Thursday, April 23, 2009

Interview with Michele Ashman Bell

I've known Michele Ashman Bell for many years, even before she was published.
She is very talented and has a long list of published books to her name. When I became published she was one of the first people I called. She has become my mentor in the LDS publishing world, and I don't know what I would have done without her wisdom to guide me.

I'm thrilled to finally interview her!

Oh and something very important...since this interview she has had another book accepted for publication!!!

What compelled you to write your first book?
First of all, don’t confuse my first “written” book with my first “published” book. I wrote my first book because I had been bitten by the writing bug and came up with a story idea that I thought, at the time, was totally brilliant. I look back at it now and realize how far I’ve come as a writer. It was horrible!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t always believe that I could be a writer, but back in high school I often said I would love to write books. Wanting to be one and believing I could be one was the difference between wishing and putting that dream into action.

Tell us a little bit about your book/s. What are their titles, which are your favorite if you have more than one, and what they are about?
That is a seriously loaded question and I could devote the rest of the week to answering it. I will try and give you the shortened version. To find out about all of my books it probably would be best to visit my web-site where they are listed. http://www.micheleashmanbell.com/. My most recent book, “A Modest Proposal” is one of my most favorite books. I loved the combination of overcoming obstacles, making dreams come true, believing in oneself, and fashion! My first book, “An Unexpected Love” is special to me because it is my first book and I put a lot of my heart into that story. It’s a conversion story and I felt it really captured the essence of a person searching for truth and trying to feel the spirit working in their life. However . . . my truly favorite story is “Without A Flaw” because I loved the growth the main character went through in this story and the strength she possessed at the end!

What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
I don’t really know. I asked myself this question for ten years before I got published. Why am I doing this? I guess it’s because I can’t not write. I love creating, I love imagination, I love stories and I love books. I would still be writing even if I weren’t published because that’s how my mind works. It’s kind of a scary thought, but it keeps the voices in my head quiet when I write.

What about your family? Do you have children, married, siblings, parents? Has your family been supportive of your writing?
I have four children and one grandbaby. I am super, duper, extremely busy with them and it is a grand balancing act to keep everyone happy. My goal as a mom, a wife and a writer, is to never put my writing before my family. I have always been able to do so and feel like it has paid off. I never want my family to resent me for my writing and the time it takes me away from them. They are amazing and very supportive so I’m very blessed.

The main characters of your stories - do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
I’m sure I put some of myself into all my characters, because I write from my heart and that’s how it seems to happen. But I am really good at borrowing emotion and internal conflict from other people, so I don’t have to infuse myself into my characters much. I tell people to be careful what they tell me because it may show up in a book.

Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your own writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
Not really. I admire different authors for different elements but overall I have tried to carve out my own style and not emulate/copy anyone else. I try and reinvent myself with every book so I don’t really fit any specific mold.

When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?
I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child. I devoured those books and read them over and over and over. As a teen I read LaVeryl Spencer books. I loved her stories. Funny, both of those authors write historical and I don’t. I also read Jack Weyland a lot. He was about the only contemporary LDS fiction writer I knew of. Then I discovered Dorothy Keddington and fell in love with Jayhawk.

What about now: who is your favorite author and what is your favorite genre to read?
I don’t really have a favorite author right now. I read what I’m in the mood for at the moment and of course, books that I review for my column on Meridian Magazine. My favorite books to read are biographies. I’m fascinated with people and finding out about them and why they do what they do. My father is a psychologist. I wonder if that has something to do with it.

When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your book/s and writing? What do you hope they will say about you?
I hope they say that I touched people’s live, gave them an escape from their problems, inspired them to have hope and helped them have strength and courage to face their challenges. I hope my obituary says I was a devoted wife and mother and that I served others.

Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm? If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? I grew up in southern Utah. I have used this setting in a couple of books and really love having that as a background and reference point. I now live in a suburb of Salt Lake and enjoy living close to a bigger city, but do not enjoy the snow! If I could live anywhere I would have a summer house in Salzburg, Austria and a winter house in Hawaii.

Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting?
My writing room is a hole. It is in the basement with no windows. I can’t have distractions when I write so it is devoid of anything but my computer and my reference books. It is my haven though and my domain. I don’t like people in there. I’m weird, but it works for me.

Do you watch television? If so, what are your favorite shows? Does television influence of inspire your writing?
I most watch reality TV. I love American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars. I’m an Office fan too. I am thinking of using a reality show in my next book. I don’t think it influences my writing though really.

What about movies?
Same as above. LOVE movies! I really do. My dad ran the projector when I was growing up so I could see movies for free. I am an addict. I do get inspired to write, but not so much with ideas from the movies, just to make up my own stories. I have too many favorite shows to list. I love all genres. My list would be extensive.

Focusing on your most recent (or first) book, tell our readers what genre your book is and what popular author you think your writing style in this book is most like.
I think I am considered a romance writer, but I think of myself as a women’s fiction writer. My stories are based on relationships and women’s issues first. Romance is a natural part of growing up.

Is there anyone you'd like to specifically acknowledge who has inspired, motivated, encouraged or supported your writing?
I have relied up many friends and family members to help me along my journey, but I spent a lot of time on my knees to get strength to go on when I was getting rejection after rejection.

Thinking about your writing career, is there anything you'd go back and do differently now that you have been published?
I would have tried harder in English class and taken creative writing in college. I could have shaved off a few years had I done so, but other than that I wouldn’t change much. The journey was hard but so valuable.

How has having a book published changed your life?
Greatly in some ways and not at all in other ways. I appreciate having fans contact me and telling me that my stories have meant something to them and that they’ve enjoyed my books. I am still astonished that I actually get money for my writing. But, on the other hand, I still clean my own toilets and feel very much like a regular, average wife and mother. I wouldn’t change it. I have never been in this business for fame and fortune.

Many authors have said that naming their characters is a difficult process, almost like choosing a name for their own child. How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your book/s?
I don’t get too attached to names because I’ve had to change them during the editing process. Still, some are important to me and I love it when I can use a name that is special to me. I don’t think naming a character is quite that important to me. I do have a grip on reality still. I think.

Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
I will let you know what’s ahead as soon as I find out the status on my next release which I’ve just submitted. I will post updates regularly on my blog which you can find at http://www.micheleabell.blogspot.com/ and my web-site at http://www.micheleashmanbell.com/. Thanks so much Kathi, this has been a lot of fun!

Here are a couple of other books Michele has written, but go to her website where you can read sample chapters of her many books.

2 comments:

  1. Kathi, thank you so much for the wonderful interview. Your probing questions made me really think! If any of your viewers have any questions or comments, I'd love to have them contact me.

    Thanks again! I am so proud of your accomplishments!

    ReplyDelete

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