Hello Cheri, welcome to Books2Mention Magazine. We are so very pleased to have this great opportunity to interview you, with the anticipation of learning more about the gifted author of Plenty Good Room.
Your debut novel Plenty Good Room is a heartwarming story that delivers a great lesson on redemption and explores the issues of the Foster Care System.
B2M: Cheri, was there a particular reason why you decided to create a story that would focus around a child in foster care?
CHERI: The primary reason I chose to write about the child welfare system was the personal interactions I've enjoyed with youth who were in foster care. Through these relationships, I'd learned many had profound issues because of the disconnection from their biological family, even if they'd been abused there. I also found that some had experienced even greater difficulty while in the foster care system.
B2M: Did you find it difficult portraying a character like Sienna, who was very defiant in the beginning of the story?
CHERI: Actually, Sienna was a character who unfolded very easily for me. Mostly, she is funny, feisty and outspoken and I enjoy that about her, but she also is too loose with her tongue, saying more than she should in a manner that is often disrespectful. In life, I think many young folks (and some older ones too) who are experiencing difficulty use anger and defiance as a defense mechanism which is really what Sienna was doing. I think girls act out in this manner more so than boys, because they feel threatened more often and all they have to defend themselves is a loose tongue. And, though some who do this are truly hardened by difficult lives experienced, many times this defiance, feistiness, anger, or whatever, is just a cover for fear.
B2M: Tamara, the lead character had a persona that was very sweet and easy going, although she clearly had issues of her own. Was it easier for you to create such a character?
CHERI: In a way, she was a little harder, because much of Tamara was going on inwardly. I really think that the two of them were more alike than different. Both afraid, both sharing past difficulties that were similar, but using different means as a defense and both methods were off-balance. One was way too feisty and defiant, and the other too meek and low-key. In the end, they began to balance each other out; Tamara's cool demeanor, calming hot-headed Sienna and Sienna's confrontational style, finally prodding Tamara to allow her real feelings to surface. I think we all struggle with balance though, endeavoring to stay on that "narrow road", as we move through life.
B2M: During the novel you revealed some of the nightmares some children endure in the system, but you also provided great individuals through out the story, who truly were interested and dedicated to providing a stable environment for children who were in need of a safe haven. How important was it for you to present a look from both perspectives in your book?
CHERI: It was very important to me that the story be balanced, because there really are so many people who are wonderful foster parents and have changed the lives of those youth who have come through their homes. Because I was a foster parent for a short time, I know how difficult the job is. It's no joke. And, it boggles my mind and touches my heart that some people care for many young people and do it for years and years. So, I wanted to bring attention to those who work with youth and give them props throughout the story, because what they do is so important and relevant.
B2M: What inspirational message do you hope readers gained from reading your book?
CHERI: The most important message I hope readers gain from "Plenty Good Room" is that God loves each of us and that no life is an accident. I believe each of us has a divine call upon our lives and even when we don't know He's there, God is present. Additionally, I hope it helps reader's remember the importance of giving back to our communities, because it is through service, which is sorta like love in action, that we best reflect God's spirit.
B2M: Will you continue to write stories that inquire into topics that deal with children issues?
CHERI: I think I will always try to be inclusive of young people in the stories that I write, because I think they are important in our lives. I don't know if each story will have a young person as a protagonist, but certainly there will be youth in the storyline. As an African-American woman, I know few people who aren't involved with young folks in some way, form or fashion. Additionally, I'm entering middle-age and rightfully have concern about the next generation, and hope to leave them something of value before I move on from this world. And, on a personal level, because of the love I developed for youth, in the years I worked with them one on one, I have special interest in speaking about young folks and to them as well. I truly hope they find some recognizable part of themselves in the characters I create.
B2M: When did you discover your interest in writing?
CHERI: I've always written, but only in recent years discovered I enjoyed writing fiction. In earlier days, I was sorta the neighborhood wordsmith. If you had an issue, a problem, needed help with a paper, folks would ask me. But, though I always just considered it something I could do, it was not necessarily something I would do in this manner. "Plenty Good Room" is the second fiction manuscript I wrote, and I consider myself very blessed that it got published.
B2M: In addition to your creative side, what other interest do you have that brings joy to your life?
CHERI: Right now, I have returned to college and I'm enjoying school. I'm also tutoring and I hope to get further involved with young people in some manner over the summer. I really get fulfillment and have a lot of fun when I'm working with them. I also like photography and hope to get out and get some shots over the next few months.
B2M: Are you currently working on your sophomore project?
CHERI: I am. I'm working on two projects. I think both are a little risqué, but still Christian Fiction. I'm really interested in probing into the lives of folks who may be considered to be "on the edge" of life. That entails dealing with issues that put folks out there, drugs, sex, and poverty. Because I write Christian fiction, I don't think I have to be explicit about the issues themselves to delve into the hearts and spirits of those struggling with them. That may entail writing about the streets or in the prisons or wherever folks are because I don't believe in throwaway people. I know from my own experiences, God has "mad love" for all types of folks and often uses those least expected and His salvation is certainly available for all.
B2M: There are so many talented authors in the industry now, what separates you from all the rest?
CHERI: I agree there are a lot of talented writers and I think we all bring something unique to the table based our own life experiences and perspective. In my case, I hope people are entertained by the stories, and that they believe them peopled with memorable characters, nestled in familiar settings often managing to find hope despite life's difficulties. Most of my drama will be based on real folks struggling with real issues that I hope remind folks of themselves or people they know. Most often, I'm writing about my folks; African-American people that is and I want to present them with dignity even when they are at their worst. My perspective is from one who didn't do all the right things or make the best decisions throughout life, but somehow in my wrongs, God saw something right and saw fit to keep me by His grace. That's meaningful to me. And, it leads me to want to tell the stories of those who may not be able to speak for themselves while reminding folks that God loves us even as we get off track and struggle.
B2M: Can you name a book that has been most inspirational in feeding your soul?
CHERI: Of course it's the Bible, which is truly the "greatest story ever told." While I'm not a Scripture quoter, I really love the encouraging words in the New Testament and I have special love for St. Paul's writing. I also read a book years ago called, "Hinds Feet on High Places", by Hannah Hurnard and it's stayed with me forever. It's an allegorical tale of how God prepares you for your purpose by allowing you to suffer and encounter difficulty in life. Two poems also mean a lot to me. One is "A Dream Deferred", by Langston Hughes and another is Gwendolyn Brooks' "A song for the Back Yard." Both touched a chord in me years ago and, it's funny that the content was a precursor to who I've become as an adult. At almost fifty, I realized I had a dream to be creative and to finish my education and now I'm doing both. And Gwendolyn Brooks' poem addresses my desire to work with folks who may be struggling. Though my Mom tried to keep me safe and close and away from what she considered the wilder parts of life, I've always been concerned about those on the outskirts of life. And, now I've gotten the opportunity to bring attention to these issues and people through my stories. What a blessing!
B2M: Five years from now, where do you hope to be on your literary journey?
CHERI: I would love to have my 4th or 5th novel published. I'd also like to be conducting workshops with youth or women to help them learn to express themselves more effectively through writing.
Congratulations Cheri on your first novel. This was a great introduction for you into the world of literature. We hope to read more exciting novels from you that are spiritually grounded and offer great life lessons.
Thanks for interviewing with Books2Mention Magazine. Pease be sure to come back again and keep readers informed about all of your future endeavors.
Much Success To You!
The Staff @ Books2Mention Magazine
You are welcome to visit the website of Cheri Paris Edwards at www.cheriparisedwards.com.