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The Register-Guard

Writer signs with prestigious St. Martin's Press

NAME: Cheryl Holt, Seaside

WHAT HAVE YOU WRITTEN? "After struggling for over five years, I was finally rescued from the slush pile by Ann LaFarge, the executive editor at Zebra Books, a division of Kensington Publishing. She went on to buy more manuscripts from me last year, and they will be published this year: "THE WAY OF THE HEART,' 'MEG'S SECRET ADMIRER' and 'MY ONLY LOVE.' All historical."

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND? "I was born in the Dakotas and I grew up in the Rockies. I've been married to my husband, Randy, for 14 years. We live in Seaside. He's a journeyman electrician working out of Electrical Workers' Local 48 in Portland. We have two kids. No pets, except a couple of goldfish that I don't count."

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR WORK? "Right now, I'm waiting tables on the weekend through the Seaside tourist season. In my life B.C. (Before Children) I was many things. Schoolteacher. Lobbyist. Bartender. "I have a law degree from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and I previously clerked for the attorneys general of Wyoming and Colorado, plus I worked for several years as a prosecutor in metro Denver."

WHEN DID YOU START TO WRITE? "I started to write after I had my kids back to back, and realized I wouldn't be able to go back to work, so we'd lost our 'second' income. I thought: 'I'll just stay home, write a book, sell it to New York, and, voila, I'll have my second income restored. How hard could that be?' "I was so naíve. It took me almost six years to make my first sale. "Romance is where I finally succeeded, but I attribute that to the fact that so much of women's fiction is 'romance.' Statistics are that 20 percent of all books are now romances, and almost 65 percent of all paperbacks are romances. So, if a writer wants to break into women's fictions, I don't know how else she could succeed."

WHAT'S THE QUICKEST BOOK YOU'VE EVER WRITTEN? "I just finished an expedited book for Zebra. Somebody backed out of a deal, and they needed a manuscript that could immediately go into productions. They know I work fast and do a thorough job, so they asked me. "I wrote it in 30 days, and then I spent six weeks editing. High stress!!"

WHAT DOES YOUR WRITING FUTURE LOOK LIKE? "I am moving to St. Martin's Press, where I will become the company's 'erotic' historical author. This is an exciting move for me but also terrifying, because the level of competition at which I will be expected to perform just rose about 1,000 percent. "The handful of women who write romances for St. M's are famous because they are so great and I will be expected to write at their level. Very scary. Very exciting."

WHAT'S NEXT? "MOUNTAIN DREAMS" (November), a contemporary novel set in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and "MY TRUE LOVE" (March 2001), a novel set in London in 1814.

WHAT ARE YOU READING? "The more I read, I was surprised by what I didn't know about writing and the publishing industry. Now, I read constantly, between 200 and 300 books per year. At least 150 romances annually. I don't see how a new writer could possibly succeed without reading. It's the only way to learn what's happening with the industry."