I decided it would be nice for people to learn more about our authors more than the standard “about the author” provides, so I asked Ginger Winters, who helps us out with marketing, to start a series of interviews. The idea is to find out more about our authors, their writing, and their inspirations.
The first author we’re featuring is Michelle Rene, who wrote Tattoo (which was recently named a Foreword INDIES finalist!) and has a new book, The Dodo Knight, coming out on this Wednesday (April 10).
Here is the interview, which Ginger edited for length and clarity:
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for about fifteen years now. I went to college for art, but I never stopped wanting to be an author as well. While art was paying the bills, I was honing my craft and reading everything I could get my hands on.
How did you get started writing?
The first novel I ever wrote began on a really horrible cruise. I fell asleep watching some boring documentary about finding Shangri-La and had this really vivid, Alice-in-Wonderland-like dream. When I woke up, I thought, “Okay. That’s it. Need to write that book.” I’ve been writing ever since.
You write full-length books, novellas, and short stories. What’s different about writing for the different lengths?
I started out writing only novels. I think a lot of aspiring writers do. Novels allow you to really settle into a place and time. It’s a long journey. Then, I kept coming up with story ideas that weren’t made for that. They were short and interesting. There was beauty in their pacing. So, I started writing short stories.
Writing novellas first came about because I wanted to challenge myself. It’s not as long as a novel, but it’s not a short story either. It’s a strange, in-between length that’s hard to work with. Once I got the hang of it, I found that I adore novellas. I am totally in love with the fact they can tell a deep story like a novel but with pacing more akin to short stories. Best of both worlds.
What do you think is one of the benefits of shorter stories for readers?
People today often have extremely short attention spans and they like to have stories that fit into their busy schedules. Short stories allow readers to enjoy a story in bite-sized chunks. They can immerse themselves in a world for a short time and feel satisfied.
For your upcoming novella, you take inspiration from a story surrounding Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. What led you to that as a subject?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Lewis Carroll. When I was in college, I took a children’s literature class and the professor told us that Lewis Carroll was a pedophile and was probably in love with the real Alice. No maybe’s. He was one as far as she was concerned.
That was a shocking thing to hear when I was such a fan and I’ve been curious about it ever since. When I did my own research, I found out that allegation was founded on speculation, at best. In fact, most Lewis Carroll scholars agree that the pedophilia label is completely unfounded.
While researching, I saw this story about a deeply creative man and a little girl who was his muse. His love for making children happy and the mysterious rift that happened between Carroll and Alice’s family. I wanted to know what happened, but no one knows. It’s a mystery. So, I wrote my own version.
Do you have a favorite short story?
My favorite contemporary short story is The Price by Neil Gaiman. I adore that story. So perfectly put together, and he wrote an animal character without anyone batting an eye. Normally, animals are a hard sell, but hey, it’s Neil Gaiman.
You write across genres–for example, your last novella with Annorlunda, Tattoo, was a fabulous sci-fi story, while The Dodo Knight is a fictional take on a situation from literary history. Why not just “stick with” one genre?
I can’t. It’s boring for me to stick to one genre. I adore historical fiction andI write a great deal of it. I’m a huge museum buff, and history has always been fascinating to me. Not the history you’re taught in school where you just have to remember a name and date. Real history with real people. I like telling those stories to readers.
I’m also a highly visual, creative person, which is why I write speculative fiction like Tattoo. I have all these sci-fi and fantasy ideas that make my little, wacky brain happy. Tattoo fulfilled my creative urge to tell this completely bizarre story that reads backwards. With tales like that, I’m not restricted to facts. I can invent whatever I like, and that is very freeing. I must have both history and fantasy, or I’ll just be a big, cranky mess that doesn’t want to write anything at all.
Tell us about the physical space where you do your writing.
Haha. I have no specific physical space… at all. I am a mother of a five-year-old and the wife of a pilot. This means I’m always running around and acting as a single mother when he’s on a trip. Before my son was born, I had to be in my special chair with complete silence to write. Now, I write on the couch during school, in my room between squealing demands, at a La Madeleine during daycare, and sometimes hiding in a closet. It’s just wherever I can. If you are serious about writing, you make it work.
Do you have a favorite line or lines in The Dodo Knight?
Definitely. The first line I wrote.
“I have it on very good authority that a muse must have their heart broken six times before they can die.”
I have absolutely no idea where that line came from, but I love it. It’s so perfectly deep and whimsical for a book about Lewis Carroll. I’m very proud of it.