Cheryl Taylor – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

First Trip: Sex, Drugz, and Rock & Roll in the 70’z is a narrative first person fictional biography of a 14-year-old girl who is trying to find herself with drugs and sex. She doesn’t get along with her mom and step-father while living on the Monterey Peninsula, so she runs away to live on the streets. She hitch-hikes between Los Angeles and San Francisco, meeting various characters along the way.

Tell us something about yourself.

The book is 95% the story of my life. I grew up in Pacific Grove, CA. I was a runaway at age 12 and then again at 14. I did live on the streets, spent time in Napa, and was emancipated at age 17. I was addicted to meth at age 16, overcame my addiction through counseling and group therapy, and went on the become a functioning and productive adult.

In 1997 I started a small town weekly newspaper, the Avenal Chimes, in Avenal, California. I had worked for newspapers before and thought I could run one myself. With $2,000 start up capital, a computer, digital camera, and a nose for news, the newspaper quickly became a success.

What inspired you to write this book?

My mother lived next door to me and was very proud of my newspaper. When she became sick, my daughter took over running the newspaper and I spent my days caring for my mom. When she died I became so depressed that the doctor prescribed anti-depressants. I had a terrible reaction to the pills and had to stop taking them after only a couple of days. To occupy my time I started writing and it soon became an obsession. I guess I wrote it for my mom. She would have been very proud to see it in print.

How did you choose the title?

The first chapter starts with Dawn, the main character, looking for drugs to make her cool. It was named for Dawn’s first trip on acid. It was a short story I did a few years ago, and then developed into a longer story, and finally a book.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Fear and indecision were my biggest obstacles. I had to decide if I wanted to try and get a traditional publisher to pick up on it, and find an agent, or pay for it out of pocket and go on my own. The fear was a nagging voice in the back of my head that said “It isn’t any good, you can’t make it, why are you even doing this?” I had to trust my friend’s opinion and go for it.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

When I started my newspaper in 1997 I had very little money, and none to pay for a writer. I considered myself a graphic artist, not a writer, but since I didn’t have the money to pay for articles, I had to write them myself. When I started the column Talk of the Town, I had so much good feedback from it, I decided to write more. It was a case of “Necessity, who is the mother of invention.” Plato

Do you have any writing rituals?

When writing I hate to be interrupted, but living with my family and dog I am constantly interrupted. So I have learned to write in the middle of chaos, people coming and going, dog barking, tv blaring. I tend to zone out while writing and do better that way than when it is deathly quite.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

The main character Dawn is named after my middle name. As for the others, I tell people that I changed the names in the book to protect the guilty.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

I learned it is pretty easy to publish a book. It might have been better to go with a typical publisher, but self-publishing gives you more control over everything. It is a lot faster, too. I might have made more money with a typical publisher, but then again maybe not. It is all a gamble. So far, I have broke even on the cost of having the book published. I am not so sure a traditional publisher would have helped me more than the self-publishing outfit I decided to use. If I had gone traditional, I would probably still be waiting for a publisher to pick up on my book.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I am not sure I would do it differently. I created my own cover art and designed the layout of the book. I liked having control. I think I would consider using the same publisher again for my next book. They were very professional and did everything I asked. The finished product is very nice, well bound and something to be proud of.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I like sci-fi and mystery. I read Robin Cook, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton. I like the way they develop their characters, how you really get to know them, and how the characters really become three dimensional in my mind.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am outlining my next book. It will be set in the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s. It will have married life, cheating on spouses, and lots family drama.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Just keep on writing. Don’t stop. Flesh out your stories and have others read it. Make sure they are brutally honest with you and can tell you the mistakes you are making in your writing. My friends were a big help in keeping me in line with the book. I take criticism very well and that is a must when writing and getting reviews on your progress.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Baby-boomers seem to like it the most. I have had a lot of good feedback from my own age group. I don’t think a really straight laced person would enjoy it. I think someone who lived through the era would enjoy it more than the younger generation. There might be a few who are curious of what life was like back then, but someone who has been there would understand it more. It would also maybe help someone who is having problems with drug usage. It could show them that there is a way out of the addiction nightmare, but without preaching to them.