Author Interview with Cheryl King author of Under the PawPaw Trees


Welcome Readers to another installment of our author interview series. Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Cheryl King, author of two YA historical fiction books.

JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Cheryl. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

CK- I live in Mansfield, Texas, in a log home in the woods, so the perfect day to me is staying home, reading and writing, and enjoying the view. For fun, I enter writing contests. My favorites are Writing Battle and NYCMidnight, and they offer everything from 100-word microfiction to 3,000-word short story challenges. I prefer flash fiction – 1,000 words or less – which is weird, given that I also write novels. But I guess a novel is a series of shorter vignettes sewn together with a common theme, isn’t it?

And, because I’m a real person, I’ll admit that I also spend way too much time scrolling social media and playing games on my phone, like Monopoly Go and Phase 10.

JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

CK- I’m fascinated by the early-to-mid 1900s, probably because it’s historical enough to be different but near enough to be relatable, if that makes any sense.

Down the street from me is a museum in an old house that was built in the late 1800s and occupied by one of the founders of my city through at least the 1930s. Touring the house was magical to me, learning about the way they lived. It was like … nostalgia for the simpler times, yet their life was in no way simple. I certainly don’t think I could spend hours churning butter, scrubbing clothes on a washboard, and hauling water in buckets up from the well. But for some reason, that life, climbing onto the large porch, wooden floors creaking beneath my feet, conversing in the parlor, a breeze flowing through the open windows, feeding the fire in the woodstove for supper later, hanging clothes to dry in the spring sun – it feels like home.

JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

CK- Honestly, I don’t have a favorite historical figure. I’m drawn to stories of regular people, slice of life stories of folks who wouldn’t be in the history books. One of my favorite parts about writing my books was researching and learning about how people lived during the Great Depression. It was the little things that intrigued me the most: how they put cardboard inside their shoes when the shoes were falling apart; how they made clothes from flour sacks; how they bartered with their neighbors when they couldn’t afford to shop for necessities.

If I could meet one of those people, the everyday people, I would ask them for their best piece of advice on living a full and satisfying life.

JMR- How did you come to be a writer of historical fiction?

CK- Well, that was a happy accident. I was participating in a flash fiction contest, NYCMidnight. And before the prompts dropped, I thought about which genre would be the most difficult for me to write in 1,000 words. I wanted to have a plan in case I was assigned that genre. I decided historical fiction would be the hardest for me, so I spent some time thinking about which time period I’d write and what story I would tell.

When the flash fiction prompts arrived, I was not assigned historical fiction, but the story I had begun writing in my head stayed there and grew and grew until I had to actually start typing. And it became my first novel. I loved researching and writing the story, and went on to write a sequel, but my next book idea is not historical – it’s actually a futuristic dystopian with some time travel laced in.

JMR- You worked as a journalist and then became a middle school teacher and now a dyslexia therapist; how has each of these careers impacted or formed your writing style?

CK- This is a fantastic question, because each of these things has impacted my writing in big ways. When I worked for newspapers, I was a copy editor and designer, so every day, I read so many stories – and revised and edited them. Because my undergrad degree was in journalism, I’d learned a great deal about what makes a story interesting, how to hook the reader, and how to trim a long story down to bare bones. I also learned the AP Stylebook backward and forward.

Fast-forward to my second career – teaching – and there I was, reading middle grade and young adult books and short stories, and really enjoying them! And of course as a reading teacher, you don’t just read the stories – you analyze the heck out of them, find the figurative language, create character sketches, compare and contrast them with others, etc., etc. to the moon and back.

Not only did these exposures and exercises make me a better writer, but they formed my writing philosophy. (This is where I sometimes get hate, but that’s okay.) I believe that not everyone wants to read cursing, sex, and gore when they read for pleasure – and especially in books for teens. So I write clean. I write for the students I taught, as well as adults who appreciate good, wholesome stories.

JMR- Did you visit anyone of the places in your book? Where did you feel closest to your characters?

CK- I so much wanted to go to Maynardville, Tennessee, where my books are mainly set, and travel to Knoxville, then up to Lafayette and Roanoke, Virginia. But while I was writing the first book of the series (Sitting on Top of the World), Covid lockdowns happened. And then … life happened. So, the best I could do was Google Maps street views.

But I can picture the Baker family’s small farm in Maynardville so clearly in my head, the route main character June takes to downtown and to her best friend’s house, the Maynardville farmer’s market – all of it. I feel like I have lived there for a while.

JMR- Cheryl, tell us about your new book, Under the Pawpaw Trees.

CK- Under the Pawpaw Trees is the sequel to Sitting on Top of the World. While in the first book, young June went train hopping to find work to help her family during the Great Depression, in the second book, she goes back out on the rails to find the railroad bull she believes killed her brother – and get revenge. Her plan is complicated by the fact that she loves this railroad bull. Now she must decide where she belongs – at home in Maynardville with her dear friend and love interest, Jimmy, or in Lafayette, Virginia, with a young man and his family, who have given June stability during a much too turbulent time in her life.

It’s about a teen girl who has faced unimaginable tragedies trying to find her place in the world.

JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

CK- I have just begun writing a young adult dystopian time travel book, and after that, I have a middle grade magical realism to write. I do have a third book idea for Sitting on Top of the World to make it a trilogy, but I’m not sure if that will come to fruition.

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

CK- Readers can find me on my website and subscribe to my author newsletter at I’m also on

Twitter: @CKing_Author

Facebook: Cheryl King Writes Things

Tiktok: @Cherylking_author

Instagram: Cherylking

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

CK- I would like to share my indie publisher disaster story turned success story. My first book was signed by a new small publisher, and it published in June of 2021. But in July, the publisher closed (and ghosted all of his authors without paying them their earned royalties). We all picked ourselves up off the floor and republished, some with other indies, and some (like me) through IngramSpark and KDP. Since republishing on my own, Sitting on Top of the World has won first place in the YA category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards, plus a First Horizon Award for debut authors. The sequel, Under the Pawpaw Trees, has won a 5-star Must Read Award from the Historical Fiction Company and is in the running for their Book of the Year Award. Next spring, I’ll know if it has placed in any other contests.

JMR- Thank you, Cheryl, for stopping by. Your books look really great! Readers, I’ve included a link to Cheryl’s books below. Please be sure to check them out.



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