Michelle was born in Scotland in the 1970s to parents who’d caught the travel bug, and spent most of her childhood in Australia and Southern Africa, with time in the UK, New Zealand, and Germany. She now lives in Spain, but has plans to travel, and isn’t at all certain where she’ll end up.
For most of her career, Michelle has written training guides and marketing content. She is also a published writer of training guides for job seekers. Her great love however, is writing fiction.
1. You live in Spain, yet are a native English speaker. How many places have you lived?
At last count I’ve lived in eight countries, and some of them twice; Zimbabwe, South Africa, Scotland, England, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and now Spain. Most of my childhood was in South Africa, and I’ll always have a soft spot for the country, but there still so many places I’d like to live. I really loved France, Germany, and Italy every time I’ve been there. But I haven’t been to Latin America yet, and a few years in Brazil or Costa Rica could be fun. I love idea of the big bugs and beautiful flowers they have there, but not the snakes.
2. If you could spend just one year in any city in the world, where would you choose?
I’m a cautious person, so I like to research a city first, or know someone who lives there. As far as big cities go, I prefer a city that has lots of green spaces so I can sit under the trees and write. Concrete jungles don’t interest me. San Francisco would be nice, but a friend online has suggested Edmonton in Canada because it has the highest ratio of parkland per capita in Canada. And you know, the Canadian accent can be quite cute. Also, I love Maple Syrup
3. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
This is easy. Africa! I’m not sure where, maybe Kenya, or Namibia, or even South Africa again. There is an old African proverb, “You can never take Africa out of your blood”, and it’s true. I love the savannah, I love the mountains, the hundreds of miles of open countryside. But I’m a townie, and I need social contact.
4. What travel destinations are on your bucket list?
Right now the bucket has a hole in it because of the financial crisis in Spain, so everything has to wait until that resolves itself, or I win the lottery, or lots of people buy my novel and email me to demand the sequel.
But when I can travel again I’ve promised a friend who lives near Rome I’d go and see her. I also have a friend in LA I’ve never met but we’re so tight and she’s been incredibly supportive, and promised to show me around Hollywood. Then I have friends in Mexico, Malaysia, Canada, England, all over the world actually. I also want to see more of Spain, particularly the north.
I am in love with love, and stories with romance in them have always been my favourites. My original intention had been to write a sort of travel biography with loads of routes for hiking but writing about myself doesn’t feel comfortable. I also struggled to write it in the third person without sounding boring.
That’s how Emily was born. She became the voice for my travel biography, and then very quickly developed her own ideas of what was happening in her world. It’s fun to segment my brain, one part me, and the other part Emily. After I finished writing her story a few people asked me who Emily is modeled on because a few of them can’t imagine ever meeting a more scatter-brained person. I can only smile. If I tell them Emily is me, it might explain too much.
The story is a sweet romantic weekend away, and Emily spends almost all her time conniving to get Brian to propose to her. When she isn’t also making fun of him, or being cross with him for some slight. Sex is alluded to and mentioned, but the curtain drops before anything happens between Emily and Brian. I wrote it this way deliberately to let the reader imagine Emily’s love-making, and be more inclusive for happy-ever-after readers.
Some people wonder if I’m a prude, and the answer is no, I enjoy a good romp as much as the next woman, but the Emily series of books doesn’t seem to warrant high heat.
A lot. I’ve been writing since my university days, and started with a science-fiction novel actually, but then got bogged down with writing reports, procedures, and other boring types of writing. My own fiction has never been published, but I have ghost-written a biography that was published. Sadly I can’t mention it for legal reasons. That frustrates me because I really enjoy writing biographies.
8. How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo?
I love NaNoWriMo so much. It’s the only competition of it’s type in the world with such a great community. I’ve competed three times now, the first two times I got my 50,000 word target, but last year I failed. What’s so funny to me is that the two times I completed NaNoWriMo, I hated the work I produced. Last year I only hit 20,000 words, but they became Emily’s Ronda Romance, and I couldn’t be happier with them.
9. Do you have any of the proverbial “stories left in the back of the drawer never to see the light of day?”
LOL, dozens 🙂
I haven’t always been a big fan of my own writing. A lot of my poetry is dismal, or too sad to publish. And I have way too much flash-fiction that I wrote for defunct erotica forums. Actually, one of the most boring jobs I ever had was writing DVD jackets for a porn distributor. Never ask me to do that again. There are only so many ways you can describe a male’s appendage.
10. Have you always considered yourself to be a writer, or was there a time in your life when you decided that is what you were?
I started my career in sales, and volunteered in my own time with various charities. Back then, writing was a distraction and something I did for personal enjoyment. In 2005 I started a blog that quickly earned a decent income for me by explaining how to modify blog templates, but I earned more money writing articles for other websites, and that was when I realised my career had changed and I was a writer.
11. What was your path to publication?
Having written a blog that earned money for me, I could see that writing doesn’t need to be a poor person’s vocation. My business partner and I have written and published some non-fiction, and the process taught me about compiling ebooks, formatting covers, and going through the editing and proof-reading stage. When I was ready to publish Emily’s Ronda Romance I decided since Indie publishing was so satisfying that I’d go straight to self-publishing. Amazon is great, and my novel is also listed in Smashwords, but their meatgrinder is painful. I’d also love to be in paperback format, but the costs are ridiculous, and CreateSpace is only for US residents.
12. What is your non-fiction about?
I’m quite excited about my non-fiction because it’s a bit of self-help. My partner and I run a business helping unemployed job seekers, so we’ve published a guide for creating a CV in both English and Spanish, and we’re working on a list of questions and answers for job interviews now. It’s not glamorous writing, but we feel like we’re making a small difference in a country that has 60% youth unemployment.
13. As a fashion junky, can you tell me when it’s appropriate to wear my fanny pack with my crocs?
Oh. You’re one of those people 😉
Umm, definitely not while you’re on holiday in Spain. But, if you go to Walmart, may I suggest purple check shorts and a bright yellow vest to go with the fanny pack and crocs?
14. With your interest in science, would you consider writing Science Fiction?
Definitely! It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of science fiction and I really want to be alive when the Technological Singularity happens. I started reading sci-fi when I was in my teens, and I remember voraciously reading all of E.E Doc Smith’s stories. They’re really dated now, and a product of their time in terms of gender stereotypes, but even so, I was hooked on the idea we might be able to increase our brain power. The only thing that scares me about sci-fi is that unless the story is well written, it can date very quickly. Also, I don’t enjoy dystopian futures. I think when I eventually get around to publishing a sci-fi story it will be filled with romance and humour, and maybe set on Mars or a scientific station around Ganymede.
15. What social media do you use? Do you combine your personal and professional or keep them separate?
Mostly I use GooglePlus. I do have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and of course, Goodreads. I had grand intentions of splitting them into business and private, but that makes them so difficult to manage, and it means people I interact with won’t get to know the real me. Presenting a samitised version of me seems almost like I’d be living a lie.
16. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
Without a doubt I’d say Scrivener. I have a Mac laptop which is a bit old now, but Scrivener still works, and does a fantastic job of separating text and formatting. It means I can compile the same document for Amazon or Smashwords by quickly changing which title page to include, and selecting which compile setting to use in the export. It’s different from MS Word, but I like it more.
17. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
Without a doubt it would be one of those old portable typewriters that journalists used to use. I hate using a pen or pencil because I can’t read my own handwriting. I did try to learn calligraphy once, but my instructor gave up and told me I’d be better off paying someone else to do it for me.
I love putting on walking shoes and trudging around the mountains. We have wildflowers, rivers, trees, and beautiful blue sky days for most of the year, and I never get bored. If I had a decent camera I’d probably sell my photos to stock photography websites.
I have two projects on the go right now. The first is the job interview questions guide. Our plan is to provide 500 questions and a sample answer for each. The second project is the sequel to Emily, which is entitled Emily’s Fashion Blog.
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han and Greedo, tut tut. What a mess! Part of me wants to quickly exit stage left without saying a word. Another part of me feels that Greedo deserves some justice, and Han should rightfully be charged with his murder. Of course in the Star Wars universe that would probably just mean Han wouldn’t get a fair trial, as a storm troopers’ definition of the rule of law is whatever Lord Vader or the Emperor desires. That distresses me just as much. Even cutthroats like Greedo deserve not to have their name dragged through the mud just because their killer is a freedom fighter. Curiously enough, I remember being in love with Han, though not with Indiana Jones, is that weird? I was incredibly jealous of Princess Leia. Who was she to steal MY man’s heart? Luckily, Magnum PI came along to heal that hurt 🙂