Today I am sitting down with Michelle Abbott.
Hello, Michelle! Thanks for taking time to come and sit down with me today! Let’s get started.
Me: What inspired you to write your first book?
Michelle: The ease of self-publishing was a big factor. Getting traditionally published can take years and I don’t have the patience.
Me: Do you have a specific writing style?
Michelle: I write in first person because that is how I hear the characters in my head.
Me: How did you come up with the title?
Michelle: I wanted the title to be short and memorable. The main plotline of my story is a romance based in a world where slavery is government run. I wanted the title to reflect the theme of slavery. I decided on ‘In Chains’, after doing an amazon search to check that there was not already a book with that title, as I wanted mine to be unique.
Me: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Michelle: Yes, love crosses boundaries. Being different does not make someone less deserving of being loved.
Me: How much of the book is realistic?
Michelle: Hmm, well sadly, slavery does still exist in some parts of the world. People do fall in love and choose partners that their family or society feels is beneath them.
Me: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Michelle: Like Savannah, I used to have issues with self-esteem. Also, her ex, Dan, is loosely based on someone I once knew.
Me: What books have most influenced your life most?
Michelle: I don’t think my life has been influenced by any book.
Me: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Michelle: Romance authors in general.
Me: What book are you reading now?
Michelle: I’m about to start reading Taking Chances by Molly McAdams.
Me; Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Michelle: Too many to name them all, my TBR list is huge. Abi Ketner, Gwendolyn Field.
Me: What are your current projects?
Michelle: I’ve just finished writing the sequel to ‘In Chains’, which is titled ‘Locked Together.’ I’m currently editing it and plan to publish it sometime in September/October.
Me: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Michelle: My friend, Michael. He’s not into reading romance but he took the time to read mine. He’s very logical and great at finding plot holes.
Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Michelle: I would love to make writing my career but right now I’m not well-known enough to make a living from it. Maybe in the future when I’ve written a few more books.
Me: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Michelle: I would have made ‘In Chains’ a little longer, at 48,000 words it’s kind of in-between a novella and a novel. ‘Locked Together’ will be a full length novel.
Me: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Michelle: My father loved reading and taught me to spell at a young age. I remember writing poems when I was a teen, and I wrote to pen pals across the world.
Me:Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Michelle: Of course. Here’s an excerpt from In Chains:
Padding over to the window I pull back the curtains. In the field below I see the guy Simon was mad at yesterday. The slave, I assume. He’s chopping a tree trunk into logs. It’s winter and cold outside but the work must have made him hot, because all he has on are blue, faded jeans, which have obviously been well-worn judging by the holes at the knees and a thin, threadbare, white sleeveless t-shirt. Studying him I can see he’s attractive in a rough kind of way. He’s long and lean. I can’t see his hair because his head is covered with a black bandanna. His large hands grip the axe and as he raises it high over his right shoulder, I have a good view of his sculptured biceps and strong, broad shoulders. His expression is serious as he swings his axe down through the air, slicing through the log in front of him in a single, solid strike. Just then, he turns his head and gazes directly at my window. Our eyes lock. Startled, I jump back, feeling like a peeping tom caught staring at him.
I head downstairs and put some coffee on to brew. I have a weakness for vanilla coffee and need at least three cups to start my day off right. While I’m waiting I power up my laptop. I noticed a wooden bench in the front garden when I arrived yesterday; I think I’ll have my coffee outside and then I can have a cigarette. I put my jacket on over my PJs. It’s cold and the sky is cloudless. I light up my smoke and relax on the bench. I can’t see the slave anywhere, not that I’d know what to say to him if I did. The only sounds I can hear are the birds; I love the tranquillity. I feel at peace within myself too. For the last couple of years of living with Dan I’ve been treading on eggshells. I feel free. I’m procrastinating; I need to get this email sent. Putting my cigarette out, I finish my coffee and head back to the kitchen.
I sit down at the large oak dining table. There’s an amazing view through the glass doors of the back garden and the fields beyond. Sighing, I begin to type
It’s over and has been for a long time. I’m not telling you where I am and I’m not coming back. I’ve taken everything I need, whatever is left of mine you can dispose of. I’ll have my mail forwarded. If any arrives there for me it’s probably junk and you can just throw it away. Don’t try to call me because I’ve blocked your number.
I hesitate for just a second before hitting ‘send’. He’s not going to take it well but I know I’m doing the right thing; I don’t want to live like that anymore.
Opening my word programme I type a couple of paragraphs of my novel. I’m at the part where my heroine is unaware she’s about to meet the man who’ll become the love of her life.
I don’t want to sit here all day typing; I want to explore this wonderful place. I heard a cockerel this morning, maybe Simon has chickens. I can collect their eggs and make us scrambled eggs for breakfast. I decide to take a shower and then have a wander around outside.
I love Simon’s walk in shower, all I have at home is a shower over a bath tub. I’m instantly soothed by the jet of warm water on my skin. I didn’t bring any toiletries with me, so I reach for his all-in-one shampoo. After massaging my hair I smooth citrus shower gel over my skin, examining the bruises on my arms. They are starting to fade a little, brown and yellow now. The bruises on my shins seem to be healing too, but the ones on my stomach are a nasty black and blue colour. Dan has always been a control freak but he’d never hit me before. That’s a slippery slope I’m not willing to go down. That was the catalyst I needed to leave, though I should have done it years ago. Drying myself off with a big fluffy towel, I’m thankful I had the foresight to at least bring my toothbrush.
Gazing at my refection in the bathroom mirror, I look older than my twenty-two years. There are lines around my eyes and my skin is almost as white as the shower tiles. Dan has always told me I’m plain and he’s right. My eyes are too small, my eyelashes too short and my lips are too thin. I pinch my cheeks to try to add some colour but it doesn’t make much difference.
Back in the bedroom I can’t see a hairdryer anywhere and I don’t want to wake Simon up, he’s not a morning person. I’ll have to leave it to dry naturally, it’ll take hours but I’m not going anywhere. Putting on my blue jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt I head downstairs.
Stepping out of the front door there is a dirt road to my left that leads out of Simon’s estate. I want to stay on his land, so I go right and pass by a small orchard of fruit trees and beyond them I see a chicken coop. I know this because the cockerel has come out and is crowing loudly. He’s probably warning the hens that they’re about to have an intruder. There are six hens sitting on a pile of straw. I’m going to have to pick them up and I don’t have a clue how to because I’ve never handled them before. I put my hands on one and quickly let go as she flaps her wings and squawks. My second attempt meets with the same result. Hearing a yelp, I spin around and come face to face with the handsome axe wielder. Now that I see him up close he doesn’t look much older than me. Feeling awkward, my face reddens. “Er…hi.”
Me: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Michelle: Keeping myself focused, I’m too easily distracted by goodreads and twitter.
Me: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Michelle: I can’t possibly name just one. S. C. Stephens and CJ Roberts, they both write characters that I can really feel, they touch my emotions and I get lost in their stories.
Me: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Michelle: No, I’m not well known enough to go to book signings or anything like that. Perhaps in the future.
Me: Who designed the covers?
Michelle: Paul Beeley from Create Imaginations designed the cover for In Chains. Beth, from Syler Media created the cover for Locked Together.
Me: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Michelle: Trying to remember all my ideas. Scenes would play like a movie in my head and sometimes I didn’t have pen and paper to hand to write them down. I told myself I would remember, but when it came to sitting down and writing the scene, I would miss some of the details.
Me: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Michelle: I learnt that I could spend every spare moment writing and never get bored.
Me: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Michelle: Try to write a story that comes down solidly in one genre, it makes it easier to market. I learnt that the hard way!
Me: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Michelle: Thank you for taking the time to read my book. We lead busy lives and time spent reading, is time we won’t get back. I appreciate you spending it with ‘me.’
Me:What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Michelle: As it’s mostly set in the current timeframe (with a few differences) there wasn’t much research needed. I had to look up average word length and chapter length for romance novels. I had to figure out how to create a mobi file using scrivener and it took me several attempts to get that right. Prior to publishing, I read my book till I was cross-eyed looking for errors. I thought I’d got them all but I discovered two errors immediately after uploading my book to amazon. So I had to quickly correct and re-publish before anyone purchased it. Marketing and getting my book noticed among the millions of others has been the biggest challenge of all.