Interview: Cheyenne Meadows

Jen:  Today we welcome Cheyenne Meadows to Romancing the Book.  Cheyenne, will you share a short bio with us?
Cheyenne:  Growing up in the Midwest, I began reading romance novels in high school, immediately falling in love with the genre, to the point where I decided to write professionally for a career. However, that dream splattered against a brick wall and resulting quick death in my first writing class in college when my professor told me bluntly that I wasn’t any good at it. I shifted gears quickly, and left my writing dreams behind, eventually settling on being a nurse.

A few years back, I stumbled across a fan-fiction writing site on a favorite author’s webpage. I began to read stories others wrote, not only making some wonderful close friends from the experience, but also, really learning to write for the very first time. Here I was able to share short stories, practice my writing skills, and truly develop into a writer. More than that, the experience allowed me to revitalize my dream, as I rediscovered joy in writing.

When I’m not working or writing, I enjoy working in the garden, canning, and seeing my backyard as a living canvas for my whimsical landscaping, and, of course, reading romance novels.

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Jen: Tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Cheyenne:  Crashing the Net was a new venture for me. It focuses on a star goalie in the women’s hockey league named Piper Darrow. She could be called a prodigy as both her parents played the game at high levels, except for they were her adoptive parents, not her biological ones. She’s had a traumatic past and the ice gives her an outlet, a place to shine.

The Denver Wolfpack is having a tough year and just lost their number one goalie for the season due to a knee injury. With their season in the dumps, their owner, who also happens to own Piper’s team, the Denver Bobcats, pulls a rabbit out of his hat. He approaches Piper with an offer she can’t refuse—finish the rest of the men’s season as the number one goalie on the Wolfpack team. Since the women’s shorter season was finished, she can’t help but jump at the chance to become the first woman to play professionally in the men’s league.

But, everything isn’t all rosy for Piper. Breaking barriers is hard work, especially when a woman enters a male domain for the first time. She has to prove herself to her teammates, the other players in the league, and even the fans. Not an easy task. Her own teammates aren’t thrilled, opponents try to knock her out of the game with some hard hits, and the fans are lukewarm at best in their reception. All that Piper is prepared for. What unsettles her the most is the instant attraction she feels for the Wolfpack’s captain, Ranger Deacon.

The idea came about one afternoon when I was surfing through television channels. Hockey was on. Now, in my neck of the woods, hockey isn’t the sport of choice, thus I really didn’t know that much about the game. I remembered the women played hockey in the Olympics and the ball started to roll on the idea with a simple question of what if?

Crashing the Net Excerpt:

“Piper. Hold up a second.”

Piper Darrow swung around to find the team’s owner, Rob Stearns, approaching from down the hall. She’d just finished the championship game, cleaned up and left the locker room on her way to meet the other ladies at their favorite watering hole to celebrate.

She watched him come near with leeriness, unsure what he could want with her. After all, he’d received the prize trophy not an hour earlier, surrounded by the whole team.

Rob came to a stop, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. “I have a proposition for you.”

Heard that before. Men are jerks sometimes. Still, the idea that Rob might hit on her fell flat. The man wore a nice wedding ring. He also held a high status and powerful reputation in the hockey world. The last thing she’d expect would be for him to throw all that away. “Such as?”

He stuck his hands in the pockets of his black slacks. “As you’ve probably heard, Gunderson blew out his knee and is done for the season.” Piper nodded.

The news had flown through the hockey world. One of the best goalies in the sport had torn some knee ligaments and had been scheduled for surgery. His recovery would take months. The resulting absence would hamstring the rest of the team, the Denver Wolfpack. Their season had proved lackluster thus far. This last blow could sink them deeper into the loss category. Rumors already abounded that the players were frustrated and discouraged. The head coach, Tommy Smith, seemed to be at a loss on how to fix the mess and waiting for the ax to drop. Not a good state of mind for a team to be in, especially near the end of the season.

Rob studied her for a long moment. “Your season with the Bobcats is over. There isn’t any conflict of interest.”

“I’m not following.” Piper frowned, completely bumfuzzled at where Rob might be going with this.

“To make this short, I need a goalie.”

The picture began to clear in Piper’s head. “You have Rayovic.”

Rob shook his head. “He’s a rookie. Just had a few starts. He’s not ready to assume the starter role.”

“Trade?”

“In February? For a top-level goalie? Keep wishing.” Rob sighed. “Look, I know this is a bit unconventional, but I’d like you to take Gunderson’s spot.”

Piper blinked at the man. “You want me to play with a men’s hockey team as a lead goalie? For the rest of the season?”

“Yes.”

As the owner of both teams, Rob had the power to hire anyone he wanted. Including a woman to play on the men’s team. A definite rarity, too. Most owners focused on a single team. As far as she knew, Rob was the only owner who’d ventured into the women’s game and picked up another team. Same city. The teams just differed in names and the gender of the players. Either way, he held her contract in his keeping and was her boss, season over or not.  

She blinked at him. “Is that even legal?”

“There’s no rules against women playing in the men’s league. I already checked. Had the legal rep run over things. He gave me a thumbs up. No, it’s not been done before, but that’s not to say it won’t work out. Just think of the splash you can make.” He offered up a lopsided grin.

Well, that’s something. Piper ran through possible chinks in the plan, coming up with a blank slate. It just couldn’t be that easy. Or could it?

Rob glanced away then turned his focus back to her. “You’re the best in the women’s league. Men’s hockey isn’t that much different.”

Piper snorted. “Just that they’re bigger, faster, love to slam bodies together on hard checks and actually are allowed to fight it out when tempers flare.” The sport, unlike many others, did have some differences. Most notably, the hard checking, sending opposing players crashing into the boards. As a rule, goalies were protected from this. That didn’t mean goalies didn’t receive their fair share of stick whapping, shoving and being knocked down in the crease when the puck rebounded.

“You’ve been there before. Nothing new.”

“Yeah, but that was in college. This is the pros.” Piper chewed her bottom lip uncertainly. The fact that he was asking fluffed her ego. Not to mention the lure of being the first woman to play professional men’s hockey compelled her to agree.

“I’m not expecting miracles. We’re in a slump. A big one. Times are hard and the men need a shake-up to spark the team. I’m betting on you.”

Piper frowned. “You do know some of the guys will resent me, right?” She’d played with enough men over her entire life to understand some of them believed women had no place on the ice. She bristled at their attitudes and worked that much harder to prove them wrong.

Rob shrugged. “They don’t have a say in the matter. We need a goalie. Now. You’re available and one hell of a player.” He paused a second. “You’re just what we need to save our season. What do you say?”

Piper peered down at her shoes and considered the options. Go to the party, celebrate a brief moment in time, then return to work the next day. Or she could take a leap of faith, jump in with both feet, and be the first girl to play with the big boys. Her heart sped at the challenge.

First things first. “Are you going to make it worth my time?” “Of course.” He grinned as if in victory.

“I want equal pay, equal benefits. Hell, I want the same everything as you gave

Gunderson.”

Rob narrowed his eyes. “You don’t have his experience or his reputation.”

“No, I don’t. I have more.” She grinned wolfishly and waved her hand. “That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.” She adjusted the strap of her duffel bag on her shoulder, pivoted and started toward the exit.

“Show up tomorrow morning with your lawyer. We’ll iron out the details.”

Piper bit back a proud grin. “Will do.” She waved at Rob and walked off, still concealing the surge of excitement that made her want to jump up and down. Tomorrow would be soon enough to let that out. As soon as the ink dried.

By mid-week, I’ll be on the ice with the best of the best. They won’t know what’s coming.

With a happy chuckle, she left the building.

 

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Cheyenne: I did tons of research on this book, more so than any other story to date. Boy, did I do research. I watched hockey on television. I scoured the internet searching for all the information on hockey that I could find—everything from the basic on how the game was played, to the professional player’s schedule, to his diet and routines. I familiarized myself with the jargon, the pranks played in hotels, the luxury of team planes. Hours I spent just absorbing everything I could about the game, printing off terminology and guides, reading the websites of professional teams, and checking out games on television. I have to say I respect those hockey players so much for all that they do. Games all over the place, being flown here and there, a relentless schedule with games sometimes back to back in totally different cities.

Along with the information on the men’s game, I had to look at the women’s sport. The differences between the two, see if any woman had actually played with the men before at a professional level, check into the reality of the event actually happening. And, yes, it did happen in real life, when Manon Rhéaume took the ice in 1992 for the Tampa Bay Lightning. She was the first woman to break that glass ceiling. I read about her story and a handful of other women that had gotten to the professional level in other leagues and the idea solidified that a woman really could do it. Enter in Piper, a strong person with a love of life.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Cheyenne: Nope. I’m the very first. I always loved writing, wanted to be a writing major in college, but as you can see from my bio, that didn’t work out so well. My first writing class, my professor met with me and casually mentioned that she didn’t know why I was a writing major because I was so bad at it. That was enough for me to change my degree. Looking back, though, she was right. I was really bad. Fast forward a few years, I joined a fan fiction site for one of my favorite authors, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I didn’t mention to my family that I was going to try to pursue a professional writing career, just in case I failed. So, I worked hard, learned from other writers, and finally took the plunge. Imagine the surprise of my family when I announced that I’d been offered my very first contract.

Jen: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Cheyenne: For the most part, I’m a plotter. No, I don’t make outlines and get that detailed like some authors do. I’m not that methodical. Instead, I come up with an idea, figure out what needs to happen and how it ends. The pantser part comes in somewhere between Chapter 1 and the final chapter. I come up with more ideas as I go, jumping around in the book quite often, then have to come back and fill in blanks with scenes to help transition and grow the story. I might work on the beginning one day and the end the next. Whatever is talking for the day is what I go with. It sounds crazy but that’s what works for me.

Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Cheyenne: Simple—I don’t. That’s why I keep a notebook and a pen handy in the car, in my purse, and at home. Most of the time the ideas get going at bedtime. I lay there, think of something, then have to get up and write them down. Then it’s back to bed. Some nights I might be up and down a dozen times like that. But, I don’t dare ignore them because the next morning the idea will be gone. It might only be a single line or it could be the idea for an entire scene. When it pops in, I have to write it down, because it’s normally the best sentences, phrases, or events.

Jen: What’s next for you?
Cheyenne:  I’m going to tackle a work in progress about a lone wolf shifter who is nearly ran over by a woman driving in a snowstorm. He’s on the run and at the end of his rope when she picks him up, takes him home, and decides to keep him as a pet dog—not having a clue he’s really a wolf let alone a shifter. Leashes, dog beds, and a mention of a small minor surgery at the vet entails.

This story has a lot of comedy potential, which is my forte. I’m eager to get back to it and figure out what happens to the odd pair next.