Michelle, you write in a wide variety of genres. What drives you to write a particular story, and are you concerned with building a brand for yourself as an author?
I am concerned with building a brand for myself, yes, but it's probably not the type of brand one might expect. I don't necessarily want a brand centered around a specific genre. Instead, I'm interested in building a brand more tightly knit with my name. Fans who love one of my books will most likely find that they enjoy most of the books I write, no matter in which genre they land. I tend to stick with similar themes, a similar voice, and a similar drive for a specific type of character-driven tension. I've always said that I write stories, not genres. In the future, I might stick more closely to one type of genre than another, but I have a feeling I will move in cycles. Publishing, these days, has given freedom for more authors to explore and publish in different genres. I think it's a very exciting time to be writing.
You are married to an actor and have a very cute and active five-year-old daughter. How do you juggle your writing career with being a wife and young mother?
It is very tough, but sometimes I'll look at other stay-at-home mothers who write, and they have many more children than I do. I don't know how they do it. I think everyone functions differently. What has saved me lately is to make sure I meet specific goals every day, and to make those my priority past other basic things like taking care of my family. I have to treat my writing career as just that: a career. That often means telling friends and family I can't do things because I have to work.
Tell me a bit about your process for outlining/structuring a novel, and how often you veer from that as you draft.
You love revising more than drafting (a girl after my own heart). Can you explain your revision process and the things you especially keep an eye out for as you rework your novel?
My revision process includes beta readers (readers who give me feedback on the first drafts). Without them, I'd be a bit lost. I rely heavily on time away from the book, as well, so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes. Revisions always feel a bit stressful, but like a sculptor with clay, I finally have something to work with. That first draft, no matter how much of a mess, is like that piece of clay. It is is something to work with, and that is why I like revising more than drafting. When I rework a novel, I look especially for inconsistencies, plot holes, believability issues, and strengthening my characters as much as possible. I also focus on refining my prose. Getting rid of redundant or confusing phrases, extra descriptions that add nothing to the forward movement of the plot, etc.
What character of your own creation do you most identify with and why?
You have a large circle of published author friends. How do you strive to not compare yourself to others?
Honestly, it's something I constantly struggle with. It is, however, getting better. As I've watched friends around me succeed, I've realized that success is not getting published. It's not getting an agent, signing a huge deal on a book, or making the NYT bestseller list. Success is me sitting my butt in a chair and writing more books. It's building a fan base impatiently waiting for me to finish my next book. It's selling more and more copies of my work. It's testing myself against myself and writing one better book after another. Anytime I find myself spiraling down too far, I step back and remind myself of what I have, of how far I have come, and that my path is mine and mine alone. Keeping my eyes on my own paper and following my own path is the only way to succeed. And while I'm doing that, I rejoice in others around me doing the same thing.
I love that answer! All right, moving on. If you could travel back in time two years, what advice would you give yourself as a writer?
To never get comfortable with where I am. Good writing always tests the writer, and good writing can only happen with consistent work.
Some of your novels have taken a considerable time to write, while others, such as your latest manuscript, A Curse So Deep, were written in a relatively short period of time. Why have some stories taken longer, and what are you doing to speed up the process?
I think with the more books I write, the more I'm building a sense -- intuition, if you will -- of what will work and won't work. Instead of spending time on a scene that I intuitively know will not work, I simply abandon it and move on. Before, I would have stubbornly written the scene, worked it into the book, ruined several other scenes because of it, and spent at least two weeks in revisions trying to fix it. Another huge factor of writing faster is that I have learned a system of outlining that works best for me. For right now, anyway. The key, I have found, is flexibility. I can't force a book to be written a certain way. I have to listen and allow myself to follow the path it needs, even if that is writing it differently than I have written other books. Listening instead of pushing against my instincts is one of the best things I have learned as a writer.
One more factor in writing more quickly is that I set the goal to write at least 1,000 words a day on the novel, no matter what, until I had a finished first draft. Doing this, I finished the first draft -- including outlining and researching -- in about 14 weeks. It is what worked for that book, but it is far from finished. It still needs some extensive revisions, which are currently on hold for a few reasons.
You self-published a novella, Cinders (which will now be included in a traditionally-published and soon-to-be-released omnibus, Bonded). What drove you to self-publish this story, what did you learn from the experience, and would you do it again?
What advice would you give to authors seeking publication?
My advice is PATIENCE. So many authors see publication as some coveted brass ring, a sort of prize to be won. In reality, when you reach publication status, you have essentially begun your own business. If you're serious about that business, your journey is only starting, and it's a heck of a lot of work. And yes, it's still starting your own business no matter how you publish (self, small publisher, or large or mid-size publisher). Patience is key because publishing is not the glittering, unicorn-filled, cupcake-eating land so many authors seem to think it is. I think it's important to be properly prepared for the workload publishing can bring on, and not rush into it. The most important thing I have learned -- and not only from my own experience, but friends of mine as well -- is that publishing will not make you happy, even it if makes you rich. Making enough of a living to keep writing is what will make you happy. Notice the phrase "keep writing" in that last part.
Thank you, Michelle! I hope you readers have enjoyed learning more about one of the coolest people I know. To learn even more about Michelle, go to www.michelledavidsonargyle.com or follow her on Twitter via @ladyglamis. Her books may be ordered through any major bookseller or through her publisher's website: www.rhemalda.com