This month, Brave Wings had the pleasure of interviewing multi-talented author, Michelle Lowe. Michelle’s works include many published novels— The Warning, Cherished Thief, Atlantic Pyramid, the Legacy steampunk/fantasy series, and several children’s books—Poe’s Haunted House Tour and The Hex Hunt series.
Let me ask first, what genres are The Warning, Cherished Thief, and Atlantic Pyramid ?
The Warning is a science fiction/murder mystery where the main character, Nikolai Crowe, has been framed for murdering his girlfriend, Jade Sho, and the reason behind it has to do with human clones.
Cherished Thief is a historical/nonfiction that takes place in the 17th century. It’s based on the life and death of the infamous highwayman, Claude Du Val, a French immigrant who came to Great Britain as a footman and became one of the country’s most celebrated fugitives.
Atlantic Pyramid is a science/fiction thriller that tells what happens to people when they vanish in the Bermuda Triangle. A flight instructor, Heath Sharp, becomes caught in the area’s deadly web and crash lands in a sea filled with every ship and plane to have ever been lost in the Devil’s Triangle. He soon discovers an island where nearly all the people who have disappeared with their transports have been living for centuries.
What has drawn you to each genre you’ve chosen?
With the first three, The Warning, Cherished Thief, and Atlantic Pyramid, it wasn’t exactly the genre but the stories themselves. I realized what sort of genre they were going to be and categorized them as such, but it was the idea that drew me in first.
My children’s book series, The Hex Hunt, is a fantasy/adventure story where a young girl named Rain sets off to find a spell gone mad with a magical fox named Sage guiding her way. It’s the kind of story I grew up enjoying and wanted to capture that certain magic to share with youngsters of today and generations to come.
With the Legacy series, I wanted to try my hand at steampunk, but what really got me to write it was the characters which had been developing in my head for some time before I finally began with the writing process.
How did you come up with the idea for the Legacy series?
As I mentioned before, it was the characters that really started it all. With somewhat of a cast in mind I began jotting down an outline, which helped me develop a plot and also to come up with more characters. I did the same with the other Legacy books that followed.
Give us an insight into one of your main character for any of the books. What does he/she do that is so special?
Pierce Landcross is Legacy’s protagonist and is downright my favorite character I’ve ever created. Pierce was born into a family of rovers in England, 1817. He and his older brother, Joaquin, were separated from their troupe at Abney Park in London and spent years searching for them afterward. Along the way, they became common criminals, thieving to stay alive. Pierce is highly intelligent, charming, crafty, and despite being a thief, he’s very loyal to his good friends and loved ones. Trouble always finds him at every turn, which keeps his life a continuous adventure.
How do you come up with all these great titles?
The Warning’s initial title was going to be ‘Jade’s Warning’, because Jade had been killed over something she knew—something she wanted to warn the world about. I decided to change the title, though, at the last minute. With Cherished Thief, Claude Du Val was admired and loved by the public, even from those he stole from. When he died, it’s rumored they buried him at the center aisle of the church of St Paul’s Covent Garden in London, England. Claude was truly loved and cherished regardless of his reputation. The island in Atlantic Pyramid appears to look like a pyramid. Short but sweet on that one. Rain and Sage are hunting for this spell that has gone terribly wrong, so I dubbed the series The Hex Hunt. And Legacy has to do with the Landcross family and their descendants, which regardless of all the different exploits that take place in every book, it’s the ancient Landcross family history that is the core reason why everything in these stories happen.
Tell us about the amazing book covers.
I designed all my covers except for the first Legacy book and Atlantic Pyramid. When I broke away from my publisher and took back Legacy, I wanted to keep to the same kind of style as the first cover and strove to do just that. People have stated that the covers look nice, so I’m confident now that I did a pretty good job with them. 😊
What were the challenges in bringing your books to life?
Writing that first draft! Seriously, it was actually sitting down and putting pen to paper nearly every day. I hardly get writer’s block, but I do dread some days of having to write a whole story out of thin air because it’s such a process that literally gives me a headache. With Legacy, it was brain torture for over a year and a half. Although I enjoyed writing the series because I love the characters and plots so much, I had decided to write the whole series before even having the first installment published. I had spent that time writing nonstop. Outline to manuscript. Scribble. Scribble. Scribble. In the end, it was well worth it, because I’ve spent the past five years now rewriting the series and making each book shine a tad brighter before sending it off to the world.
Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
If you’re referring to research, then I’ve learned plenty! As the saying goes, ‘being a writer is like doing homework for the rest of your life’. When I researched on how to operate a small plane for Atlantic Pyramid, I honestly believed I could fly a plane! Doing research can be fun as well as being a mind-numbing experience, especially when you need to put your findings into your story without it being an information dump, but it’s also nice to learn so many random things that otherwise you may have never known about.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
All of what I write is purely imaginative, and what little real-life experiences I toss in it’s only in snippets.
Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp?
In The Warning, there’s a message about wanting too much power and control. Too much greed never leads to happiness and in the end, everything taken can’t be brought with you once the world is thankfully going on without the likes of such a greedy heart in it.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Pierce Landcross. With him, I’m so indecisive. I really wanted Reeve Carney from Penny Dreadful to play him, but right now it’s between Cole Sprouse from Riverdale or Benjamin Wadsworth from Deadly Class. I may later change my mind again, though. 😉
When did you first consider yourself a writer or do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I considered myself a bonafide writer when I started receiving my first reviews—which were very good ones! After learning what others outside my circle of family and friends thought about my work it got me to believing that I may actually know what I’m doing with this.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The Warning started off as a little story in my head that I thought about at night when I went to bed. Y’know, kind of like telling yourself bedtime stories. I thought about Nikolai and how he was framed, and that’s when it hit me that this was going to be a murder mystery. The only thing was, I wanted it to have more layers than just a Who Done It story. I forgot how I came up with it, but I decided to throw human clones into the mix. Also, I wanted to voice in my own political outlooks that I had begun noticing in my early twenties when I first started writing The Warning.
How would you describe your work style?
A slow and steady process. For example, I write all my material in longhand inside notebooks and later type it all in, which of course, takes twice as long. But it works for me. I don’t need to do things in a certain order, but it would help if I did schedule my workload, at least until I get this manuscript I’m working on at the moment done.
What techniques and tools do you use to keep yourself organized?
Ordinary things. Old school sticky notes, day planners to try coordinating my projects throughout the week. If I write it down, then I feel I have to do it. Being self-employed means splitting yourself between being your own boss as well as being an employee.
If you had to choose one, would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person?
More of a big-picture type of gal. It helps get me through a lot of things. When I wrote the whole Legacy series back-to-back, I did my best not to think about the ton of writing needing to be done, but rather what a great thing it would be to have all these books written out and being able to have the abundance of time to work on improving each book instead of spending years dreading about writing the next one in the series.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
Very. Especially the main characters, for they are names readers will have to read over and over, and if the characters have catchy names it’ll make them more appealing to their audience. For me, names need to mean something, whether it goes with the story or not. In Atlantic Pyramid, I renamed my main character to Heath, after Heath Ledger, because I was a fan of his and sadly the actor had passed away while I was writing the story. It was my small tribute to someone I admired.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
If I write every day, three months.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Sure. Carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pains from sitting too long. Weight gain from not exercising like you should but pass on it so you have more time to write. Low vitamin D levels because you’ve trapped yourself inside the house all day like a vampire. Stress headaches, self-doubt, drunkenness, and so on and so forth.
Writing about sex – easy or difficult?
It’s actually pretty easy for me. To me, sex is sex and the fact that it’s usually demonized as this unholy act even when a couple is making love is in my opinion, ridiculous. Granted, a sex scene needs to fit in with the story and not just tossed in like a hard-core porn bit spliced into a movie reel of a Romaic comedy, or something. It’s just when it comes to writing about sex, I don’t mind getting a little detailed, because I think there’s something wrong when we’re more comfortable watching or reading about violence, but being engaged in a love-making scene is, I don’t know, wrong?
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
My toughest criticism had come from my writing mentor when she taught her nonprofit online writer’s workshop, Wolf Pirate Project. When she first took me under her wing, she told me that although my story was good, I had a lot to learn about writing and even used some of my writing on the website as an example of what NOT to do. The best compliment came from the same person when I again took her class with a different book. She told me that my writing had improved by leaps and bounds and that my story was one of the most imaginative pieces of work she’d ever seen.
Was there a person in your career who has impacted you the most or who has really made a difference?
This goes back to the question above. My writer mentor, Mrs. Catherine Rudy. She taught me the fundamentals of how to write and educated me in the craft that I otherwise would not have learned for many more years. I owe her so much gratitude, for I may not have accomplished what I have so far without her and her workshop class.
You like science-fiction and fantasy stories. Which writers inspire you or are your favorites, and what really strikes you about their work?
Neil Gaiman is an author I truly admire. Every book I’ve read of his, I’ve gotten swept up in the story and his whimsical way of word usage is one of the best examples of captivated storytelling.
Why do you think what you do matters?
People love stories. Always have since the first yarn spinner told tales by the fire. Without stories to help us to escape, we’d go mad, I think. I actually received a lovely email from a fan the other day about Legacy-The Forgotten Story. He said, “Another fabulous book in the series. I don’t know if it’s because I sit behind a desk for a job, but I love reading about Gods and Elf’s.”
Giving people another place to be in for a time brings happiness and happiness brings healthiness. If I can give anyone such a thing by way of storytelling than I feel I’ve done my tiny bit for the good of humanity.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
I’m not sure, but I think a little insanity goes splendidly with writing. Too much of a sound mind makes for dull storytelling. Authors need that quirk in them to help add flavor to their work. I think, anyway. 😉
Do you have a day job as well?
I used to be a film projectionist for nine years. It was an easy job where I could spend hours up in the booth writing. I wrote three of my published books at the last theater I worked in, in Sandy Springs, near Atlanta. I recently started working for Uber Eats to earn quick cash for things I need, such as books to sign at events and such. One day, I’d like to make writing my full-time gig. Y’know, the ultimate dream of making a living at doing what you love?
Do you ever wish that you had an entirely uncreative job, like data entry or working in a factory?
NOPE! Never. Although I’m sure those jobs pay well, the monotony of such occupations would eventually do me in.
Do you admire your own work?
Sometimes. When readers express that they’ve enjoyed my stories or even my cover designs, I get a little rush of self-confidence that allows me to look at my own body or work and grin.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Pretty much every stupid sappy, gothic sad story I wrote in high school. Those were the days.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Before I went into the online writer’s workshop and before KDP’s free self-publishing, I got shot down many times by publishers. It hurt. Not gonna lie. When I self-published, it took a while to not only familiarize myself with the whole KDP process but also realizing that publishing was just the start. Marketing was what was sorely needed, and I had little skill in that department.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I go to steampunk events, such as Gaslight Gathering, Clockwork Alchemy, Gaslight Steampunk Expo, and such, where I can speak to people face to face, which is great! It gives both the reader and author a more inmate relationship and that is something special. I do get an uptick on sales when I put my work on sale and advertise it on sites like Book Rebel, Bargain Booksy, and Fire and Ice Book Promos. My tip is to send out as many review requests as possible and work to build your fan base, get a mailing list going and keep those on that list informed about your work(s). Set up book signings and be approachable.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Naturally, I love getting good reviews, but when a bad one comes along, I sometimes get some helpful tips. Constructive criticism, and all that. Like, in one review someone complained that I over-explained things and used the word ‘smile’ too much. Points that I took to heart and worked to improve on in my future writing. All-in-all, I don’t let any bad reviews get me down. All writers get them or will eventually get them. It’s just the way it goes.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
It’s a wonderful tool if used right. To be able to reach out to thousands more people that otherwise would be impossible unless you had the cash for such advertisement. The trick, though, is being creative enough to catch folk’s attention because there are hundreds of other authors and artists just like you trying to do the exact same thing you’re doing.
Which social network worked best for you?
I recently joined Instagram. It hasn’t been too shabby, though, I need to be present on it more often than I am. Facebook is also helpful, though I don’t recommend wasting money on their ads. Goodreads is a good place to meet other authors, readers, and talk about writing and what others have done in regard to marketing.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Sometimes it works if you’re out for reviews. Out of the hundreds of copies I’ve given away, I’ve gotten a handful of reviews in return. I’ve even had people promising to review my book but never do. When Goodreads had their free giveaway, it was wonderful, ’cause most winners actually read and reviewed books! Now they charge. BOO! All I can say is give your book away at your own risk and have low expectations.
Who are your heroes?
Malala Yousafzai is one of them. The girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for being a girl going to school. I mean, she came out of a coma and became a symbol of hope and strength to so many across the globe. People like her come around very rarely and ought to be treasured. Steven Spielberg is another of my heroes. He’s such a creative person and is a wonderful filmmaker. I grew up absorbing his stories. He’s one of those moviemakers that’ve helped influence my own desire to become a storyteller.
What is your greatest fear?
I’m almost too afraid to say it. Losing my children is THE most terrifying thing for me. I’ve lost my older brother and mother, so after facing that kind of harsh reality, it’s a reminder that horrible things can happen to anyone at any time, and it’s scary.
Your proudest achievement?
Writing a whole book series in the time frame I did without losing my mind and becoming a raging alcoholic is something I’m pretty proud of in myself.
What are your lifelong dreams?
To be happy, or at least content with my life. I would like to be a successful author like so many out there, perhaps have some of my books be turned into TV shows. S’pose that’s the dream of just about every writer.
If your friends or family members were asked to pick three character traits that describe you, what would they say?
Pierce Landcross has a wife named Taisia. She’s a fantastic character but she has a flaw about jumping to conclusions at times. I also, do that. When Nikolai Crowe was a teenager, he got into some trouble with the law. I was kind of a wild child myself. Pierce and I share a lot in common, one of them is that we’re both nervous by nature.
What are three positive character traits you don’t have?
Taisia is a fighter, who will jump into a physical altercation on a whim to save someone. Even though I’ve never been in such a situation, I’m not sure I’d be so brave. Nikolai is a computer whiz while I can hardly name off all the external components of the machine. And Pierce has a supreme memory, unlike me, who usual can’t remember the last thing she watched on TV the night before.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
I’ve always wanted to go visit England, but not at this time of year. I think a nice warm, secluded beach somewhere in the Caribbean would suit me just fine.
What’s the last book you read?
Right now, I’m in the middle of Animal Farm, which due to the fact that I’ve been so darn busy, I’ve been reading it off and on now for about a year. The last book I read I think was Last Call by Tim Powers. Such a great read. Loved it.
What is your favorite film and why?
It’s not a B-movie horror, but if I had to choose my favorite, it would be The Neverending Story. I mean, what’s not the love about it. There’s adventure and knights getting laser tagged to death by half naked sphinx, and a giant depressed turtle. It’s the whole package!
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Travel the world. It’s a common answer, but it’s what I’d do. I mean, what better way to learn and experience a wide range of things than going out there and actually doing things?
What is your favorite memory from childhood?
I used to be a tomboy and I loved going off and exploring the woods by our house that used to be there in our neighborhood, Wynnmeade. I loved being out there, wandering around, pretending I was in some faraway place.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d give a lot of advice! Wouldn’t we all? One thing I would want to tell myself is to not attend the college that I went to, (which I won’t disclose, but trust me, it was a worthless school and a waste of time.) I’d tell my younger self to go to a school that offers creative writing courses.
Do you laugh at your own jokes?
Not entirely at my own jokes, but sometimes I’ll make someone laugh pretty hard which makes me laugh along with them.
What makes you cry?
Child and animal abuse.
What makes you laugh?
Babies laughing. I swear, when a baby starts cracking up over something in their little squeaky giggle, it just kills me.
What’s the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
The many splendors the earth has to offers. Rays of sunshine through slits in the clouds, the red vail of a rising full moon, glowing heat from embers in a dying campfire. Endless bounties of beauty that could never grow old in my eyes.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I once read that you can make anything by writing. And it’s true! Writing opens minds, introduces new perspectives and brings people into worlds they’d never knew existed before. Writing is an art form that is beautiful, tragic, complex, stunning and horrifying. My best advice is to develop a thick skin, learn from constructive criticism and read! Read! Read! Read! Because when a writer is reading, it’s different from non-writers. We’re not just reading, we’re studying. We’re finding out new ways to describe things, broadening our vocabulary, and learning how these other authors thread their stories together. Whatever genre you write, reading will help significantly when you put your own pen to paper. And write what you want to write about no matter what the market says is selling at the moment because writing is also supposed to be enjoyable.
Thank you very much for taking part in this interview!
Thanks for having me! This was fun. 😊
Michelle Lowe’s books are available here on Amazon.com.
You can read an excerpt from Legacy Volume 1 here.
Michelle’s author page on Amazon.com
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