Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with Author Michelle Bellon

Give us a quick introduction on yourself and your book.
Hi. I'm Michelle Bellon. I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and four incredible children. I am a registered nurse but have been actively pursuing my writing career for the past four years. During that time I have written seven novels and published four. Last September my Young Adult novel, Embracing You, Embracing Me, won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award for its category.
My latest release, Rogue Alliance, is crime suspense with paranormal elements. I'm happy to say it has been receiving high reviews.

Blurb from back cover :
Trying to escape a horrific past, Shyla has immersed herself in life as a tough, sassy cop in the bustle of LA. When the case of a lifetime takes her back to her hometown of Redding, she is thrown into a world of organized crime, deceit, and bitter reminders of her childhood.
As Shyla's path crosses that of Brennan, an unwitting and troubled sidekick to the ringleader she's intent on taking down, she is forced to re-evaluate everything she believes about herself, her job, and what she knows about right and wrong.

What inspired you to write your first book?

When I quit my job to be a stay at home mother to our fourth born child and to home school one of my other children, I knew that I needed to find something to do that would fulfill my creative side. I am a very busy person and like to keep my mind active.
At that same time I began to have dreams which I realized where stories that should be written down. At first I questioned the dreams because other than college papers I had not done a lot of creative writing. But as most writers will tell you, the characters and the stories in my head would not be ignored, so I decided to change my attitude. I decide to sit down and write a little everyday and see what happened. Six months later, I sat back and thought, 'Holy moly, I think I just wrote a book.' Granted, it was a complete disaster and needed edited within an inch of its life, but after many rewrites it reached its potential and went on to win my first literary award.

How did you come up with the title?
For me it is always difficult to name anything. It seems like such a huge responsibility to name things; children, pets, books. They have to live with that name forever.
This last book, Rogue Alliance, took me forever to name. I just could not find the right title. Finally, after I found a small press, John Lynch Publishing, we collaborated on ideas and finally came up with one that felt right. I had known that I wanted the word 'rogue' to be part of the title because both the male and female protagonist embodies the definition of the word.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are quite a few messages in the book, some subtle some not so subtle, but for me, the main issue is that we are not our pasts. We are formed by, we evolve from, but we are not our pasts. That is it. It's simple but it is profound too and can be life changing. It can free you to live in the present. That's what Shyla and Brennan are learning.

How much of the book is realistic?
There are paranormal elements to the book but even with that the characters are very realistic people with very real pasts and personal challenges that everyone can identify with. That is what I like to write about; the emotional journey. It is fun to write creative stories with twists and turns that you hope have something different to offer than other books, but at the core, what I need my stories to convey is the fundamental evolution of personal growth that each and every one of us must go through in our lives.

What books have most influenced your life most?
All books. I'm serious. The written word is so powerful. I truly believe that if it is written, it shall be.
I love to experience things that I wouldn't normally be able to through the magic of reading a story. I love opening doors to my mind by seeing through the eyes of the characters of a book. I simply love to read.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I am never able to pinpoint this answer down to one writer. Here is what I tell people; all writers are my mentors. One of the best, most inspirational things I've done is immerse myself in the industry as much as possible and surrounded myself by other writers. There is nothing more inspiring than watching other aspiring writers work as hard as I do to succeed in this very difficult business. To watch them put themselves out there, to be vulnerable, to take the bad reviews with the good, to see the disappointments and revel in the successes. It is what makes me feel part of something so important. It is what keeps me trying harder everyday.

What book are you reading now? I'm reading a few right now for the purpose of providing a review for other authors. As a writer, I take the responsibility of helping other writers succeed very seriously. It's important in this world where everything revolves around social media and who you know that you do your part to lift others up too.
As far as reading for leisure, I just finished reading The Edge of Never. I loved it! And I read Quinn Barrett's Digital Publishing Profits: 10 Strategies to Positively Impact Your Bottom Line Profits Marketing and Selling E-Books, a very important read for any writer who wants to understand the importance of marketing in the ever changing industry of today. What are your current projects?
I just started writing the second book to Rogue Alliance. I hope to have it finished by this summer.
I may not finish it as quickly as I'd like to because for the first time ever, I will be working on two projects at once. After writing my book, The Complexity of a Soldier, I became involved with advocating for veterans with PTSD. Since then I've written articles that have been distributed to the media nationally and I have been a guest for blogtalkradio programs to speak on the issue.
Now, I've decided that isn't enough. I have decided that the best way to get the message out is to put together a compilation of stories told by soldiers themselves accounting for their struggles with PTSD. My goal is to have a large percent of the proceeds go to The Wounded Warrior Project.

Do you see writing as a career?
It took me quite some time to call myself a writer. It wasn't until I was at a writing conference, surrounded by hundreds of aspiring writers, and I realized how far I'd come in such a short amount of time. I realized that there was nothing more that I wanted to do than to just get better and improve on my skills. That's when I knew that I was where I belonged. I was a writer and I had a career to build.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
All the other books, yes. I always look back and see all the ways that I could improve those first few books as I learned the craft. The last one, not as much. I still see how I could improve. All writers are their own worst critics, but as far as the story goes, I'm pleased with it.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Point of View is always a challenge. First, it's sometimes difficult for me to decide whether to write in first or third person. Then I really have to find that balance between close or more distant. I often find myself wavering back and forth while in third person between being right in their head to more distant.
I also struggle with writing in passive voice. Thankfully, I found a great writing critique group and they are all very good at not only giving encouragement but at being honest on what I need to work on. Now when I write, I hear their voices in the back of my head telling me how to reword the sentence I'm writing so that it's in active voice. I can't recommend the need to get into a constructive critique group enough. How else are you going to improve your writing skills?

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I have had to do quite a lot of research for a few of my books but so far I have not had to travel. But I really like the idea!
I love going to new places. I hope that as my career takes off, I will be required to do more traveling.

Who designed the covers?
All of my covers were designed by the publishers. They were very good about letting me participate and throw in ideas, but they did all the hard work, thankfully.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part about writing this last book was the challenge that I had given myself. Just before I began to write it, I had attended a conference in Seattle, the PNWA conference. Throughout the many workshops, I keyed on a major theme which was to "amp" up each scene. By that, they meant to make sure each scene, each chapter, had conflict, tension, motivation, etc, which moved the plot along at a vigorous pace.
So when I sat down and began to write Rogue Alliance, I decided that I was going to make sure I achieved that in every chapter. I wanted each scene to be alive and full of action and tension.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
The advice I always give to all writers is:
  1. Don't. Ever. Give. Up.
  2. Learn everything you can about the industry. Don't go in blind. A writer must understand that it is not just about writing a fabulous book, but it's also about knowing how to market and promote that book so that it can make its way into the hands of the reader.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reaching out to me to tell me how my stories have touched you. Every time I get an email or a message on my Twitter or Facebook telling me that you enjoyed one of my books, it encourages me to keep striving to write you a better story.