I often notice that writers who visit Free Literary Mentor, my blog about new fiction seem very aware of fear: fear of not being able to finish a novel; fear that the path to their goal is not clear; fear that publishers and agents won’t be interested … My heartfelt advice is: always remember that no work ever springs from fear—it springs from passion. If you believe in your characters, your message and your story, writing is one of the most inspired and inspiring things you can do, because readers can sense that passion at the core of what you offer them. Passion makes everything possible, even a journey that at first looks too daunting for words.
Once upon a time I lived and worked in a beautiful French château, with the pleasant job of looking after the little daughters of a marquise. Being with them in their elegant heritage home made it easy for me to imagine the glittering world of their ancestors. A few months later I found myself in the nearby town of Chevreuse, teaching English at three primary schools, and there I met a new friend, a teacher who had been born in Martinique and was the descendant of slaves. Colette, who told me vivid stories about her island home, was intellectually and emotionally engaged by the fate of African slaves in the Caribbean. As I listened to her and read the books she lent me, I was deeply struck by the immense gulf between the daily existence of her forebears and that of the privileged aristocrats who ran France in the eighteenth century.
Then came the question that brought La Créole into being: What if a slave escaped from Martinique and made it to France, determined to win justice and liberty for her people? I couldn’t rest until that question was answered. I didn’t allow the challenge to scare me, because I had something to go on: I already knew a lot about my heroine’s situation. And if she was to escape (and be prepared to run into even greater dangers) she would need to have amazing courage, and a clever gift for finding allies. The character of Ayisha grew in my mind; I could feel her intense loyalty to the black people on her plantation, and her passion for justice. And there was a small group of people in France amongst whom she might find a friend—the young noblemen of the early Enlightenment who were writing and reading about human liberty. Of course she was bound to fall in love with one of them! But what future could she have with a man who by race, birth and rank was her enemy?
I conceived of La Créole as an historical adventure and a powerful love story. I wasn’t nervous about whether it would fit into an exact genre—I wrote the kind of book I love to read, hoping others would share my passion. Ayisha fought all the way for freedom, even at the risk of losing the man who passionately loved her. I had to stick with her until the end! As it happens, the novel was accepted by Random House and published as an historical romance; it has also been translated into several languages. Now for the very first time it’s available internationally as an eBook and I’m delighted to offer readers this new edition.
That’s why my advice as an author and mentor is: banish your fears by finding your passion.
Cheryl Sawyer is the author name of Cheryl Hingley. She has had six historical novels published in several languages. La Créole and REBEL are available on Kindle and her next book is an historical crime novel, Murder at Cirey. In a long career in publishing, Cheryl has published fiction and non-fiction lists for national and international companies, including Reader’s Digest. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she writes full-time and maintains Free Literary Mentor, a free manuscript assessment service that gives professional, constructive feedback to new writers. Submissions—and comments from readers—are very welcome at the FLM blog. You’ll also find Cheryl Hingley on Facebook, as @CherylHingley on Twitter, and on Amazon.