Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Guest Post - Author Interview with Michelle Fayard
Michelle Fayard, the mastermind of Bird’s-eye View and author of The Underground Gift has been kind enough and awesome enough to stop by and talk about her journey as a writer and what it’s been like to conceive of an idea and hold on to it long enough for it to be ready for publication. So let’s give her our undivided attention as she tells us her story.
To begin, how did you come up with the idea for The Underground Gift? Was it a slow-burning idea or did inspiration hit you suddenly one day?
It was very serendipitous. In July 2006, my husband and I were house hunting in Kansas City, Kansas, when our Realtor, in an apparent non sequitur, turned around from looking up MLSs on her computer to ask, “Did you know coded quilts might have played a role in the Underground Railroad? Now, you said you wanted a two bedroom, one bath, right?”
Umm, no to the first, and yes, to the rest. So with 30 days to kill before closing escrow and way too much time on my hands for once, I headed to the local library to check out a few books on the subject. I was hooked. I was so hooked that when, half a year later, I returned to college to study the art and business of fiction writing, my husband suggested that I use this research as the inspiration for my first book. (Marcelo, you’re my inspiration; thank you!)
Did you go through a lot of rewrites/format changes before you settled on your final product or was it mostly the same as it is now?
I’d love to say I allow myself to sit down at the computer and just write, but that would be so not true. :) As a result, I do a lot of thinking beforehand, so when I start writing, the essence of what I first put down often remains. I got into the habit of writing like this when I was a news journalist.
Having said that, I initially wrote a few chapters from the antagonist’s point of view, so I could better understand why someone like Benjamin Michaelson would take pleasure in being a sadistic slave catcher.
Did you always enjoy writing this book, or were there times when you just wanted to give up and put it away and not see it again? (Warning: Sensitive information/spoiler ahead.)
Writing Gift, for the most part, was a complete mind blow. Could it really be possible for a former journalist, who measures articles in column inches, to write something with tens of thousands of words? In addition to being a bit length phobic, I did go though a very rough time when I knew the next scene I needed to write is the one in which the main protagonist, Josepha, a slave, is gang raped. For 17 months I stopped writing, partly because I realize some readers will be extremely uncomfortable with this historical fact and partly because of having been date raped. Once I allowed myself to write the truth, I finished the remaining 50,000 words in three months.
Were you writing with the intention of publishing, or was publishing something you didn't think about for a while until later?
I’ve always written Gift with publication in mind, as it’s a goal that inspired me to keep on writing. I wasn’t always sure I’d be able to actually write an entire book though.
How did you edit The Underground Gift? Did you do it on your own, or did you make use of resources available online and such?
I am very fortunate to have worked as a writer and editor in my day jobs and to have learned from some incredibly gifted mentors in my 25-year career. I could hear their words of wisdom each time I wrote and tightened an arc.
But I could never have written Gift without what I call my Underground team. In particular, author Elizabeth Varadan provided insightful critiques of my first draft, while author/reader-in-progress Stephen Barnett is the most outstanding content and line editor imaginable.
What have you learned about the querying process during your journey? Are there certain things (wording of query letters, for example) that you've learned work better than others?
I started querying gift this summer, five years to the day our Realtor first planted the book’s seed in my mind. The crazy thing is I’ve tried longer, synopsis-based queries, a three-sentence query, a query that led with the setting and a query that led with the characters, and all have resulted in requests for either a partial or a full.
The takeaway message to me is that while queries always will be tricky beasts to write, we really do have some latitude in how we craft them. Just be sure to have a great story and talk about it briefly and compellingly.
And finally, how excited are you that you're almost ready to be published?
I’m excited, nervous and grateful in almost equal measure. If The Underground Gift could inspire even one person to stand up and make a difference against hate crimes, I will consider this journey a success.
Thank you very much, Marlena, for inviting me to your blog today. Yours is a Top 20 must-visit site, and I’m glad we’ll always be able to say that you were the first person to do an author interview for Gift.
You can find Michelle at Bird's-eye View, on Facebook and on Twitter. Her blog is awesome, so you
should all check it out and give her some much deserved love.
Let's also give some love to:
Elizabeth Vardan's Fourth Wish blog
Stephen Barnett's The Road to Makokota
Posted by Elisa DeLany at 12:12 AM