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.
a) Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
This is a difficult question, Mandy. For some reason, the men characters I create seem to stay with me more. They are big, bold and very charismatic, I’m told. In Mirror Deep, this would be Pierce Bonner, Kat, my heroine’s, would-be hero. There is also a very flamboyant French older gentleman by the name of Charles… not to give too much of my story away. The reason I find this question a little difficult to answer is that these characters are like my children and, as you know, it’s hard to favor one child over another.
b) Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
Yes. I love a good suspense story or a mystery with lots of twists and turns to the main plot. This means many subplots and tons of foreshadowing. This is the sort of book I like to read, which is why I love to write this, I guess. I also enjoy urban fantasy. I am writing one at the moment, and I’m almost finished. I like dreaming up all sorts of powers for my heroine. I also enjoy a good paranormal yarn. Yet in all my stories, you will always find some love connection between several characters. To me love is the seasoning that goes with all my recipes.
c) What do you enjoy most about writing?
Great question, Mandy, and in case I forget to mention it later, I want to thank you for doing this thoughtful interview about me. What writer does not enjoy talking about his or her projects? I enjoy creating something that boils and spins. All my life, while in the home, I’ve spent most of my time in the kitchen, cooking, baking, and even catering for friends’ parties at times. Now, I’ve moved my creations to paper and to an office and a computer. Writing allows me to think outside the box, and creating people and their many life adventures is my favorite form of escapism.
d) Have you got a favorite place to write?
Yes. I can’t just write any old place, although inspiration will come at the weirdest moments, and no matter what I’m doing or where I am. Usually inspiration comes when I’m doing something physical, like walking my dog, or swimming. To write, just give me an office with a window on one side and a TV on the other and I’ll be able to work. Oh, and I can’t write longhand. It has to be on a computer.
e) Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
A story comes to me early morning, in that ephemeral state between sleep and awake. Full characters with names and personalities begin full conversations… Whenever this happens, I have to get up and write the moment down before it is gone completely.
From there comes a title, then the main plot and then sub plots. Most importantly, because the characters and their conversations come first, I have to hunt down the character pictures as I see them via photos on the Internet.
Then I proceed to write a detailed character sheet on all the main characters and even the secondary characters depending on their role. Then, the city of where this is going to take place is born, again depending on what I saw and heard. I locate it on a map and give the place a neighborhood, a house, every little detail that pops to mind. By the time I begin to write, it’s easy as everyone is clearly defined. The setting is established, and the fact that their character sheet is detailed and their pictures are real, dialogue is much easier to craft.
f) What inspires your stories?
I can’t be sure, Mandy. Once I was going out early morning to walk my dog, and I saw a neighbor four houses down coming out of his front door with his two children by the hand, and a whole short story sprang from this picture. A short story I just blogged about Vi et Veritate. Don’t know where it came from. Mirror Deep came to me while I was actually working on another story and while I was watching a Grand Slam tennis match at the same time. When my mind is occupied in more than one area, I find I get these little electrical shorts that give me insight into what I’m supposed to write.
g) What are you currently reading?
Several books at the same time. I like to review books and when I do, I like to read more than one at the time. If I can’t finish a book, I won’t review it. If I can get through it, I will rate it and review it. Finishing a story for me means I was captivated and able to get to the end. I must have bookmarks in 25 books at home that I have never finished. Thank God for Kindles. I like to read mystery, suspense, romance, and anything that will keep me hooked and far away—except horror and vividly described cruelty. If I have to close a book because of a horror passage, I will not open it again… same thing for cruelty.
h) Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories?
I guess I’ve had the same odd habit since childhood. I sing from the time I wake up in the morning to the moment I fall asleep at night, in my head or aloud; and sometimes through the night, as I have woken while in the middle of a dream because of a song in my head, countless times. I couldn’t sleep for weeks when Bobby Vinton’s ‘Blue Velvet’ first came on the radio—Shakira’s songs do that to me also. I guess it didn’t help that I could read music before I could read words. I come from a long line of singers and when my mother heard me sing at 4 years old, she thought I sang off key. So she had me take piano lessons with nuns. By the time I was 5, I was competing and winning against children 3 times my age. The result: I learned how to sing.
i) Do you have any pets?
I love all sorts of pets. I think they are soulful creatures that need our help and devotion in order to survive. Love horses, and dolphins, and dogs. I have a dog, always did, in fact. Chief is going on 13 and he is the best friend anyone could wish for. He sleeps for hours while I write. When I get up to get coffee, he follows, wags his tail, gets his ears rubbed and goes back to the same place to resume his sleep when I sit down again. We take our walks every morning and every night, even in below freezing temperatures. He wears a little coat and boots when it’s too cold, and in more clement weather, he can easily walk a mile every morning.
j) Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
Too many to name. Romance Writers of America, The Canadian Author’s association, about 25 Facebook groups of writers, The Absolute Write Water Cooler, The Next Big Writer.com and the list goes on and on. I read many people’s blogs and I am so inspired after I do. I am forever in awe of all the great bloggers and writers there are out there, stories written in so many forms and wearing so many different styles, all of them perfectly suited to what they say and do. So much creativity and downright smarts are propagated through the Internet… You know, Bill Gates may have started the movement of the personal PC, and the rush to the World Wide Web, but we are the ones who placed the order for it. All of us, we are co-creators.
k) What age did you start writing stories/poems?
The eldest of 6 children, and having three siblings by the time I was six, my mother relied on me to tell my sisters and brother stories to help them fall asleep. I did. I invented many stories, unable to tell the same one twice as most of them were made up, of course. I guess this prompted me to read early. At 8 I was reading books without pictures and could summarize most stories for my little brood. By then, there were four younger than I was. Of course, this drove me … to write diaries, which I did until I was fifteen. Still have all of them, only no one can read them, not even me because the handwriting is illegible.
l) Do you have a book published? If so what is it called & where can readers purchase it?
Yes, I have a book that was published on November 1, 2012. Mirror Deep. It is a suspenseful romance with the subplots and twists and turns that I like, and provides 456 pages of whodunit and romance. It’s available on Amazon.com, in print form and kindle. http://tinyurl.com/aups9ep for the Kindle and http://tinyurl.com/bcky3l9 for the print version. It’s also available on Barnes and Noble and other favorite sites. It will be available in Kobo and nook in early February.
m) If you could meet one favorite author who would it be and why?
Well, I’ve already met some of my favorite authors, Anthony Robbins, and Deepak Chopra. I’ve met Zig Ziglar, and Marylu Henner as she is a fabulous health writer.
In fiction I have met Pat Conroy, wonderful literary writer. I have two of his books and I love his fiction. So that would leave me with a tossup between John Grisham and P.D. James. John Grisham is the best scribbler I’ve read in a long time. His prose is unique, vivid, real and so intense that I could read anything he writes, not caring about the story. P.D. James, of course is out of bounds to most of us. Her book Devices and Desires is absolutely phenomenal. I have read it more than once, just to revel in the turn of her phrases and the twisting of her plots and many subplots.
n) If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
Easy. Anywhere there’s a beach. Preferably with palm trees. I am a beach bum who loves the ocean, and everything about it: the smell, the swell, the salt that lingers on me after a long swim. I love the blue look of it, the feel and the howling sound of waves during a wind storm. The only two cities that would have me rethink living near the ocean would be Paris, France… or Lyon, a close second, and New York City, both tied. Yep you’ve guessed it. I’m a city girl who needs the ocean. So Miami Beach and Maui come pretty close to heaven for me.
o) What’s your favorite movie of all time?
I have tried but find it impossible to just have one. I am a movie aficionado and I love them all. I have favorites of course, but dozens and dozens of them. Anything with Julia Roberts, with Sandra Bullock, with Michael Douglas, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Anniston, Matthew Perry, Andie MacDowell … well, you get the picture.
p) Where can readers find you and your blog?
You can find my blog on book reviews, and such stories, and interviews at: http://www.josslandry.com/blog People are welcome to follow my blog and stay connected.
q) Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?
I have already seven manuscripts penned that need tightening and professional editing. One is being edited right now. A romantic suspense of 75,000 words called Ava Moss. That will be the next one published.
r) Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
My husband is my best supporter. He has been there through thick and thin and is the best beta reader I know. My daughter, Mary, is another pro-active supporter. She is the voice in my head, the one always encouraging me to be positive. Since all of us practice the Hawaiian science of Ho’oponopono, I guess you could say that the best supporter we all have is of a spiritual nature.
Thank you Joss for such an enlightening and interesting interview.