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Meet Sheryl Lister

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheryl Lister.

Sheryl, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Many people ask if I just woke up one morning and decide to write? The answer is no. I’ve always loved reading and writing. As a child, rather than watching TV, I’d be curled up somewhere with a book or a notebook and pencil. The first real story I wrote was for an English assignment in seventh grade (a romance, of course). I was SO proud. I turned in my paper and waited with glee for my teacher to grade it. When she returned it two days later, there it was…a big, fat F staring me in the face, along with the threat of expulsion for plagiarism. She couldn’t believe a twelve-year-old could create such a story, but my mom was more than happy to straighten her out. Once the teacher realized she was wrong, she apologized, and actually praised the writing, which gave me confidence that I could create a good story.

As an adult, I continued to write stories, sharing them only with my mother, who kept encouraging me to write. When Arabesque books were released in the 1990’s (which was later sold to Harlequin), I thought, “Gold mine!!” I was excited to see romances that celebrated Black love, although I can’t say the same for my wallet. I went and purchased just about every book…lol! The desire to write grew stronger, but so did my life responsibilities—marriage, job, children. So I pushed writing to the background again.

I never stopped reading, but I didn’t begin writing again until 2009 when my mother passed away. Her death made me realize that life is too short for regrets. On a much-needed vacation a month after her passing, I grabbed a spiral-bound notebook and pen and started writing the story that had been in my head for years. But once the vacation ended, I shoved the notebook in my backpack and went back to real life. It wasn’t until a year later, when I had to go in for back surgery, that I found the notebook again. I had forgotten about the story. While recovering, that notebook taunted me every time I got out of bed. Once the pain decreased, my sleep was interrupted for three nights straight with scenes from the story. Needless to say, I started writing again and finished the first draft in three weeks! That book will most likely never see the light of day, but writing ‘the end’ unlocked all the stories that I’d pushed aside. From that moment, I became serious about writing and started learning everything I could about the craft. I joined writing organizations, bought books, read blogs and articles, and took a couple of online workshops. I also entered writing contests, and the feedback I received help strengthen my writing.

An opportunity to pitch to Harlequin Kimani Romance came in 2013 and the editor requested the full manuscript. I thought nothing could top that until, one month later, I heard a message on my answering machine from the editor asking me to call back. I took a deep breath and returned the call. She wanted to make an offer. I stopped breathing for a minute then babbled something incoherently that sounded like “thankyouI’msoexcitedIcan’tbelieveitbreathebreathethankyou.” She was very patient and asked if I had questions. I told her yes, but I couldn’t think of one at that moment. In August, I will celebrate six years as a published author and they have been nothing short of amazing, especially with regards to the relationships I’ve built with my fellow authors and readers. The beauty of being an author is that I can reach readers no matter where they live. Is there more to learn? Absolutely. Are there still challenges? For certain, particularly when it comes to getting our stories out to the mainstream audiences. But I’m up to the challenge because there’s nothing like the hope of finding happily ever after.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I’d love to say writing has been a smooth road, but that’s definitely not the case. If anything, being an author is not for the faint at heart. It’s hard work. There are rejection letters from publishers, days when I think I can’t do this, that I can’t write another word and want to toss my laptop out the window, and the challenge of getting the world to see that Black love is real and beautiful (I can absolutely testify to that). However, I stand on the shoulders of romance authors such as Sandra Kitt, Francis Ray, Beverly Jenkins, Brenda Jackson and Angie Daniels, who shattered the roof for authors like me to be able to share our stories. As the saying goes, “Because of them, I can.” Right now, we are in a climate of change and I’m looking forward to being part of it and, hopefully, alongside my author sisters and brothers, can continue to break down these barriers.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an author of romance, romantic suspense and women’s fiction and specialize in happily ever afters. I’m known for feisty heroines and swoon-worthy heroes all wrapped up in a sweet, sensual contemporary romance. I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve written 26 novels in the past six years. There’s no way I would have been able to accomplish such a feat without the support of my husband, my real-life hero.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was an avid reader, but I also loved music and had to sing every time a song came on. Come to think of it, I still do…lol! Thank goodness I can hold a tune fairly decently. I also enjoyed hanging out with close friends and lived in the skating rink during the summers. Even with all of that, I was pretty much on the introvert scale and preferred the quiet to parties.

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