I’m so excited to share a first here at Caffeinated Fiction: Our very first author interview! Look for one each month, and get to know another author and their work!
This month I had the privilege of interviewing an author/blogger I met about a year ago – Michelle I. Mason. I had been following her blog for a few months, many of her posts reflecting the exact same feelings and thoughts I had regarding my journey as a writer. One particular post asked for anyone who was interested in being a Beta Reader for a manuscript she had just completed. I volunteered and immediately rejoiced that I did! I fell in love with her story and her writing style from page one. Although she cannot expand on this project right now, hopefully this will be a book I can recommend to all of my readers, in the near future! 🙂
After 10 years as a public relations manager promoting everything from forklift rodeos to Hotel Olympics, Michelle decided to stay home and write fiction full-time. She has completed two middle grade novels and three young adult novels and is a member of SCBWI. She is active on Twitter (@michelleimason) and also hosts a blog (www.michelleimason.wordpress.com), where she reviews middle grade and young adult books and shares her writing journey.
Michelle lives in St. Louis with her husband, two kids, a dog named Sydney, and two cats, Chaucer and Starlight. In her free time, she reads, watches too much TV, cross-stitches, bakes amazing brownies, and plays the violin in her church orchestra.
At what age were you bitten by the Writing ‘bug’? Do you have any stories you wrote as a child that you’d like to share?
I loved writing from the moment I learned how. I still have a few books I made in elementary school, including one that has a finger puppet that sticks through every page. I think the puppet might be a king? Strangely, many of my early stories were horror stories, with limbs being chopped off and monsters invading. I was reading a lot of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike! Then I switched to romance novels and started writing some of those, but neither of those genres were the right fit for me.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your writing career? How about the most rewarding?
The biggest challenge has been the agent search, which I’m still undergoing. For a number of reasons, I know the traditional path is the right one for me, but it’s tough when the rejections keep coming, even when many of them are encouraging. I’ve been at this querying thing for four and a half years now. I feel like I’m so close to that next step, but the challenge is battling the doubts that creep in about whether you need to listen to that last comment you got from an agent or stick to your guns because the next agent might love your manuscript the way it is.
As for the most rewarding, that’s easy. It’s the relationships I’ve formed with other writers. I’ve met so many amazing writers who encourage me when I start to doubt myself. Some of my critique partners have been walking with me through this process for the majority of those four years. We’ve learned together, commiserated together, rejoiced in the good together. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Are there any organizations or conferences you’ve attend to broaden your circle? Who are some of the most memorable people you’ve met?
I’m a member of SCBWI. Up until now, I’ve attended only local conferences–the Missouri SCBWI and Missouri Writers Guild. However, I am planning to attend NESCBWI this spring so I can meet some of my writer friends in person :). I’ve also participated in online conferences. As for memorable people, I’ve heard a number of interesting speakers over the years, from agents to writers. Some of my favorites include Mary Higgins Clark, Lisa Yee, and Steven Sheinkin.
What have you learned from your journey as a writer? Is there anything you hope to accomplish?
I’ve learned to persevere, to have patience, and that every writer’s journey is unique. I’ve learned that this business is subjective and that I shouldn’t jump on every suggestion another writer or agent makes but weigh it carefully against my own gut–and that it takes time to develop that gut. That’s quite a simplified answer, particularly as I’ve written a post every year on what I’ve learned in the past year :).
Ultimately, I hope to be published traditionally. I’m pretty stubborn, so I don’t expect to give up on that goal anytime soon.
Where do the ideas for your stories come from? What is the biggest influence in how you create your characters and the main themes of your books?
My ideas come from different sources–a dream, an interesting person I’ve observed that sparks a question, a premise I’ve seen in another medium that I wonder how it would play out in a novel, an intriguing fact that grabs hold of me and expands into a broader story idea.
I think the themes often expand out of the premise. I don’t generally go into a novel focusing on a theme. I usually have a general idea of the main characters, but often the secondary characters surprise me as I’m writing.
What is your favorite book(s) and why?
My favorite book of all time is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I read it my freshman year of high school. As for why … well, it’s the ultimate romance, and I love a good romance. Plus, I wrote a whole post about why it’s timeless.
Do you have a routine you keep, to focus on writing? What does that look like? How is it different than a few years ago?
When I’m drafting, I set daily goals and fast-draft until I reach the end. I don’t allow myself to edit while drafting or I’d never finish. I love revising, so I don’t need to set goals for that. In fact, when I get really into it, revising absorbs me to the point where I will skip other things I should be doing.
When I first started writing, I didn’t know about fast-drafting and it took me over a year to finish a draft of my first novel. It was torture! I’m so glad I figured it out.
Is there any advice you can give to other writers who are just beginning their journey? What are the pros and cons of the business?
My main advice is what you’ll hear from a lot of sources: don’t give up! If you stick with it, eventually you’ll succeed. Also, know what your goals are. The same path isn’t right for everyone. Don’t measure your success against someone else’s.
Thank you, Michelle, for your willingness to do Caffeinated Fiction’s very first Author Interview! I’m so excited for the opportunity to read your work in the near future!
Be sure to head on over to her website and check out what she has to say! I’ve been encouraged by many of her blog posts and I know you will, too!
Happy reading, friends!