Meet Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis Who Manages to “Purrfectly” Balance Writing Romance Fiction Against Best-Selling “Hard Core” Self-Help Works

by Anne Holmes on July 19, 2013

Welcome  to Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis, NABBW member and passionate author who writes both romance novels and non-fiction self-help books dealing with the dangers of addictions.

sherylIn addition to being a prolific author and a devoted wife and mother, Sheryl has retired from careers as a medical transcriptionist and as a professional voice artist. Her voice work included stints as a radio DJ, as well as television voice over work.  These days she uses her voice to speak out about addiction, trying to prevent children from using drugs. In fact, Sheryl tells us she is always available for speaking engagements.

Her most recently published novel is “The Purrfect Romance: A Catalyst for Love, in which Sheryl takes the reader from Australia  to Vermont, as tells the story of Jake Anderson, a heartbroken, rugged, brash, and handsome Aussie, and Lacey Belle Robertson, a charming southern belle from Charleston, South Carolina, who has inherited her grandparents’ palatial home in a little Vermont village.

By the way, the “Purrfect” part of the title refers to Jingles, a Tuxedo Cat with healing powers who may or may not be capable of bringing Jake and Lacey Belle together… Sheryl’s keeping mum on that, so you’ll have to read the book to find out….

Sheryl’s romance authoring efforts are balanced against her  four non-fiction works, whose titles all relate to drugs and addiction. Her children’s book “The Addiction Monster and the Square Catis often on Amazon’s Best Sellers List in the Drugs category. square cat

She’s proud to note that the actress Barbara Eden (of “I Dream of Jeannie” fame) sent her a hand-written note saying how wonderful the book is and that it should be in everyone’s home.

Her other non-fiction works are not “kid stuff.” These titles include: “I am Your Disease: The Many Faces of Addiction,”“Slaying the Addiction Monster: An All-Inclusive Look at Drug Addiction in America Today and “Addiction Collateral Damage: The Other Victims Of Addiction.”

Sheryl says one of her dreams is to sell enough books to pay for a return visit to Australia. Meanwhile, we found a moment when Sheryl wasn’t busy speaking, reading or writing, and asked her our favorite “Voices” questions. Here’s what she told us:

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

Henry David Thoreau wrote a whole page that was one paragraph but I’ll try not to do that! I’m an Australian-American and proud of both of my countries. I’m a daughter of the British Empire too for whatever that’s worth.

I will be seventy years old at the end of August if you can believe what my parents told me about my birth date. I’m certain they lied to me because I know I’m only in my thirties. Yep, that’s an excellent decade – the thirties so I spend part of my mind there and sometimes venture into the sixties, but when you get to be a woman of a certain age, let’s face it, every age and every day are precious.

I love to paint and draw and of course reading and writing are huge passions.

My family are big animal rights people and we’ve done some amazing things in that regard. I look at life with a humorous eye and that helps me deal somewhat with the loss of our son.

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

 Married to my wonderful husband, Jack, for over 46 years.

We have one living son and lost our youngest son to the disease of addiction in 2002.  Our children were/are outstanding people and our pride and joy.sheryl disease

Unfortunately, no grandchildren but I am not giving up hope.

My parents are deceased and even at my age it’s kind of scary to be an “orphan.”

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

Everyone extols the virtues of growing up in the 50s.  True, it was the golden age I think compared to the other decades, it truly was an innocent time but the caveat is that women were not held in very high regard. A lot of our ambitions were stifled because we were “just girls.”

Then came the 60s and those of us with a wild bent were beginning to express ourselves and enjoy new freedoms.cover_romancechocolates

The same with the 70s we were freer but still not completely free. As the Virginia Slims ads used to say “You’ve come a long way, baby” but we still have a long way to go.

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

I like to think that expressing my opinion is a desirable quality and women shouldn’t be denigrated for daring to speak freely about our wants and desires. With freedom comes responsibility and I like to think that the qualities of being a female in the 50s have followed me through life such as having good manners and acting with decorum.

What inspires you?

Kindness always inspires me. Whether it’s kindness to one another, kindness to animals, kindness to our Mother Earth, or kindness to ourselves. Knowing we have a really short amount of time on this earth inspires me to make the most of what time I have left and trying to be proactive with my beliefs, walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

That’s easy – my husband and my son and our two rescue cats, Pippi Sue and Squeaky Joe although technically Squeaky Joe wasn’t a rescue. He left his home which is two doors down from our house over 10 years ago and he adopted us. Cats are funny that way.

My husband and my son are not just my rocks, they’re huge monoliths bucking me up when I’m down and keeping me centered.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

I write Haiku and have won awards for it. I was taught Haiku by Nick Virgilio, the #1 Haiku poet in the US, who sadly passed away many years ago. I sketch, paint, and write, write, write.

Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

My favorite book is “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor. I’ve read it at least five or six times. Amber is a willful young girl who will stop at nothing to make the object of her desire love her as much as she loves him. She almost had it all but let it slip away from her.

I think the book (which was written in 1944, but has been re-released by Amazon in Kindle format as part of their “Rediscovered Classics” series)  has an important lesson for all of us. Amber is one of those heroines whom you love and are caught in her spell but you realize she can’t prevail because of her immaturity and her determination to get what she wants without regard for others.

My favorite movie is probably “The American President” but there are so many others, it’s hard to pick just one.

 Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

We don’t travel much today but I’ve traveled all over the world including 5 times to Hawaii and twice to Tahiti.

The greatest thrill I ever had traveling was back in the days when passenger ships (not like today’s cruise ships) were the way to travel. One time I spent six weeks on a ship traveling from Australia to the US with stops in the Philippines and Japan and Hong Kong.  I was 19 and it was exhilarating and it included a shipboard romance. Ahh, those were the days.

My husband and I have been to South America (Venezuela) and all over this country. I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states. Developing wanderlust at the tender age of 11 has never left me.

Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate

My husband, son and I are very careful about what we eat and about exercising.  It hasn’t always been this way and now we’re paying the piper for past indiscretions.

But the important thing is we’re doing the right things now, we’re eating to live and not living to eat. We visit the doctor and get checkups and use common sense when it comes to our health.

What do you stress about?

Anyone who has suffered the unbelievable loss of a child – no matter how old or young that child was – can tell you the biggest stress is the worry that it could happen again.

You don’t take anything for granted and your heart sinks into the pit of your stomach if the phone rings at a time when you aren’t expecting any calls. You stress when the phone rings and you stress if it doesn’t ring if you’re expecting a call from your child.

I worry but try not to stress about the environment. I do my part in being as kind to our Mother as possible.

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

As far as the importance of retaining my youthful look, I think I would put that at a level 5 now and not a 10 as it was say, 15 or 20 years ago.

I’ve accepted that I can’t look young forever so I just try to look as good for my age as possible. I wear makeup (though not as much as I did when I was younger) and do my hair and wear fashionable age-appropriate clothing and I keep informed about what’s going on in the world.

I try to laugh a lot because I feel that’s really good for you and if you feel good I do believe it shows.  A smile works wonders for everyone and especially women as we get older.

I did have neck surgery a dozen years ago because my neck was so saggy and crepey, it was horrible and it was having a deleterious effect on my psyche. I’d love to have a brow lift but I can live without it. It’s not that important now.

I don’t want to look 29, I just want to look good for 69..

Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

People who meet me today cannot believe it when I tell them I used to be so shy to the point of some people calling me “stuck up.” I was not. I was just shy with a capital S.

It occurred to me one day that people were not getting to know the real me because they were put off by my diffidence. Learning how to be outgoing and friendly when inside I just wanted to run and hide was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

This changeover started in senior high when my close friends talked me into trying out for cheerleading. Why, I don’t know, but I was selected for the squad and it was the beginning of my reinvention which lasted for years.

I’m still that shy person inside but I keep the reins on her and make her take a backseat to my friendlier side.

 Do you plan to retire?

I already did that. I took early retirement seven years ago and I’m so glad I did. People told me I’d be bored if I retired.  How could I be bored, I would respond.

I haven’t mastered the French language yet (still haven’t) I haven’t read all the books I want to read, and on and on. There is so much to do but I won’t retire from life until I take my final breath.

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

My husband and I have been green since long before people really talked about it.

We were turning our thermostats down in the winter back in the sixties, driving carefully so as not to waste gas, not leaving the water running when brushing our teeth, washing clothes in cold water, and just a whole lot of little steps like that, that if we all did our part we would really help the earth.

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

When I was 12 years old attending a summer youth camp I wrote a takeoff of “Little Red Riding Hood” and the acceptance of what I wrote along with the applause kindled a profound reaction in me and I’ve been writing ever since. I love it!

Sheryl STAMThe death of my youngest son at the age of 31 (he was a paramedic and an RN and brilliantly talented) from the disease of addiction inspired me to write four books on drugs and addiction including a children’s anti-drug book which quite often is on Amazon’s Best Sellers List in the Drugs category.

Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?

Yes, of course I’d love to write The Great American Novel. Actually I’d just like to be accepted as a good writer and have more success with my books.Sheryl Purrfect

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

We support our local no-kill animal shelter and as of today are on our fifth foster cat. When we lived in North Carolina we started the first ever humane society in Hoke county, NC and implemented a reduced fee spay and neuter program.

We helped rescue two dolphins, Bogie and Bacall, who had been captured in the Indian River Lagoon and taken down to the Miami to be subjected to a life of misery in a roadside dolphin display.

Our pontoon boat captained by my husband and assisted by our son Dale and other volunteers was used to transport the dolphins (after a ride from Miami to our county) to an island in the lagoon where they were retrained in how to feed themselves.

We gave a scholarship to a person in a nursing program.

I’ve given talks on drugs and addiction.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

There are so many people who have influenced me that it’s impossible to choose one. My parents of course, my mother instilled in me the importance of being polite and my father gave me his sense of humor.

I love the example of kindness exhibited by Dr. Albert Schweitzer and the compassion of Dr. Tom Dooley from the Viet Nam era. I’ve read his books and have been profoundly influenced by him.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

My personal mission statement would be to make everyone in the world buy my books.  Okay, that’s the fun part.

My true mission would be to try to influence others to be Kind, yes Kind with a capital K.  And it all starts with being Kind to animals, it starts in the home.

I want to influence people to listen to their kids, spend time with them, be good to them and raise them with pets so they can learn the importance of kindness.

Above all my mission is to set an example of Kindness, tolerance and love for all of us.


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