Authors on the Verge: Meet Cheryl Renee Herbman, young adult novelist

Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbman
Breathing by Cheryl Renee Herbman

This week, we have the fabulous Cheryl Renée Herbsman. Cheryl received her B.S. in psychology from Duke University and her master’s in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives with her husband and two children in Northern California.

Here’s a little bit about BREATHING coming out TODAY with Viking:

What if the guy who took your breath away was the only one who could help you breathe?

Savannah would be happy to spend the summer in her coastal Carolina town lying in a hammock reading her beloved romance novels and working at the library. But then she meets Jackson.

Once they lock eyes, she’s convinced he’s the one—her true love, her soul mate, a boy different from all the rest. And at first it looks like Savannah is right. Jackson abides by her mama’s strict rules, and stays by her side during a hospitalization for severe asthma, which Savannah becomes convinced is only improving because Jackson is there. But when he’s called away to help his family—and seems uncertain about returning—Savannah has to learn to breathe on her own, both literally and figuratively.

This debut novel has it all—an endearing, funny, hopelessly romantic main character, lots of down-home Southern charm, and a sunny, salty beach setting that will transport you to the Carolina coast.

Cheryl Renee Herbsman
Cheryl Renee Herbsman

Now let’s start the interview. When you received your offer, what happened?

I was fortunate enough to receive two offers. So, in the midst of completely freaking out, I had to decide which publisher to go with. Ultimately, I chose Viking because there seemed to be house-wide support and excitement for the book, along with an amazing editor with excellent suggestions.

So now that you have a contract, what’s it like to be on the other side–on the verge of publication? What does it feel like to be official?

It feels really good to be official – really, really good. I’d been trying to sell another book for several years before this and the ups and downs and heartbreak were wearing. Breathing sold really quickly, which was such a thrill. I am grateful for becoming published every single day.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

The first novel I wrote was for adults and, looking back, was very amateurish. But it’s the one I learned by. Then I wrote a fantasy trilogy, which I tried to sell for about two years. I got a lot of bites from agents and editors, but ultimately something about it just wasn’t right. I started out querying only 3 agents for BREATHING. After a near miss, I queried five more. Leigh Feldman responded to my e-query right away asking for the full manuscript. A week later she called to offer representation. Three weeks after that I had a book deal. It was quite a whirlwind.

And here’s our favorite question. How many rejections did you receive IN GENERAL (not just for this book) before you landed your first major publishing contract?

  • 0-10
  • 11-25
  • 26-50
  • 51-100
  • 100+

Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

Initially, I submitted BREATHING to three agents. One of them responded with great excitement, saying they wanted to help me “launch my career.” I was elated, felt like I’d finally broken through. They asked me to revise the manuscript, which I did over a period of two months or so. Then I received an email saying they thought I did a great job with the revision, but didn’t have the resources to take on this project. I felt broken by that rejection, couldn’t believe I was back at square one. BUT, ten days later I had an agent.

How long did it take to sell your books, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer?

  • 0-3 months
  • 3-6 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • 1 year – 2 years
  • 2 years – 3 years
  • 3 years+

Prior to selling your books, you were …

A stay-at-home mom.

I have two kids, a girl and a boy. I’ve been home with them for thirteen years now. When they were little, I wrote only sporadically, a couple of hours here or there while my husband watched them. Once the younger one started preschool, it became easier. I used every minute of school time to write, letting all housework and chores fall by the wayside. It’s easier still now that they’re both in school.

Now that you’ve sold some books, you plan to …

Not change a thing.

I continue to write while the kids are in school. The only difference really is that now I have marketing responsibilities, which take up a lot of time. So sometimes I do end up working on that stuff during after-school and evening hours.

What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?

Marketing! This part is all new to me and it’s a lot to learn. I worry about making sure I give my book its best chance.

If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publisher, let you us know what that’s been like.

For me, the editorial process has been a delight. My editor at Viking, Joy Peskin, is bright and thoughtful and understanding. And most importantly, she gets the heart of the story. She never insisted that I change anything, only gave suggestions with explanations to help me understand what could make the manuscript stronger. I actually found the revision to be a lot of fun. It was nice having someone else be as interested and concerned about the manuscript as me 🙂 .

Describe a typical day in your writing life.

I do all my writing on my bed. I light candles and incense to help set the mood and try to find a quiet place inside. Then I often read through what I wrote the day before, revising as I go. Then I just listen in silence and see what comes. When I feel like I’ve done all I can do for now, I either rush off to walk the dog/pick up the kids/ run errands, or I review what I’ve written that day. Then I try to shut down the writing self for the day and re-emerge into the world.

Describe an Ah-ha moment you might have had that influenced your writing in a positive way.

This may sound really obvious, but I had a moment recently when I was finding some new characters I’m working on to not be fully developed enough. My ah-ha was the realization that all characters need to be characters – as in “that guy is such a character”. They have to be larger than life.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

NEVER GIVE UP. And also, NEVER GIVE UP! I read somewhere that the difference between a published writer and one who never gets published is perseverance.

Any inspiring quotes you live by?

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”  Goethe

“Trust your crazy ideas.” – unknown

“Be yourself. There is something that you can do better than any other. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that.” – unknown

(I love a good quote 🙂 )

Finally, Snoop wants to know: what were you like as a kid?

I was a dreamer, sensitive, and moody and I haven’t actually changed all that much.

This concludes our interview with our latest author, Cheryl Renée Herbsman. We wish her much success with her debut novel BREATHING.

To see what Cheryl is up to these days, visit her website at  or her blog at

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