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I strongly believe that all it takes for a tween or teen to get hooked on reading for life is a well-written young adult series. I’m happy I got the chance to meet an author who has written such a series! The Dani Trueheart series follows fifteen-year-old Dani in her journey of becoming a pop star. Questions arise when she wonders if this is really what she wants or if she is doing it for others. Now, I got the chance to learn from author Michele Kwasniewski where her motivation came from and her tips on becoming a published author of a young adult series.
What inspired you to write a book?
I worked for years in film and television and retired once I had a baby. Even after I retired, every time someone found out about my career, their face would light up and they would fire questions at me about the celebrities I had met, where I’d traveled, and any Hollywood gossip I could share. No one ever really understood the long hours, hard work, and questionable ethical situations I’d experienced during my career. With reality television and social media, becoming famous is easier than ever, and I wanted to shine a light on the dark side of fame and just how much damage a life in the spotlight can cause, especially to a young person.
Was there a book or author that you admired that played a role when developing your book?
I’ve always been an avid reader and I have created my writing style by reading a host of different authors: Margaret Atwood, Gabriel García Márquez, Ruth Ware, Stephen King, Laura Purcell, Haruki Murakami, Liane Moriarty, Jane Green, M.R. Carey to name a few. I glean techniques from all of them. I think reading is my biggest tool as an author – I am constantly improving my ability to write every time I open a book.
It is often said that to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?
Yes, I do. Anyone can write, but I think the passion that exists when you believe in your subject is what makes a story “unputdownable”. I write all the time without passion – taking the minutes for my school board meetings is one example. It’s helpful not to be passionate in that case so I can deliver a clear, unbiased record of the meeting. But if I’m writing a novel, I find believing in the story I am telling drives my writing – from making sure I get every detail of the research correct to ensuring that my characters have the depth and texture that is key to creating authentic and captivating characters. I know that when I’m passionate about my story, that energy comes through to the reader. As a reader, I want to get swept up, see life from a different perspective or maybe learn something new. If the writer can’t be bothered to believe in their subject why would I spend my time reading it?
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who writes only when they feel inspired?
When I’m working on a book, I have a set schedule for writing, or I’d never get anything done. We’ve got a child in middle school, so as soon as I get him out of the house, I come home, have breakfast and get to work until I have to pick him up. I try to work while he’s out of the house, so I’m available to him after school. But sometimes, if I’m on a deadline, I’m stuck writing while everyone’s at home. It’s a bit harder to concentrate, and I don’t feel like I work as well under those conditions, but I make do. When I’m in between projects, my writing schedule is a bit more fluid. It usually takes me a while to flesh out a new book, and I find I do my best thinking while I’m working out or working around the house. Currently, I’m percolating on my next project, so there’s a lot less writing happening and a lot more cleaning out of cupboards.
Tell us about your writing style, how is it different from other writers?
My writing style is very approachable. I’m not a high-literature author, though I am a fan of literary fiction. I’m proud that I have written a trilogy that appeals to avid readers and those who don’t necessarily love reading, and I credit my topic for bridging that gap. Most everyone has dreamed of being famous or becoming a rock star at one point in their lives. By tapping into that universal dream, I was able to build on that enthusiasm and create a story that touches a broad audience. I’ve had young and older readers, both female and male, connect with my books. Being able to connect with such a varied audience is quite an achievement for an author.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing? What would you say is the most natural aspect of writing?
The hardest thing about writing for me, honestly, is believing in my ability to write. I read a ton and I know what type of stories I want to read. But I struggle with my confidence as an author even after having written three books. Do I have a story people want to read? Do I have the skill to tell that story? Will people read my books? I guess the silver lining to that uncertainty means that I will always keep striving to write the best stories I can.
The most natural aspect of writing for me is the whole idea of storytelling. I love coming up with what motivates people and their actions. I never tire of following a thought or story idea and seeing where it can take me. I come up with ideas throughout my day, layering things I see and experience into my writing. Listening to people talk, asking questions…it’s like I’m researching a story in every conversation and I love that.
Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last? Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
I had writers’ block while starting my latest novel. It stemmed from not being sure of how to finish my YA trilogy. I had some very specific wishes from readers about how they wanted the series to end, which were at odds with what I had envisioned when I had started writing the series. The writer’s block threw me into a panic for a bit because every time I sat down to write, nothing came to my mind. But once I realized the block was stemming from my own indecision, I realized I needed to step away from my computer and take some time to brainstorm what I wanted to achieve. Once I made my plot decisions, I created a story spine (Google Ken Adams Pixar Story Spine – it’s a revelation) to help me stay motivated and make sure I touched on all the plot points I wanted to hit. Normally I don’t outline at all, so using a story spine was a new tool for me, and it definitely sparked my creativity.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
I have two pieces of advice for aspiring writers. The first – just write. Many people talk about how they’re going to write or what they want to write, but very little writing actually happens. Making the time commitment to write is hard, but it’s necessary. Just get the words down on the page. First drafts are rough and messy, so don’t worry about being perfect or grammatically correct. Just get your story elements down. It wasn’t until a friend told me to just write and not worry about being perfect in the first draft that I understood everyone’s first draft sucks. It’s the editing and re-working that leads to a sold finished product. The first draft is all about shoveling sand in the box. Building elaborate sand castles comes later with every draft.
Secondly – beta readers are invaluable to writers. They tell us if our story makes sense if what we’re trying to say is coming across, and what isn’t working. It can be hard to hear criticism of something you’ve worked hard on, but most writers are writing to be read, so it’s important to listen to feedback from readers you trust. You don’t have to take any advice your beta readers give you, but you’d be surprised what feedback you get on your writing when you allow someone else to read it. Beta readers have been very helpful in writing my trilogy.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
FALLING STAR, the final installment of my YA series, was just published, and I’m currently working on pitching that trilogy as a television series. I’m researching a couple of book ideas and hope to start writing in the next month or so.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Thank you to everyone who has given my books a chance. Thank you for spending your time and money on my work. As an author, I don’t think I can say this enough to readers. Every sale, review, every time you post about a book online or tell a friend, you are making my dreams come true. And thanks to Book Smugglers Den for giving me a platform to talk about my series! I appreciate the support you give unknown authors like me.
You can purchase your copy of Rising Star on Michele’s website and be sure to follow her on social media for updates on her upcoming books and potential television series.