Friday, November 7, 2008
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Michele Scott. Michele is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she studied journalism before dedicating herself to writing fiction. She's the author of the Wine Lover's Mystery Series and the Equine Mystery Series. She writes children's fiction under a pseudonym, M.K. Scott, and she's here today to talk about her mid-grade children's fantasy, Zamora's Ultimate Challenge.
Thanks for this interview, Michele. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m obviously a writer. I’m a mom with three kids (ages 7-17). Writing has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. My other passion is horses. My daughter and I have horses and we ride at least four days a week. I spend my days writing and my afternoons riding. I love to cook. I’m a bit on the silly side, which either annoys my kids or makes them laugh (depending on their mood). I enjoy being around family and friends, and having a lazy day once in a while to catch up on my reading—another passion.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I knew when I was about nine-years-old that I wanted to be a writer. I have never wavered from that decision.
Do you have another job besides writing?
As I mentioned, I am a mom, so to me that in itself is a full time job. I used to work in wine sales, nut as my deadlines grew closer together with each book, I had to quit my day job and focus solely on my writing.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I most definitely was an avid reader as a kid. I read everything I could. My favorites were Nancy Drew, Black Stallion series, The Narnia Chronicles and I loved A Wrinkle in Time.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
My new book Zamora’s Ultimate Challenge was inspired by my kids. I actually wrote the first version of this book eight years ago while pregnant with my youngest. At the time, I was not published and had been writing thrillers. The doctor put me on bed rest, and I found that I could not do the research I typically did when writing a thriller. I decided that I wanted to write a book for my own children, and that was Zamora’s Ultimate Challenge. I never tried to sell the book because that was never my initial intent. I met Karen Syed (the publisher at echelon press) and we got to talking. She was looking for a book who featured a boy protagonist. I told her about my book and she asked to see it. At the time, I honestly did not expect anything to come of it. Obviously, I was wrong.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
Typically I do write from an outline. This is one of two books that I have not used an outline.
Did your book require a lot of research?
No. This book is pure fun and comes straight from the imagination.
What was your goal when writing this book?
To have my kids read it and learn something positive from it.
Who is your target audience?
I’d like to think that everyone is a target audience for a book like this, but if I have to narrow it down, then depending on a child’s reading level, this book is a fit for kids 7-11 (not the store).
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
There are some basic spiritual themes in this book (not religious). I think they are presented in a fun, fantastical way that hopefully will get parents, teachers and children talking about goals, the power of positive thinking and the understanding that virtually nothing is impossible if you put your heart and soul into it.
What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?
Both. I daydream and fantasize, but I have also incorporated many of my own personal experiences in some way into my books.
Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?
My ideas come at various times—cooking, driving, and in the shower. I suppose this is because my mind never leaves me the heck alone. I have been known to get up from the dinner table to write something down, and come back twenty minutes later. My family has pretty much gotten used to this. It’s just one of mom’s quirks.
Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?
We get along well. When she refuses to cooperate, I take her for a walk. It tends to work.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
I write a book about every four months. This book took me about six months. I was pregnant, so sleep got in the way (and eating for two).
Describe your working environment.
It varies. There is a computer in my room that I work on. A laptop that I move from the kitchen table to Starbucks or Pannera, or to my parents’ house when I can’t think at home because the laundry and dirty dishes have piled up, and are calling my name.
What type of scenes give you the most trouble to write?
I love to write dialogue, so I think writing out narrative with gorgeous prose and description is really tough.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
I write a first draft all the way through, then go back and edit.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
I curse the reviewer and their children and their children’s children! Just kidding. You have to be tough in this business. Not everyone is going to like everything that you write. I try not to read negative reviews if I can help it. I have my own beliefs behind negative reviews—“if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything.” Everyone has a right to their opinion, but it’s just that, and just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean I have to review it. Someone else will likely love it. As a writer, I know what goes into this process --blood, sweat and tears. Most of us are lucky if we can pay the bills from our writing, making what we do as writers our passion. To insult someone’s dream is hurtful and painful. However, writers have to understand that it is part of the business and a tough skin is needed.
As a writer, what scares you the most?
That people will hate what I write.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
Love, justice, humanity, and family.
Are you a disciplined writer?
How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?
I get the kids off by 8:00, come home and check e-mails while I eat breakfast, write until noon and have lunch, check e-mails again, and then write until 2:30, pick up my youngest and we go riding, come home and fix dinner, check everyone’s homework, feed animals and get ready to go to bed and start all over the following day. I don’t plan out my writing sessions in advance, but I always know that I will be writing no later than 9:00 a.m., and I will accept no less than ten pages a session.
When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?
An early bird.
Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?
I do have an agent. It is a difficult process, and I recommend Jeff Herman’s Guide. Study it, send out only what they ask for and then keep on writing. It took me twelve years to get an agent and sell a book.
Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
Hang on—I am deferring to family members. Okay, they say that I laugh while I’m writing and that I talk out loud. I don’t think that’s a quirk.
What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
Critique groups can be good if they are honest and as long as there are at least a couple of writers who are ahead of you in the game. Critique groups should never ever be mean or personal, and they also shouldn’t be flowery and sugar coat the work if it needs help. There are nice ways to tell someone that the book isn’t working. For a novice writer, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Listen, don’t take what is said to heart, let it sit within you for a few days, then take a look at what the group said. If at that time, you see their point, then make the changes. If you still think they are full of it, keep it as is. Remember, you are the writer, so you get the last word. I do think critique groups can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer. I almost had that experience twenty years ago as a newbie. The leader was harsh on my beyond what is acceptable. Other writers tried to console me and I almost gave up. However, if you’re a real writer and this your passion, then people can say what they will, and you may take it to heart for some time, but you will eventually find your way back. Once a writer, always a writer.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
I have not suffered this particular ailment. I have been vaccinated against it. However, if I feel it trying to ‘get’ me, I go for a walk.
Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?
Time. I wish I had more time to write more books. I am not sure how to handle this as I do need sleep.
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
My agent found the publisher. I recommend that novice authors query agents when they feel they are ready.
What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?
If I knew I would be on The Times list. Word of mouth still sells books better than anything else. I do a culmination of things. I have a website, newsletter, myspace, blogs, etc. Viral marketing is important in the age of The Internet. I also tell anyone and everyone from people on planes, to waiting for their car at the car wash, to waiting to be seated in a restaurant about my books.
What is(are) your favorite book/author(s)? Why?
This question is always so hard for me. I can never give one answer. I love so many different authors and books. I am a book whore. I probably spend more money on books than I do writing them. I read every night before bed and I pretty much enjoy almost every book I read. I’ll tell you what I am reading now and I can say that I am enjoying them: One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell, The Shack by William P. Young, and The Writing Class by Jincy Willet. I read three to four books at a time. I think I have A.D.D.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Bum Glue by Bryce Courtenay (The Power of One). Bryce likes to say, “Glue your bum to the chair and write.”
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Please visit my website at http://www.michelescott.com/. Readers can read excerpts from all of my books, enter contests, and learn a bit about my writing process.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I am currently finishing up a women’s fiction novel that is about women and their friendships with one another as well as the relationships between mothers and their children. I don’t want to jinx it, so that’s all I can say. My next mystery Corked by Cabernet will be out in February under Michele Scott.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
When I receive an e-mail from a reader telling me that they love one of my books, or characters. That makes what I do worth every second.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
Buy it. I have three kids to put through college. Joking aside—writing is what I do, it’s what I love and I would love to have you read my work and drop me a line.
Thanks for stopping by, Michelle! It was a pleasure to have you here!