In conjunction with the review copy I was given of her book Fairview Felines, Michele also gave me some of her time to answer a few questions! I only asked five, though; kept it short and sweet. I hope you'll enjoy the exchange.
Also consider reading my review of her novel for middle schoolers Fairview Felines - newly released as an eBook.
1) What got you into writing? Beyond that, what made you want you write for kids and young adults?
Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer. When I was in Kindergarten I would come home and start writing a story, accompanied by pictures, then staple them together to make a book. It wasn’t a book if it wasn’t bound in some way.
When I was in high school, I wrote my first book as a senior project. It was pretty bad, basically a middle grade Alice in Wonderland kind of thing.
As I got older I found poetry to be a way to get my voice out. I had a performance band in New York City’s East Village for a while, where I would read my poetry while my band members would improvise.
But it wasn’t until I was in a writers’ group where several members were part of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and they suggested I try writing for young readers. When I did, something inside me opened up. I’d found a wonderful way to voice myself, and the characters started coming out.
2) Does having a young daughter help you in terms of writing for a younger audience and/or replicating situations young folk might find themselves in? I noticed that childhood empowerment and anti-bullying is emphasized as an award you've received. Is this reflected in your writing as well?
I think just being in the schools and seeing what kids are doing, what’s important to them, is a big help. My daughter is starting college this year, so she’s not really a factor in my middle grade work.
I’ve always been partial to the underdog, in any situation, so it’s a no brainer for me to stand up to bullies and to help kids with their own empowerment.
3) If you could pull any comic superhero or real life long-dead icon (of science, freedom-fighting, or anything) into one of your stories as a character, who would that be?
I’m a huge fan of superheroes! Any of those guys would be incredible (The Hulk?) Wolverine, Dr. X, Wonder Woman, Storm. Wow. So cool. But my favorite superhero is Batman (and the Dark Knight) because he doesn’t really have any supernatural powers (even though I’d move heaven and earth to have Iron Man for a few chapters). Batman has to use his brain and his own training to get out of the messes and save Gotham. And that’s something I admire in my characters.
4) You seem to be involved in many things, from parenting to writing and the great outdoors. What does your typical day look like? About how much time do you spend actually writing opposed to doing other activities?
I show up at my desk at 9 am and work until 2 pm or so, then I break for lunch and do my afternoon chores. If I have a lot of deadlines I work through the weekend and take a day or two off during the week to enjoy the outdoors.
5) What advice would you have for folks who want to write books or are in the process of writing their first novel?
READ. Read everything you can get your hands on. Everything in your genre and anything worthy that’s not. Don’t read garbage. It only clutters your brain. And then join a writers’ group. Writing is so solitary, it’s good to get a few trustworthy sounding boards in your life – not your kids, your spouse or your grandchildren (they’re biased) – but a group you can trust to be tough on your writing.
Go to conferences. Join SCBWI.
Oh yeah, and write. Lots of people say they want to write a book but you have to put your butt in the chair to get the job done.
Thanks again to Michele for taking the time to answer my questions and her publicist Pam for facilitating the process!