Tuesday

Kindle Author Interview: Lynn Michaels

Lynn Michaels, author of Nightwing, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Nightwing?

LYNN MICHAELS: Nightwing is a vampire story, my take on the undead. I love vampires. Fangs, black silk capes, children of the night—bring it on! My fingers were itching to write a vampire story. The challenge was coming up with a fresh and clever twist. One hit me when I started wondering what happens to the soul when a human being is turned into a vampire?

The answer left me with two heroes: Raven the vampire, and Johnny, his disembodied soul, or as Raven calls him, his Shade. That was tricky, two heroes. I kept some of the conventions about vampires and changed up some others to help me, and the heroine, Willow, reunite Raven and Johnny over the course of the story. Apparently, I did a good job with that. When the book came out (Nightwing was originally published by Harlequin Temptation and was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award) I received tons of letters from readers asking me where and how I’d discovered all that cool stuff about vampires. I wrote back that I’d made it up. I hope they weren’t disappointed. That’s my motto for research: if you can’t look it up, make it up.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

LYNN MICHAELS: I spend a lot of time, weeks, months, however long it takes, to develop my characters before I start writing. I begin with names. William Gass said, and I’m paraphrasing, that a character is the noise of his name. Raven says dark and mysterious, which he is, very dark. Johnny just sounds like a nice guy, the kinder, gentler half. Willow is pretty, delicate, but tough. A willow bends but doesn’t break. The arch vampire in Nightwing is Nekhat, an ancient Egyptian science experiment that went very, very wrong. Nekhat even scared me a couple of times. If I pick the right name and do my homework, my characters, their conflicts and goals develop from there. They define and differentiate themselves. I just type as fast as I can to keep up with them!

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

LYNN MICHAELS: That’s a great question, David. Most writers tend to write what they love to read. I love romance, romantic suspense, Gothic romances (I’m playing around with one), mystery, fantasy and anything paranormal, so I’d say that my ideal reader is someone who enjoys a good story with everything thrown into it but the kitchen sink. In Nightwing I mixed vampires, ghosts and pirates. A couple of my books were tough sells because they overlapped genres, but I hung in there and ultimately got lucky.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

LYNN MICHAELS: I started writing in sixth grade when my class formed a writers club. At the end of the year everybody quit but me. I wrote every day after school. Every story had a girl and a boy and a horse in it. I wrote longhand on notebook paper through junior high and high school. When I finished a story I put in a folder with brads in the spine, took it to school and passed it around to my friends. I was self-publishing. LOL. In college I studied English. For a creative writing assignment I turned in part of Remembrance, my first book for Harlequin. My professor said it would make a “nice little romance novel.” I had no idea what a romance novel was then.

By the time our two sons were in elementary school I had boxes and boxes of stories in the basement. My husband Michael told me if I didn’t do something with them he was going to turn them into wallpaper. I signed up for a course in writing fantasy, that was my dream, but it closed due to low enrollment so I took a course in romance writing instead. The instructor was a published romance author. She recommended the story I wrote for the class to her agent. The agent took me on and sold the book, Like A Lover to Avon for their Velvet Glove romantic suspense line.

So my writing career is all Michael’s fault. When I sold to Avon he warned me never to dedicate a book to him so I stole his name instead for my pseudonym.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

LYNN MICHAELS: Slow, because I’m a nitpicker and a perfectionist, but I’ve sped up since I discovered Dragon Naturally Speaking, a voice-recognition software program. I call my version HAL, after the Hal 9000 computer that runs amok in 2001: A Space Odyssey because HAL learns. The more I use the program the smarter it gets; it’s really kind of freaky. I use HAL for first drafts. As fast as I type, I talk even faster. What I like most about HAL is that he stuffs a sock in the mouth of the editor on my shoulder. Before Miss Priss (that’s what I call her) can open her mouth to criticize HAL and I have moved on.

I start writing first thing in the morning. If I don’t, I won’t write. That’s because it’s easier not to write than it is to write. I knock off at two or three in the afternoon and do laundry, clean up around here and start dinner. In the evenings I read, maybe edit a bit on the WIP, work on blog posts and catch up on email.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

LYNN MICHAELS: My favorites, and that’s a long list, topped at the moment by James Lee Burke and Elizabeth Berg. New authors I discover, like Sarah Addison Allen; she’s another kitchen sink writer, and I adore her books. I just read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter a mystery by Tom Franklin and loved it! Beautifully written, and he kept me guessing.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

LYNN MICHAELS: Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg. Wonderful story and wonderful characters.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

LYNN MICHAELS: What? I’m supposed to do that, too? Seriously, not as well as I could or should, I’m sure. I’m not comfortable tooting my own horn. I try to keep up my blog, Lip Service. I tweet when I think I have something to say that’s worth hearing. Lynn Michaels has a Facebook page that since FB came out with their new pages I can’t even find except through my website. Blogging is fun, I enjoy it, but it cuts into my writing time. I’m told I should become active in the Amazon Communities and on the Kindleboards. I’ve looked at them, read the threads, and haven’t got a clue where to start. My kids are appalled that I don’t even know how to send a text message—that may be why I’m cowed. I belong to Backlist eBooks, a wonderfully supportive group of published authors. We’re all trying to learn this stuff together.

DAVID WISEHART: You’ve been traditionally published. Why self-publish on Kindle?

LYNN MICHAELS: In one word, freedom—from deadlines imposed by someone else, from the stress of the hurry-up-and-wait game: wait for my agent to read the new proposal, wait for an editor to read the new proposal, wait for the contract, wait for the money, wait for the editor to read the finished manuscript. Ay-yi-yi. Traditionally published authors waste an incredible amount of time waiting—which means readers do, too, waiting for their favorite author’s next book.

For me, self-publishing is freedom from worrying that I’ve gone too far this time and mixed one too many elements. I can write what I want to write, the way I want to write it, without that sword hanging over my head. If I go too far, if I fail to deliver a good story, readers will tell me directly in reviews and in emails. I enjoyed my career with New York publishers. I’m grateful to them and the terrific editors I was fortunate enough to work with and learn from.

I’m having more fun putting my backlist titles up on Kindle and writing new stuff than I’ve had in years. For instance: an idea for a Christmas novella hit me two weeks before Thanksgiving. It was a crunch, but I wrote The Cat Before Christmas and got it up on Kindle on December 20th. New York wouldn’t have touched it because one of the main characters is a Siamese cat. The story wouldn’t have worked without Wiki’s point of view. Since I published it myself I didn’t have to worry about an editor shooting that down. I wrote the story my way and had an absolute blast.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

LYNN MICHAELS: Write the best possible book you can. If you’re writing a novel, think it through before you start. Make sure the story holds together and that your characters are sympathetic, meaning likeable. You can get away with just about anything if readers believe in your characters. For a first book I recommend a professional editor. I have a critique circle, friends that are also published authors. We read and edit for each other. This is invaluable because as you’re writing the book you become emotionally involved with your characters. A dispassionate reader can catch things that you might miss, like inconsistencies in the story, continuity breaks and bad transitions. Most importantly, believe in yourself, your characters and your story.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynn Michaels, a 3-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award, has written 16 novels and 1 novella for Avon, Dell, Fawcett, Harlequin Temptation, St. Martin’s Press and Ballantine. Lynn has also won two awards from Romantic Times Magazine, New Romantic Suspence Author (yes, it’s misspelled) and Best Contemporary Romance of 2002.

Lynn’s first original Kindle story is The Cat Before Christmas. Her Western historical novella Once Struck (originally published by St. Martin’s) will be available in April on Kindle. Lynn is also working on a Gothic for Kindle, another Christmas novella and a sequel to her two Regency titles, Captain Rakehell and The Duke’s Downfall.

Otherwise, her life it pretty much like yours. She cleans her own house, does the grocery shopping and the laundry and pumps her own gas.

Visit her website, read her blog, find her on facebook, and follow her on twitter.

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