Michelle Rowen Interview
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Upcoming Title or Latest Release
Give us an update on yourself. What’s your latest news?
I’ve just put the finishing touches on the fourth book in my Immortality Bites series, Stakes & Stilettos. It’s the further adventures of fledgling vampire Sarah Dearly and the trouble that seems to find her where ever she goes. This time trouble finds her at her high school reunion where she comes in contact with a vengeful witch (a previous classmate) and an interesting, but dangerous curse. In a few weeks I will be attending the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Pittsburgh, PA and am quite excited about that. I always enjoy seeing the hot cover models…err… I mean all the fabulous readers and other writers who will be there. Then I’ll be gearing up to go to the Romance Writers of America National Conference in San Francisco, CA, in July. In August I’ll be promoting Countdown, which is a sexy, futuristic action romance novel I wrote under the pen name Michelle Maddox.
What’s your upcoming or latest book/story about?
Lady & the Vamp is the third book in my vampire series, however it can easily be read as a standalone. It features Quinn, a vampire hunter who was turned into a very reluctant vampire. While he knows that being a hunter was wrong (in my vampire world, vampires are the good guys and hunters are the misguided or downright-evil bad guys – Quinn was one of the misguided ones) he can’t make peace with being a bloodsucker, so he’s gone in search of a magical artifact he believes will grant his wish to become human again. A dangerous woman from his past is also in search of this artifact, though. The book is a really fun, sexy, humorous treasure hunt across Arizona and into Las Vegas. I hope readers have half as much fun reading about Quinn and Janie as I had writing about them.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and what inspired you to start writing?
I always go back to that moment when I watched Romancing the Stone, and Joan Wilder finished her manuscript at the very beginning of the movie. Something about that – creating imaginary worlds, sexy heroes, and adventure (while in the comfort of one’s apartment), and then having a book to show for it – really resonated with me. I also knew when I’d watch movies and be dissatisfied with their endings and end up reworking them in my imagination to suit my own needs that writing my own stories definitely appealed to me.
When did you write your first book?
I’ve dabbled with writing since I was around 12 years old, but I finished my first book only about five years ago when I participated in Nanowrimo for the first time. In fact, that book, (such as it is) is available on my website as a free download.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer, a flight attendant, an actress, a supermodel, a teacher, or a jewel thief. Not necessarily in that order. These were all written in one of those “school days” books so I do have proof if necessary. I decided against the acting thing because I hate criticism and rejection. Little did I know!!! LOL Well, at least with writing one is rarely criticized to our face.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m about ready to start on the last book in my Immortality Bites series that will be out next summer. I’m both excited and apprehensive about it. I want Sarah Dearly’s story to be wrapped up in a way that is true to her character and very satisfying to readers, both new and old. I’m also working very hard on a new paranormal proposal that I hope will follow up my vampire books.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love rock climbing, sky-diving and anything dangerous and exciting. Well…….that’s a total lie but it sounds very interesting doesn’t it? Actually I’m very boring. I love going to the movies, watching the boob-tube, having dinner out with friends, and reading. Yawn.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are extremely supportive. My father retired just before my first book was published so he’s become my (unpaid) publicity agent. I was over the border in Buffalo, NY a while back and went to a Barnes & Noble to visit my books (What? Writers do these things.) and was very confused how they all had bookmarks in them already. Then I realized that my father must have been there doing his bookstore rounds.
How long does it take you to write a book?
It honestly depends on what my deadline is. I can write a book in one month or one year, based on how much time I have. However, the one month would be solid, obsessive writing by a very edgy and moody Michelle, and the one year would be a lot of procrastination, but a calm, Zen-like Michelle (who would probably be completely broke). On average, I like to have about four months from first page to the end of a solid second draft.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I always call myself an all-or-nothing kind of writer. I’m either writing all the time or I’ll go a week or two without any pages at all. I know this is wrong so I’ve been trying to fit myself into some sort of regular schedule – four hours of ‘business’ stuff (blog, promo, etc.) and four hours of writing stuff (actual writing, outlining, and revisions) a day. Four hours of writing will net me at least 15 finished pages.
Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
I need to write in complete silence and alone. I envy writers who are able to go to Starbucks and do their writing with the buzz of conversation going on around them.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I decided to start keeping track of where my ideas come from lately. Usually it’s just a fleeting “what if…” thought. The title of a proposal I have out right now, as well as the spark of the story idea, came from a throwaway comment from Tyra Banks, of all people, on her talk show when she was talking about the “magic” of falling in love. I think just being aware of what’s happening around us can give us dozens of ideas a day. Combine a bunch of them and you’ll have enough to write a book.
What do you think makes a good story?
Wow, if I knew the exact answer to that I’d bottle it and sell it for millions! I don’t think it’s anything specific. I think it’s a mixture of good character, an interesting “quest” for her to fulfill, and lots of believable conflict. And a sexy hero doesn’t hurt, either.
What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating your books?
Probably how stubborn imaginary characters can be. When I was originally writing Bitten & Smitten my outline called for Sarah to fall for Quinn and for the other member of the love triangle to, well…die. Instead, Sarah chose the guy marked for death and wouldn’t let me kill him off. She was very persistent. Luckily she was right and instead of only being one book, I’ve been lucky enough to write five in the series.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Getting started on a new project. It’s like pulling teeth, really. For instance, today, I want to write at least ten pages on a proposal, but it’s 12:45 p.m. right now and I’ve been doing this interview and working on another one instead. I’ll get started, because I know I want to, but it might not be until tonight. However, it’s like they say, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Once a book gets going and I get into the flow, it’s very easy to get back to it because I want to see what happens next in the story.
How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite?
I’ve written about a dozen – seven of which are, or will be published. I love all of my babies equally, but Bitten & Smitten probably sneaks out a little ahead of the others because it was the book that got me my agent, my first contract, as well as an award (the HOLT Medallion for best first book) and the ability to call myself a bestselling author (it was on the Waldenbooks/Borders Group romance list for three weeks) so I am rather fond of my first-born.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
A glance at my overstuffed bookshelves confirms that the one author I will consistently buy in hardcover is Laurell K. Hamilton. I discovered her books about six years ago (by way of a bad review, surprisingly enough, which proves that all reviews are good reviews! LOL) and was absorbed into the world she was writing – both her vampire and faery books. She has created such believable urban fantasy worlds and in the early AB books, I enjoyed the love triangle. She definitely inspired me to write paranormal stories.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
About three minutes after I got a contract and started panicking about the life of a writer (I knew NO ONE in publishing) I was given the name of Julie Anne Long who was one of my editor’s other authors at the time. She was new to the business, herself, and learning a lot, all of which she was willing to share with me – information and support that I am still so very thankful for. Even now, three years later, I still exchange emails with her and she’s always there with advice (ie: “calm down, Michelle, it’s going to be fine! Breathe!!”) or amusing observances about list-obsession, quitting one’s day job, and trying to find the calm center in the middle of the storm of self-doubt, bad reviews and general writer angst. While we write very different things – she’s historical and I’m paranormal – I am eternally grateful for her help in making sense of this crazy world of publishing.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I have given blurbs for fantastic writers such as Jackie Kessler, Richelle Mead, Mark Henry and Angie Fox – I definitely recommend their books.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
My readers seriously rock. They are so supportive and complimentary and I appreciate every single bit of reader feedback that comes my way – it’s seriously the highlight of my day. I’ve gotten a lot of “never really read before but when I picked up your book I finished it one day” which is so great. Also readers want to know if certain characters will be getting spin-offs, which is one of the reasons that Quinn has his own book, or if there will be more books in the series.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just to thank them so much for their support, their kind words, and not to hesitate to send me an e-mail. I answer all the e-mail I receive…even if it might take me a while.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
There’s a story that comes to mind about the supermodel Linda Evangelista and the advice she would give to aspiring models. Linda would tell them not to bother, to quit now, and to do something else. She figured that if the girl said “screw you” and went ahead and became a model anyhow, then she had what it takes to make it. However, if she took Linda’s advice to heart and became something else, then she was never meant to be a model in the first place. Same goes for writing. This is a tough business. Once you’re in, there’s no guarantee you’ll stay in. It doesn’t pay as much as you might think it does. It’s hard, there are few perks (however, they’re good ones), and only the strong survive. Still interested in being a writer? Go for it. You’ll probably make it. Bottom line: be persistent and know exactly what you want to get out of your writing…and you just might get it. I figure if I can do it, anyone can.