In addition to The Broken Shade, Michele Poague is the author of the multi award-winning trilogy, The Healing Crystal, and The Candy Store. As an author, speaker, political activist, and special events planner, Michele enjoys interacting with readers, fans, and fellow activists in bookstores, libraries, coffee shops, and conventions across the country.
AUTHOR MICHELE POAGUE BREAKS IT DOWN FOR LITPICK
LitPick editors pick Poague's brain about her style of writing on the heels of her most recent YA novel, The Broken Shade.
When writing your first draft, do you like to write by hand or on the computer? Both. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write something on the notepad by my desk. If I’m driving someplace and a conversation with characters begins to play out in my head, I pull over and jot it down. I’ve never become comfortable hearing myself on tape, although I have tried recording ideas. The real work is typing all the ideas into a coherent form and then deciding if it’s good for the story.
What was your favorite childhood book? I enjoyed the normal fairy tales, like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, but in the third grade, I discovered several biographies about men and women who settled the west. Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill were favorites. I loved learning about history through their stories.
What is the most exciting part about being an author? Meeting fans. There is something extraordinary about meeting people who genuinely like your work. We all suffer insecurities, and putting something out for the public to see can be frightening beyond belief. When someone has given me their precious time by reading my words, it is such a powerful gift. I am truly grateful.
What is the most challenging part about being an author? Trying to get the story right. Nothing in life is linear. We all have a million things going on at the same time and may have many goals. Sometimes those goals change. That’s what makes us human. Writing someone’s story means choosing a goal and then taking out all the boring stuff while focusing on the interesting parts. The trick is to have enough of the dull parts to make the story real without boring your reader.
What are three writing tips you've found beneficial? 1) Write, write, write. If you don’t have anything on paper, not even the best editing can help you. 2) Listen to the way people talk. Language is fluid. Older people sound different from young people. Writing dialog for a woman who lived in 1920 meant I had to hear how she would say something. I read eight novels written in the 1920s to learn the dialect. The phrasing was different and felt stilted in the beginning, but like reading Shakespeare, I learned the rhythm and it began to flow naturally. 3) Don’t try to write like anyone else. It’s your story, so tell it from your heart, and tell all of it. Don’t worry about grammar or being too long-winded. That’s why you hire an editor. See answer number one.
What do you like to do when you're not writing? I adore painting, putting together puzzles, working on book covers for new books, and I love to read. Most of my library is science fiction and fantasy. Recently I inherited over 100 Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, and I’m having a ball reading popular stories from the 1950s through 1980s.
"The author gracefully balances a number of seemingly disconnected story lines and side plots in The Broken Shade." —LitPick Review
EXTRA CREDIT INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MICHELE POAGUE
LitPick welcomes Michele Poague, author of The Candy Store as well as The Healing Crystal trilogy books: Heir to Power, Fall of Eden, and Ransom.
Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along? I start a book knowing where the story begins, and I have a fairly clear idea of where it should end, then the characters take over. Once I’ve created a character, their personality, motives, and quirks shape the story. I actually replaced characters in The Healing Crystal trilogy because they refused to do what I needed in order to get to the plot points. I end up writing the story they want to tell, although some of that story doesn’t make it in to the final book.
Has someone you’ve known ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)? Most of my characters are a combination of people I know. Sometimes I will choose a distinctive characteristic of a person I’ve met and create a story character with them in mind, though they rarely end up being anything like the original person.
What do you do when you get writer's block? I try to keep writing, and if that fails, I work on the book cover art or I troll the Internet looking for photos of my characters. My office wall is covered with photos of people and places. Sometimes I look at their photos and ask them interview questions. It’s surprising what I learn when I ask a character of twenty-something what he liked or hated about high school.
If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose? I’m very happy in this world. Some places are very interesting, but I’m comfortable with the devils I know. I think it would be fascinating to visit Harry Potter’s world, if I were a wizard. Tolkien’s Middle Earth would be interesting if I could be an elf but quite scary if I found myself in the wrong place. Many worlds would be fun to visit for a short while.
What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation? I love the movie adaptation of Stardust. The book was fairly simple, and the movie added depth, which is rare. I think the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series were very well done, but they lost me when they changed the feeling and story in the adaptation of The Hobbit.
If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be? There are so many authors to choose from I can’t make a decision about who I would invite to lunch. Shakespeare would be fascinating, although the language barrier might stall the conversation a bit. Connie Willis would be great because she’s so witty and funny, and I think David Brin is brilliant.
Wild Card question: You said that after reading Dragonriders of Pern you thought writing looked easy and discovered it wasn’t. Being a published author, what do you know now that you wish you knew in the beginning when you were first writing? I know now that I will learn more with every book I write. I know now that although editing is crucial to making a good story great, every editor reads a story differently and over-editing can make a story thin and dry. I know now that some characters and readers like to take the most direct path to the end while others prefer the scenic route. For me, I’ve always liked details. I like knowing what the characters are thinking, something that can’t be fully expressed in other genres like film. I know now it’s OK for me to have my own voice as an author and that it’s hard work to hold on and be true to that voice.
Michele, thank you very much for spending time with LitPick and giving us a chance to know you better!
SIX MINUTES WITH MICHELE POAGUE
Let’s give today’s star of LitPick’s Six Minutes with an Author, Michele Poague, a big round of applause! Michele is the author of The Healing Crystal Trilogy, which includes Heir to Power, Fall of Eden, and Ransom. She’s also an event planner and accomplished activist.
How did you get started writing? I wrote my first short story when I was in tenth grade. It was a paranormal romance about the ghost of a man’s first wife trying to kill his second wife. Like so many things teenagers write, it was never meant for publication.
During the 80s, I wrote training manuals and moved on to ad-copy and convention brochures in the 90s.
I had read Dragonriders of Pern, and Anne McCaffrey made writing fiction look easy. It wasn’t. The idea for The Healing Crystal came to me in the early 80s, and I started to write the story several times, only to give up and put it away. In the 90s, I took a research trip to South Dakota where I imagined the village of Survin to be, and the story unfolded in earnest.
While writing Ransom, the last book of The Healing Crystal trilogy, I woke one morning with The Candy Store story complete in my mind. These new characters began talking to me, encouraging me to tell their story next.
With their story told, I’m now returning to the story I’d planned to write last year. Last Kiss is about a cocktail waitress who uncovers the ghost of a 1920s jazz singer while remodeling an old house. It’s what I call an almost-true story. It should be in its first round of editing this summer.
Who influenced you? Everyone I’ve ever met has influenced me in some way or other. I come from a family of readers and amateur writers. They have given me amazing support. Lois Deveneau and I talked about writing a book when we first met in 1982, and I latched onto the idea. Together, we explore many of the characters I write about, fleshing them out and often discovering unknown quirks. That said, Reggie Rivers was the first person outside my family who said I had the talent to write and that gave me the courage to publish.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting? I’ve always been a reader. The first real book I ever read was the biography of Wild Bill Hickok when I was in the third grade. I was so enamored, I read every biography that the author penned. Another book that had a profound effect on me was The Ruling Class, which sent me right into the depths of politics.
For entertainment, I read mostly science fiction, but I don’t really have a favorite author. I love Connie Willis and Janet Evanovich for their sense of humor and fun. I love David Brin, Larry Niven, Jerry Pernell, Michael Crichton, and Orson Scott Card because they can take something as fantastic as being on another planet and make it seem real and believable, almost common place. When it comes to colorful imagination, J. K. Rowling is an absolute master.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author? First and foremost, write. Always carry a pen and paper, and write. It doesn’t matter what you write. Write without thinking. You have plenty of time to edit later, but you have to have something to edit first. Don’t tell friends about your story ideas. Write them down. Don’t worry about the grammar or whether or not it’s a good story. You will never publish anything if you don’t write.
Second, everything you write is a summation your own experiences, real or imagined. I don’t believe you can write well about things you don’t know or understand. Research fills in the setting, but the character’s emotions come from within. When pressed into writing about a subject alien to you, find someone who can relate to the situation you want to convey and explore their feeling.
Where is your favorite place to write? My office. I search the Internet for pictures resembling my characters and then tape them up all around me. When I get stuck wondering how “Joe” might answer a question, I turn to his picture and ask him. Quite often, he surprises me.
I draw the floor plans of all the buildings in my books and tape them on the wall. That’s probably because I love to draw floor plans, but this also keeps me from saying a character turned left when he really needed to turn right.
In my office, I have a stack of character outlines that I’ve spent hours developing. When a picture doesn’t do the trick, I sometimes pull up the outline and start filling in the blanks. It is usually while doing this kind of research that the true story reveals itself. When you discover one of your characters has a scar, you ask yourself how he got it, and before you know it, you find out he has enemies you haven’t met yet or a penchant for barroom brawls.
What else would you like to tell us? We’re planning a wonderful 1920s garden party for the release of The Candy Store. I love to entertain, and themed parties are my favorite! The inside of the house will be decorated like a speakeasy. The guests are encourage to wear period costumes, and we’ll be serving period dishes.
Thanks for spending six minutes with us, Michele. Your garden party sounds fun! The Candy Store is sure to be popular with teens who love sci-fi, romance, and history, and it got a LitPick Five-Star Review!