Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer, children’s author, ghostwriter, and editor. Her children’s books include Little Shepherd (GAP, 2010) and A Christmas Kindness (4RV, 2012 & 2014). She is also a book reviewer and blogger. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She also has a son who is married.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?
I graduated from Long Ridge Writers Group in 2005 and specialized in articles on time management and organization for writers. A few years later, I changed my focus to writing for children. Little Shepherd was published in 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing and A Christmas Kindness was released in 2012 by 4RV Publishing, with a digital version published in 2014. I’ve edited numerous manuscripts in a variety of genres and ghostwrote a Christian chapter book.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I became a stay-at-home mom in 2004 that I began to pursue a writing career.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I am a licensed Realtor in the state of Massachusetts. This is why I don’t get a lot of writing done these days.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I’ve been an avid reader all my life. Mystery—especially cozy—is my favorite genre. I grew up with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I also enjoy historical fiction, suspense novels, and Christian fiction and non-fiction.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
A Christmas Kindness is about a life-changing event that happens to eight-year-old Robert on Christmas Eve. While waiting to share his wish list with the mall Santa, he meets a boy, Glenn, who has only one special wish.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
Except for the one women’s fiction novel I wrote—which is still collecting dust in my filing cabinet—I’m a total pantser. I don’t outline. I just firm up my story idea and then go. It doesn’t make for the easiest first draft, but I get there in the end.
What was your goal when writing this book?
My goal was to encourage children to think of others during the holiday season. The holidays should be about giving and being kind to one another. Even a smile or holding the door open for someone can make a big difference to a person who is having a bad day.
Who is your target audience?
This is a book geared toward children ages 4 to 8.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
For whatever reason, singing seems to be a great source of inspiration. My first book, Little Shepherd, was born because when I sang “The Little Drummer Boy” to my daughter, I would get a vision of a shepherd boy in the hills of Bethlehem on the night of Christ’s birth. I also happen to love Christmas, so it’s no surprise both of my books are set during the holiday season.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
Most times I write until I am done. The only time I edit as I go is if I get new ideas from my writing group that are crucial enough to alter the plot and it is easier to change them immediately than risk inconsistencies later.
Are you a disciplined writer?
I only wish. The reality is that my life is so busy I need some down time. While I admire writers who use every free moment to complete their manuscripts, it’s not for me. I also feel that once my children are in college, I will have plenty of time to dedicate to my writing.
How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?
Right now the balance is more toward real estate and family. Writing is kind of squeezed in there. This virtual book tour is part of my slow return to setting aside some writing time. I’ve been writing a tiny bit each day for the past week.
When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?
This used to be an easy question. I’ve always been a night owl. Since my surgery earlier this year, however, I find I’m not able to stay up as late as I used to—another reason my writing has suffered. I’m most creative after 10 p.m.
Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?
I don’t have an agent, but I have sought one out in the past. I would still love to have representation, but I need to wait until I can dedicate more time to writing in order to make it a reality.
What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
I could not have survived and thrived without my critique groups through the years. Most of them were online groups, but over the last year I’ve found a local group that meets twice a month.
The wrong critique group could be detrimental to a novice writer, so it’s good to test them out and see how you fit in with the group first. Constructive feedback is very different from criticism. It doesn’t mean you falsely praise; but that you praise where it is due and help the writer hone her skills in the areas that need strengthening.
The one thing that made all the difference in getting published was my really getting to know the publishing house. Before I submitted to Guardian Angel Publishing and 4RV Publishing, I read some of their books and browsed their websites so I knew what they liked and what they were looking for. It helped me tailor my stories so they fit well with their offerings.
What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?
Before I became a real estate agent, I promoted books online through virtual book tours. I’ve seen how successful they can be in creating a buzz for an author’s work and I know they have helped me sell more books.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
My website can be found at http://ccmalandrinos.com/ I’ve been a serious blogger for over eight years now. Though I run numerous blogs, my main ones are http://thebookconnectionccm.blogspot.com/ and https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com/ I also contribute to the Christian Children’s Authors blog twice a month at http://christianchildrensauthors.com/
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
Guardian Angel Publishing currently has Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and Amos Faces His Bully under contract. The Thanksgiving book finds ten-year-old Macy trying to save dinner when the dog steals the turkey off the table. The other one is similar to Little Shepherd, placing a fictional character into a Biblical story. In this case, David’s battle with Goliath inspires Amos to face deal with his own bully. I’m also trying to finish a middle grade historical novel.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
Writing is an important part of my life. I hope my stories touch the hearts of children everywhere. I’m also expanding my horizons by working on a romantic suspense novella. Feedback from my writing group has been great so far, so I’ll go with it and see where it leads.