Cheryl Mattox Berry
has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Memphis Blues
was her debut novel followed by Capital Sins. A Memphis native, Cheryl earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.
Her diverse career has included stints as a press secretary for a U.S. congressman; television reporter in Ft. Myers and Tampa; reporter for USA Today; and an editor at the Miami Herald. She has also taught journalism at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Northwestern University, Florida International University and the University of Miami.
Cheryl Mattox Berry’s New Novel, Capital Sins, is Now Available!
Author Cheryl Mattox Berry’s second novel, Capital Sins
, takes readers to Washington, D.C., for a tale of lust, corruption, betrayal and blackmail that befalls a TV anchorwoman and a U.S. Senator. Capital Sins exposes dark truths about ambition, greed and human nature. It also shows the remarkable resiliency of women; how self-love should precede romantic love; and the depth of a mother’s love. To get your copy of Capital Sins, go to https://amzn.to/2YQtBm9
BPM: Cheryl, please, share something our readers wouldn’t know about you.
CMB: I love foreign movies. They allow me to escape to another country and experience a different culture for a couple of hours.
BPM: If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
CMB: Eclectic, adventurous and an ambivert.
BPM: Is writing your full-time career? How much time do you spend writing?
CMB: Writing is my full-time career. I usually write three hours a day, four days a week for six months until I get a first draft. Then dive back in, writing three hours a day until I’m satisfied with the manuscript.
BPM: Tell us about your first published book. What was the journey like?
CMB: It was disappointing. I started writing Memphis Blues
in 1995, on a cold, windy night in Chicago. My agent shopped it, and when it didn’t get picked up by a publisher I got discouraged, put it on a shelf and went about my life. In 2014, I got the writing bug again and decided to give it another try. I hired an editor who gave me suggestions to improve the plot. The new version didn’t get picked up either, so I decided to self-publish in 2017.
BPM: Introduce us to your most recent work. Available on Nook and Kindle?
CMB: Capital Sins
is my latest novel, available on Kindle. It is a tale of lust, corruption, betrayal and blackmail that befalls a TV anchorwoman and U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. The main character, Jan Malone, has finally landed her dream job at the top-rated TV station. She’s living her best life when unforeseen circumstances send her into a downward spiral. She recoups with the help of Sen. Finn Thornton, a Republican from Texas with a shady past.
Things are going so well that Jan decides to take a vacation to Africa with her best friend, Kelly Mahoney. In Senegal, they meet Abdou Nyassi, a handsome, smooth-talking businessman who is smitten with Jan.
A few months after their vacation, Abdou arrives in D.C., with grandiose business plans and continues pursing Jan. She eventually warms up to him. Jan’s mother, Della Stevens who is suspicious of everybody, does some digging and finds out that Abdou might not be who he claims to be. Jan enlists the help of Kelly and street hustler Darius Hooks to help her find out who Abdou really is and his real reason for coming to Washington. Capital Sins is available on Amazon.
BPM: Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
CMB: Jan’s best friend, Kelly, is White. They seem to have a deep friendship until Jan realizes that she has been betrayed by Kelly.
BPM: Give us some insight into your main characters or speakers. What makes each one so special?
CMB: Jan is ambitious. She knows what she wants and goes after it. She might encounter setbacks, but she keeps moving toward her goal. The only thing missing in her life is a man. Kelly has led a privileged life. She’s used to getting what she wants by simply asking for it or taking it. She doesn’t live by the girlfriend code, and that proves costly.
BPM: Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
CMB: Jan is my favorite character. In some ways, I was like her when I graduated from college and got my first job in television. I had a career plan and a personal plan, but life intervened and changed all of that.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing your book?
CMB: It re-enforced what I’ve discovered throughout my life – that women are resilient. We get discouraged and have our pity party but get right back up and make another plan.
BPM: Is there a specific place that you find inspiration in?
CMB: I live in Miami, and there are so many beautiful beaches in South Florida. My favorite is Hollywood Beach, where I ride my bike on the broadwalk, stop at scenic spots along the way and admire God’s beautiful work.
BPM: When developing a new book, what comes first, the plot or characters?
CMB: Most of the time, the plot comes first. However, in Capital Sins, one of the characters, Darius, seems so interesting that I’m going to write my fourth novel about him and his move to South Florida to start a new life.
BPM: Where do your book ideas come from? Are your books plot-driven or character-driven?
CMB: My ideas come from my experiences, observations and discoveries; historical events; and stories that people share with me. The books are character-driven.
BPM: What did you enjoy most about writing and developing the characters for this book?
CMB: I enjoyed reliving my days in Washington, D.C., and at the same time becoming familiar with the new D.C., where my daughter lives. It’s no longer Chocolate City – more like a swirl – and that makes it an interesting place to live these days.
BPM: Is writing easy for you? Do you feel lonely being a writer during the creative process?
CMB: Because I’m a former journalist, writing comes easy. However, creative writing is very different. I was used to sticking to the facts, and it took me a while to get used to making up stuff and using a bunch of adjectives. Writing is a lonely pursuit. I’m at home, in my tiny office, and there are no co-workers to break the silence. I make a point of scheduling meetups with friends so that I have contact with the outside world.
BPM: Tell us a little about your creative process. Do you use a computer or write out the story by hand?
CMB: Journalists are trained to compose at the computer. My thoughts flow through my fingertips and onto the keyboard, and the words appear on the screen.
BPM: When you’re writing an emotionally draining scene (filled with violence, drama, sex or sadness, etc.), how do you get in the mood?
CMB: I concentrate only on that scene for my writing that day, and I do it early in the morning. I’ve usually thought about how I want to set it up before I fall asleep the night before. After it’s done, I do something fun, like take a fitness class or shop, then return to it later in the day and tweak it.
BPM: Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips self-care for creative folks?
CMB: Exercise is my release. I go for long walks, ride my bike, take Zumba and spinning classes, watch TV and read fashion magazines.
BPM: How do you personally deal with emotional impact of a book as you are writing the story?
CMB: I let the emotions flow as I’m writing. If a character dies, I cry along with their loved ones. Violent scenes are hard for me. I can’t imagine being physically abused by a man, but I’ve had to figure it out and do so convincingly.
BPM: How much planning goes into writing a book in general? How long does it take to complete one of your books?
CMB: First, I develop a plot. Next comes an outline for the entire book with a description of the characters. Then, I outline each chapter. When I start writing, I often revise the outline because I might get an idea for a new character or sequence of events. It takes me about nine months to complete a book.
BPM: How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?
CMB: With my first two books, I knew that universe from having lived in it. Of course, things change, so I did a lot of reading to make sure what I remembered was accurate. For example, in Capital Sins
, I discovered that the South African Embassy had been renovated, but my description of it was accurate for the book’s time period.
BPM: What period of life or topics do you find you write about most often?
CMB: I switch back and forth from my childhood to adulthood. Things that happened in the 1960s and 1970s make good fodder for books.
BPM: How do you feel when someone disagrees with something you have written?
CMB: I’m used to criticism and having my work ripped apart. That’s what happens often when you’re a reporter. Actually, I’m surprised when a reader says she likes my book. If they don’t, I tell myself that readers have different tastes, and this story wasn’t for them.
BPM: Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey.
CMB: What resonated most with me was that you must be willing to re-invent yourself when Plan A collapses. I’ve had to do that several times during my career because we moved to another city for my husband’s job; TV stations didn’t want a husband and wife working in the same market; and I lost a contract because management changed.
BPM: What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?
CMB: Staying upbeat and focused. My mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly in December 2017. I spent a month in Memphis with her while she was in the hospital. My husband, two children and I were mourning her death throughout 2018 while I worked on Capital Sins
BPM: How has writing impacted your life?
CMB: It has made me more grateful for my life’s journey and all the experiences I’ve had, good and bad. I incorporate them into my writing. Having to dissect a character so that the reader will understand her/him has also made me more empathetic.
BPM: What does literary success look like to you?
CMB: I would love to see my books turned into films.
BPM: What are the 3 most effective tools for sharing your book with the world?
CMB: First, readers have to get to know me through speeches, TV and radio appearances, and book signings. I’m good at connecting with people and explaining what they can get out of reading my books. I want them to see themselves in one character or another. After that, social media – all platforms – is the most effective.
BPM: What advice would you give aspiring writers that would help them finish a project when so many ideas are running together?
CMB: Don’t overthink things. Write your outline and follow it. Rework the first draft, then hire an editor when the project is complete.
BPM: Do you have anything special for readers that you’ll focus on this year?
CMB: My goal this year is to introduce by books to more readers.
BPM: What projects are you working on at the present?
CMB: I’m working on my third novel, Mississippi Justice, which is set in Greenwood, Mississippi.