Cheryl Pierson On the Writer’s “What If?” Game


I have something in common with our guest besides a passion for writing.  It’s Pierson—my maiden name.  It’s one of those names you spell out for people because they always want to spell it that other way.  I have to say, Pierson looks lovely to me on the cover of a book—especially one written by today’s guest.  Post a comment, and you could win her latest!  Now, here’s Cheryl Pierson…

Have you ever been asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Where do your ideas for writing fiction come from, and what makes them worthy of the time, effort, and creative energy we expend to bring that idea to full fruition—to craft a well-written story from it?

One source of story ideas is from real-life experience. Whether we are retelling a chapter of our own life, or something that happened to someone else, we must have come to the conclusion that that idea was worthwhile and that others would be interested in it, as well.

Characters we’ve met in our lives also give us ideas for the characters we create. People we’ve met casually, or known in a family context, can firmly insert themselves into our stories–much to our surprise.

Books, poetry or movies that might have influenced our thinking during our lives also can have an impact on our ideas. Other forms of mass media can also add to our treasure trove of ideas. Articles we’ve read in magazines or newspapers spark ideas. True stories that are fictionalized have become one of the most popular genres ever created. Truman Capote’s bestseller “In Cold Blood” was the book that became the catalyst for and set the standard of this type of fictionalized reality.

Historical events from the past can also provide us with ideas that can either stay fairly true to history or take a wide turn around the actual events. Alternate history is a new up-and-coming genre that encompasses all types of fiction writing, from science fiction to historicals, including certain genres of romance, mainstream, and political fiction.

One of the best idea-getters is the “what-if” game (one of my favorites.) What if there was a man and he had a beautiful daughter. What if he fell in love with a woman who had two daughters of her own? What if they married? But, what if the woman wasn’t what the man had believed her to be? What if she hated his daughter and was jealous of her? CINDERELLA!!!

I enjoy this game because it leads to all sorts of possibilities. Our stories can take flight in directions we never imagined, becoming a joyous surprise even to ourselves, the authors!

SWEET DANGER is my first contemporary romantic suspense novel. My debut novel, FIRE EYES, was a western historical. TIME PLAINS DRIFTER was a paranormal/time travel western. The idea for Sweet Danger was one that wouldn’t leave me alone. Let me tell you about the “what ifs” of this story.

Jesse Nightwalker is a half Native American undercover cop, who lives next door to Lindy Oliver. They’ve been very much aware of one another for the past year or so, but have never formally met, until one fateful Friday morning when they both come into the local deli and end up next to each other in line.

But things turn deadly as a gang of criminals takes over the deli in what seems to be a robbery. Unfortunately for Jesse, the leader of the pack is Tabor Hardin, a vicious cop killer that Jesse helped put behind bars. Hardin’s purpose changes instantly. The robbery was only a façade for a much more heinous crime—kidnapping the governor’s children from the adjoining daycare. Now, Hardin swears to make Jesse pay for his part in Hardin’s imprisonment before anything else takes place.

As if things couldn’t get worse, one of the other children in the daycare is Jesse’s own son, Nash. Jesse has to walk a fine line to figure out what he can do to save his son and Lindy, as well as the other hostages—even though it means certain death for himself.

When his wife died four years earlier, Jesse cut off all romantic feelings, immersing himself in his undercover work. Now, Lindy Oliver has reawakened those feelings at a most inopportune time, and Jesse is incredulous at what’s happening between them, now that he stands to lose it all at Hardin’s bloody hands.

I loved the premise of this book, and especially loved figuring out how to make it all “come around” so that Jesse and Lindy could have the HEA they so richly deserved. The “what ifs” are endless!

Have you played the What If? game that led to a story?  How did it start?  Has What If? given you an idea that you’d really like to write?  Tell us about it.  (Don’t worry about it getting stolen.  Ideas abound, but no one else can write your story the way you would write it.)

Sweet Danger is available through The Wild Rose Press, or at Barnes and Noble and also through Amazon, as well as many other venues. I’ve posted the blurb and an excerpt below for your reading pleasure! Please leave a comment. I’ll be sending one randomly chosen visitor a signed copy of SWEET DANGER  (US) or a pdf to an international commenter.  Visit my website at You can e-mail me at — I always love to hear from readers and other writers.


When undercover cop Jesse Nightwalker enters Silverman’s Deli, he doesn’t expect to find himself at the mercy of Tabor Hardin, a sadistic murderer he helped put in prison five years earlier. Now, Hardin’s escaped, and he’s out for more blood—Jesse’s.

Lindy Oliver has had her eye on her handsome neighbor for several months. Fate provides the opportunity for them to finally meet when they both choose the same deli for breakfast. Becoming a hostage was not in Lindy’s plans when she sat down to share a pastry with Jesse, but neither was the hot kiss he gave her when bullets began to fly. That kiss seals both their fates, binding them to one another with the certainty of a vow.

But Jesse’s got some hard-hitting secrets. With both their lives at stake, Lindy has a plan that just might save them—if Hardin takes the bait. Will they find unending love in the midst of Sweet Danger?


Jesse looked past her, his smile fading rapidly. As the flash of worry entered his expression, Lindy became aware of a sudden lull in the noisy racket of the deli. Jesse’s dark gaze was locked on the front door, a scowl twisting his features.

“Damn it,” he swore, reaching for her hand. “Get down! Under the table, Lindy…”

But she hesitated a second too long, not understanding what was happening. In the next instant, the sound of semi-automatic gunfire and shattering glass filled the air.

Lindy reflexively ducked, covering her head. The breath of a bullet fanned her cheek as Jesse dragged her down beneath the sparse cover of the small table. He shielded her, his hard body crushing against her, on top of her, pushing her to the floor. The breath rushed out of her, and she felt the hard bulge of the shoulder holster he wore beneath the denim jacket as it pressed against her back. 

Her heart pounded wildly, realization of their situation flooding through her. A robbery! But why, at this hour of the morning when the take would be so low? The gunfire stopped as abruptly as it had started. From somewhere near the counter, a man shouted, “Come out and you won’t be hurt! Come out—now!” 

Lindy looked up into Jesse’s face, scant inches from her own. What would he do? They were somewhat concealed here at the back of the deli, but these men were sporting semi-automatic weapons. 

“There’s a back door,” Jesse whispered raggedly. “Get the hell out of here. I’m gonna be your diversion.” She didn’t answer; couldn’t answer. He was likely to be killed, helping her go free. He gave her a slight shake. “Okay?” 

An interminable moment passed between them before she finally nodded. “Get going as soon as I get their attention.” He reached to brush a strand of hair out of her eyes, his own gaze softening as he leaned toward her and closed the gap between them. “Take care of yourself, Lindy,” he whispered, just before his mouth closed over hers. 

The instant their lips met shook her solidly. Every coherent thought fled, leaving nothing but the smoldering touch of his lips on hers, burning like wildfire through her mind. Soft, yet firm. Insistent and insolent. His teeth skimmed her lower lip, followed by his tongue, as he tasted her. Then, he pulled away from her, their eyes connecting for a heart-wrenching second.  

“Safe passage,” he whispered. 

Lindy didn’t answer, more stunned by the sudden sweet kiss than by the madness surrounding them. Jesse pushed himself out from under the table and stood up, directly in front of where Lindy crouched. Only then did she hear his muted groan of pain, his sharp, hissing intake of breath. The blossoming red stain of crimson contrasted starkly with the pale blue of his faded denim jacket as his blood sprang from the bullet wound, soaking the material.

He’d been shot!

Lindy gasped softly at the realization. How could she leave him now?


Cheryl3 Cheryl4jpg Cheryl2

About Kathleen Eagle

Kathleen Eagle is the award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of over forty novels.
This entry was posted in books, Cheryl Pierson, giveaway, Paranormal romance, Romantic suspense, Western Romance and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Cheryl Pierson On the Writer’s “What If?” Game

  1. Stonehawk says:

    Well I’m an aspiring writer at the moment. I managed to get ideas on a male character’s description after watching this TV series Smallville and seeing the actor Tom Welling playing Clark Kent and decided to model his looks for my character. I even used the same name of the actor as the actual character’s first name due to being very impressed with the actor playing the Clark Kent part on the TV series. And no I didn’t make my charcter like superman or Clark Kent instead used something else as his own super power despite the story being science fiction with some romance thrown in told in mostly the male’s point of view. I’m still struggling on getting a romance novel written with both points of views down. I’ve been mostly writing science fiction stories with the male’s point of views down despite adding some romance thrown into them but they won’t be classified as romance stories anyway despite struggling on that area. Oh well I guess I’m not meant to be a romance author anyway.

  2. Kylie Brant says:

    Welcome, Cheryl! Ideas just come from everywhere, it’s hard to pinpoint where. But when I first started writing I actually worried that I’d run out of ideas 🙂 It took years to realize how silly that is!

  3. kris says:

    I’m not a writer, just an avid reader who loves coming across new books!!! Thanks…I’ve added this to my wish list!

  4. Cindy Gerard says:

    Welcome Cheryl. I have a tree in my back yard that’s loaded with little idea cards. When i’m running dry, I just bop out there and pluck one off :o) I also believe in Santa BTW

  5. tresa says:

    Sound interesting , not a writer but love to read 🙂

  6. TrishJ says:

    I wish I could write. I know what I like, but just dont know how to put it on paper. But I love to find new authors. Your book sounds interesting, i’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

  7. Alison Henderson says:

    Hi Cheryl, I love the premise for Sweet Danger – sounds like a fantasic story! Like you, I write in multiple sub-genres. My first two books were Western historicals, but my most recent is a contemporary romance with suspense undertones. My ideas have come from all the sources you mentioned, usually several blended together in each book. I’ve always wanted to be better at playing “what if”, but I find I need something more concrete to jump start my imagination and send it off toward parts unknown. Congrats on this new release!

  8. loisgreiman says:

    Thanks for joining us, Cheryl. I have to admit the ‘ideas’ question is the one I’m most frequently asked. And the easiest one to answer. “Everywhere.”

  9. Michelle says:

    Looks interesting! I love to read, but I’ve never tried my hand at writing. I really wish I knew more about how to write because I’d love to give it a shot.

  10. Hi Stonehawk,
    I know you will find that “niche” you are looking for in your writing. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes there are more than one. I also write westerns and western romance. (There’s a huge difference, ask any western writer!)LOL But it’s fun to experiment and test the waters in different writing genres. Actually, I set out to be a romance writer only to find out my first manuscript was considered a western with romantic elements. I love writing in the male POV and sometimes get carried away with that, but find a lot of readers love it (me included!) I remember Smallville! That was a neat concept show and you’re right–the lead, Tom Welling, was someone you sure could model your protagonist after. Good luck with your writing! Just keep on plugging at it, that’s what it’s all about.

    Thanks so much for commenting!

  11. Hi Kylie,
    I KNOW! I did the same thing about worrying the ideas would stop coming. LOL Another huge misconception among a lot of my “newbie” writing students is that someone is going to steal their idea, make millions off the book, and they’ll be left in the cold. Once they begin to see how much you have to love a story idea to be able to see it through from beginning to end, they usually lighten up a little on that front. LOL Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Hi Kris,
    Thanks so much for coming by and reading and leaving a comment. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt!

  13. Hi Cindy,
    I still believe in Santa, too, even though I AM Santa. LOL Can you send me a cutting off that idea tree? That’s a great novelty to have! LOL Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Hi Tresa,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Tresa! You’ll be entered in the drawing.

  15. Hi Trish,
    If you have the desire to write, you’re halfway there! Just start with something small and give it a whirl. You never know what might come of it. (I started with Adams Media anthology stories and still write for Chicken Soup on occasion–small projects but I’m a believer in diversity.) LOL Hope you enjoy reading my books, if you get them, and I also have some short stories out there, too.
    Thanks for coming by!

  16. Hi Alison,
    I usually have a “scene” in mind–it might be at the beginning or in the middle or even toward the end. I workt forward or backward from that scene. Sometimes I need something more concrete, as you mentioned, but there are times I just can’t seem to rein my imagination in and will just keep blank notebooks so I can put one idea per notebook to work on that story from. That way, I can come back to the story later if I have the main scene or idea written down. I write out everything longhand. It helps me with my editing in the longrun. I do fine on the computer with e-mails and blogs, but my creativity just vanishes when I try to sit at the computer and work on a book or short story. LOL Thanks for coming by and commenting. I love western romance–where can we find your books? Will you pop back in with a linki?

  17. Hi Lois,
    You sound like me! LOL That’s my stock answer, too, when asked about where my ideas come from. I remember one lady in particular that had signed up for a class I taught years ago on writing. My teaching partner and I had asked everyone to tell what they wanted to work on, how far along they were, etc. When it came to her, she said, “i don’t have any idea what I want to write about. In fact, I don’t really WANT to write, I just want to be an author. That’s why I’m here–to find out how to get an idea.” That was an eye opener. LOL My partner said, “How do you NOT get an idea?” LOLLOL I’m glad to be here today–thanks so much for having me!

  18. Michelle,
    I always say, if you have the desire that is at LEAST half of being a successful writer. So you are halfway there already! Start with something small–not plugging Chicken Soup for the Soul here, but I know they are always accepting stories for one book or another. There’s another place you can check out anthologies on that has lots of open submissions. Feel free to e-mail me at — I love to talk writing and reading! Thanks so much for stopping by today, and don’t give up dream of writing. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  19. Alison,
    DUH, I meant to say “Pop back in with a LINK” not “LINKI” LOL

  20. I subscribe to Idea Monthly. And when that isn’t helpful, I listen to the little green men who perch in my tulip tree.

  21. Hey, Cheryl–linki–I like that. Thingie is one of our favorite words here in the ‘vert.

    Love the title TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, and what great covers! I’m going to start with FIRE EYES. I’m always looking for a good Western.

    So many of my ideas come from the newspaper or from some little real life anecdote I hear. Then starts the “what if” train. What if the guy they really discovered living underground in a Minneapolis park were living sort of a double life? By day he’s, let’s see…a handyman. By night he’s tortured with some sort of pain. And what if… This train of thought led to THE NIGHT REMEMBERS.

  22. Leanne Banks says:

    Cheryl, welcome and congratulations! Your blurb is an attention grabber! I love playing the what if game. It really frees me to come up with all kinds of things and brings some of the fun back into writing!!!:)

  23. Kathleen,
    THAT is my favorite book of yours — in fact, it’s one of my favorite books of all time. Such angst from Angela and Jesse both! Two tortured souls who are able to find their HEA together–LOVED IT! And what a great “what if” that was! I always think of how Law and Order always puts that disclaimer on their episodes, because so many of their themes WERE from daily happenings. You know, I never really read a whole lot of contemporary romances until after I read THE NIGHT REMEMBERS–and what a fantabulous title that is! After I got that book, I was hooked on contemporaries. See what you started?LOL

    I’m working on the sequel to TIME PLAINS DRIFTER, TIME PLAINS GUARDIAN. TPD took a turn I didn’t know it was going to take, and TPG will finish it with the relationship between the protagonist’s older brother and the heroine’s younger sister. FIRE EYES was my first published novel–not the first one I wrote, but the first one that was published. LOL I hope you enjoy!

    Thanks again for having me here at Riding With the Top Down. This is an AWESOME blog! I had to laugh about “PIERSON” always having to be spelled out–see, you got to leave that behind. I’ll have to deal with it forever. LOL


    • You wouldn’t believe how often I have to spell out Eagle!

      I’m so glad TNR got you hooked on contemporaries. I owe credit to some chapter buddies who helped brainstorm the title during a slow book signing. Connie Brockway took a book of quotations off the shelf, looked up night, and found a lovely Swinburne poem. The line that inspired me is “The light that loses, the night that wins;/And time remembered is grief forgotten.” So that’s another brainstorming technique.

      • Oh, I love that line! Now I’ve got to go find that poem and read the whole thing.

        Yep, I would believe you probably have to spell Eagle a lot–and you are already in the habit of it from PIERSON, so what the heck? LOL

  24. The “what if game” is a great way to get under way with a good story idea. It’s even more fun when I play it with nonwriters. They have a terrific stock of ideas.
    I loved Sweet Danger. At first, I thought I might not like a contemprary by one f my favorite historical writers–but oh hachi-mama, it was one wonderful story and a very intense one, I might add. I thought they would never get out of there alive.
    I can seriously say, I have never read a book by Cheryl Pierson that I didn’t like. She always wounds her hero then makes him rise up to face the villain with the kind of courage we all wish every man could have. *sigh*

    • Sarah,
      You are such a dear friend! Thank you so much for your kind words. I appreciate you and your support. I’m so glad you enjoyed SWEET DANGER so much! Oh, believe me, there were times I thought they might not get out of there alive, either! LOL That one kept me awake at night with all the figuring and plotting I had to do. Thanks again for swinging by and commenting, Sarah!

  25. Hi Leanne,
    I have a confession to make. I am a terrible blurb writer–I have to give my daughter all the credit for my blurb. I’m so glad it got you “hooked”! She also did the cover for TIME PLAINS DRIFTER.
    I know what you mean about “freeing up” your mind. I think so many times that creativity just requires some quiet time alone to think, and that’s hard to come by these days! LOL
    Thanks for commenting, Leanne!

  26. Katherine says:

    Loved your post, Cheryl. The first time I was asked where my ideas came from, I floundered around not sure how to answer without sounding a bit crazy. Hope you have a lot of sales.

  27. Katherine,

    I know what you mean. There are so many hurdles to becoming a writer. One of the first ones is learning to think of yourself as a writer, isn’t it? And saying, when people ask, “What do you do?”–“I am a writer.” When people ask where you get your ideas from, (usually one of the follow-up questions) you sometimes are just not prepared with a good answer. LOL I think the first thing that comes to mind is to say “Everywhere–” or “All around me” or something like that, kind of as a place holder until you are able to think of specifics. And then, you have to determine if the person really is INTERESTED in specifics or just being polite. LOL Thanks so much for coming by!

  28. Christie Ridgway says:

    Love the cover, Cheryl! I’ve used the what-if game in coming up with all my books. So much fun! Such a good way of increasing the stakes (as you did in your book with having the hero’s child in the daycare with the governor’s kids!). I also use every day events for inspiration. Readers have been commenting on a scene I have in my Christmas book and I remembered it was built on something that happens so often at my house…the garbage disposal getting stuck. So, even the banal can provide inspiration!

    • Christie,
      Thanks so much! The “cover gods” have been good to me, for sure. Oh, yes, I can see how the garbage disposal getting stuck would be something that everyone would relate to! One time ours did that and we had a leak in the pipe in the garage…need I say more? LOL That was exciting. Thanks for commenting, Christie–I always love to hear about ideas and where they come from with others.

  29. Tasha Clanton says:

    I am an avid reader and think that one day I might like to try my hand at contemporary romance. I have a “what if” situation in my own life that I keep toying with putting on paper one day. Before my husband came along I was in love with someone else. What if I would have married him instead? What if he came along now? What would change or what would stay the same? Just some things rolling around up in my brain. Your book sounds great, can’t wait to read it!

    • OOOHHHH, Tasha! That is a fantastic “what if”!!!! I love it! You should definitely sit down and give that a whirl! There’s no telling what you might come up with, maybe even a decision that the heroine has to reach choosing between the two??? (be sure to give her a best friend or sister that the other one can end up with though…)LOL I love your idea. Thanks so much for commenting, and I hope you enjoy SWEET DANGER.

  30. Helen Hardt says:

    Hi Cheryl! You already know I love all your stories :). I don’t use the “what if” game a lot, but you’ve encouraged me to do it more often. I did do it for my short novel, Blood Wolf, which won several awards. I love wolf shifter stories, especially because of the fierce love and devotion the shifters have for their mates. So I thought, what if there were a wolf shifter who was abandoned at birth and didn’t understand his heritage? What if he found his mate, but didn’t know that’s what she was? How would he deal with this unbridled need to possess her? And Blood Wolf was born.

  31. Helen, thank you so, so much. That just means the world. I tell everyone, if it weren’t for you and your wonderful editing, it would not have been possible, so again thank you from the bottom of my heart. Oh, yes, I know BLOOD WOLF did GREAT and got so many nice awards–very deservedly! I just applaud anyone who can write a shifter novel. I love to read them but don’t hink I have it in me to write one. But I love supernatural topics and alternate history is one of my favorite new genres. I would love to give that a try sometime… Thanks again for coming by!

  32. Kathleen O says:

    You know I am not a writer Cheryl, but I so so love your books…I love any book that has a western theme. be it modern or historical…

  33. Celia Yeary says:

    Cheryl! My dear Oklahoma friend! What in the world are you doing on a blog with Kathleen Eagle? I am starstruck! Now, you, my good faithful friend, is in with the Big Girls. I cannot tell you how impressed I am. You know I think you are a great talent, and some day…yes, trust me…you will have your heart’s desire. Your books are rich with history and fabulous characters, and no one writes a hero like you do…and CERTAINLY no one writes a Villian like you do!
    And now to Kathleen–my lands, I didn’t even know what a romance novel was…but when I discovered hers I knew I’d found something special. Betina Krahn, too–having them together is weird. I live in a nice-sized university town, but I’d drive 12 miles out to a village that had the best used book store around. I’d search for Kathleen Eagle books and Betina Krahn books. That was way before ebook and the internet craze. Wow. This has made my day.
    And you, Cheryl? You should be right in there with them. Keep doing what you’re doing, and one day I will say…”I knew Cheryl Pierson when she was……” Oh, the dream. Love you…

    • CELIA!!!! OK, girl, you are making me blush!!! LOL Thank you so much for coming by and leaving such a heartfelt and loving comment. I’m so glad you are my “sister” and friend, and I appreciate being able to share the “writing road” with you. You know how I love your writing, too, and I know “one of these fine days” we are going to actually be able to get together and MEET IN PERSON! LOL I am like you with the Kathleen Eagle and Betina Krahn books. Talk about two wonderful inspirations in the writing world! Isn’t this a wonderful site? I’m so honored to be here today. Celia, thanks again so much for coming by and commenting!!!

    • Celia, I’m so glad to hear you’ve enjoyed my books, and I know Betina feels th same way. Hearing from a delighted reader makes every drop of blood and sweat well worth shedding. No kidding! There’s always a seat here in the convertible for you.

  34. I so agree that ideas come from the wind sometimes. One of my stories started brewing 39 years ago and I have finally written it and entered Broken Promise in the GH this year. Yesterday I was mailing a package to my critique partner and the man who waited on me spoke to me about Scotland and said his name is Rob Roy (for real). I bring my heroes to the 1849 gold rush era and by speaking with him about them, he handed me a chanter, said he played the bagpipes, taught the bagpipes and gave me many ideas for my Scottish hero. I almost floated out of the place so excited with so many new things for my hero’s life. Life is just too good some days.

    Best of luck with lots of sales. Your writing sounds so interesting. 🙂

    • OH PAISLEY!!!! What a wonderful “accident” (you know there ARE no accidents, don’t you?)LOL No, that should be called a GIFT, for sure. Meeting that man and being able to just speak with him about something you might not have ever had a chance to talk to anyone else about like that, just out of the blue…that’s great. I know you are still thrilled, and you’ll be able to have a “source” now that you’ve met him! You know who else plays the bagpipes? Our friend, Sarah McNeal! I have always wanted to learn to do that, but now, I doubt if my lungs would hold out for it. LOL What a great way to improve on the idea you started with…just by meeting a stranger! Thanks so much for sharing that story. And thanks for coming by, too–I know you are busy.

  35. Diane Craver says:

    I agree with Celia – you’re an awesome talent, Cheryl! wow you are definitely doing great – I wish you the best!

  36. THANK YOU DIANE!!!! Wow! you are so sweet. I appreciate the very kind words, Diane. You are an awesome friend!

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