Tuesday, April 20, 2010

An Interview with Sherryl Woods

Today we welcome New York Times Bestselling author, Sherryl Woods!  Good Morning, Sherryl! We’re delighted to have you visit with us today at The Romance Dish. Before we begin, I have to take a moment to tell you how much I enjoy your books. I’ve been reading them since discovering the Adams family through your Silhouette Special Edition series back around 1996. When did you first start writing and how many books have you published?

Thanks so much for having me here, PJ. Believe it or not, I didn't even go into journalism intending to be a writer in that field. I wanted to do graphic design. It fascinates me how plans change. At any rate, when I left journalism in 1980, I intended to experiment for a few months. One of those experiments was writing a romance novel...or two. My first books were published in 1982 and I've since written well over a hundred in both the romance and mystery genres. I'm still astounded.

March 30, 2010
Wow! That's a whole lot of books! And many hours of reading pleasure for me over the past several years.  Your April release, Home in Carolina, continues the Sweet Magnolias series into the next generation. Will you share a bit about the story with us?

Ever since A Slice of Heaven, the second book in the original Sweet Magnolias trilogy, readers have been asking for a story about Ty Townsend and Annie Sullivan. I protested for the longest time that they were way too young, but now they've had time to grow up, live a little and make some real mistakes. In Ty's case, his mistake has cost him Annie's love and respect. Ultimately this is a story about forgiveness and reconciliation between these two lifelong best friends.

I admit to being one of those who had been eagerly anticipating Ty and Annie's story. I'm so glad you decided to write it even though you sure didn't make their journey easy. You don’t shy away from the tough topics in your stories. Do you begin a book with the intent of covering serious issues such as eating disorders, betrayal and spousal abuse or do you follow where your characters lead?

I tend to write with a lot of humor in my books, but occasionally a topic comes along that I feel is so important to women that I have to find a way to share it. In this particular collection of stories I found myself dealing with unfaithfulness, verbal abuse and physical abuse. Hopefully because there's still plenty of humor among the friends, the books won't feel dark at all, but will give women hope and show that people going through such difficult times in their own marriages can do more than survive. They can triumph.

You've done a masterful job of blending the humor with the drama.  While these books tackle serious issues, they do feel hopeful, not dark.  Many of your books in recent years, including the Sweet Magnolias series, have been set in the South Carolina Lowcountry. What draws you to this area?

Years and years ago on my first visit to Charleston, SC, I was walking through the historic district and immediately felt comfortable. At that point I hadn't even considered writing a book, but I had this image in my mind of living in an old carriage house and writing. Ironically -- and believe me with no real planning on my part -- my first book and my 100th wound up being set in Charleston. If nothing else, these books mean I get to go back to that region and visit on a regular basis. I love the charm and friendliness and the old traditions and architecture.

April 27, 2010
While the books of your Sweet Magnolia series are wonderful love stories, the enduring friendship of the heroines is a central theme that carries across all of the books. Is this a reflection of the importance of girlfriends in your own life?

Absolutely. I don't follow astrology all that closely, but I know it's a trait of those born with Cancer as a sign to cling tenaciously to people they care about, and I've done that all my life. I have friends going all the way back to elementary school. I don't see them as often anymore, but the minute we see each other or get on the phone, it's as if the years just slip away. I think friends are an incredibly important part of everyone's support system. I always feel bad when someone gets married or seriously involved with someone and starts letting those friendships slide. I just know they'll come to regret it. I suppose there's a downside to having someone know all our secrets, but I think to the contrary that it's reassuring to have all those shared memories.

The second and third books in this series, Sweet Tea at Sunrise (I love that title!) and Honeysuckle Summer are being released in May and June, respectively. I’m sure all of the fans of this series are just as excited about that as I am! What will these stories be about?

May 25, 2010
As I mentioned earlier, verbal abuse is a part of the plot in Sweet Tea at Sunrise. When Sarah comes back to Serenity, she's lost her self-esteem thanks to a thoughtless husband and some downright mean in-laws. She definitely needs a sweet-talking man like Travis McDonald to show her some kindness and respect. As for Raylene, the physical violence in her marriage has left her afraid to leave the house in Honeysuckle Summer. Tackling the idea of an agorophobic heroine was probably insane, but I think the story works and, of course, she has an amazingly patient hero any woman would be delighted to find.

I'm looking forward to reading both of their stories.  What are you working on now?

Right now I'm finishing up three new Chesapeake Shores books for spring 2011. Besides loving to write about friendships, I also love digging into family dynamics. If you read the Adams series for Silhouette, you know exactly what I mean, and the O'Briens are just as complex and, hopefully, just as much fun. In fact, those already hooked on this series, will be happy to know that Mick and Megan are set to walk down the aisle in A Chesapeake Shores Christmas, due out at the end of September...unless Connor gets his way.

Being from a large family myself, one of the things I've most enjoyed about your books is the exploration of family dynamics.  You do it so well!  Here at The Romance Dish, we all have our favorite comfort reads – those books that we return to time and again. What book is guaranteed to always bring a smile to your face and a sigh to your heart?

It's interesting that you say that. I have authors I turn to when I want a comforting, quiet read -- Maeve Binchy, Jan Karon and Joan Medlicott come to mind -- but I rarely read the same book twice. Maybe that's because I'm totally daunted by the size of my to-be-read pile and always want to plunge into the next story.

I have one of those mountainous TBR piles too but there are a couple books that I always return to for comfort. Binchy, Karon and Medlicott are all wonderful writers! 

People talk about Bucket Lists, those things that they want to do during their lifetime. What are three things on your list?

Oh my, I suppose they'd all have to do with travel. I want to rent a house in the south of France sometime, I'd love to cruise the Greek Isles, and I want to go back to the Irish countryside. There will be no daredevil stunts for me!

My passions (besides reading, of course) are my dogs, photography, travel and baking. Besides writing, what are your passions?

Movies, theater, baseball and tennis. The baseball aspect probably shows up in my books more than anything else. There are Major League players in many of them, including in this latest trilogy. Ty plays for the Atlanta Braves and Sarah's hero, Travis McDonald, played for Boston.

Sherryl, thank you so much for visiting with us today and best of luck with the new Sweet Magnolias trilogy.  Is there a question you would like to ask our readers?

Thanks so much for letting me stop by. I'd love to hear how they feel about continuing series.

Okay, readers.  What do you think?  Should a series have a natural end or do you think they can sustain stories indefinitely? 

 For more information about Sherryl and her books, please visit her website.


  1. I don’t know? One of the 1st series books I started reading (at my late age) was the Outlander series and I’m not happy having to wait so long between books…yet they are very good and worth waiting for and I will be first in line to get the latest novel.

    However, if (my aunt) had told me when I started that series that I’d have to wait for years and years between books….I think I would have postponed reading them. The waiting for the next novel has been excruciating!!! I sympathize with those fans that started this series (years) before I discovered it!!!

    And as a result, I’m less likely to buy a new book if it is part of an on going series with cliffhanger endings. .

    Don’t get me wrong….I love a series with all the family connections and their continued stories of their escapades and those of their family members…but I also love my books to leave me with a sense of fulfillment and completion when I’m finished with the novel.

    So I’m torn between the two…..Do I love a series that has me asking what will happen next? Yes. However; Do I want to wait years and years to know the answers??? Not if I don’t have to…yet I cannot bear the thought of Jamie/Claire no longer living and therefore no more books???

    My vote: maybe yes….maybe no?

    P.S. I heard it said many times that when you walk down the middle of the road….you get run over…..Hah!!!

    mitzihinkey at sbclgobal dot net

  2. Hi everyone. I'm so happy to be with you today. Mitzi, there will be no cliffhanger endings from me. Hopefully just a desire to read more. And most of my books come out back-to-back, a tradition I pleaded for even when I was writing for Silhouette. Must be because I have no patience. Can't wait to hear what the rest of you think.

  3. Hi Mitzi! I know what you mean about a series that takes years to play out. It's so hard to wait between books. Luckily for you, the first three books in Sherryl's Sweet Magnolias series have already been published and the first book in her Sweet Magnolias "next generation" trilogy is is stores now. Even better, the next two books will be out in May and June!

    I'm chuckling over your "middle of the road" comment. Too funny and, often, too true!

  4. Good Morning, Sherryl! Thank you so much for being with us today. I think I speak for most readers when I say that we greatly appreciate you pleading for back-to-back releases!

  5. I do like series, you get to know the people, but it varies how long they can go on. I've continued to enjoy ones like the Sweet Magnolias because they are bringing the focus to different people,while keeping up some on the "regulars". I have read others where this wasn't as successful and the books weren't as enjoyable. So it depends.

  6. I love any and all series. I think it's ironic that we spend so much time WAITING for the newest book to come out, then we whip through it in just a couple days. Oh well, looking at my overflowing bookshelfs, I should never be lacking anything to read. My favorite thing about series is how well we get to know the characters. I often find myself thinking about characters long after I've finished a book....and the small towns? LOVE THEM.

    Oh, and to answer your question, I'd much rather a series end naturally, rather than with a cliffhanger.

    LOVING Home in Carolina---now if only I could find time to read. My crazy work schedule is definitely cramping my reading time these days. Keep those books coming. I can't wait to read your upcoming anthologies, and was very excited to find out that you have a new book coming out from the Rose Cottage Series. I have the first 4 books in my TBR MOUNTAIN (sound familiar?) and hope to read them soon.

  7. Hi Sheryl -

    I'm one of the lucky ones that received advance reading copies of all three books. And yes, I gobbled them up!

    I am an absolute lover of series and was delighted that you and your publisher decided to tell and release Annie, Sarah and Raylene's stories one after the next. I know it's selfish, because it takes time to write - but from a reader's standpoint - I am thrilled when I don't have to wait for the next story.

    Each book touched me - and I was rooting for the heroines as I read their stories.

    And Mitzi - I'm right there with you - waiting for each book in the Outlander series has been painful. When it comes to a series I love, like Outlander or The Black Dagger Brotherhood - I will wait. I may not like it, but I will wait.

  8. MaryAnn, I have to pull a Mitzi middle-of-the-road answer and agree with you here. I'm really torn about this whole issue, which is why I brought it up. As a writer there's a comfort in going back to the familiar and I could keep on doing it, but I do think sometimes a series just needs to wind down.

    In my mind, I think these three books should be the last of the Sweet Magnolias, for example, but then I get suggestions (or pleas) from readers for more. And I am oh, so tempted.

    I did end the Adams series ("And Baby Makes Three" books for Silhouette) simply because I couldn't bear for Grandpa Harlan to die. At some point it would have stretched even willing minds for him to be going strong.

    So, I'm grateful for the input from everyone. Keep it coming.

  9. A reader asked me for more info on Sherryl's books about the Adams family. There are 12 books (including one single title) that are part of the Silhouette Special Edition series titled "And Baby Makes Three." For a full list of the individual book titles (and the rest of Sherryl's titles), check out the list at Sherryl's website. There's even a "printer friendly" format! (I like this.)


  10. I agree with you, MaryAnn. I've read a few series where, after the third or fourth book, it begins to get stale. I like that Sherryl continues to introduce new characters and storylines to keep things fresh while giving us the opportunity to "visit" with old friends.

  11. Kelly, just to clarify, the two Rose Cottage books coming out this fall are actually two-in-one collections of the original four books. They're not new. And my stories in the anthologies this summer are reissues as well. I try to alert readers to the reissues these days since there seem to be more of them. Not even I can write as fast as it seems looking at the schedule.

    Other than these Sweet Magnolias books, only A Chesapeake Shores Christmas is new in 2010. And in 2011 there will be three new Chesapeake Shores books back-to-back in the spring.

  12. Hi Kelly! Thanks for popping in. Laughing at your tbr mountain. I have one of those myself. Actually, it's evolved into a bit of a mountain range. There are only so many reading hours in the day!

    I loved the Rose Cottage series! You have some wonderful reading ahead of you.

  13. I'm one of the lucky ones that received advance reading copies of all three books. And yes, I gobbled them up!

    I love you, Maria, but I'm so jealous! I'm one of the ones that are patiently (okay, okay, not so patiently) counting the days until the release of books two and three. ;-) Glad to hear you enjoyed them and thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to stop by!

  14. I did end the Adams series ("And Baby Makes Three" books for Silhouette) simply because I couldn't bear for Grandpa Harlan to die.

    As much as it saddened me to see that series end, I would have been devastated if you'd killed off Grandpa Harlan. It would have been like losing a member of my family. :(

  15. I am mixed on feelings about the series ending or continuing. If the series can go on with no sad ending that would be fine but otherwise I rather see another series start. Sherryl I love all your books and hope to have lots of them in future. susan L.

  16. Hello and welcome, Sherryl! What a great interview! :)

    I *love* series! I enjoy seeing characters from previous books...it's like visiting with old friends.

  17. Hi, Sherryl! I've been reading your books even longer than PJ--since your Second Chance at Love days. I loved that line and rarely missed one.

    I'm a series addict and have been since childhood when my favorite books were series by L. M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, and Maud Hart Lovelace. I do think some series go longer than they should, but I think that happens less often in romance than in other genres where the story arc is longer.

    I've already read and delighted in Home in Carolina and am eager to read Sweet Tea at Sunrise and Honeysuckle Summer.

  18. Really nice to hear from some of you who go back a long way with my books. Weren't the books from Second Chance at love fun, Janga? Some great writers were there, including, if memory serves, Janet Evanovich. I still have a small stash of them on a keeper shelf, which badly needs to be dusted.

    Also, as a reader, I'm with Andrea. Reading a series is like going back to connect with old friends. I think that's why I've loved some mystery series long before series became a trend in romance. I like seeing characters grow over time.

  19. Hello Sherryl! Thank you so much for spending the day with us!!

    I am astounded that you have written 100 books! WOW!

    I am a huge fan of series. I just love them. In fact, now I find myself wondering about the HEA for secondary characters in every book I read.

  20. Hi Susan! Thank you for stopping by today.

  21. Hi Janga! I knew if anybody out there had me beat on the Sherryl Woods longevity, it would be you. :) I somehow managed to miss the Second Chance at Love line.

  22. 100 Books, that is astounding

    Amazing, isn't it, Drew? I was even more amazed when I went through the list and counted the number of them that I've read. (73)

  23. Sherryl, thank you so much for visiting with us today. Best of luck with the new Sweet Magnolias trilogy. I'll be looking forward to reading all of them soon!

  24. I'm so impressed with you avid readers who've kept up with me. As for actually writing over 100 books, the only way to accomplish that is one book at a time! And learning to let go of them. I had to accept that a book might not be the most perfect book ever, but it was the very best I could do at that time, by that deadline. And, trust me on this, deadlines matter. They're not just idle suggestions.

    It's been fun reading the comments today. I'll stop by again in the morning in case any of you have additional comments or questions.

  25. I am a big Sherryl Woods fan and I am glad to be her today for her interview with you PJ.. It was a wonderful interview and gave us some insight in to the continuing saga of the Sweet Magnolia's

    I think some series do have a natural ending.. depends I think on the story line.. But I do like books that can expand generations... But it does not matter to me if it is a series or stand alone.. Sherrly's books are alway an auto buy for me

  26. Great interview. I discovered your books a few years ago and put them on the shelves of our library. They are checked out frequently and hopefully they are ordering your new ones.

    As for series, I think it depends on the scope of the characters. If you are dealing with several friends, you can bring the series to a natural conclusion after they each get their HEA.
    When you have an extended family or a small community, you have endless possibilities for story development. The dynamics change, characters change -age, move in, move out, mature, have children, die. It can be looked at as one long series or a group of related series.
    I know that when I get to know characters, I hate to see them go at the end of a book. Knowing they will be around and we can visit again in another book is something to look forward to.
    I am following a few series where the books come out a year apart and the story kind of stops in the middle at the end of each book. It kills me to wait a whole year. I have started waiting until all books in a series are out and I have them before starting. That said, there are different types of series. You have those with one story arc needing all books to complete the story. There are other series that, rather than a single story tying them together, are held together by their locale or family relationship with each story being a stand alone. They both work, but the second you can drop into without feeling totally lost.