As I read Michelle’s answers I was very moved by her story, her struggle. I hope you can all support her and wish her well in her journey. Today’s word is Kibosh (kye-bosh) Definition: to end something suddenly, stop – I feel it reflects Michelle’s resolve.
1) Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
At the moment, I am writing my first novel. The main character is named Terra, and she is my favorite character so far. She’s a woman who has picked up and started her whole life all over again, and she’s struggling with it. Her life and background are so different from mine in some major ways, but I do know her on a certain level, I know what makes her tick. I admire her so much for coming through what she has; she’s not perfect, and she hurts people and does really questionable things – but she’s a fighter and a survivor. It’s a joy to watch her grow and change.
a) Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
My absolute favorite genre is fiction, and I have written numerous short stories from a first-person narrative. I am expanding now to a novel (also fiction), and I have planned a second novel too. At the moment, all my fiction is from a woman’s perspective, and it explores the lives of some very damaged women. I do not write ‘chick-lit’, since what I write is far more serious and dramatic and dark than genre allows.
The interesting thing for me is that I have just recently started thinking about writing a memoir about my struggle with alcohol. I started a blog two months ago (in December 2012) about my writing and alcoholism, and the response has been amazingly positive and encouraging. I’ve had several people ask if I will be writing about my recovery, as they find it inspirational. I never thought about it, to be honest, but it is an idea that is starting to take up more space in my head… so I may well dabble in non-fiction with a personal memoir.
In terms of professional writing, I also have extensive (9+ years!) experience in magazine publishing, and I have written hundreds of articles about everything you can imagine: travel, culture, food, business, fashion… my professional interests are wide and varied, and so writing and editing keeps me fascinated!
b) What do you enjoy most about writing?
The absolute freedom to go wherever I want, say whatever I want, and bring to life people and events that exist so completely in my own head.
c) Have you got a favorite place to write?
Well, given a choice, I’d write near the water – I love the ocean! But that is not possible at this point, so I make do with my home office and cafes at the weekends. I have two small children, and writing when they are here is challenging. So, I do what I can when they are at school on weekdays, then I haul my laptop to various cafes around the city. It works, but it’s not ideal.
d) Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
A bit of both, I guess. I always know how to begin, and I always know how it will end. I often write the ending of a short story at the beginning of the writing process; it gives me a destination to get to. In that way, I plan my writing.
But on the other hand, I carry a notebook with me everywhere and a few times a day, I will grab it and scramble to find my pen and scrawl dialogue or entire pages of writing on the metro or at work. These bursts of writing often take me in unexpected and unforeseen ways, and I am totally open to these unplanned ‘surprises’.
e) What inspires your stories?
Oh, my. The short answer is ‘everything!’ and it’s actually true. But if you’d really like me to give just a few concrete sources, here we go. My stories have been inspired by: my time living and working in Asia, living in Poland, motherhood, alcoholism, my experience with childhood cancer, friends, former friends, my university education, psychology, watching the news, other writers, music lyrics and strong women, either fictional or real.
g) Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories?
Odd habits? No, and now I kind of wish I did, so I could tell you about them!
In terms of childhood stories, I have mentioned ones briefly – I was diagnosed with cancer as a child, and that experience (which lasted three years) took a large chunk of my childhood and had a massive impact on the rest of it. That time has many, many stories attached to it.
h) Do you have any pets?
No. And my children beg me non-stop for a cat or dog.
i) Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
j) What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I started writing stories when I was nine years old, when I was being treated in the hospital for cancer. It was a way for me to process and cope with what was happening, I think.
k) Do you have a book published? If so what is it called & where can readers purchase it?
Not yet! My plan is to self-publish my short story collection this spring.
l) If you could meet one favorite author who would it be and why?
This is a toss-up between Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver and Robertson Davies. Since Mr. Davies is dead, that takes him out of the running. I’d love to meet Ms. Kingsolver, just to talk to her about ‘The Bean Trees’ and ‘The Poisonwood Bible’; both of those books moved me deeply when I read them. I suppose, though, that I’d choose Ms. Atwood. I adore her writing style: funny and thoughtful and provocative and smart. I’d enjoy talking to her, I think.
m) If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
In an airy house with lots of light and windows on the ocean or the sea. I have no preference in terms of country – I just want the blue water to stare at as I write.
p) Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?
I am thinking about that memoir, as I mentioned. But if I decide to put that aside for a year or two, I’d like to finish a second novel about a woman who (quite literally) loses her voice.
q) Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
My husband is at the head of this group, as is my mother. I have a great group of friends who cheer me on, and I get lots of virtual love from the internet.
It must be added that I also find and receive encouragement from people such as yourself – people that I have never met who give me opportunities to share my writing and my passion. So, thank you for the generous offer, and your kindness in making room for me on your blog. It’s a lovely thing for you to do.
It is obvious Michelle has a rare strength of her own and that is where her characters stem from. Thank you Michelle.