Welcome Cherie Magnus
Church of Tango and
(Links to both books are at the end of this post.)
Please tell us a little about yourself.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, I’ve been a dancer all of my life, while working at my day job as a reference librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. After raising four sons, my husband died of cancer when he was only 54. I was devastated, and struck out to live in other countries on a mission of survival. Throughout everything I continued to write, a life-long pursuit.
What first inspired you to write?
Probably my love of reading from a very early age. I remember writing my first “book” when I was eight years old, plus numerous poems. Then when my father bought a typewriter, I really felt professional. For my junior high graduation, I received a pink portable Royal typewriter that I used for twenty years. I was singled out in all my writing classes, which made me want to pursue writing for publication.
In what genre(s) do you prefer to write?
My favourite genre is the personal and/or critical essay. I was a dance reviewer for many years for a newspaper in Los Angeles, and I adored that job. Not only did I get great house seats for all dance performances, but I knew my review would be published and read. I consider reviews a form of education—helping audiences to understand more about what they see. The personal essay was the form I used during the eight years I wrote my blog about tango and life as an expat in Buenos Aires.
As I lived the life of The Church of Tango, I couldn’t believe all the things that were happening to me and early on I thought that decade would make a good book. Memoir is more than memories of the past, what can make it rich is the reflection that comes years later. Otherwise a so-called memoir is just a diary.
Are you working on another book?
My next project is the sequel to The Church of Tango. I’ve had many requests for what happened after I settled in Buenos Aires with my cat. My problem in writing it is that I have to reveal many personal details about my Argentine partner during the ten years we were together in Argentina, and now the relationship continues even though I moved back to Los Angeles in 2014. He doesn’t speak English and is a dancer not a reader anyway, but he is very well known in the world of tango. People would love reading the juicy details that make the story interesting, but I have no wish to damage his reputation or hurt his feelings. The intimate details of any relationship are always interesting to outsiders, even if they are not about anything particularly horrible or sensational. So I’m having problems with getting going on this, the third in my series of memoirs.
Your books have obviously required research. What do you consider the best resources?
All my life as a dancer, my day job has been that of a professional librarian in the public library. So all resources have been at my fingertips. For Arabesque I needed to check on details of 1960—dates of world events, popular songs, books, movies.
For The Church of Tango, I took notes as I lived those years of tragedy and loss, but when I needed to know something specific—dates of an art exhibit in Paris, locations, I consulted Google.
Do you consider your books convey messages to readers?
I hope so. Memoirs are usually read because the writer is someone famous who the reader is curious about.
For unknowns, there must be something special about that person’s story. Before I wrote The Church of Tango, I read many memoirs of women who lost their husbands, who had cancer, who moved to foreign countries for financial reasons, who lost their homes and all of their belongings. But they all seemed whiney to me. I wanted to show how all of these difficulties could be survived, and even take one to a new life that while not like the old one that was lost, still contained joy, purpose, and love. Even for women of a “certain age.”
Don’t give up, I wanted to say. Find something that will carry you through the tragedies of life. For me, it was dance. You just need one thing that you are passionate about to keep you going.
In the prequel, Arabesque, the theme was that while life may not turn out as you had planned, it can be just as good—which I guess is also the theme of The Church of Tango. I also wanted to paint a picture of life as a UCLA student in 1960—how different university life and the whole world was back then before the Beatles, before the Pill, before the assassination of JFK, before Civil Rights.
What advice would you give to authors who are just starting out?
Write what you want to say, not what you think will sell.
Biographies, autobiographies, memoirs: What advice would you give, about using real names and descriptions, to authors who write in this genre? I ask because many raise concerns about the issue.
The main point of a memoir is that it is TRUE. That is the reason for its value and why the reader is interested. So in my opinion, changing names is ok but altering facts is not. In my memoirs, I only changed the names of a few negative characters with some exceptions.
I did have an experience though at a reading/signing of The Church of Tango where one of the characters was in attendance. I had changed his name because he is a well-known musician and I didn’t want him to feel his privacy was invaded. But his feelings were hurt that I gave him a different name in my story. I wished I had asked him. That would be the best policy: ask if possible if someone in your story would prefer their name to be changed.
Do you self-edit or do you think a book should only be professionally edited?
Of course I self-edit, but when I get it as good as I can, then I turn it over to a professional. I think it is mandatory to have your self-published book professionally edited. After writing and reading your own work ad-infinitum, you can no longer see errors in logic, spelling, grammar, transitions, backstory. A reader will not put up with these negative factors and after being assaulted for a few pages with them, will quit reading. And a reviewer probably won’t read more than two pages of a badly edited book.
I found my wonderful editor in my own writers group. After hearing her incisive comments on my and other members work, and hearing her read her own writing, I knew she understood the basics of a good book. She also has impressive credits as well as a professional website. I wouldn’t trust just anyone to do such an important job.
How do you go about marketing your books?
I’m ashamed to say that like most writers, marketing is my bête-noire. After each book was published, I did my best with no budget at all. I have a blog, I have a Facebook page for each book, I listed them on various websites, and entered contests, a couple of which The Church of Tango won. I offered promotions, and for a limited time gave away free e-copies on Amazon.
Nothing was very effective, really. What has saved me is that I’m rather well known in the tango world, and have a following.
How important do you think reviews are?
Doesn’t everyone think reviews are enormously important, even bad ones? Like the old adage, there’s no such thing as bad press. One review in an important medium is pure gold—no matter if it’s positive or negative.
If you consider reviews important, how do you go about obtaining them for your books?
It is almost impossible to get reviews in professional media for a self-published book. As a librarian, I have learned over the years to respect Kirkus reviews, but then I found out you can buy them—at quite a high price. I sent books to several sources, writers and professionals who I thought would enjoy my books, hoping for a review or at least a quote for the cover. But none of them responded.
Many readers contact me to say they’ve enjoyed my books, and I usually respond with a request to write a brief review on Amazon or Goodreads, and some do, but not all.
Do you have a preferred genre for when you read?
I like literary fiction, but lately I stick to history, biography and memoir.
This is an age old question but one I consider of interest. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you like to have with you?
- The Complete Works of Shakespeare
- Norton Anthology of English Literature
- A blank book and a pencil
Please share with us links to where readers may obtain more information and insight into who you are.
Cherie’s website: http://www.mirasolpress.com
Cherie’s Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Cherie-Magnus/e/B0073S5SKO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Cherie’s Personal Blog: http://blogspot.tangocherie.com
Thank you Cherie for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us.
If interested you may read T. R.’s review here.