Michaele Stoughton is a wife and mother and has been, at various times, a dental assistant, a travel agent, an ice cream scooper, a wedding DJ, and a “balloon toting clown.” And in her free time, she writes books.
16-year-old Melinda learned about Salem witches in eighth grade. Luke learned from his ancestors, the creators of the magically protected society he lives in. For three hundred years that society has been kept secret. Now an uprising has spilled outside its barriers threatening to expose – or worse – to destroy it. As Luke fights to save his world he struggles with his feelings for Melinda, a mortal. Melinda finds herself in the middle of a civil war she doesn’t understand, with a target on her back, and in love with a boy she may never see again.
That’s a quick synopsis of UNDER THE VIOLET SKY, Michaele’s debut novel. You won’t find it on Amazon or in Barnes & Noble, at least not yet. That’s because Michaele, . Like so many other aspiring authors, has been unable to find an agent and publisher. I had the chance to talk to her about her experiences.
Q: You’ve completed one YA (young adult) novel and you’re working on a second. What made you choose that particular genre?
A: About 15 years ago I wrote and illustrated a couple of children’s picture books. At the time my kids were little, and it was mainly for them. Over the years I continued to have a desire to write more, not necessarily that genre, but I knew it wouldn’t be adult. Then I picked up Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I’d never read YA before. I was amazed at how I connected with the characters. After reading more YA I found the voice and pacing of YA was definitely more my style. I think it has to do with the fact that I refuse to grow up.
Q: What authors do you most enjoy reading?
A: Oh boy. It’s hard to narrow it down. I mostly read YA. I love Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, Maggie Stiefvater, Becca Fitzpatrick, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. I also enjoy Janet Evanovich, Diane Mott Davidson, and Dan Brown in the adult market.
Q: Are there any authors/books you fond particularly inspirational in terms of your own work?
A: Twilight was a big inspiration for me, because I wanted to write something that my readers would connect with, like I did with her work. I also found Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder inspiring, because I felt like my writing style was similar to hers. Being a new writer it gave me hope that I was doing something right.
Q: What is your normal writing routine?
A: I wish I had a routine, but I don’t. When I was writing my first novel I wrote just about every day. It was hard to get me out of that chair. I love my kids, but they had this stupid habit of wanting to be fed every day. I’m getting a slow start with my current wip. I’ve got a lot of distractions right now; one being that I’m still trying to get the first one published. I know once I get into the flow of the new story I’ll become completely engrossed again.
Q: What steps have you taken in your efforts to get published?
A: I’ve sent out lots and lots of queries to literary agents, and a couple to publishers. I usually send out in small batches. Then I revise and tweak my query and send out more. I try to stay active on twitter, which is a great place for networking. Writing is a solitary thing, but writers are very supportive of one another. I was also part of a blog hop group called Thursday’s Children. It was all about inspiration and inspiring each other. That’s where I found a couple of beta/CPs. I’ve entered query critique groups, first pages critique groups, and several contests.
Q: Have you received feedback from any of your submissions?
A: Yes. Some of it has been useful and some not so much. One agent said (after reading my query and first five pages) that she thought it had commercial potential. But she thought I should try rewriting it in first person. As a querying writer looking for acceptance, my first thought was “Yay! It has potential!” But then I thought “How can you suggest a complete rewrite after only five pages?”
Q: How have you selected the agents you’ve queried?
A: I use several resources: twitter, Writer’s Digest, QueryTracker, and Literary Rambles to name a few. And I always check the acknowledgements in books I like. I research each agent’s list, their interests, what they are looking for, and their submission guidelines. I use QueryTracker to keep track of everything.
Q: What are your thoughts on self publishing? Can you envision traditional publishers at some point becoming obsolete?
A: I think self-publishing can be a great thing. However, I also think certain genres do better than others, so it may not be for everyone. I don’t see traditional publishers becoming obsolete, and I don’t see print books disappearing any time soon either. I think there’s room for everyone.
Q: Do you think there is a significant connection between the popularity of social media and the new acceptance and success of self publishers?
A: Absolutely! Because of the explosion of social media, I think writers are more informed. They can also reach more people promoting and marketing their book.
Q: What do you see as your biggest strengths as a writer?
A: I think I’m good at pacing. I don’t consider myself a fast or strong reader, so I try to write books that I would consider an easy read. I would consider revisions one of my strengths too.
Q: How about weaknesses?
A: I’m a slow drafter, and I’ve been called a Comma Slut. Yeah, I like commas.
Find Michaele on Twitter @MLStoughton and check out her blog http://mlstoughton.blogspot.com
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