Michelle Magley

AJ:  I publish with a small publishing company called Desert Palm Press. We started out less than a year ago. With the exception of SL Kassidy and I who live not too far from each other, but have never met, our little band of authors come from different countries, and none of us knows the others well. In an effort to get to know my fellow authors a bit better, this week I’m featuring two other Desert Palm Press authors. In this interview today, I am featuring Michelle Magley. I hope you will enjoy getting to know a little more about her.

Welcome. I met our publisher Lee Fitzsimmons when she was functioning as a Beta Reader. Lee helped me with my first book, Sunset Island. She had great faith in my book and in me. When she established Desert Palm Press, she called me and offered me a contract for the Friends Series (Sunset Island, The Interim, Awaiting My Assignment, and Anything Your Heart Desires.) How did you come to publish with Desert Palm Press?

MM: That’s a good question to start with, I think. And thanks for doing these interviews. They’re an excellent way to get to know the whole team. Over a year ago, I started writing with Rae D. Magdon in my spare time. She and I eventually got to working on an old project of hers, All The Pretty Things, and finished up for publication in July of 2013. A few months later, Lee sent Rae an email congratulating her on the success of All The Pretty Things along with an invitation to come write for Desert Palm Press. In the following discourse, I sort of jumped onto the bandwagon. While I started out as Rae’s coauthor, I’m now happily working on an independently written manuscript for Desert Palm Press.

AJ: Let’s start with a couple of easy questions: 

Light or dark chocolate?

Favorite color?

Dogs or cats?

MM: Milk chocolate, always, though something about dark chocolate with mint is absolutely divine. And I suppose my favorite color is green, but I like earth tones overall, and I sadly cannot choose between dogs or cats. I have an adorable orange tabby cat that sleeps on my lap while I write, but I’ve always loved dogs as well.

AJ: Check out my Facebook page for pictures of my two cats. Our seventeen year old kitty just passed, and we got a new kitten. Introducing the two of them has been an adventure. However, I digress. Tell us a bit about Dark Horizons.

MM: It’s a science fiction erotic novel, if you want the short version. Rae and I wrote each other back and forth with a lot of scenes between a couple characters. One day, we had enough to stitch together a whole novel. As proud as I am of Dark Horizons, I look forward to the sequel we’ll be working on this summer. Dark Horizons is a sci-fi that takes place in the future, on Earth, and about as far away from aliens and super-technology as you can get. While one of the main characters, Taylor, falls in love with an alien, Maia, there isn’t as much world building as you’d expect in a sci-fi novel. I think Dark Horizonssets the scene for an exploration of this vast world, and I’m excited to dive into it again. While the first novel is heavy on romantic interludes between the two main characters, the second one will shift some of the focus onto world-building and plot development. The ending sort of leaves a big mess for the characters to resolve, and they have to deal with the consequences.

AJ: Do you have another book you are working on, and can you tell us about when it’ll be released? Will it be individually authored or written with Rae Dawn Magdon?

MM: I’ve already mentioned the sequel to Dark Horizons. We don’t have a release date for that, yet. I am finishing a second draft of an individually authored novel, Warrior, which is book one in a series I have settled to name Chronicles of Osota because I could think of nothing else. This novel is a bit different from anything else I’ve worked on with Rae. For one, it’s a fantasy novel. The romance is not the overwhelming focus of the story. It shares the stage with war and political intrigue. Right now, we’re hoping to publish it in June, but our publisher, Lee Fitzsimmons, has the final say of when that will happen, though I’ve had some readers pestering me for more information about it already. On the surface, the story offers that classic uprooting of the “princess” story, but I think the story’s point, for me anyways, comes down to a person’s need to find harmony between duty and love. I’m sure there are other messages in there. I guess I’ll have to wait for my readers to report back on those, right?

AJ: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

MM: Well, Warrior has a grueling mountain-climbing section (as all fantasy novels should) that I drew a lot of inspiration from the local mountain ranges here in Alaska. Whenever I got stuck, I’d go on a hike and just think of my characters making camp in certain places. I’d imagine the love interests running away to steal a kiss somewhere. I’d think about how best to split up the boring, mundane task of walking with exciting events that could occur while on a trek.

I’d also have to say that one of the book’s themes, balancing duty and love, comes from a personal place. I struggled a lot with finding a balance between my work life and my personal life. My partner is a very understanding woman to put up with my schedule, which used to only include downtime when I was asleep. Over the years, I’ve grown to recognize that we need time with the people we love, and we need to make time for them, and so I think that translated onto the page in Senri and Alina’s relationship. They’re both women who struggle with larger responsibilities that conflict with their personal desires.

AJ: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

MM: I loved writing (*spoiler alert*) a drinking song that the characters make up about Senri over the course of the novel. I actually have all the verses written out somewhere. After the novel is published in June, my partner and I want to record it and make it available for fans to listen to, just for a laugh. It’s completely ridiculous. It exaggerates her feats of heroism, her talents in bed, all the things you’d expect a bawdy tavern song to do (*end spoiler alert*).

In Dark Horizons, I really enjoyed a scene where Taylor and Maia are reading Pride and Prejudice. There’s just something about making your main characters read regency era literature that’s charming. If I had more time to work with the manuscript, I might have incorporated that in as a running joke with the characters rather than have it appear just one time.

AJ: How did you come up with the title?

MM: I ran out of options and time? I’m terrible at thinking up titles, honestly. I’m just the worst. I thought of Warrior because the series focuses on a different protagonist in every book. This first one focuses on Senri, a member of the Warriors, which are a group of fighters that serve the kingdom. The next book focuses on a thief and a jail warden, so I don’t know how I’ll title that one, but I figured sticking to one noun would be easier than thinking up something more elegant sounding.

Dark Horizons is another story. The book was ready to be sent off to the press, but we didn’t have a title. Rae and I threw that one together because we thought it made sense, thematically. The book is about a doomed romance. Their future is unsure, and the metaphor of a dark horizon fit with that naturally.

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to?

MM: Since I’ve mentioned a sequel to Dark Horizons, I will say that the sequel focuses on Taylor and Maia as well as Rachel. I actually want the story to open from Rachel’s perspective, but we’ll see what happens. I also have ideas for a couple new characters, but I don’t want to give too much away.

Warrior is hard to talk about in terms of this question. While my characters will be mentioned in the series, they’ll be more like guest stars when they appear.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

MM: For me, personally, it is my problem with passive voice. I’ve been trained as an academic writer since day one. When I’m not writing fiction, I do academic research. That field is rife with passive sentence structure, even though critics try to weed it out. Because of this, my fiction can be vague or hard to get through in some points, or even downright nonsensical if the structure is bad enough.

In my work with Rae, our biggest criticism has been that we write too much sex, not enough plot, and that we rely on flat tropes instead of real characters. Now, that’s only a few people who say that. A lot of people love our work. But those critics do have some valid concerns. It’s really hard to find a balance between fully realized characters and plot when you’re trying to pump in the amount of sex that people expect from erotic fiction. At the other end of the spectrum, people get mad at us for having plot obstruct the characters and their sex scenes. It’s a double-edged sword, and you can’t please both crowds, I think. That does not mean I’ll stop trying. I think there’s a way to make that method work, though I tend to rely on the more traditional romance novel structure in my own, individual works.

What has been your greatest compliment as an author? 

MM: While writing a free-to-read story, a fan once told me that she loved how my characters and the world they lived in were not obsessed with the fact that two girls (read: not a man and woman) wanted to be together. The story was about two people in love, and homophobia was not a barrier to that. She told me she was tired of people relying on that tired trope of “I’m a girl in love with a girl! It’s wrong, but feels so right!” I think it doesn’t do anyone any favors to focus on the gender of the two characters. I mean, it’s lesbian fiction. The point is that they are two women. When you make the characters freak out about it, someone reading these stories over and over might just start believing that same-sex relationships are weird, when they are just as normal as any other relationship. It honored me that she noticed and appreciated my attempt to make homosexuality a non-issue.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

MM: Keep writing. I teach in real life, and my students sometimes wonder how I’m able to think up sentences on the spot. I tell them it’s because I write 1000 words a day. Honestly, it’s the best way to get better. And share your work! Get in classes, post it online. Don’t hoard it away. Get people to read it. One thing I find extremely troubling about the world of writing is how quick editors, other writers, and agents are to say that most writers will make nothing of themselves. That’s not the case. Writers can be successful just as long as they are saying something readers want to know about. If you are having a dialogue with your audience, if someone loves the stuff you’re producing, then you are a successful writer.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

MM: Don’t listen to those folks who say you can’t make money as a writer. It’s the journalist career and education field that’s going to dry up.

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

MM: I’d love to meet Hannah Hart and just have a discussion with her about books. She found her success through her own path, not on the big screen or with a large agency. I feel like that’s the path that many artists walk these days, and I think she’s done a great thing by keeping such an open dialogue with her audience and fans.

Describe yourself in a single sentence?

MM: I am a ridiculously young teacher and indie writer who wants to do too much with her life.

AJ: If your fans want to follow you and your work, where can they do this? 

MM: My fans can keep in touch with me through twitter @MichelleMagly or on Tumblr at michellemagly.tumblr.com. I also have a website, www.writemichellemagly.wordpress.com that I swear I will start updating regularly one day. Thank you so much for the interview!

AJ: It was my pleasure.


You can find information about Michelle's books here:  Amazon

© JEN 2014