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Author Interview: Sheryl C.D. Ickes

Sheryl C.D. Ickes is a an award-winning author from South-central Pennsylvania. Her first novel, IT ONLY TAKES ONE BITE was the start of her Slice of Life Mystery series and drew on her 20 years of experience in cake decorating. She has gone on to write for additional books in the series. Her books have been finalists in the 2020 and 2021 American Fiction Awards, as well as winning the award in 2018. Her upcoming novel, called BEAR ATTACK, is the second in her Cross Country Mystery series and was a finalist for the 2022 Killer Nashville Claymore award.

Sheryl has graciously given me a few moments of her time to answer a few questions.

 

Let’s start with a bit of personal history, I understand you are responsible for the fiery death of a Volkswagen Bug. What happened?

VW Bugs of that age were known for the fuel lines to come off (mine did a few times), float, and catch on fire. Upon returning home from college for summer break, the bug filled with all of my college stuff, I was driving up a big hill toward my folk’s house when my car backfired and lost power. I parked briefly, leaned to the ground from my driver’s seat, looked back, and saw fire dripping from the engine. I hurriedly emptied the car, ran into the house to call 911 and to tell my job, where I delivered pizzas, that I would not be in that night due to my car being on fire. A small firehouse is located at the opposite end of the road from my house, so the firemen quickly arrived, and put out the fire. In the rush of everything, I had misplaced the car keys. The firemen pushed my car to the edge of my parents’ driveway, lifted the rear to turn it, and pushed it into the driveway.

That night, I told my dad to keep an eye on the river whenever he crossed the bridge, for one day I might be floating on it.


You currently write the Cross Country Mystery series, which features the cross country trucking team of Becky and Rufus Bridgewater. I understand you have done quite a bit of cross country driving throughout your life. How much of your own experience has influenced the series?

Quite a bit. I will draw from my trucking tales of the road, my various vacations, my husband’s and friends’ trucking adventures to add realism to my series. My husband and I drove for a company based out of Tennessee; I like that beautiful state a lot, so the company my characters drive for is based in a fictional town there. I have a fun tale to include in a future book about Arizona where my husband told me to look for a place to jump as we were going down a long decline with our brakes smoking. In my first book, Death of a Dispatcher, I included two events from my husband’s return to solo trucking as well as a few of mine.

DEATH OF A DISPATCHER by Sheryl C.D. Ickes

I’d like to talk about the craft of writing for a moment. Some writers plot out all the elements before putting a single word to paper. Others allow the story to grow organically as they write. Tell me about your writing process.

I do a kind of a hybrid. I start out writing and just go with the flow. If I find that there will be multiple storylines intertwining, I’ll stop, and make a simple timeline to keep things in order. I also tend to make notes, or write parts of stories wherever I may be, and on whatever is at hand. I put notes on my cell phone or record voice memos. My daughter picks on me for my piles of paper scraps, napkins, and backs of envelopes I have by me when I get back to my computer to write.


Your first book, IT ONLY TAKES ONE BITE, was released in 2014. What did you learn from writing that first novel that helped you moving forward with your writing career?

I learned that self-publishing has definite pros and cons and a learning curve. A pro being that I am in total control of my characters: who they are and what they do. I don’t have anybody insisting that I need to follow a fad happening in the world or that there should be more romance than I would prefer. I find that cozy readers want a mystery with some romance, not a romance with a mystery. A con would be that it’s hard to get your name out to the public. Another one would be that there are lots of hats to wear: writer, publisher, social media marketer, and seller.


Let’s shift gears for a moment. What are you currently reading?

I am beta reading a book that will be out shortly, Written Wings, by Sarah Ickes. It is a fantasy adventure story with elements of steampunk, Greek mythology, and mystery. I believe a lot of people would enjoy reading it.


IT ONLY TAKES ONE BITE by Sheryl C.D. Ickes

What can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?

Life has gotten in my way and has slowed my progress, but I am back in the swing of things. I am working on A Piece of My Heart from my Slice of Life Mystery series. The next book in my Becky and Rufus Cross Country series, Bear Attack, takes place around the Christmas holidays, so I am aiming to release it around that timeframe. I also have the beginnings of a children’s book that has a small connection to my Slice of Life series.


You’ve got a new book coming soon. Without giving away anything, what can you tell me about BEAR ATTACK that I won’t find on the book jacket or PR material?

One of the characters I am excited to introduce my readers to is Flapjack. He is a retired truck driver who used to cook for himself and any fortunate driver that was in need of a good meal. He would use anything at hand to make delicious food, including throwing some meat, seasonings, and who knows what else into a packet made of aluminum foil and using his engine as he drove to cook it. I have included a recipe for Flapjack’s Four Corners Tortilla that he makes in my story, unfortunately not done on a hot engine. Using something I saw on the internet as inspiration, my family and I had fun tweeking and perfecting this recipe on a camping trip.


Let’s finish this up with something a bit offbeat. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I believe I would choose a wolf, in particular, a lone wolf as my spirit animal. My main characters, Becky and Rufus, drive a truck nicknamed the Wolf Pack that has a painted wolf mural on it. I enjoy and respect nature, and try to keep in mind its possible dangers.

Personally, I have a tendency to do things on my own. I started driving truck when there weren’t that many female truckers. I started self-publishing when it was just becoming an acceptable publishing format. And writing, in itself, tends to be a solitary activity. Today’s world is busy and friends have different work schedules, if one always waits for someone else to do something with, one can miss out on a lot of things. I’m not afraid to do things on my own, I just try not to be reckless.

 

To learn more about Sheryl and her books, you can visit her website at www.sherylcdickes.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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