Cheryl Shireman's Life Is More Than A Dream – Interview

Today, we are going to do something a little different.

Cheryl Shireman was kind enough to answer a few questions. For those of you who don’t know her, Cheryl is currently selling over 200 copies PER DAY of the e-book edition of her self-published literary novel Life is But A Dream.

Can you tell us a little about your book?

Life is But a Dream is a novel about a woman who suddenly questions her existence. Her marriage appears to be falling apart, and her only daughter is leaving for college. She goes to a secluded lake cabin to redefine her life.

The book is about how we define our lives, the devastating consequences of depression, the strength of love, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

I’ve noticed your Life is But a Dream racing up the charts. When did you first realise that it was taking off?

Well, the book is only been out four months now. During the third month my sales started taking off.  Now, the fourth month, I have more than doubled the sales for the third month.

I am still in shock, to be honest. I am very grateful to my readers. They are, literally, making my dreams come true. It is quite humbling. And a little scary!

It’s selling in great numbers, and has had some lovely reviews. What do you think people are responding to?

I think readers (especially women) identify with Grace. Many readers have asked me if sections of the novel are true. For a writer, that is the ultimate compliment.

If a reader reads my novel and believes parts of it are true, then that means that I am connecting to them on an emotional level. Perhaps that is what is happening with my readers.

I feel that way about the novels of Elizabeth Berg. Her women characters are always so realistic and I can relate to them. I read her words and I am always thinking, this must have really happened.

It is my hope that I can provide the same sort of experience for my readers.

You’ve obviously worked very hard to get to this point, but is there one factor you can point to, that really spurred you on?

Perseverance. I started writing at the age of thirteen and never stopped.

In fact, through marriage, three babies, divorce, working in a factory, going back to school, remarriage, graduate school, and all of life’s other assorted ups and downs, writing has been the once constant in my life.

Very often, the only difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful writer is perseverance.

Most of the top spots in the charts, at least those that are occupied by indie authors seem to be genre fiction – thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy. Do you think there is a reason why other genres like historical fiction and literary fiction haven’t done as well? Or do you think that it’s just a matter of time?

I have no idea. But I believe the line between traditionally published books and Indie books is continuing to blur. It doesn’t matter if it is traditionally published or published by an Indie writer – good writing will attract the reader’s attention. No matter what the genre.

You must be keen to build on this success. People like Joe Konrath always say that the best promotional tool a writer has is new work. Do you have any upcoming projects?

After receiving many emails requesting one, I am working on a sequel to Life is But a Dream. When I first published the novel, I gave that idea some thought, but ultimately discarded it – thinking that perhaps I was just reluctant to say goodbye to Grace.

Instead, I wrote my second novel, Broken Resolutions.

But once the emails from readers started coming in asking about a sequel to Life is But a Dream, I started thinking about the possibility again.

I am currently a few chapters into the sequel and it is so fun! Sort of like “hanging out” with an old friend. I am amazed at the way the book is unfolding and believe it might even be a better book that the first.

Very exciting!

What advice do you wish you had been given before you started?

Buy LOTS of stock in Amazon. 🙂

Is there any other advice you would like to give people who are considering self-publishing or who are just starting out?

Do it. There is no reason not to. If you dream of being a writer, then you should be a writer. It is within your power.

Write. Read books in your genre, but read the classics, too. Take classes in writing – as many as you can afford. If at all possible, get a degree. Better yet, a graduate degree.

I started college at the age of 28. Until then, it seemed like it was an out-of-reach dream. I was a divorced mother of three. I worked full-time in a factory and went back to college.

The only reason I went to college was to get a better job to support my kids. I was scared to death to even apply. I never felt as if I was “college material”. I didn’t think they would let me in!

Much to my surprise, I excelled in college. In those writing classes, I began to hone my skill. Give yourself the chance to do the same. One more time – if you dream of being a writer, then you should be a writer. Write.


The e-book edition of Life is But a Dream is available from Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble for 99c.

The paperback is also available from Amazon.

Her latest novel, Broken Resolutions is available from Amazon and Amazon UK for $2.99.

Cheryl’s blog is here, her Facebook page is here, and you can follow her on Twitter here.


I would like to thank Cheryl for taking the time to answer my questions. If you have any questions for Cheryl, she has kindly agreed to drop in later and answer some, so please leave them in the comments.

UPDATE: Melissa Smith grilled me with 20 questions on her blog today.

Now, get those questions ready for Cheryl!

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

35 Replies to “Cheryl Shireman's Life Is More Than A Dream – Interview”

  1. “Very often, the only difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful writer is perseverance.”


    “Do it. There is no reason not to. If you dream of being a writer, then you should be a writer. It is within your power.”

    And THIS!

    Thanks for sharing, Cheryl. And may your monthly sales double once again! 🙂

    Dave, thanks for featuring Cheryl. I love to read author interviews, especially from those who are achieving great success through self publishing.

    I’d love to know from Cheryl what sort of marketing she did, if any.

    1. Thanks so much, Shea. As I read your comment, it brings tears to my eyes. YES – I am just that dorky. And may I always be! 🙂
      To answer your question on marketing – actually I have only done two things. The first is interviews like these. When I first published my book, I came across the website of another writer, Victorine Lieske. I was clueless as to how to promote my book (and I am still learning). I noticed that she had a few interviews on her website and I thought that seemed like a good idea. So I did a Google search on “author interviews” and started contacting a few sites. Some answered. I have all of the interviews posted on my website (although I am a few behind right now and have to add them). The other thing I did was feature my books on Free Book Friday. It is a website that does author interviews and gives away free books every week. Although I cannot say that I saw a huge increase in sales after doing any of these things. It has been more of a gradual but steady increase. I would suggest that a writer go the interview route. You are not only helping yourself, you are also helping another writer to promote their website. So, it’s a win/win. Thanks again for the kind comment. (sniff…sniff)

      1. That’s very interesting Cheryl (and I can’t believe you popped in while I was out!).

        I remember someone saying that John Locke spent a lot of time promoting other people’s books, and they would then return the favour.

        Win/win indeed.

      2. Thanks Cheryl for sharing your experience with all of us. I also would like to say thanks to David for his blog (As I say thanks day by day. 🙂 ). I learned a lot from this interview.

        I have one question; have you ever tried different pricing, other than 0.99? If yes, what is your experience with it?

  2. “Very often, the only difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful writer is perseverance.”

    I second Shea’s THIS!

    So true. Too true. Not the first time you’ve said some pretty amazing and inspirational writing quotes, Cheryl 🙂 Congrats on your success.

    1. Thanks so much, Heather. It is easy to be inspirational when I am so inspired myself! I LOVE encouraging other writers. I cannot believe I get to do this for a living and I want everyone to jump right in the pool with me. The water is fine! I just started a hashtag on Twitter #WritersEncouragingWriters. I don’t know if it will take off, but I am tired of the negative stuff. We should all be encouraging one another – at every level !!!

    1. I haven’t read Cheryl’s book yet, but just judging by the description you could classify it as classic “book club” fiction. These tend to do very well in print, but that success hasn’t translated, yet, to e-books. Cheryl has managed to tap into that market very well. The big successes so far have been more “genre” stuff (although I hate that label) like thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, science fiction, romance, erotica. I think it’s only a matter of time before things like historicals and literary fiction (hate that title too) take off as well. I would guess it’s a case of demographics and the readers buying e-readers, but I expect that to start happening in larger numbers this year, and especially in the run up to the holidays.

    2. Thanks, Lindsay. So nice of you to say that.
      I don’t really like the “genre” thing. It is so tough to define a novel. Lonesome Dove won the Pulitzer. Is it Literary or Western? If there were a Women’s Fiction genre, I would have chosen that for my novel. But many people don’t like that genre either. As writers, all we can do is look at how other books are categorized and try to place our books alongside books that are somewhat similar in theme or writing style.

  3. “Joe Konrath always says that there is a word for a writer who doesn’t give up: published.”

    Konrath also says it’s luck…hmmm.

    Anywho, great interview.

    1. I remember that argument! I think he was talking about “success” when he said that though. He also said that success is like being strike by lightning, but that there are ways of increasing your odds of being struck by lightning.

  4. Cheryl,

    Thanks so much for your words of advice and encouragement. Your book sounds wonderful I wish you all the best.

    And Dave thanks for providing a format that draws out wonderful talent and thoughtful conversation.

    1. I always think of things to ask after I sign out.
      Cheryl – do you have other books written that you plan on publishing (a backlist as they say) and do you write one thing at a time or do you work on multiple projects at once?



      1. I do the same thing! As soon as I hit “enter” I think of something to add! Thanks so much for your comment. You guys are really making my day! Had NO IDEA that there would be so many comments so soon!
        As crazy as this sounds – I have published 6 books since the last week of January! I told my husband, “It is as if the gates have been opened and I am running down the streets – a writer gone wild!” So, let me explain…
        Life is But a Dream was my first novel published and the one that is going crazy right now (THANK YOU readers). It took me 10 years to write, working off and on.
        Broken Resolutions is my second novel and was published about a month ago. It is just beginning to take off. It was 3/4 of the way completed when I published Life. So, I only had to finish writing a few chapters, do some rewriting, and then submit it. It probably took me a couple of years to write – but, again, I was not able to write it full time.
        You Don’t Need a Prince: A Letter to My Daughter is an adorable gift book for women to give to other women. It started out as an email to my daughter who was going through a tough time in a dating relationship. It was her idea to publish this one. What started out as an email of love is an adorable gift book full of photos of little boys an girls. Sorry to be so gushy on this one – but my heart is in it. If you do nothing else, just go look at the cover. It is so cute. (Kindle, Nook, Amazon paperback)
        Character Profile for Fiction: How to Make Your Characters Come to Life is a writing workbook based on techniques that have worked for me. It is only available in paperback through Amazon. I hope it will help other writers in their efforts.
        Heart Breathings: Writing Prompts to Inspire and Ignite Your Writing is another writing workbook full of writing prompts to help writers think out of the box and create more realistic characters and storylines. Just paperback.
        What’s Your Story: Icebreaker Questions for Small Groups is, as it’s name would indicate – a book of icebreaker questions to be used in small groups.
        I know – it is crazy to have so many titles out so quickly. But this is stuff I have been working on for years (with the exception of You Don’t Need a Prince) and it made sense to share it now. Why not?
        Currently I am working on a sequel to Life is But a Dream. I am hoping to have it completed by the end of the year, but it just depends on how the writing goes. Every book has its own rhythm. And I am in no hurry. I am also working on another non-fiction project. So, yes – I do work on multiple projects. But they have to be fiction and non-fiction. Working on two novels at once is too confusing.
        Man! This was a long answer! But I wanted to explain that the number of books is also the product of many years of writing and most of them were completed or close to completion. Thanks for asking!

  5. Fascinating stuff Cheryl! Good luck to you.
    I’d be interested to know, are you active in the whole social media malarky? All that Facebook and Twitter and Blogging type stuff? And also (if I may be so bold), did you get your manuscript professionally edited?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Thanks Tony!
      I really just started doing the whole FB/Twitter thing. I am on both as @cherylshireman I also joined a FB Group (Indie Writers Unite!) that is really great – encouraging group of writers who are all at very experience levels. Have never really been much of a social media person before now. Still learning to navigate.
      No – the manuscript was not professionally edited. And I am sure it could use editing! I have written (in various forms) for years, and have actually just served as a ghost writer for two non-fiction book published by a large traditional publisher. I am pretty good at editing the work of other writers – but when it is your own, it is much more difficult. If my sales continue at this rate, perhaps I will be able to afford a good editor for my next novel!
      Thanks for asking, Tony!

      1. Tony,

        I should also say that this interview (and mine on Melissa Smith’s blog today) is something we set up through the FB group Cheryl mentioned – Indie Writers Unite. I know you were interested in blog tours and how they are set up, and this was one way to do it for free. Essentially, we are all going to interview each other, and you should check out the group.

        Facebook seems to be down at the moment so I can’t give you the link.

      2. Maybe I also should try that Indie Writers Unite. This interview exchange sounds similar to Smashwords’ 5Q5A RVSP Interview exchange what we made recently, a little more than a week ago. There writers are also supporting other writers on the very same way.

      3. Thanks to the both of you then, I’ll find and join the indie group. Can never be a member of too many of them, especially since Facebook etc. makes membership such a breeze – no trekking out to a cold community centre on a crappy winter’s evening! And you never know when a group like this is going to provide some really useful feedback, or send some interesting new friends your way. Sweet!

  6. Great answers Cheryl, and questions David!

    I am finding myself in the same boat as far as writing a sequel goes. I never intended my first novel to be the first in a series, but the way it ‘demanded to end’ made it likely. And then when I started the sequel it seemed SO easy (already had the characters–those that lived anyway, and the backstory, and so on…).

    Best of luck on everything!

    1. Mike. Writers rarely plan sequels at the beginning. 🙂 Every work starts as a standalone work, then new ideas, new story elements, new characters comes in. My one is also started as max. 170-200 pages long pocketbook. At least this was the plan few years ago. Since that time it’s became a trilogy with app. 1200 pages.

      1. Ha! I love that, Istvan! Have to admit, I have already been thinking of the possibility of a 3rd book. Guess that would make it a series.
        I love to read a series – as long as there is some character development. I want to see the life of the character unfold and change. I find that fascinating.
        Istvan – are you writing the entire thing, and then breaking it up into a series? Or releasing it one book at a time?

      2. I written the whole thing, then when I realized it’s toooooo long, I broke it up at the appropriate places (Each volume tells a major story arc with a beginning to the end. As the entire work had a beginning, a middle and an ending… I used these three as a major “story arc”. Beginning = Vol1, Middle = Vol 2, Ending = Vol 3. But each volume will be released on different dates (Click on my name to check my website.).

      3. I think there is a real advantage to that – writing it all at one time and THEN breaking it into three pieces. Because all three books would have the same feel and flow. Instead of going back later and writing a sequel (like I am doing now). I am actually going back to read Life is But a Dream again to remind myself of little details. Congrats!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *