Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Meet MG Author Cheryl Kerr

Carpinello's Writing Pages is excited to bring you a first-time MG author, but not a first-time author. Cheryl Kerr was born in Texas. Her childhood was split between Texas and Air Force bases. She raised her family in Texas and currently lives in and writes from the Texas Hill Country.
Here's more about Cheryl:
Hi, readers! My name is Cheryl Kerr and I write for young readers and adults. I write stories that focus on my characters finding their own way. My experience at work and as a parent led me to work with many children in challenging home or life situations, some living away from their families, some not having them. I write my characters to face similar events and find their way through them by being resourceful and a good character. Growing up, books held some of the people I truly connected with, and there is such comfort in knowing where you can find your friends. I have books now that have soft pages from so many readings. Many adult readers tell me the same thing, that they have treasured books, too. I write for all those readers, who find a good story and a good character to be someone to keep.
Why did you pick to write for Middle-Grade readers?

I chose Middle-Grade with 12 as the pivotal age between middle-grade and Young Adult. There is such a change that happens as growth goes from childhood to learning decisions and responsibilities that are their own to make. I was lucky to get to know quite a few young people and watch them on their journey to growing up.

What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you are not writing?

I like books with strong, resourceful characters who have a personal code of how they see and do right and wrong, how other people should be treated. I enjoy travel essays, finding the change in perspective that comes with distance from a usual, immediate environment really does result in a different answer or thought process.

Tell us about SandPeople, and how the story came to be.

The Texas Coast is a place of shifting sands, supposed treasure, and the thrill of pirate legends. When twelve-year-old Lea McKinney comes to the tiny fishing village to spend the summer with her aunt, she is searching for a place of her own. 
SandPeople came to be from watching children learn to handle things they could not change like Covid, a family change due to divorce, and a summer away from home. The timing of handling such difficulties during Covd happened to coincide with what many children and students were dealing with as the stay-at-home lockdowns were put in place and then extended. 

Here's a peek at SandPeople:

Downstairs Lea's mother waited on the couch with T.J. beside her. Lea chose an overstuffed hassock next to the fireplace and sank cross-legged into its softness. Dad went and sat at the far end of the couch from Mom. Both of them looked at Lea solemnly. Lea's stomach felt funny. Sort of like being worried about a test, only worse, she thought.

"Lea," Dad started and then stopped. He looked at Mom. "You better do this," he said. He got up and walked to the windows and stood looking out with his hands in his pockets. Mom looked after him and sighed, shaking her dark-blond head.

"Lea, how would you like to go somewhere this summer?" Mom's voice was brittle-bright. It always got that way when she was trying to convince Lea that something was good for her.

"All of us together?" Lea asked and eyed her parents. It seemed like a funny time to be planning a trip. Neither of them seemed to be in a very happy mood. They both looked at her and the silence stretched out. Lea squeezed her hands hard between her knees.

"No-o." Mom drew the word out. Her voice was high, like it got when she wanted Lea to see her point when they disagreed. "Just us, you and me. To Texas. Dad and T.J. are going to go to Grandma and Grandpa's."

"Texas?" Lea asked, puzzled. "We don't know anyone in Texas."

"Your Aunt Meg has a cabin there, on the Gulf of Mexico, for the summer." Mom said.

"Oh," Lea said, still not understanding. Aunt Meg was Mom's younger sister. She was an artist who spent part of each year traveling. Lea didn't know her very well.

"Why?" Lea asked. Summers had always been bike rides on dirt roads, clamming, and long, slow evenings watching sailboats against on the horizon.

Mom looked at Dad and hesitated.

"Why?" Lea repeated, a lump in her stomach.
"Well, you're going to stay with her this summer." Mom said. "We both have things this summer that we need to do."

"We're not going to be together," Mom said. "For awhile."

Dad took a deep breath then and turned back to face the room. "Lea. T.J. We're separating, your mom and I."

Lea looked from one to the other. Both of them looked sad but also kind of relieved.

"Did I do something?" she asked them. 
How did you go about researching SandPeople?

I research each of them as I work through the story so that they are real, all of them are based in fact and accurate for history or how the mystery is solved. For SandPeople, I researched coastal legends and ghost stories, shipwrecks, immigration to Texas, Texas history, middle-grade and family feelings and emotions. This meant trips to museums, reading narratives and diaries of individuals as they came to settle Texas, and researching the European towns or areas they came from so I could understand what brought them to sail to an unsettled place for a new life in 1840’s Texas.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Yes, I have two other books published.

See Ya is set around World War II and the German Prisoner of War camps that were here in the United States during the war. It is the story of what war does to people. And families.

Photofinish is a mystery set around horse-racing and is the story of two people who learned to be a family and the incredible love they had for each other. It is also about horses, good training and the pig who helps solve the mystery of the grandfather’s murder.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Yes, I am working on finishing another adult novel, planning my next Middle Grade book in the Across Time Mystery series, and a picture book.

What advice do you have for other authors?

I write fiction so my comments relate to that. Write what you know and feel. All my books say something about getting through hard circumstances. My characters face something and find their own answers without harming other people.

Read books so that you find what you connect with. I love books that say something to me about good character and bravery.

I learn a lot from rewriting, too, do not be afraid to try something a few different ways. If you are writing fiction, it is your story, well, yours and your characters, who sometimes will set the direction.

Anything else you want readers to know?

I have found some of my best friends and moments in books. Books do not have to be long to be excellent. I keep the ones I treasure and share many, especially when a book reminds me of someone I know so we can chat about what we enjoyed about the story.

Thank you for letting me share about my writing world! I welcome hearing from readers, at either my website or Facebook page.

Where can readers find you and your books?

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