a decision I made when I had no clue about the publishing industry, how to write a novel, or how little money I would make at it. It took me several years to figure out how to write a book, and then several more to get good enough to compete in NY.

I started out writing cookbooks, then suspense fiction, then I sort of stumbled into romance -- almost as a last resort when I couldn't sell anything else. The first historical romance I sold was the first romance I'd written, but it was the seventh novel I'd completed.

Q. How many books have you written?

A. I was trying to count the other day. COMPLETE ABANDON is my tenth published novel, but with edits, misstarts, rewrites, the round file, and all the machinations between the first word and the finished product, I would guess I'm somewhere between 25 and 30 manuscripts.

Q. Is historical romance fiction the only genre you write?

A. Yes. Early on in my career, I wrote one 70,000-word contemporary romance for my first publisher in their attempt to garner some of the market from Silhouette's popular Desire line. The publisher's attempt was a bomb, and my book was one of the last ones to be published, coming out almost a year after the line had been cancelled, so very few copies were printed and hardly anyone got to read it.

I haven't tried contemporary fiction again. For now, I'm sticking with historicals. I'm seem to have a knack for it.

Q. Are you currently working on another novel?

A. Yes. I'm in my fourth multi-book contract with St. Martins Press. I'm currently in the middle of a three-book contract. I delivered the first title over the summer, (DEEPER THAN DESIRE, out in March '04), and I'm working on the second book that's due in December. (MORE THAN SEDUCTION, out in Sept '04) Then, I have one more to do, that will be delivered in summer of '04. (FURTHER THAN PASSION, out in '05) I'm currently on a very tight writing schedule with books due in NY every six months.

Q. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

A. I work full-time as a novelist. I write out of an office in my home.

It's my home business, and I work very hard, and I work all the time.

I work between 50-60 hours per week. It's a gruelling, fatiguing schedule, and I'm at a very competitive level in what I do, so the expectations are enormous, and the quality must be very high.

I don't think many people could do what I do. I get up in the morning, send my kids off to school, I exercise, then I sequester myself at my computer for 6 or 7 hours.

School ends, and I fuss with my family till after supper, then I get them to bed, and go to my office once again for another 2 or 3 more hours of work.

People have a vision of my life as a novelist being very glamorous, but the books don't write themselves. In order to meet the contract deadlines under which I'm bound, I have to be very disciplined, very driven, very able to accomplish detailed, stressful tasks with no guidance or supervision.

Q. Is there a message you would like readers to receive from reading COMPLETE ABANDON?

A. There's not much of a message I'm trying to impart I don't try to write deep, thoughtful prose, although reviewers constantly praise me for being both deep and having great prose.

When people ask what my books are about, I tell them that I write Cinderella stories for grown-up women. They're escapist fiction at it's very best. The good guys get what they deserve, and the bad guys get what they deserve, and there's always a happy ending. In these troubling times, I think that's really important.

I would encourage everyone to give COMPLETE ABANDON a try, but beware that it is very explicit. I write 'erotic' romance, and I'm now billed as "The Queen" of the subgenre, so my books are not for the faint-of-heart, or for the easily offended!

However, it you venture into one, you won't be able to put it down. COMPLETE ABANDON is funny, it's fast-paced, it's poignant, and very, very sexy. But it's more than that. The reviewer from the American Library Assn's Booklist called it "...a novel of redemption."

It's just as good as a historical romance can possibly be.