Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an award-winning, international bestselling Canadian suspense author. Her novels include Submerged, Divine Justice, Children of the Fog, The River, Divine Intervention, and Whale Song. Cheryl enjoys writing short stories inspired by her idol Stephen King, resulting in Skeletons in the Closet & Other Creepy Stories and Remote Control. She has also written a non-fiction marketing book, How I Made Over $42,000 in 1 Month Selling My Kindle eBooks.
Cheryl's website: http://www.cherylktardif.com
Official blog: http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com
“Whale Song is a beautifully written story of love. Tardif's gift with language and empathy towards cultures lent this book an authenticity, which had me searching to see if it was based on a true story. The best book I have read in a while." -- Melissa Clarke
Hello, Cheryl. Please tell us about your novel, Whale Song.
Whale Song is my "heart book," and I call it that for many reasons. It is the one novel that has more of me in it than any of my others; and it has affected people's lives in so many ways. In fact, you could say it has saved lives and relationships. One woman told me that sharing my novel with her mother restored their relationship. How powerful is that?
Whale Song is the story of a woman who reflects on her life and the mystery behind her mother's death. It opens when young Sarah and her parents move to an isolated town on Vancouver Island. It is there that she is introduced to racism, bullying and the effects these can have on a young girl's life. But when her mother falls ill, her focus shifts, and she learns of a secret that changes her life.
Filled with rich native folklore and memorable characters, Whale Song is really a novel for anyone, any age. It is being used in schools across North America and in a NATO school in Europe—there's a special School Edition with a discussion guide in the back (ebook and trade paperback). It is mandatory reading for a women's shelter in Newnan, Georgia, and was used as a book club read in a women's prison in South Dakota. But is it just for women and girls? No. I have heard from boys and grown men who have loved Whale Song.
It is my "heart book" for all of these reasons and more.
Author Chynna T. Laird said about your book, “It's about tragedy, understanding, coming-of-age, acceptance and forgiveness.” Will adults enjoy this book as well?
Adults will LOVE this story. It will take them back to the good and bad times of being a child. It'll remind them about the importance of family. It'll inspire them to be more forgiving and more accepting. One of my fans is a 60+ year old man who constantly tweets about his age and how much he loved Whale Song. My oldest reader that I know about was 108. And book clubs worldwide have embraced Sarah's story.
That is so awesome that your book has touched the lives of many people, young and old alike. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?
Sarah is based loosely on aspects of my life. I moved around a lot as a child. My father was in the Canadian military. I had to leave friends behind and learn to make new ones. I lived on an isolated island in BC that is rife with racism and bullying. I was exposed to native folklore. But Sarah's journey is her own, not mine. She inspired me to let go of the past, and in writing her story I learned that "forgiveness sets you free."
That is so true about forgiveness. What kind of research did you have to do for this novel?
I researched killer whales as they are a strong element in the story. I researched native folklore as well so that Nana could relate the stories of her culture. I also had to research the illness that Sarah's mother is diagnosed with and the final consequences.
Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.
My heart has been deeply saddened by the stories of teens who have committed suicide because of bullying. I cry for their sorrow and their frustration and their loss of life. And I know their pain, deeply, intimately. I was bullied when I was a teen. I was physically abused by other teens. I was emotionally abused by girls and boys. I thought of suicide many times. I withdrew and became very shy with zero self-esteem. My escape was books.
But I survived. I survived the bruises and everything that lowered my self-image. I survived humiliation. I survived despair. All I knew was that at some point things would change. The bullying would be over. I just had to get through it. Otherwise, the bullies WIN! So I had to live.
Decades later, I still remember those events and my main bully. I saw her once when we were in our 20s. Her life was nothing to admire. Karma. I was sad for her. She could have been more. I was determined to be. I forgave her. This is really the seed of Whale Song.
If I could talk one-on-one with a bullied child I would tell them: This will pass. It is only a small part of your life, and it does NOT define you. You CAN survive this. You will become better for it. You have your whole life ahead of you, and wonderful things are in store for you. So hold on for one more day. And then one more. I know this…because I did. And you can too.
Thank you, Cheryl, for this wonderful and touching interview. Your exceptional outlook on life, striving to become a better person, surviving childhood humiliation, and forgiveness has made you the person you are today. Thank you for sharing your innermost feelings with me and my readers.