Cheryl Holy

Cheryl Holt

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
December 25, 2006

Q.    What inspired you to write the novel "TOO WICKED TO WED?"

A.    I don't know if "inspired" is the word I would use. I write 2-3 novels per year, and they're targeted to a specific women's audience -- those who enjoy a fast-paced, sexy, and fun love story. Because of my frantic writing pace, I don't have a lot of time to debate over the plot. I have to develop a situation where the heroine is in a desperate predicament, and the hero -- who's absolutely wrong for her -- is the one who ends up saving her.

The plot choice has to be weighed against the reality that I'm billed as the international "Queen of Erotic Romance" so all of my books have to be incredibly sexy in tone, yet they're set in the early 1800s in Regency Period England, which was a time where the typical female wouldn't think of jumping into a sexual affair. I have to pick a scenario where she can be immediately drawn into a sexual connundrum -- from the very first page -- and it has to be a predicament that's believable to the reader. It's a very tricky balance.

In TOO WICKED TO WED, the heroine's brother has gambled away their family's estate to a notorious villain and pirate who ultimately ends up being the hero. After the brother has lost all, he makes a last desperate bet to win back the estate, and he gambles away the only thing he has left -- his sister's chastity -- and "she" loses. She's forced into a situation where she's expected to become the lover of the hero for 30 days, after which the brother can reclaim their home.

The heroine doesn't know the true terms of the wager, so the story starts with her visiting the pirate/hero to explain that gambling is wrong and he can't seize her home simply because of a ludicrous bet. Of course, nothing is ever easy, and plans are always foiled, so after many wild and exciting twists and turns, the heroine ends up taming and claiming the pirate/hero for her own.

Q.    Who came up with the name for the title of this book?

A.    My editor selected it. I don't ever pick my titles. My editor, in consulation with the marketing and sales people at St. Martins Press, decides on what the titles will be. It's an important marketing decision, having to do with product placement and cover design, and I typically don't have (or want to have) a say in how they're chosen. I'm simply not very good at thinking up titles. My editor is much better at it.

TOO WICKED TO WED is the 3rd book in a 3-book contract, and I call them my "TOO" books: TOO HOT TO HANDLE, TOO TEMPTING TO TOUCH, and TOO WICKED TO WED.

Q.    Luke, Helen, Robert and Pat all shared similar attributes. Would you explain to the readers how you came about the complexities of their characters?

A.    When I sat down to write TOO WICKED, I wanted to create a hero that was really macho, really loveable, and really, really hot. Although my heros are always very sexy and alpha, for several books in a row, I hadn't felt that they'd turned out as macho as I wanted them to be.

My fans' favorite book, out of all the ones I've written, is my '03 novel, COMPLETE ABANDON, and I wanted to shoot for a story that contained that sort of passion, heartbreak, and drama. I went back and outlined it, and I made lists of the traits that had made the hero and heroine so beloved by my readers, then I sat down and started to draft the hero and heroine for TOO WICKED.

The main thrust that made COMPLETE ABANDON so great was the fact that the hero and heroine were so disparate in their backgrounds and personalities yet found true love anyway. I worked really hard to create two characters for TOO WICKED whose differences made it seem as if they couldn't possibly ever be together.

The hero, Luke Westmoreland, is the most macho, tough, and sexy hero I've ever created. He's dynamic, brave, and annoyingly smug, and his antics with the heroine are too delicious to be believed. I was so pleased with how he turned out, and I think he's the "best" hero I've ever done.

The secondary characters of Pat and Robert are very fun, and for those who haven't read the novel yet, I don't want to give away too much about them. I'll just say that I had "seen" both characters in my imagination for a long time, and I couldn't wait for the chance to work them into a storyline. They both seemed to fit with the plot. I love the prospect of drafting a character who starts out as one type of person, and who grows and changes during the story to end up as a completely altered individual. They both fit that bill perfectly.

Q.    How did you come about the idea to have Archie and Adrian's characters to be gay?

A.    Although TOO WICKED was published in September '06, I wrote it over the summer and fall of '05, and I've written 3 books since then, so I don't remember all the reasons I made the choices I did.

I will say that I have to constantly come up with new and interesting characters, and in light of how many stories I have to draft, it's extremely difficult to make every character fresh and new. My villains in particular have to be stunningly original and wicked. Not only am I known as the "Queen of Erotic Romance," I'm also renowned as the "Queen of Villains", so each one has to be more wicked and more loathsome than the last.

When I was just starting to draft the heroine for TOO WICKED, I could "see" her brother so clearly in my mind. He was fussy and spoiled, meticulous in his habits, and generally unbearable, and it just seemed logical that he would be a prissy, effeminate gay man. Since he'd wagered away the heroine's chastity on the first page, it was only natural that he be the main villain, and it was an easy choice to make his gay partner a wicked accomplice. The world has never seen two gay men quite like these!

Q.    How did you come about the Duke's character?

A.    The Duke of Roswell, Harold Westmoreland, is actually a much-hated character of mine, and many of my long-time fans will recognize him from some of my very first novels when I was just at the beginning of my career. His legitimate and illegitimate children have appeared in several of my books.

He's so self-centered, omnipotent, and arrogant, that he's one of my all-time favorite characters. He has no redeeming qualities, and he's so imperious that he's oblivious to how his awful behavior affects those around him. He's so detached from the problems of the masses, and he has no conscience. Readers always hate him, so he's a fun character to use.

Q.    How long did it take you to write "TOO WICKED TO WED?"

A.    I write very fast. I write the first draft of a novel from beginning to end, so that I have the entire story down on paper, then I begin editing. I can now do a rough draft in about 25 days, then I spend a couple more months tightening it up and making it shorter. Mostly, it involves cutting out unneeded words, so that I can make the story race along and keep readers whipping through the pages. It takes me 4 1/2 to 5 months to do an entire novel from first word to last edit.

Q.    Would you give the readers a brief synopsis of your next book SECRET FANTASY?

A.    My next novel, SECRET FANTASY, will be out in March '07. It's another story about a heroine in a dire situation. She's the poor relative, living with her terrible aunt and a cousin who is a rich heiress. The hero is a Viscount who's flat broke, and searching for a rich bride to marry. He comes to visit, in the hopes of marrying the cousin/heiress, but of course, he falls passionately in love with the heroine, who is poor and can never be his bride.

As with all my novels, it's a heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal.

Q.    How does it feel to be a USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR?

A.    It's a strange kind of fame. It's not like being a movie star, where you walk into a restaurant and everybody knows who you are. It's a very anonymous type of celebrity. And on the writing end of it, my being a bestselling author doesn't really seem to be any different than when I was first starting out -- except that I'm actually making money at it now!

People imagine a novelist's life as being very glamourous and public, but the reality is the same as it was from the first day I was a budding novelist and decided I'd try to write commercial fiction. I get up in the morning, and spend 10-12 hours per day sitting (alone) in my office and writing on my computer. It's a very quiet, private, isolated existence, and a novelist has to be very self-motiviated and able to respond to big deadlines without prompting or nagging from others to get an enormous project done on time.

I spend months getting a manuscript as perfect as I can make it, then I send it to NY to people I hardly know, and 10 months later, it's a book I see in stores. Then, I'll receive fan letters from exotic places like Pakistan and Singapore. It's very cool and very odd. And, of course, by the time the book is released, I've written another novel or two, so the one that's out on store shelves hardly seems like something I did.

It's a bizarre way to make a living, but I like working on my own, setting my own hours, and being my own boss, so it's a great career for me.

Q.    How you currently working on another novel?

A.    I'm a very lucky novelist in that I can say I'm "always" working on another novel -- and on ones for which I'm being paid! I have great sales numbers, an increasing fan base, and lots of support from my publisher, so I've been writing under various contracts -- without interruption -- for many years. I'm 2/3rds of the way through my latest 3-book contract, in what I've called my "FANTASY" series. The first, SECRET FANTASY, will be out in the spring. I just finished the second (yesterday!), which is due in NY in January. It's called, FORBIDDEN FANTASY. By March, I have to plot out the 3rd one, that's been titled, DOUBLE FANTASY, and it's due in NY in July of '07. Then, it's time to contract again.

I also just moved to Hollywood, so that my teenaged son can pursue his dream of becoming a movie star, so I'm taking classes in screenwriting and planning to do my first script this spring in between novels. Also, I'm currently developing a tv pilot proposal that would feature my son as the star, and we'll be marketing it to various producers.

I'm very lucky to have been blessed with all these writing opportunities, but they're coming to me after many years of practice and hard work.

Q.    What message would you like readers to receive from reading "TOO WICKED TO WED?"

A.    I don't have "messages" in my books. I write them purely as entertainment. They're the sorts of books you take on an airplane, on vacation, or to the beach. They're fun, and fast, and fantasy, where the good guys get what they deserve and the bad guys get what they deserve, too. There's always a happy ending which -- in this day and age -- we could use a lot more of. My "message" to readers is: pick up a copy, relax, read my page-turner, and enjoy!