Today I have the pleasure of having author Michelle Mitchell as my Featured Author of the Day.. Welcome Michelle.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a Georgia native, and I’m one of three daughters. I’m a PK or preacher’s kid. I love to sing and use to sing in the church choir. Reese’s are my crack of choice. I wanted to be one of Janet Jackson’s background dancers growing up, and I still know a lot of the routine’s from her music videos. I have self-published three novels, which are Truth Is…, Bells Will Be Ringin’, and Kissing Strangers: Tainted Love. I contributed to for The Ex Chronicles anthology and the Single Mama Dating Drama anthology. I use to write song lyrics and poems, and I would still love to have a credit as a songwriter one day.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Lately, if I’m not writing, I’m reading or watching a movie with my husband. He works an odd schedule, so we try to get as much time together as we can. Or, on weekends, I’ll grab brunch with friends or go spend time with my family.
Do you have a day job as well?
By day I am a human resources professional.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. I wrote my first story on wide-rule notebook paper, illustrated it, stapled it, and then asked my librarian could I put my work in the library. They did allow me too, but I didn’t see where anyone ever checked it out. Ha! My first manuscript for this part of my life, I started writing it in 2014 and finished in 2015. After edits and rewrites, it was complete and ready for release in 2016.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
Contemporary fiction fits my style most because I love writing about real life situations and in present day. I don’t feel like my work would fit as romance because my main focus is not on building the romance between the characters, but to focus on the trials of life and how people react. With contemporary fiction, I feel more open and not boxed into a category. I can add suspense, mystery, romance, inspiration, and not be boxed into just one of those categories, if that makes sense.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get inspiration from people watching, news headlines, television, and people that call into the radio with their problems.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, I do. For me, it’s usually when I have several stories in my head, which makes me lose focus on the project I should be completing. Or, I may become fixated on one detail and can’t go further until I’ve resolved it.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. I attempted an outline once, and it just wasn’t for me. I am trying to get better about at least having a character resume to keep up with character descriptions and demographics. By trying I mean, I think I should do that, but so far I’m just doing my best to remember and search the document when I forget a detail.
Is there any author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I would say there are books that influenced the way I read. I was heavily into reading books like R.L. Stine and Lois Duncan, and not saying anything is wrong with those others, but I didn’t realize there were so many African American authors out there. I had limited my options. I would say I mostly knew about African American authors introduced through school such as Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, and Alex Haley, but that was really it for the most part. The book that opened me up to the amazing world of African American lit was Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree. It spoke to my teenage years and I wanted more. I recall all of my friends passing the book around like it was this top secret read revealing the truth about what life was like as a teenager. Then I stumbled across Kimberla Lawson Roby and Sistah Soulja, and I was hooked on reading books that featured characters that looked like me.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
With my first book, the main challenge was figuring out the best route to publish the work. I was submitting to several literary agents and sent the book off to a few but none of them picked up the project. Then I started trying to research how to go about self-publishing, and right as I was about to go that route, I had an opportunity to work with a publisher. The book went through edits, but ultimately I was released and back at square one. Author Jacquelin Thomas mentored me through the self-publishing process and helped me to publish my book through CreateSpace and on Amazon, her assistance made the process less stressful and I’m forever grateful to have her as a mentor and friend.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I think I would’ve went ahead and self-published it. I think it’s a good way to learn more about this business and serves as a way to build discipline. I know if I’m not writing, then I can only blame failure on me. I have to show myself every day that I want this for myself and it’s a nice feeling to be able to say I’m out here making it happen. I do still have interest in getting an agent, but I want to continue to work on my craft and build an audience first.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve found what works best for me yet, but I do sponsored ads on Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram to market my books. Additionally, I email those on my mailing list when I have new titles and signing events.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I don’t have any unfinished projects pending release, and I’ve self-published all of my titles so this hasn’t been a problem for me.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
My upcoming release follows Simeon Harris, who is a character I introduced in Truth Is… Simeon’s life took some deadly turns in Truth Is… and in this upcoming novel, she’s seeking redemption. She wronged a lot of people and wants to make things right, but unfortunately for her, someone is out for revenge and will stop at nothing to make sure she pays for what she did.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
With Truth Is…, I took dating experiences from my life, people I’ve met and friends from college, and from stories I heard from callers on radio shows as well as headlines from the news. A huge inspiration for Truth Is… came from reading stories of women who fell in love with the wrong man on a website called DontDateHimGirl.com. The women on that site provided photos, shared stories, and last known cities for these men they thought that they knew so well. The book is about dating and how we often jump into relationship without really getting to know the person we are giving our heart too. I think we all have experienced those let downs in relationships. I did go a little extreme in the book so imagination fueled the major twist and turns.
With Bells Will Be Ringin’ the antics of the family in the story and how they interacted was definitely modeled after my silly family. We love to laugh and have a good time, and I wanted the Hilson family to be lighthearted and full of life, and I believe I captured that in the story. The rest of the situations the characters go through are all from my imagination. With my latest release, Kissing Strangers: Tainted Love, I was once again inspired by headlines from the news and the ID channel. The rest again was pure imagination.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
In Truth Is…I enjoyed writing the vulnerable moments. I’m a private person, and don’t let a lot of people in when I’m in my feelings. Trying to write scenes where the characters have an inner struggle made me feel closer to my characters.
How did you come up with the title?
Truth Is… was actually called, The Waiting Room first. I wrote down several titles, and vetted them through my mentor Jacquelin Thomas. I landed on Truth Is… after hearing Fantasia’s song and thinking how true the lyrics were to the content of the story.
With Bells Will Be Ringin’, I was trying to think of something with a great feel for Christmas but also went with the content, and this title worked with the story. Unlike the other two, Kissing Strangers was inspired by the song by that title. I hadn’t even started on that manuscript, but I was in the car when the song came on and my mind started racing with ideas.
What project are you working on now?
As I mentioned, I’m working on a manuscript featuring a character who introduced in Truth Is… Her name is Simeon Harris, and the title of the novel is, Infamous. Simeon’s life took some deadly turns in Truth Is… and in this upcoming novel, she’s seeking redemption. She wronged a lot of people and wants to make things right, but unfortunately for her, someone is out for revenge and will stop at nothing to make sure she pays for what she did.
The novella, Kissing Strangers, will be a part of a series, I’ve started the next set of stories in that series. I’ve also started working on another Hilson family story, the Hilson’s were featuring in Bells Will Be Ringin’. I’ve had few readers say they would love to read more about the Hilson family, and I hope to make another selection that they will enjoy.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
I’m focused on finishing Infamous, and my desire is to release that before the year ends. In the meantime, if readers want to learn a bit about Simeon, they should check out Truth Is….
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
So far everyone who has read Kissing Strangers has said they want to know more about some of the characters. They want to know what happened to make them the person they became, or little more backstory. I’ve been thinking on if I’ll do that and how I would do that considering they already know the ending for those characters.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I wouldn’t say any of it is tough criticism because I take it as constructive criticism and can identify what might be more of a preference or opinion from a peer reviewer. I appreciate the feedback because I want to get better in my craft, and I can’t do going in blind to think I’m not making mistakes, missing a step, etc. I appreciate feedback. The biggest compliment would be having someone get excited about my baby. To have a conversation with a reader about one of my titles is humbling and it makes you think about your character through someone else’s eyes. I don’t have children yet, so I guess you could say I feel like a proud mom.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Read for enjoyment. Read to enhance your skills. Learn from others who are new to the business, and the veterans, and be humble in your approach. Oh, and no doesn’t always mean never—push through.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you so much for reading my work. I know as a reader, it’s hard to try on a new author, so I appreciate everyone who has read my work and continue to come back for more. Let’s connect. Visit me on my social media pages.
FB: @ AuthorMichelleMitchell