In our latest interview, The Indie Mine talks with author Michelle Barclay. Barclay recently published her first novel, the horror story Morrigan’s Shadows. In the interview we discuss her genesis as a writer, what inspired her novel, and some of the valuable lessons that all new writers must learn. I hope you all enjoy.
Michelle, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. You’ve had quite the interesting journey to becoming a writer including leaving high school early, becoming a cook, and moving from coast to coast to coast. When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and what made you finally make that leap?
I knew I wanted to become a writer around the age of ten. I always enjoyed school assignments that involved writing and I was an avid reader. My mother is a poet and I have several writers in my family, so I think it was hardwired into me. However, what made me start writing for the fun of it was my little sister Mindy. We shared a room when I was that age and she used to con me into making up stories for her every night at bedtime. She particularly loved ghost stories and witch stories, so I told a lot of them. Finally, I sat at our desk and started writing them. I think the first written one was called “The Witch’s Hand,” though she might remember a different title.
I finally made the leap to becoming a writer when I got sick about five years ago. I got some awful bug while on vacation that hung around for a few months. I couldn’t keep up with the cooking and was bored at home, so I started writing. I eventually found my niche and found ways to make it a career and I have not stopped since.
In your day-to-day life you write non-fiction, mostly involving history. How does the fictional writing process compare to that?
Writing non-fiction is a careful process. You want to make it your own and include your observations, but you always want to adhere to the facts and find good sources for those facts. You spend most of your time reading. Only a small fraction of what I do is actually writing. I’m always learning and finding the most interesting information for my readers and clients.
Most fiction writing requires very little research, so I am doing much less reading to prepare for a novel. It is also very personal. It is like writing your daydreams on paper and showing them to other people. With non-fiction, I can put what I have out there and discuss the contents of it from an outsider perspective. With fiction, everything about it is me. Everything that happened in that piece first happened in my mind. I guess that is the best way I can describe it.
Which do you prefer and why?
That is a tough question. Each has its own pros and cons. However, if I had to choose between the two, I would choose fiction. Non-fiction is informative and what I write can be helpful, but fiction gives people an escape. If one person reads a novel I have written and finds it engrossing, I have given that one person a story to get lost in and given them enjoyment for however long it took them to read it. Because I cherish the countless novels that have done that for me, but remember only a handful of non-fiction books as providing that, I have to go with fiction.
Well let’s talk about your first fictional novel, Morrigan’s Shadows, which recently made its debut. How would you describe this horror novel?
I would describe it as a horror novel that uses elements of mythology and dreams to allow reality to shift for the protagonist Morrigan. It has themes of romance, loneliness, horror, fear and friendship.
You mentioned earlier about how fictional writing is about the author. What part(s) of Morrigan’s Shadows are you?
Well, the idea for the novel came from my love of writing unreal landscapes into existence. I used to write blurbs about settings that I never made into stories. I would just create oddities. There were no characters, just places that l felt were the characters. In addition, since I was a child, I have had very vivid, seemingly long dreams. At least one of the nightmare sequences in Morrigan’s Shadows takes place in a setting that I frequently revisit in my own dreams. Also, I chose to make Morrigan a chef because I could easily relate to a main character who spends all of her time in a kitchen. It made her more real to me and more like a friend.
I feel like most artists and creative types are hoping to reach their audience by creating a particular connection often through introducing a lesson learned or by evoking a particular emotion. What do you hope your readers get out of Morrigan’s Shadows?
Well, I think the most base emotions I strive to evoke are those associated with fear. If I can get one person to leave the light on just a bit longer, I have done my job. It would be nice for people to be as fascinated by the landscapes in Morrigan’s Shadows as I am, as well.
What was the experience like getting your first fictional novel out there for the world to see?
Oh, it was terrifying. Having people read my fiction to me is like being naked. I actually never intended to publish it. It was just something I wanted to write. Then, someone very dear to me begged me to let him read it for several months. When I finally did, he urged me to publish it and so I went through that process. Now that I have, I am very happy that I did. Even if only one person likes it, I should give him or her the chance to read it, I think.
Well now that you’ve overcome that fear, what else do you feel like you’ve learned from the process that you think will help with future projects?
I put aside Morrigan’s Shadows for six months after the rough draft before I even re-read it. I think that was a good move and I will do that with every novel from here on. It is good to get a fresh perspective before editing and then again before publishing. As for the publishing process, I learned that it can be fun and will go into in the future with more enthusiasm.
I noticed that you’ve already started work on your next novel. Are you ready to reveal any info about it or are the details a secret?
Well, this novel is going to delve into the story of another character that I am excited to write more about. It is going off in quite a different direction, but it is a necessary path to take for this series. I will likely have more to say about it once I am closer to publishing. I am not very good at keeping secrets and if someone is excited to know, I will be excited to tease them with little details, so stay tuned.
Are there any specific authors out there that you feel inspire you as a writer?
Well, I have to go a little cliche here and say Stephen King, firstly. His work ethic is very inspiring. I would love to be as prolific as King some day. Another is Ray Bradbury. To me, Fahrenheit 451 is among the creepiest novels ever written. The feeling of suspense, of seeing a character sneak novels like one would hide away a dirty secret was very thought provoking. I would love to be able to evoke such feelings in a reader. Lastly, Harper Lee. She wrote one novel. One single novel that burned her name into American literature forever. She did not have to write a lot. She just wrote the best. Also, Atticus Finch is my favorite character of all time.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
You are going to have to get to the promoting, editing, slashing, burning and sharing part eventually, but do not rush it. It all starts with writing. Sit down and write. Do not think about where the words are going to end up while you write them. That would be like a midwife stressing about a child’s college fund while bringing it into the world. Focus on your story. Worry about the rest once you have one.
I want to close today by asking is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers who might be interested in checking out Morrigan’s Shadows?
Thank you for checking it out. I enjoyed writing it and hope you enjoy reading it. I do wish it will make you squirm a little at least once.
© 2012 – 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.