Meet Debut Author Theresa Chevalier

Theresa Chevalier’s debut novel, Shameful Innocence, is a historical set in a time and place not often explored. The heroine is a young girl of German heritage who is part of a Mennonite family living in Russia during World War I and the Russian Revolution. Theresa’s extensive research enabled her to bring this culture and period to life with vivid detail.

Theresa’s own family has a rich history of migration and adapting to changing lifestyles. She spent her childhood exploring the jungles of South America.

Now a single mom enjoying the task of raising her four children, Theresa lives in the beautiful Fraser Valley in British Columbia. She has maintained her love of the outdoors by hiking the fabulous B.C. mountains, skiing, swimming, biking and running whenever possible.

Join me as we learn more about Theresa and her journey to publication.
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Theresa Chevalier
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Theresa Embarks on Her Journey

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•When did the idea for Shameful Innocence first come to you?

About eight years ago, I was having a conversation with my mom about some of our ancestors who lived in Russia during WWI, the following Russian Revolution and Communism. Of course, she’d shared stories before, but I’d never really listened. This time, I actually heard with my heart what she was saying, and their life in these unimaginable times brought me to tears. That day I realized I had an incredible opportunity to tell this unique story in a way that I’d never seen before!

•When did you start writing? How long did it take to get from first word to last?

One of the busiest times for any mother is the year her children start kindergarten. At this time, in the year 2000, I started formulating ideas but waited till my two youngest started full school days in 2001 to type those first words. As they started their new routine, I eagerly headed to my computer to bring this story to life.

After about seven solid months of writing, life changed, and I had to go back to full time work. At this point, months would often go by before I had a chance to get back to the story. But it was a quest that I would not give up on. The characters were always in my mind waiting to live their lives. In the spring of 2007 I ecstatically typed the words THE END!
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Theresa’s Process

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•How much time did you spend researching World War I, the Russian Revolution and the German Mennonites in Russia before you began to write the story? How did you go about getting the information you need?

Measuring the time it took to do the research is a difficult thing. All I know is that I spent hours and hours reading and taking notes. It probably took just as long to research as it did to actually write the story.

Not to get ahead in my research is what I found to be the best trick for me. If my characters were living through events in 1921 and the research book went to 1935, I would stop reading at 1921. This way I could give my full attention to what was going on in the moment and not rush the process to move ahead in the story and leave out important detail and emotion.

I’ve heard many historical authors say that they get completely caught up in the research because it’s so interesting, and I totally agree. So, my process is a back and forth. I research for a few days, and then I write till I need the next piece of accurate historical information.

I’m fortunate that I live in a city that was one of the main destinations for many of the Mennonites who fled when the Communist government made life for them unbearable because of their Christian beliefs. Our thrift stores have many original autobiographies and informational books from that period. Because I like to hang onto the research books for so long, it’s best for me to buy them. I also visited our local library for books on WWI, and the Internet was very helpful in giving me information on the diseases during that period.

I also met in person with a 90-year-old gentleman who’d been a boy living in Russia during the time of my story. He only wanted to talk about the idyllic times prior to the upheaval. I sensed that even though he’d lived in freedom for years, he still feared repercussions if he spoke the truth about anything else.

•I understand you speak German and were able to read the accounts of some of the actual people who lived through the events that take place in your story. What aspects of their remembrances touched you most deeply?

I was most deeply touched by their strong will to live and survive! Their strength of character and deep faith is astounding! Even though we all have daily struggles and life goes smoothly for very few, we still have no idea how tough things have been for many people (and still are in many countries). I often ask myself, “How much would I be able to take before wanting to give up?”

I have been deeply inspired to have continual hope for the better days ahead, even if they’re years from now. Although I’ve always been very appreciative of all that is in my life, it has now grown to profound depth!

A young woman, who was part of my sample market, read a part of my book before it was released. She asked me, “How much more is this poor girl going to have to endure?” To put it into perspective I told her this was only a small portion of my heroine’s life. Just think of all the events and changes in the last 100 years. We have amazing grandparents and great grandparents!
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Peaks

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•Your local community recognized your talent and gave you a prestigious award. How did this come about, and what was your reaction?

We had a small, very popular, local paper that circulated mainly to the businesses and coffee shops. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible article printed about me and my book in the very last issue. Much interest was generated through this one article.

I was completely overwhelmed when numerous people came to me and informed me that they were so powerfully impacted by my novel that they were nominating me for the “Outstanding Literary Artist” award. The city of Abbotsford, British Columbia put on a beautiful, elegant evening. Not once did I actually think I’d receive the award. I was a nervous wreck! And when I heard some of the accolades of the other nominees, I felt incredibly honored to be included.

When my name was read, I’m sure my jaw dropped! I felt my face scrunch and eyes fill with tears. To be so recognized by my community was completely overwhelming! I might as well have been receiving the Oscar! Truly, I just wanted to drop to my knees in thankful appreciation!

•You’ve received some glowing reviews. Which have meant the most and why?

Shameful InnocenceThe model on my book cover is my niece Lindsay. This girl with a heart of gold has already had to deal with some very painful issues. She was so moved and deeply impacted by my book, I just think her written testimonial says it best. I’ve had more discussions about this story with her than with anyone else. The aspects of the father/daughter relationship in the book were of great personal interest to her.

Then there’s my dad. He’d never read a novel before reading Shameful Innocence. Now he’s become an avid reader. He says he has yet to come across a book that will have the same impact on him. What more could I ask for than to have had someone else discover the joy/love of reading through my book?

I’ve also received very positive feedback from the academic, professional, and fellow writer community. The fact that they consider my book acceptable of their standards has really increased my confidence in my abilities.

The cutest review was from a 93-year-old gentleman. He said it’s one of the only things that’s kept him up all night in a long time! His recommendation was that no one should start reading it at night.
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Valleys

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•Being a busy mother who works full-time, you went through periods when you weren’t able to work on your story. How did you deal with those down times? What enabled you to maintain your momentum and return to your story ready to move forward when time allowed?

I prayed during the down times. For anyone who does not believe in God, it might seem strange, but when I’d start to worry that I had not written in a long time, I’d always hear God whisper in the most peaceful of ways, “Don’t worry Theresa. This story is here for you, waiting. Whenever you’re ready, it will still be there. It’s a gift I’ve given you and all you have to do is take it.” And that’s what I did. I allowed myself to feel peace about the fact that I at times had other, more pressing, obligations. And I never doubted the voice of God.

I know my novel is very graphic in places and would not be considered a Christian novel because of this. At the same time, I felt led by God to write it in exactly the way I did. I prayed lots. “Lord, I can change this, I could make this different.” But I felt compelled to leave it as is. At this point, no one has been offended. I’m told that it is one of the most real accounts of how things really were during that time period.

By allowing God to worry about the time issue and having faith, it all came together beautifully and easily. Through my eyes, miraculous. So, for me it never felt like a burden or a task. Regaining the momentum was always an exciting pleasure. I was always just as curious what would come next as the reader is!

•Seven years is a long time to work on one book. I admire your dedication. There must have been times, though, when discouragement and doubt waged war with your desire to fulfill your dream. How did you battle those persistent pests we writers face from time to time?

To battle those persistent pests I tried to put a few fail-safes in place. Because I felt so strongly that it was a story that needed to be written and brought to the world, I told both of my sisters,  “In the event of my untimely death, this is where I keep my notes, etc. Please will one of you finish it?” Now it might seem overboard to go to this extreme, but as a single parent of four kids, I feel huge responsibility for their lives. I have to plan and be prepared for everything and anything. I always make sure to tell my kids where all the important papers are, etc. The story was almost like another baby, and knowing someone else who would care for it as I had and raise it to maturity brought me peace.
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Partners on Theresa’s Journey

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•I understand two people were great assets to you, your niece and a tech-savvy friend. Please tell us about their contributions to your book.

I knew from the get-go that an eye-catching book cover is of utmost importance in the sale of a book, especially if you are an unknown author. If your name doesn’t sell then the cover had better do the job. After reading the story and falling in love with the characters, my niece Lindsay was more than eager to grace the front cover and take on the role of one of the characters. She has the beauty, mystery, and intrigue needed to pull someone past the front cover. I am extremely fortunate to have her as part of this journey!

Shameful Innocence was written on three different computers! The first 100 pages were on a very old Mac that wouldn’t even accept more than 100 pages! With technology changing so rapidly, I couldn’t even save from one computer and put a disk into another. Plus people will tell you that I’m the most technological inept person they’ve ever met!

Anyway, my friend Diane found me other computer whizzes who helped turn things from one computer into a format that the other one could read and so on. Even after I had the whole book on one single computer, there were still all kinds of weird symbols between sentences. Diane helped me clean everything up!

•Your publisher, Eloquent Books, is a true partner in that they’ve come alongside you in your mutual endeavor. How does your joint-publishing agreement work?

Joint publishing is closer to the process of self-publishing than being 100% funded by a big publishing house. I did have to sign a seven-year contract. The idea is that we each pay half the cost involved and split the profits evenly. The bonus of joint versus self-publishing is that Eloquent put my novel on Ingram Books, a company that supplies only bookstores and not the public. This way any bookstore has access to my book. Self-publishing usually gets your book on Amazon and other public sites, but not Ingram.

Overall, working with Eloquent went very smoothly. With joint publishing, an author gets a lot of say in the final product. Having a striking cover was very important to me. I sent them all the artwork and told their art department which colors to use, etc. My instructions were followed to a T, and I couldn’t have been happier!

Being 100% covered would be the ideal situation to be in but I had two issues that prompted me to choose Joint Publishing:

1) From my original test market, I had so many people asking me for the book that I did not want to wait any longer.

2) The part of this whole process that I disliked the most was trying to find an agent and publishing company. All I really wanted to do was hand my completed manuscript to someone else and say, “Here you go. Now you do the rest.” I just wanted to get back to writing another story.

•How much assistance does Eloquent provide with marketing and promotion?

The more I do the more they do for me. To date, I’ve arranged all my own book signings and I’ve sent out copies of my book to public libraries. As it is being accepted, Eloquent is providing me with posters and promotional material. I can ask their marketing team any questions I like, and they are very helpful in giving me direction.
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Theresa’s Journey Continues

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Shameful Innocence is a fait accompli. What’s next? Didn’t I see mention of a sequel with more of a suspense/thriller focus? Can your readers expect to see familiar characters, or will there be an entirely new cast?

I am definitely working on a sequel and there will be some familiar characters. The fact that it’s turned into a historical/suspense/romance has completely surprised me! I started wanting my main characters having to deal with one big issue, but all these other things started happening at the same time. Completely unplanned but I’m very excited by how things are playing out.

I have written the sequel in a way that if someone has not read Shameful Innocence they would never know that there is a story before the sequel. It will be an equally intense read either together or by itself.
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Five Facts About Theresa the Writer

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~ What time of day do you like to write?

Morning-have always been an early bird and that’s when I have my best brain power.

~ What does your writing space look like?

Wish I could say clean, organized, etc., but the computers have always been shared with my kids who are now teens! Need I say more?

~ What do you snack on when you’re deep in your writing zone?

Eeek! I usually load up on brownies and cool whip before I start and then don’t eat till I’m done writing. (3-4 hours later I resume healthy eating habits)

~ What are your must-have reference books?

Does a thesaurus count? When reading other people’s books, I’m often so impressed by their adjectives/adverbs. That’s where I need the most help. Besides the thesaurus, all the original autobiographies and encyclopedias to make sure all my facts are right on.

~ What is your greatest source of inspiration?

People in general. I hear people’s stories and go “Wow!” So many incredible people out there!
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Five Fun Facts About Theresa the Person

Raspberry Fields

Theresa passes this raspberry field daily, one of her sources of reflection, inspiration and thankfulness.

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~ I love raspberry fields. They bring me a sense of peace and appreciation.

~My favorite things are hiking, dancing, chocolate, and swimming in open water.

~I describe myself as a “Hopeful” romantic–still always putting myself out there to find the love of my life.

~A risk taker–always willing to try something new and take a chance.

~Doesn’t take more than a sappy commercial to bring me to tears.
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Theresa’s Question for You

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•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Theresa. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?

Is there anything you wish your parent(s) or prime caregiver would have explained to you in detail before becoming a teen or adult?
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Learn More About Theresa

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Visit her Web site – http://theresachevalier.com

Friend her on Facebook: Theresa Chevalier
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Leave a Comment for Three Chances to Win

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Theresa’s Drawing
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Theresa has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of her debut novel, Shameful Innocence, to one lucky visitor.

To enter the drawing, leave a comment for Theresa by midnight Pacific Time on August 11th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On August 12th, I’ll post the winner’s name here.
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Keli’s Regular Drawing
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My next drawing will take place August 20th. The winner will receive a metal bookmark from Hallmark that reads, “Miracles begin within.”

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Miracles begin within.
Miracles begin within.

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To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by August 21st and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On August 1st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
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If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and August 30th. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On September 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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15 Responses to Meet Debut Author Theresa Chevalier

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Theresa! It’s great to have you as my guest here at Romance Writers on the Journey.

    My parents taught me a lot of great things. Unfortunately, I was too immature to take full advantage of their lessons when I was young and made some avoidable mistakes. If there were a way my parents could have helped me believe that they knew what they were talking about, that would have been great.

    However, now that I’ve reached the place where my hubby and I are sending our daughter off to college, I see things from the other side. No matter how much we as parents try to help our children, some lessons are learned through experience. We parents just have to trust we’ve laid a good foundation.

  2. Quilt Lady says:

    Hello Theresa, its very nice to meet you. I agree with Keli about parent teaching us a lot but we never think they know what they are talking about and then we relize it later in life just how smart our parents were. I also have a son in college and he never wants to hear what I have to say so I just tell him he will have to learn it the hard way.

    I was wondering did you enjoy the research to this book.

    ghurt110 AT bellsouth DOT net

  3. Lynne Karey-McKenna says:

    Great job, Theresa, you are an inspiration!

  4. terisawilcox says:

    Nice interview, Theresa. I know exactly what you mean about being a parent and working full-time and having to put writing aside for awhile. Faith and prayer are definitely the sustaining forces in those situations. 😀 Congratulations!

  5. theresachevalier says:

    Morning Keli-First of all it’s been wonderful getting to know you through this process. I’ve learned so much from you and this site that you’ve created! From your gentle spirit and understanding personality I know that your daughter will do great in college. And you’re right lessons seem best learned through experience!

    Quiet Lady: I loved doing the research for this book. At times it was so intense though, I’d be surrounded in kleenix. I’d never fully appreciated what others had gone through during this time. Heart breaking and yet inspirational.

    I’ve already had one son go through college. It’s my 3rd one in line I’m most worried about. His older brothers have set a good example but this one may want to let loose a bit more.

    Lynne: Thanks so much for all your positive words. For those of you who don’t recognize her name, Lynne is a very gifted actress having won many awards. I was fortunate enough to spend several months working on a play with her last year. It was an experience I will always treasure!!

    Terisa-Thank you Terisa! Is your name pronounced the same as mine? Very unique spelling.

    There are times in my life when a day has so many things that need to get accomplished that I definitely don’t look ahead and pray just for the strength to make it through that day. For me looking at what might need to happen within an entire month is much too overwhelming!

  6. Jessica says:

    Hi Theresa,
    Wonderful interview, and congrats! Your niece does have a very beautiful, compelling look. I love chocolate too. 🙂 Bring on the frosting as I write! LOL
    That time period does sound fascinating. It’s hard for me to imagine what living under a government like that would be like. Very sad about the 90 yr old man you interviewed.
    Congrats on the award and on finishing and seeing this into print!

  7. Jessica, Hi!

    What a great way to start my day! With all of your compliments and positive words! With chocolate I think the more we deny ourselves the more we crave it. I’ve finally just stopped fighting it.

    We are so fortunate to live in a country where we can vote and know that it is private and annonamous (did I spell that right?). Can you imagine being forced to go to vote and then as guns are raised at you being told that if there’s anyone who has a question as to who they’re voting for they should just raise their hand now?

    (90 Yr Old) I’ve heard that where I live there are still many older ladies who can’t go to sleep with the lights out because of things that happened to them.

    Being extra caring and understanding towards each other is just one positive thing we can take from this.

    Let’s continue working together to make this world a better safer place for everyone!

  8. Anne Barton says:

    Theresa, your book cover is striking. I enjoyed reading about your journey. Love that photo of the raspberry field too! 🙂

  9. Hello Anne!

    Thanks so much on the book cover compliment. I was so “Happy” with how the final cover turned out. To me it’s almost like a piece of art. People actually do pick it up and just enjoy it for minutes at a time before checking out the back.

    And that raspberry field, Gosh I’ve got pictures of it in all the differant seasons. Besides the peaceful beauty I’m also always so thankful for all the hard work so many people do to provide us with wholesome foods.

    Enjoy your week!

  10. Keli Gwyn says:

    Congratulations to Quilt Lady. You’re the winner of Theresa’s debut novel, Shameful Innocence. I’ll get the autographed copy on its way to you.

  11. Well done Theresa. The book is provocative and tells an important story.

    More information about innocent victims caught in Stalin’s snare can be found in a collection of letters. The book,”Remember Us”: Letters from Stalin’s Gulag, and the film “Through the Red Gate” tell the rest of the story. I welcome readers to view the trailer and see samples of letters at http://www.gulagletters.com.

  12. Ruth, it’s a pleasure and honour to have you visit during this interview.

    Some fantastic newspaper articles have been published about Ruth’s book and film. I’ve read parts of some of the letters and just the articles brought me to tears.

    Even though so many horrific things have happened in history (and still go on in parts of the world today), I believe that if we are willing to learn from history then it is a gift to us.

    I look forward to reading more of your work in the future Ruth!

  13. I would like to 2nd the “Congratulations” to Quilt Lady.

    I hope that you will be deeply impacted by the story and would love to have a testimonial from you when you’re finished reading it.

    You can send that to me through my web page. Several times a year I’m going to be updating and adding new testimonials.

    Also if you have any questions about the story and want to have a semi book club type discussion I’ll gladly do that.

    Hope you’re having a lovely summer!

  14. I’ve had a wonderful week being featured on Keli Gwyn’s site. Thanks so much for everything Keli!

    It’s been so much fun meeting new people and having mini discussions on life.

    I know that I’m richer for the experience!

    I’m going to keep my eye out for books from fellow authors on this site and will definitely head to the book stores to purchase and help make your dreams a reality. Getting a wave of interested readers happening across the globe will bring attention to you!

    Keli has set a great example for me in how helpful she’s been to authors. If anyone reads this interview and has any questions in regards to publication or writing etc. please feel free to contact me through my website and I will do all I can to help!

    It’s such a great time to be alive! We have so much to look forward to! My best to all of you!

    Warmest Regards,

    Theresa Chevalier

  15. Sherry Boniface says:

    Theresa my friend – congratulations on a wonderful article and the opportunity to know more and more about you the person. The book is absolutely amazing and I am proud to know you and have you reside in Abbotsford. I find myself reading parts over and over again, wrapped in your world. I just can’t wait much longer for the next one!

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