It’s day three of our WEEK OF MICHELLE ZINK, and today we have an interview with Michelle for you! And if reading it makes you want to find out more about Michelle and her books, then head to her excellent new website.
Atom: Could you tell us a little bit about when you started writing fiction?
Michelle: If you had asked me when I was a child and teen what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said, "Be a writer." But I lost it somewhere along the way as I was encouraged to get a "real" job, be responsible, etc. I really didn't have any role models or anyone who even talked to me about being a writer or what a career as a writer would look like. It all seemed very mysterious! By the time I was 29, I was working as a Director of Sales and Marketing for a technology consulting firm. I was making plenty of money, had a house a mile from the beach, a nanny and a housekeeper – and was completely miserable. I couldn't imagine spending the rest of my life getting up every morning only to spend ten hours every day doing something that didn't interest me at all. So I did this crazy thing and sold my house, quit my job, and moved myself, my then-husband, and my four children (who were between the ages of 2 and 9 at the time) 3,000 miles to a small town in New York. It was beautiful, quiet, and most importantly, cheap! The cheap part was crucial, because it meant that I could take a break from being the primary breadwinner and take some time to figure out what I really wanted and who I really was. During the 2-3 years it took me to find my way back to writing, I learned that I didn't need as much STUFF as I thought I did. I found that I was very happy and fulfilled at home with the woodstove going, baking from scratch, reading with my children, and writing. And finding my writing again was like breathing. It was an epiphany, and I suddenly couldn't imagine how I'd lived without it for so many years. All of my worldly cares fell away when I was writing, and I had the greatest sense of euphoria. I felt ALIVE for the first time since I was a teenager. I wanted to hang onto that feeling, so I wrote more and more and more.
Atom: We love the gothic feel of Birchwood Manor – what made you decide to set your story in the nineteenth century?
Michelle: I’d always wanted to write something Gothic, and I felt like the darkness and sensuality of that era was a perfect backdrop to the story of Lia’s battle with both her sister and the Lost Souls. I also wanted to create a kind of old-fashioned thriller. Lia’s uncovering of the Prophecy’s clues would have been rendered quite different with the use of cell phones and Google!
Atom: Where did the mythology in the series come from?
Michelle: The initial seed of the story came from the biblical legend of the Watchers, a legion of angels who were said to have been sent to Earth to watch over mankind. In the legend, the angels fell in love with mortal women and were banished from Heaven, after which they were referred to as the Lost Souls. Hearing that phrase – the Lost Souls – was my dun-dun DUN! moment!
Atom: We imagine James as a bit of a heart-throb – was it fun to write about the romance between him and Lia?
Michelle: It was! Especially because of the outward restraint of the era. It’s easy to think there wasn’t romance or passion in such a buttoned-up time-period, but I have no doubt that it was all there, simmering under the surface! The most difficult part about writing James in book one is that I had to temper both his characters and his relationship with Lia based on what I know about the rest of the story. I was surprised that a few readers said, “We want MORE romance!” because you know, I think young female readers need more books that are about them. My message to them is: love is wonderful, but it’s not everything. It’s okay to make your life (and the books you read) about YOU. All that said, there is more romance in the next two books (though not just with James – hint, hint!), because that romance serves Lia’s development as a character and the evolution of the story as a whole.
Atom: As the stories are narrated by Lia, we wonder if there are any secrets from Alice you’d like to tell us about?!
Michelle: Oh, I could NEVER tell Alice’s secrets! Especially NOW! ;)
Atom: And finally, what do you love about writing YA fiction?
Michelle: What DON’T I love about it?! Teenagers are so incredible. They have such enthusiasm and passion for life. They still have the belief that anything is possible, that the world is all open to them. And it IS. Writing for them is a way to keep that alive in myself as well as to give back some of the enjoyment other authors gave me as a teenager.
Big thanks to the lovely Michelle for agreeing to be interviewed :)
Check back tomorrow when we'll have a sneaky preview of Guardian of the Gate - eeee! Too exciting!
Both Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate are out this week.