An author of paranormal and urban fantasy fiction, Sheritta Bitikofer lives for the deep, engaging stories that enthrall readers from cover to cover. As a wife and fur-mama of eclectic tastes, she can be found roaming Civil War battlefields, perusing the romance section of the bookstore, or relaxing with a plate of chili cheese fries. Sheritta, welcome!
Can you tell us about The Rose?
The Rose is the first book in a duet that tells how Belle Clearwater, a woman who hides a massive amount of social anxiety while trying to run her small farm, meets Leo Thompson, a guy that’s haunted by demons and depression and constantly running from a tragic family history. Together, they help one another realize that they’re better than the things that torture them on a daily basis, and they begin to fall in love in the process. It’s full of insightful, reflective topics like faith and mental illness, all packed into an engaging and sometimes heartwrenching story.
It sounds fascinating yet heavy! Where did the idea to write it come from?
It’s actually the first book I wrote almost twelve years ago. At the time, it was really rough and unnecessarily long and awkward in its plot and character development. I put it down for a long time and then decided that I needed some sort of closure to that cast of characters, so I picked it back up and refined it quite a bit. I added the mental illness elements, toned down a lot of the faith/religious aspects, and quickened the plot progression so it wasn’t plodding along like it had been in the first draft. The main goal of the book, or what I intended to do when I set out to write it, was to make people aware that there’s a whole other world underneath what we see. Not just spiritually, but each person we come into contact with may have something they’re struggling with. Whether that’s depression, anxiety, self-doubt, or whatever, we’re all battling something that we don’t talk about. My hope with The Rose is to get people talking about those issues, which can open the path to healing. There’s a bit movement toward exposing mental illnesses and shattering long-held stigmas about what they are or are not, so I’m just playing my part while using characters that are near and dear to my heart.
I think it’s wonderful that you’ve poured so much depth and heart into this novel, while bringing awareness to a very important condition. Were there any other works that influenced the writing of this book? Would fans of those works be fans of yours?
Honestly, the first author that comes to mind is Frank Perreti. I was reading This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness while I was writing the first draft of The Rose, so some of his depictions of how the spiritual realm (angels and demons) affect the physical influenced some of the scenes and conflict within my book. I don’t get nearly as religious as he does in his works, however. The show “This Is Us” I think deals with a lot of mental health issues just like The Rose, so I think if readers enjoy that series, they’ll like The Rose.
How much of yourself is in your main character? And how are you different from her, too?
It’s a little scary how much I’m like Belle. I drew on my own social anxiety and insecurities to create her, and our reasons for having such anxiety are incredibly similar. I wouldn’t go so far to say that the book is biographical, but there are so many aspects of myself in Belle, and I’m happy to say that through the course of writing this book, we’ve both healed in many ways. I’m only different in that I don’t own a farm with sheep and horses. Leo, too, was inspired by a lot of my own experiences with mild forms of depression and self-harm, but I’m much more like Belle.
Did you have any trouble executing any of the characters or scenes in The Rose? What came easily, and what didn’t?
The entire book was surprisingly easy to write because I’ve had these characters in my head for ages. The dialogue flowed well, and the emotions for the scenes were pretty easy to draw on since I didn’t have to go a lot of research into that. I suppose the hardest parts to write were the “in-between” things, such as when Belle and Leo weren’t together but interacting with others in the town. And it wasn’t necessarily hard, as it was monotonous because I wanted to get to the exciting bits with them together, but these other scenes were necessary. I suppose every author has that struggle, though.
How long did it take you to write?
If you count the 12 years it sat on the shelf, then it was 12 years. But the actual time spent writing the reworked manuscript might have been a little over a month. I tend to write fast and set goals each day for a project. The second book, The Lion, took a little longer because I wrote it around the holidays in December so I had to juggle family time and writing. The whole duet took perhaps three months with one month of editing. I did the most work in November during National Novel Writing Month and managed to crank out 90k words before it was over.
Who is the intended audience for The Rose?
I wouldn’t recommend kids under 15 to read it, purely because of the sometimes graphic content when Leo is dealing with his depression and self-harm tendencies. The genre, when you boil it down, is something like Sweet Paranormal Christian Romance. Paranormal for the spiritual aspects, Christian for the faith parts, and sweet romance for everything in between.
There definitely seems to be a demand for Christian PNR, which is sometimes hard to find. I hope you reach many people with this book. When does it come out?
The release date is March 25th, which also happens to be my 6th wedding anniversary. I did that on purpose because The Rose was being written right around the time my husband and I started dating, and it was the first book of mine that he ever read. He’s been such a monumental support for me in my journey as an author and I wanted to commemorate the release in a special way.
Your husband – the one whom I think looks like Carey Elwes!! That’s great he’s been so supportive of your writing. What excites you most about this release?
I’m so eager to share my characters with the world, and as I said before, it’s my sincere hope that it inspires as well as entertains.
Does anything scare you?
I suppose any author’s fear is that the book won’t be as well received as they hope, which is always in the back of my mind. But, I’ve learned over the years publishing that if a reader doesn’t like it, that’s not on me. It’s just not their cup of tea and there’s nothing wrong with that. My book will be loved by some and hated by others. That’s the glory of diversity and independent thought.
What’s next for Sheritta?
Right now, I’m working through my historical novellas, The Legacy Series. I’m on book thirteen at the moment, and once this is done, I’ll be setting my sights on a new series I intend to release in the fall called The Bewitching Brews Series. I’m big into the paranormal and urban fantasy, and this will be my first witchy series, so I’m excited to get started.
I’m excited for you! Where can readers get in touch if they want to learn more?
Preorder The Rose: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NHGYG2D
Reader Group: https://facebook.com/groups/sweet.shifters