Please join me in welcoming Cheryl Head to the Miss Demeanors blog. Cheryl is the author of the highly regarded Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series and of the well-reviewed, recently released standalone, Time’s Undoing.

Cheryl’s novels have been finalists and/or winners of a number of awards including the Anthony (Nominee), the Lambda Literary Award (Finalist), the IPPY (Silver Medal winner), the Goldie (winner), and a Next Generation Indie Award (Finalist). 

She is an inductee to Saints & Sinners Literary Festival Hall of Fame and the recipient of the Alice B Reader’s Appreciation Medal.

Catherine:  Cheryl, I really appreciate your taking the time to chat just a few days after the February 28th release of your latest book, Time’s Undoing. It’s not part of your series but the reviews so far are terrific and there’s a lot of excitement about it. But I’m curious. Your PI Charlie Mack series has been very successful what made you decide to switch gears?

Cheryl: A personal story pulled at me.  

Catherine:  What inspired you to write the story?

Cheryl: During the disruption and turmoil of COVID anxiety, and the murder of George Floyd, I knew it was time to try to write the very personal story of Birmingham, Alabama police, in the Jim Crow era, shooting, and killing, my grandfather. The incident occurred in 1929. Sometimes a story (and a character) makes demands of you.

Catherine:  How much and what kind of research did you do?

Cheryl: Oh, I was immersed in research.  My family has never had many details about my grandfather’s death.  I’d heard the story all my life, but the facts I had were limited. I’d resolved that I would have to imagine much of this story–and I did. That’s why it’s crime fiction and not a true-crime work.  But, like my journalist protagonist in the story, I set about doing the kind of investigation required of telling this story.  

I called, and got rebuffed by, the Birmingham police department. I used both and to get access to documents. I poured over maps, city directories, digital newspaper archives of both mainstream and Black newspapers, census records, photographs, and books to get a fuller story of Jim Crow Alabama, and suss out information about my grandfather’s life, and death.  Amazingly, I found a brief news article in the Saint Petersburg Times (that’s where my grandparents lived before relocating to Birmingham) which confirmed my family’s stories about his shooting.  I don’t know why this article would even appear in a mainstream newspaper, but there it was in black and white.  The headline read: “Local Negro Killed by Birmingham Officer.” That clipping gave me enough information to acquire grandpa’s death certificate. We’d never had that document before.  I’m continuing my research on his story. I don’t know where, or if, my grandfather is buried. I’d like to know. I’ve gotten some wonderful encouragement, and support, from good folks in Birmingham.

Catherine:  You were researching your grandfather’s story so did you imagine yourself as the main character when writing? Or did you make her up?

Cheryl: There were often times I felt merged with my young protagonist, Meghan McKenzie.  But she is a fictional character. I wanted the story to have contemporary elements to make it relevant to today’s readers, and to also draw the comparisons to the issue of excessive force by current and historical police departments.

Catherine:  Do you see this as a stand-alone or a series?

 I think Time’s Undoing is a stand-alone. Although I admit I’ve given some thought to a sequel.

Catherine:  What was the editing process like? Were many changes required?

Cheryl: Oh yes, there were many, many rounds of both developmental and copyediting.  The story was made better and better for it, and the editors always honored both my personal connection to the story, and my author’s voice.

Catherine:  Did anything surprise you about getting an agent and selling the book?

Cheryl:  I self-published my first book, and for the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series, I worked with an amazing indie publisher, Bywater Books. I’d never worked with an agent before this book, but I had a finished manuscript and I knew I’d need help to get this manuscript in the right hands.  I’d no idea of the machinations of shopping a book for publishing.  The book sold at auction. It was a wondrous, exhilarating, and heady experience.  I love my agent: Lori Galvin at Aevitas Creative.  I give all due credit to the International Thriller Writers (ITW) Pitch Fest program in helping me connect with her. 

Catherine: What’s next?

Cheryl: I think it’s time to get back to Charlie Mack.  I’ve had ideas for a few stories, but none have really grabbed me.  But now I’m thinking of a pretty traditional mystery story with, of course, strong Detroit elements, and Charlie front and center as a Black, lesbian, professional private investigator. 

Originally from Detroit, Cheryl Head now lives on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC where she has navigated a successful career as a writer, television producer, and broadcast executive. When not writing fiction, Head consults on a wide range of diversity/inclusion issues.

Catherine Maiorisi

Catherine Maiorisi is the author of the NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli Mystery series featuring Corelli and her partner Detective P.J. Parker–two tough women, fighting each other while solving high profile crimes. A Matter of BloodThe Blood Runs ColdA Message in Blood, and Legacy in the Blood are all available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks narrated by Abby Craden.  

In addition to publishing multiple mystery and romance short stories in various anthologies, Catherine has authored four romances novels. Her latest book, The Disappearance of Lindy James, was awarded a GOLDIE for Best General Fiction.


  1. Wow, that’s an amazing story that you were able to get so much detail. The book sounds really good!

  2. Thanks for joining us, Cheryl, and telling us the backstory to your fascinating new book. Congratulations!

  3. I met Cheryl at Creatures, Crimes and Creativity Conference last year, and she told the group about this book. It sounds amazing. Thanks for letting us know it’s available.

    1. And thank you, Cheryl, for taking the time in the middle of the launch of Time’s Undoing, to chat.

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