Stopping by Authors & Readers Book Corner today is Michele Israel Harper. Michele is an author, editor, avid reader and book reviewer. She is also publisher at L2L2 Publishing, holds many positions in literary organizations, besides being a full-time wife and mother. Her hobbies are scrapbooking, dancing and photography. Michele shares her inspiration behind becoming a writer, her tips on worldbuilding and her writing process.
Tell us about Michele Israel Harper and what inspired you to become a writer?
My writing journey began at a couples’ retreat, when my husband and I sat with another couple who were talking about the husband’s hobby of novel writing. As I sat there and listened to him and his wife, the overwhelming urge to write my own book overcame me until I couldn’t take it anymore. I sat down and wrote my first novel, Zombie Takeover, in a little under a month. I had tried to be so many things–a professional dancer and archaeologist among them, neither of which worked out–but it had honestly never occurred to me that I could write books! I devoured books, spent most of my childhood combing used bookstores, and made up stories when I didn’t have anything to read. It swiftly became an outlet for all the stories I’d been imagining in my head for years, and story after story came pouring out. I can’t imagine doing anything else, I love it so much! Books are my life.
Can you tell us about Kill the Beast and the inspiration behind the story?
Absolutely! Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite fairy tale. After all, it’s set in France, Belle has brown hair and eyes just like me–which was a big deal when I was a little girl–she loves books, and she found love in the most unexpected and solitary of places. I’m majorly an introvert, so being locked up in a castle with nothing but books for company sounds like heaven! (Okay, much less so the locking up part…) But I didn’t want to retell Disney’s version; I wanted to focus on the original La Belle et la Bêteby Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, which is much more involved and detailed than the much later and much abridged version by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. I did so much research, and I pray it shows and I got it right!
Kill the Beast is a retelling, which are known for world building, what two tips would you give a writer learning world building for their story?
The most important tip I would give for world building is to look at the world around you. The difference in cultures, the many foods available, the vastly different terrains, the different monetary systems, religious systems, etc.–take everything that makes our world unique and apply it to your story. And mix it up! My story was set in France, so I spent countless hours pouring over maps, customs, 18th Century history, coinage, holidays, ports, trade routes–the list goes on and on and on. Although it was more historical in nature, I needed to see what was fact, so I knew what I could take and twist and change for my own tale. But maybe you should combine Chinese culture with Western United States. (Firefly, anyone?) There is so much right at our fingertips that can be used to make a vast and unique story world!
You have many talents, book reviewer being one of them, who or what started you reviewing books?
I started reviewing books when I was approached by several authors who wanted feedback about their new releases. Instead of simply leaving a review on Amazon, I took it a step further and added a more detailed review on my blog. Then I signed up for a NetGalley account and started reviewing for several publishing houses until I had so many books I couldn’t keep up! After my own writing took off and I started acquiring for L2L2 Publishing, I stopped reviewing as much as I used to. I still try to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads if I absolutely adore a book, though!
When writing, do you have a writing process? Can you share two writing tips that have helped you?
I have tried to outline and plot till my brain went numb and I swore I would never write again, but no matter how hard I try, I am not a plotter. My brain doesn’t work that way. I discover my story as I’m writing it. Kill the Beast is the only book I extensively outlined, and it took me four years to write it, instead of the one to two months my other books have. Instead of outlining, I keep a research sheet, a character sheet, a place-setting sheet, and a timeline, and I type out the details as they come to me or when I have to research a detail. My advice is to find what works best for you! I love Scrivener, but I have to write the first draft in Word for some reason. I love the idea of outlining, but it tends to derail me instead of help the story. My other piece of advice is to find or start a writing group. Every Thursday evening, I join a lovely group of writers and we pound out words in sprints until we’re falling asleep on our keyboards or the person with keys has to go home. I wrote 5,601 words last night! Brand-new, beautiful words that fed my soul. Do what it takes to set aside writing time to create.
What have you learned from the writing and publishing industry that has helped in your writing career?
Don’t give up. This industry is one that takes time. It takes time to develop your craft, to get that first, second, and third acceptance letter. It takes time to have your book properly edited by an industry professional who follows Chicago Manual of Style and knows what they’re doing. If you’re going indie, it takes time to save up for that edit and for a professional cover that is competitive in the marketplace. Don’t give up just because you’ve hit a few snags. This industry weeds out the die-hards from the hobbyists pretty quickly, especially if you get rejection letter after rejection letter. Use each as a learning experience, and do what it takes to excel in your field. It can be done, so hold on to hope! If you have stories burning inside of you, then for the love, write. Only you can tell your story.
Tell us two to five things your readers don’t know about you.
I am a rabid fan of all things French and I love Paris more than any other city in the world; the color red is my happy place; quiet, peace, and solitude refresh me and give me strength to face people, especially talkative, extroverted people; I was once hired on as a dance instructor at a major dance company; and I once French-kissed a giraffe on a dare. (For those of you as concerned as I’d be if I read that, some guys dared me to put a food pellet between my lips for the giraffe to eat. I obviously didn’t think it through, the giraffe’s mile-long tongue went in my mouth and plucked the food out, and I gagged for days. Just don’t do it.)
What new projects are you working on?
Right now I have three projects going–a prequel novella for Zombie Takeover, the sequel to Zombie Takeover calledVampire Feud, and the sequel to Kill the Beast, Silence the Siren. It’s another of my writing quirks! I have to be writing more than one story at a time to keep the spark of loving what I do alive.
Where can readers find you?
On my website (www.MicheleIsraelHarper.com), Facebook (@MicheleIsraelHarper), Instagram (@Michele_Israel_Harper), or Twitter (@micheleiharper). I’m also on Amazon and Goodreads! 🙂
Thanks for the interview.
Thank you so much for having me! I am thrilled to be featured on your blog.
About The Book
Ro remembers the castle as it was before. Before the gates closed. Before silence overtook the kingdom. Before the castle disappeared. Now it shimmers to life one night a year, seen by her alone.
Once a lady, now a huntress, Ro does what it takes to survive, just like the rest of the kingdom plunged into despair never before known.
But a beast has overtaken the castle; a beast that killed the prince and holds the castle and kingdom captive in his cruel power. A beast Ro has been hired to kill.
Thankful the mystery of the prince’s disappearance has been solved, furious the magical creature has killed her hero, Ro eagerly accepts the job to end him.
But things are not as they seem.
Trapped in the castle, a prisoner alongside the beast, Ro wonders what she should fear most: the beast, the magic that holds them both captive, or the one who hired her to kill the beast.
A Beauty and the Beast retelling.
Purchase at Amazon.com