What made you decide to write your first novel?
Pride . . . which isn’t the best of motivations to pen a story. At the time, closing in on twenty years ago now, the Christian fiction market wasn’t as large as it is now. I had a hard time finding enough books to keep me satisfied and I thought to myself, how hard can it be? Yeah. I’ve gotten myself into loads of trouble with that question. Turns out writing a book is way harder than it looks, folks!
Who helped you with the editing? Are you active with any writing critique groups?
One of the best things I did when I first started writing was to join American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). They connected me with an on-line critique group. Wow. That was a golden experience, and in fact one of my best critique buddies is from that group to this day. I moved on to join a different group, which I’m still involved in,
How did you go about finding an agent / publisher?
The first agent I met was the result of attending a local writers’ group meeting here in Minneapolis. Let me tell ya, I was shaking in my boots! But she was so kind and encouraging—even though she didn’t sign me—that it gave me hope to continue learning and growing as a writer. Eventually, yes, I did sign with an agent that I met face-to-face at a national conference. Yes, writing is a solitary endeavor, but the business side of it is all about networking.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Dialog?
Plotting is my bugaboo. I’ve tried it all, from not plotting at all to figuring out every little twist and turn. I have yet to land on a consistent format for coming up with plots, but perhaps that’s just how it will always be for me: varying from book to book.
What does your editor remind you to do most often?
I’ve got some of the best editors in the world (waving at Becky & Annie) and honestly, they give me free rein to write whatever I like. And because of my great critique partners who help me spit shine each and every manuscript before I turn one in, my editors don’t remind me to do anything, really.
What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
Notes from readers are my biggest encouragement. The ones that really warm my heart are when a reader shares with me a particularly difficult trial in their life and how some truth from one of my stories helped them get through that trial. Now that’s encouragement!
We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of one you’ve had, and how you learned to write past it.
My first time pitching to a publisher was an abysmal failure. Not only was he not interested in the least about my story, he suggested I change genres. That was pretty devastating because I love what I write (historical). Sure, I wept for a few days, but after I uncurled out of my fetal position, I determined to prove him wrong. It took me another five years, but I did it.
What has surprised you the most in writing/publishing? What frustrated you the most?
I can answer both of these questions with two words . . . public speaking. Gah! I hate getting up in front of a group of people with their eyeballs laser-beamed on me. Gives me hives. But there’s no getting around it. From book signings to writers groups, sooner or later you’re going to have to speak to people (which is really creepy for an introvert like me).
Just because I write something that fails doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. It just means that what I did failed and that I need to try something different.
What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
Lighten up. Sure there are rules of writing but you don’t have to get all bent out of shape about them. Write how you think, how you sound, and your voice will come through loud and clear. That’s what fresh writing is all about.
Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
Being successful at writing and getting published is mostly about time—and plenty of it. Be persistent, especially when it seems no one is interested in your writing. All that work will eventually pay off.
What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
The Innkeeper’s Daughter is a very loose sequel to Brentwood’s Ward. Here’s a blurb:
A London officer goes undercover to expose a plot against the Crown
Dover, England, 1808: Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.
All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse—where she’ll be separated from her ailing mother and ten-year-old brother.
Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.
If you’d like to keep up with Michelle and her writing, here are some links to get you started.