What amazes me is how creativity affects different people in similar ways. Even though it may seem to manifest in strange and unusual ways, for writers, at least, it’s been my experience that we’re a lot more alike in our uniqueness than different. One of the many things that is a similarly is the obsessive compulsion to tell stories. Another is the way a story will insist on being told despite how busy we are at doing other things.
Recently I got the chance to ask some question of Michelle Bellon, author of Rogue Alliance and several other books. She’s always a busy lady but she finds the time to help others; it’s in her nature. She’s a nurse, a mother and a wife – not necessarily in that order – but also she loves writing and respects the process and others who write as well. Personally, I wonder about people like her, having no idea how she juggles all the spinning plates of her life on those spindly, wobbly poles and still find the time to write. That is, until I think about all the things that every author I know does to feed the compulsion – if not obsession – to write stories. It goes toward proving my point, though, that a story needs to be told and it will always find a way of getting onto paper or into a digital file on some writer’s computer. I guess as writers all we need to be is receptive to that creative impulse and capture the idea.
Michelle’s most recent novel, Rogue Alliance, the first of a series. It is a genre stretching tale that held my interest from start to finish and turned me into a fan.
Trying to escape a horrific past, Shyla has immersed herself in life as a tough 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, a troubled sidekick to the ringleader she’s intent on taking down, she discovers he has a past even darker than hers and she is forced to re-evaluate everything she believes about herself, her job, and what she knows about right and wrong.
Can she face the demons of her upbringing and learn to trust again? Her life will depend on it.
Q: You wake up only to realize you don’t remember your name or what you’re doing in Des Moines, Iowa. What’s the story?
A: I’m terrible with geography. Is Iowa cold? I don’t like cold. Can we make this story start in Hawaii? I want to live there…in a hut…and live off shellfish…getting down with nature. But I don’t want to go all Tom Hanks in Cast Away, that’s a bit much. Did I answer the question correctly?
Q: Yes, it’s cold there. I think I like the setting for your story better than mine. Anyway, let’s talk about when you were a kid. In school were you a troublemaker, an instigator or the teacher’s pet? Explain
A: Oh, I believe I was all of those at one time or another. In second grade I had the best teacher ever, Mrs. Rogers, and I was surely teacher’s pet. I loved learning, craved it.
I found myself causing a bit of trouble in fifth and sixth grades but that was only because I have a cousin that had special needs and I wound up in a few too many fights defending him. I became known as a fighter about that time.
Then somewhere along the lines, around seventh grade or so, I just kind of got confused. Hormones kicked in and my brain cells ceased to function properly. I look back and it seems as if I were walking around in a fog all the time. I remember wandering around school, just kind of bumping around going, “What’s going on? Where am I supposed to be?”
That lack of brainpower only increased throughout the beginning of high school when I became absolutely boy crazy. Fortunately, I still managed to get decent grades. I was always friendly to everyone but maintained friendships with only a few close girl friends. I’ve always been careful about choosing friends. It’s sacred to me. It’s for life. My best friends are girls I’ve known my entire life. They’ve got my back, and I’ve got theirs. Forever.
Q: The next one is a fantasy type question: Imagine for a moment that you’re a famous, bestselling author. They’re making a movie out of your last book. What do you do next to top that you’re already achieved?
A: That is a huge accomplishment and one that many of us dream of achieving. I would be over the moon with excitement if one of my books made it to the big screen.
My next goal would be to write my next book. That’s it. I just want to keep making stories. It feels amazing to create something: a story, characters, another reality – that would have otherwise never existed.
Q: Many writers say that being creative becomes an integral part of their daily lives and part of their routine. How do you balance your responsibilities to others around your need to create?
A: This is something I constantly struggle with. My family, my husband and children, are my first priority. Then there’s the responsibility of maintaining our home and fulfilling the needs of my day job as a registered nurse. My creative side, which for me is writing, comes at the end of all that, though I feel it is important.
There is another component here. After I became a published author, I learned that there is a huge responsibility to market your work. Once you dig into that and learn what it takes to promote your finished product, you find yourself consumed with that aspect of the industry and the actual writing takes a huge back seat.
Right now I’m at a huge turning point, where I’ve let all of that get out of balance to the point that I’m no longer writing. I just don’t have the time and then when I do find a small chunk of time and sit down at the laptop, I have nothing to give, because all of my creative energies have been leeched out by the marketing aspect of writing. It can be very destructive if you let it. And I did let it.
But I recently decided to re-prioritize and get back to what I love – writing. Here’s why – I’ve learned that there are things that feed you and things that starve you. Marketing and promoting, if let get out of balance, will starve you, creatively. When you write and tap into that creative energy where things come to life, it feeds you. I’m determined to get back to that. Writers must write.
Q: Every writer has that one story that clicked, inspiring him or her to pursue writing as a career. What was the story and what was there about it that made it influential?
A: As for any one book that I read and it inspired me to write, there’s not just a single story. They all did. I simply love to read. I love to jump inside of other people’s fictional lives and fall in love with characters. It’s so magical.
What inspired me to actually write my own book was the desire to tell my own stories and entertain an audience of my own. The moment that it all clicked into place was when I began to write my first novel, Embracing You, Embracing Me. It’s a coming of age young adult novel that deals with young love, tragedy, and self-realization. Though fiction, it’s loosely based on my own experiences and dedicated to someone special in my life that passed at much too young of an age. Readers respond strongly to that story and that moves me. My intention is for everyone who reads it to remember that we must tell the ones we love that we love them today. You never know if you’ll have tomorrow. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker, or so I’ve heard.
Q: Creativity comes in many ways – for example, painting, photography, sculpture, music and theater. What other things do you do or have you done that are examples of using your imagination or other artistic talents?
A: Actually, I don’t consider myself creative. Before I started writing I honestly believed that I was lacking a creative gene. I can’t paint. Every picture I take is blurry and off center. I can’t act and I don’t like to speak in front of crowds. I’m logical and detail oriented with strong OCD tendencies. Those traits often kill creativity.
It still surprises me that I have been able to write novels. Sometimes I pick up one of my books and stare it, thinking, “Holy crap! I wrote this!”
Even then, I don’t feel creative because it doesn’t feel like I’m the creator of these stories. When a book idea comes to me it’s not because I sit and brainstorm. The storyline and characters often just pop into my head, like a little gift from the universe, or sometimes I’ll dream them. At that point, it’s up to me to simply write it down and fill in all the details.
Q: Where do you see yourself at this moment in your life had you never decided to write a book?
A: I’d be doing mostly the same things; working as a nurse, taking care of my children, loving on my husband. But I’d still be convinced that I lacked any fraction of creativity, and that’s a sad thought. Writing opened up a whole new world for me with possibilities that I would have never imagined before. Most importantly, it’s taught me a lot about myself and what I can accomplish through hard work, dedication, perseverance, and passion. I had no idea that I had all of this inside of me.
Q: Family and relationships are important in peoples’ lives and so, it is little surprise that there are relationships between characters in books. How closely do the interactions in your books mirror your real life?
A: Very closely. For me, the crux of every story is the character arc, their internal and external struggle as they learn to overcome whatever difficult journey I’ve put them on. In each book I write, though most are radically different than my real life, I definitely incorporate my own life lessons and relationship trials into the fictional story I’m writing at the time. By forcing my characters to face their personal demons and reconcile challenging relationship dynamics, I’m essentially creating an outlet for self-realization, self-healing. My character learns and evolves, therefore so do I. It’s very cathartic.
Q: When writing I’m sure you hit snags where characters aren’t behaving or the plot just isn’t working. When that happens to be I play video solitaire. What do you do?
Omg! That is exactly what I do! When I get stuck, I stop what I’m doing, minimize my screen, and pull up solitaire. I like to play Free Cell. I have a 99% winning average. Is that a talent?
Q: It may be. I never mastered Free Cell. Okay here’s a touch one: When friends, family and even people you barely know at work find out you are publishing a book they expect a gratis copy. It could be a touchy situation. How do handle it?
A: Oh, man, this is a touchy subject. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people ask, and even expect, a free book. And I’ve given out far too many. I just have the hardest time telling them no.
However, I’ve reached a point where, when asked this question, I have to kindly evade the part where I offer a free book. I have to start respecting my work by making a decision to earn something for my hard work. I feel that it’s so sad that the industry has “evolved” to a point where talented, hard-working authors are giving away their books for free. It baffles me when I hear a reader say that they only buy books if they are 99 cents or free. It makes me want to ask them if they’d like to work on a project for a year or more, pour their heart and soul into it, accept a hundred rejections before they finally find an outlet to showcase their work and then at the end of the day, they get a check for 99 cents? Yeah, somehow I don’t think they’d be down with that.
Michelle has published other books, look for these covers online at Amazon.com
Michelle Bellon lives in the Pacific Northwest with her four beautiful children. She earned her Associates Degree in Nursing and fills her moments of free time with her love for writing. She writes in multiple genres, including, YA, romance suspense, women’s fiction, and general fiction.
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