Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Interview With Michelle I Brooks - Author of BONE DRESSING

As many of you know, before Christmas, I reviewed Bone Dressing. Fantastic book, I tell you!
So anyway, I have always been an inquisitive person and like to interview authors if and when they let me.
Michelle was kind enough to answer many questions for yours and my enjoyment.

Firstly, for those of you who haven't seen it, here is the Bone Dressing Trailer:


Here's the interview:

Name:
Michelle I Brooks, otherwise known as “The Goddess of Light and Beauty”
Age:
45
Place Of Birth:
The back bedroom of a tiny apartment in Montrose in the shadow of downtown, deep in the heart of Houston.
Starsign:
Pisces … must be why I crave moving water, especially the ocean, and particularly when it’s sprinkled with the light of sky filled with stars.
Marital Status:
 Married head to toe … and then some.
Children:
I’ve been blessed with three perfectly phenomenal, occasionally frustrating, always entertaining “young adults” (teenagers, of a sort). Not a single one is eighteen yet and I swear to God they’ve already taught me every bit as much as I’ve taught them.
Place Of Residence:
Currently:          Houston, Texas USA … for the moment
Future:              The Caribbean, San Francisco, Ireland, or wherever else my feet may take me …
Always:             Within the entrancing folds of my own imagination
Favourite Food:
My husband’s kisses and my kids’ hugs, I’d starve without them.  Aside from that, everything that’s nice and spicy … REALLY spicy (Cajun, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, hell I’d even try Neptunian as long as it came with habanero peppers …)
Favourite Drink: 

Margaritas (on ice with plenty of salt), Ménage à Trois red wine, Brown Cow, Coke Zero … Oh, and I absolutely detest water with no ice in it!

Favourite Band & Song:
Literally 5 million, and it changes just about every day. But a few “forever favorites” are Hotel California (The Eagles), Eyes On Fire (Blue Foundation), Live and Let Die (Aerosmith), Hallelujah (as sung by Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainright, and others), Hey Jude (The Beatles, my Dad’s favorite), and I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing (Aerosmith).
Favourite Place To Visit:
The inner depths within the hearts of those I love … aside from that, an endless stretch of white sandy beach, palm trees dancing in the breeze, chained bed swaying gently, and never-ending margaritas …
Favourite Author:
Hmmm … seems like I’ve heard of someone called Michelle something-or-other … it’ll come to me. Then, of course, there are all those masters on my bookshelf! Folks like Poe, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Rowling, S Meyers, LK Hamilton, J Norman, C Harris, …
Favourite Book Quotes
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit:  “Oh, … if you really understood ... you'd realize that this story has not ended...

...but is only beginning.”
1) Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
I always knew I wanted to be everything … being an author has always been high among those everythings.
2) If you couldn't be an author, what do you think you would do?
Hmmm, perhaps I’d just be me … .Seriously, there are so many things in life to try, I’d give most a whirl … pilot, sky-diver, photographer, chef, architect, explorer.  But, I am already a PhD graduate, a dancer, an at home wife-mom-chef-seamstress-chauffer-tutor-sounding board, and a bona fide Fairy Godmother, all in addition to the honorary Goddess of Light and Beauty title holder I mentioned earlier, so I think I’m doing okay.
3) Who are your influences in life and in writing?
In life – my husband, my kids, my mom and dad, Mahatma Ghandi, Deepok Chopra, Buddha, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Kahlil Gibran.

In writing – Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, …
4) What is the first book you remember reading? How old were you?

Here are the first ones that left a strong impression on me:
1st Book:  The Pokey Little Puppy – age 3
2nd Book:  The Wizard of Oz – age 5
3rd Book:  The Secret Garden – age 8
4th Book:  Little Women – age 9
5th Book:  The Diary of Anne Frank – age 9
6th Book:  The Hobbit – age 10
7th Book:  Sybil – age 12 (curled up next to my mom in bed – this one was a bit scary for me at the time)

5) At what age did you decide to try and become an author yourself?
2009 - 43

6) Is BONE DRESSING the first thing you have written? If not, can you tell us about what was?
I wrote an as yet unpublished screenplay, it’s still tucked away in a drawer … One cold November afternoon my kids and I were dashing around the streets of Dublin. All the other tourists were busy looking for the nearest sculpture, church or pub, but us? No, I’d brought ten copies of my script and hadn’t been able to put into a single person’s hand. So there we were running back and forth across the Ha’penny bridge searching for waste bins to distribute pages randomly. You would have thought we’d found a pot of gold every time we spotted a trash can … my God we had a blast!

7) What was your inspiration behind BONE DRESSING?
The outline of Bone Dressing, all seven books worth, was the whispered creation of a dream I had. One day I went to sleep, not a single thought of writing a book, and the next day I awoke at the starting gate of this grand adventure of becoming an author.

8) What was your inspiration behind the characters?
I have to say, Syd is a strong part of myself. I learned early on how to contain that part, not necessarily how to control it, it still burns my butt on a regular basis, but I do contain it … most of the time, anyway. Having said that, I see us all, myself included, as having infinite potential, for the “good” as well as the “bad”. The characters in Bone Dressing then could be seen as the pieces within us all, the feisty teen struggling with becoming an adult; the strong-willed but sensitive lover; the softer, earthier lover; the sweet, innocent butterflies and butterscotch bright-eyed little girl, and yes, even the big bad Mr. A. on his very worst days.

After all, is there a single one of us who hasn’t dreamed of going toe-to-toe with our enemies, giving our hearts flat out to those we love, running through a field of fireflies at twilight, and ripping to shreds those who make life difficult for us, those who hurt us or those we love? We may choose not to act on all of those desires, but we are merely a species of warm-blooded animals after all is said and done.

9) Did you always want to write within the genre and did it come easily to you?
You know, I’m not sure. I never really thought about Bone Dressing being in any particular genre, even now I see it as quite a cross-genre book.

10) Do you find, as some authors say, that a particular character’s voice comes into your head begging to be written?
Oh, my God! All the time. I’ll sit down with a particular goal in mind, and at the end of the day I’ll have this great story sitting in front of me with absolutely no idea how I got from there to here. I lay the framework, but Bone Dressing is a character driven story. It rather has to be since it’s written first person. And, as we all know by now, Syd can be just a wee bit … tenacious … at times.

11) Which character would you say you most relate to?
Of course, with Syd’s character based largely on my own, she would be the simple answer. But, honestly, I fall in love with all my characters. Since I know where they’ve been and where they’ll all end up, each step between here and there is so exciting, so filled with laughter and tears and frustration … and more laughter. Sometimes my husband and kids think I’m nuts sitting there clicking away with tears streaming down my face or bursting out laughing in the middle of absolutely nothing.

Damn, it’s almost as good as watching my own kids growing up, maybe even a bit … hmmm, not better exactly, maybe just easier, or more liberating because ultimately I get to control their fate from start to finish. If Syd pisses me off, I can simply hit the backspace key. Can’t really do that with loved ones, huh?

12) Did you ever cut a character or a scene that you later wish you had kept?
Thank God, the answer to that one is absolutely not. 

However, I must say that I question myself at times after receiving a critical review. The thing is, though, Syd’s not easy, she’s not for everyone. She’s strong willed, intelligent and a bit rough around the edges. But she’s also got a golden heart, and an inner drive to fight for what’s right, both for herself and those around her.

As Bone Dressing is written in first person, the reader is immediately pulled into Syd’s mind, every thought, every feeling. Yes, it’s confusing. It’s supposed to be. She’s a young woman struggling with everything … school, life, herself. She’s cutting ties with parents that died ten years ago and trying to find her way. Syd’s confused before Beau ever hits town. Then as her life begins to spiral in a different direction, it leaves her, and consequently the reader, spinning wildly off-track.

So when I read comments centering on the chaotic storyline or the cursing or the romance or…or …or … I have to stop and take a deep breath and remind myself that Bone Dressing is a journey. Syd’s journey. And journeys aren’t always easy. Readers should feel a bit uncomfortable slipping into Syd’s skin … she’s uncomfortable in it herself. If everyone totally got her, maybe then it would be time to worry.

Having said that, I gotta tell you, when I hear back from those who do connect with Syd, it’s so exciting I could light the sky with diamonds!

13) Did you ever cut anything that you later found yourself putting back?
Glad to say that has never happened. If I cut something, it’s for a reason. It either didn’t work for the characters, didn’t work for the story, or didn’t work for me. So, once I cut it, it’s dead. It’s not coming back … in this life or the next.

14) How many drafts would you say there were before the final draft that you published?
Oh my, at least a dozen. At least. Probably more …

15) Are you very critical of your own work?
Oh, not me. No, no, no!

… Well, maybe just a little bit.

16) Do you have anything (non-spoilery, of course) that you can share with us about the future for Syd?
Hmmm, non-spoilery, huh? Sud’s journey has only just begun. There is more to herself and those around her than she can possibly imagine … more “good”, more “bad”, more everything in between. Syd must first understand that and come to terms with it, before she can find her way to that higher place where it no longer matters. Between here and there? Expect just a couple mountains in the road … higher highs, lower lows. After all, Syd is no longer a little girl. She’s a young woman trying to find her way back home … to herself, a self she’s only dreamed of knowing …

17) When do you think we will see Bone Dressing: The Dreaming (book 2) published?
If it’s not out by the end of January, my hubby may be adding the Death March to the playlist. He’s getting a wee bit antsy for it, so let’s hope I finish before I hear that piano echoing in the night …

18) I read that you plan for there to be 7 books in the series. Do you have titles for them all or is it something you do as you come to each book?
Good question. I have some ideas, but ultimately the name will be nailed down as I’m writing each book. So, yes and yes! Yes, I have titles, and yes, it’s something I do as I come to each book.

19) How long do you think the gap will be between each book being published?
I was shooting for 6 months between books. The second book has taken a bit longer than that, but life has had some … unexpected twists and turns. Now that the crocodiles have settled back down a bit, I think 2 books a year will be quite manageable. Besides, any longer and Syd will drive me stark raving mad! She’s in my head 24-7, after all.

20) Do you have a playlist like some authors do or do you find music too distracting during the writing process?
I have that, and so much more: I have a playlist (music moves me in so very many ways … emotionally, intellectually, physically), but I also I have my little sidekick, a fuzzy-haired zombie that growls and has glowy red eyes when you squeeze his tummy, candles, incense, an open window, coffee or Coke, bucket loads of hugs and kisses …

21) If there is a playlist, would you mind sharing a few songs from it?
Wow, great question. I’ve had a playlist from day one. Had this grand vision of an agent running off with Bone Dressing and getting this mega deal all lined up for its initial release. So I had a Bone Dressing companion pack all lined out that could be purchased with the book, increasing the reader’s experience, bringing them more into Syd’s world. I had something to tempt each of their senses, but perhaps it will come with a later book in the series.

As for the playlist, here it is:

  1. "Tears of the World” (Lacrimae Mundi) Angels of Venice  
  2.  “People Are Strange” by The Doors  
  3.    “Confluence” by Brio    “Hello” by Evanescence  
  4. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman     
  5.  “Home by the Sea” by Genesis  
  6.  “Face Value” by Phil Collins   
  7.   “Immortal” by Evanescence  
  8.  “Fighter” by Christina Aguilara  
  9. “Bad Things” by Jace Everett  
  10.  “All That You Have Is Your Soul” by Tracy Chapman
  11.   “Solitary Road” by Brio “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen 
  12.  “Hurt” by Christina Aguilara
  13.   “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman
  14.   “Black Velvet” by Allanah Myles 
  15.    “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaac
  16.  “Peaceful Doves” by Ancient Winds 
  17.    “Beautiful Liar” by Shakira and Beyonce"  
  18.   “All That You Have Is Your Soul” by Tracy Chapman  
  19.     “Serenity” by Godsmack


Note: I would just like to say thank you to Michelle. This interview has been interesting, entertaining & funny. You are a wicked-awesome woman and I look forward to The Dreaming very, very much :D


Useful Links: Michelle's Blog
                    Michelle on Twitter


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