AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: MONETTE MICHAELS
We have managed to corner Recommended Read author Monette Michaels for a few minute to chat with us…
What is your most current work out?
My current release is Eye of the Storm, a Security Specialists International book, from Liquid Silver Books. It came out in April, 2010.
Tell us a little about Eye of the Storm and what inspired you to write it?
When I began writing in the late 1990s, I wrote in the area of contemporary romantic suspense/thrillers, but then veered off and crossed genres into paranormal romantic suspense around the year 2000. Since then, I’ve written a lot of paranormal-influenced books both as Monette Michaels and as Rae Morgan. After finishing Prime Obsession, I wanted to do something different, give myself a break from paranormal and scifi world-building. So, I decided to go back to my writing roots. Since I love romantic thrillers with ex-Special Forces heroes, I decided to write a stand-alone. Much to my surprise, this whole group of guys rose up and demanded I make this a series. With so many hot spots in the world today, it’s easy to come up with story lines for my SSI men.
Eye of the Storm is the first book in the Security Specialists International series. SSI is a private security organization that troubleshoots for private clients including many governments. These are the guys who go into a third-world country to rescue a corporate executive or shut down a terrorist plot or drug smuggling when a government can’t or won’t.
In Eye of the Storm, Keely Walsh, the brainy and gutsy sister of one of the SSI operatives, comes across information, while doing a contract job for NSA, which indicates her brother is in danger on an op in South America. Since her Marine dad and her other brothers are deployed elsewhere, she decides to travel to Argentina and warn her brother and his team. When she gets there, all hell breaks loose – - and the danger isn’t all from the bad guys. She meets Ren Maddox, an alpha-male, who like her dad and five brothers, wants to encase her in bubble-wrap and Kevlar in order to protect her from everything, including herself. The mating dance between her and Ren is combustible and, at times, funny.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
I have the first scene in my head and a general idea of where I am going plus some of the important plot points in between, and then I sit and just write. My characters will dictate which direction to take and how to get from plot point to plot point. This works for me much better than doing a detailed outline. I tried that early on and found I always veered off the outline and wasted too much time trying to make the outline fit what I was writing. I pretty much gave up on outlines after my second book (Death Benefits, which is out of print).
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
Taking the second questions first: I consider everything I write as a romantic suspense/thriller since all my stories have a main plot line which involves external conflict, fast pacing and the reader knows the villain up front. From that base, I cross genres all over the damn place – paranormal, sci-fi, contemporary and erotic romance. Thus, I’d say I have stayed true to my romantic suspense beginnings.
My inspiration to write romantic suspense were the books of Mary Stewart. In 1963, I read Moonspinners and was hooked. Oddly enough, Mary Stewart, while considered a romantic suspense author, won her biggest awards in the mystery field (she won two Edgars from The Mystery Writers of America). After I read everything she wrote (she was still living and writing when I was a teenager), I then moved on to Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell and others like them when they wrote for Silhouette and Harlequin. I then followed them as they transitioned to mainstream hard covers and New York Times Best Seller status. Those ladies are still my go-to romantic suspense authors.
I know you are still working at one of those pesky day jobs. Do you plan to keep the day career or do you want to write full time?
My day job runs in spurts since I am an independent arbitrator and I work when I am appointed to cases. It’s a perfect job for a writer since I often have weeks at a time when I only have prehearing telephonic conferences. The problem is when I do end up issuing an order or award I slip back into legal-speak and have to watch anything creative I write after that, because the more formal language of an arbitrator tends to take over.
Would I like to write full time? Yes. Probably won’t happen, though.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
That’s a hard question. Can I cop out and say all of them? LOL
If I have to choose one, I’d say Daniel Radford, the male secretary to Abigail Gooden in
The Virtuous Vampire. He is a minor character, but I based him on my former legal secretary who died of AIDs. The real D was just as funny and strong as Abbie’s D and kept me on my toes and on time. I still miss him to this day. When I write scenes with Daniel in them, I can hear and see my D.
Do you have a character that you look back on now and don’t like as much as you did when you first wrote it?
No. I can absolutely say I’d write each character in just the same way.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
Yes, as I noted above, Abbie’s gay male legal secretary was based on my own legal secretary.
As for other characters, the quote “kill all the lawyers” could apply to many of my villains. I use the real life characteristics of trial lawyers I’ve gone up against to create some of my nastier bad guys. One trial attorney of my acquaintance I’ve had the figurative pleasure of killing off three times. He wouldn’t recognize himself in my fictional villains. In fact, I am pretty sure he’d be surprised to learn I considered him a thorn in my side. Anyway, it has been very cathartic.
And many of my other characters probably gain traits from people I don’t even know, but have seen or overheard at one time or another. I am an indefatigable people watcher.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I wanted to be a marine geologist even though I am from landlocked Indiana and had never seen a body of water greater than Lake Michigan until I went to law school. LOL
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Reading. I’d read all day, every day. I love reading.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
My life has to be fairly calm. I never really realized that important factor until the last few years with my husband retiring and the subsequent downsizing of our home, getting my son away to college and then him moving back, and parenting elderly parents through several moves from assisted living to full-care facilities and then through to their deaths.
While I had ideas for books, and even started several, I could never get the rhythm needed to make it past that first wall.
Don’t get me wrong, I can write when I am busy – - and I am always busy, that is just me – - but I absolutely cannot write while dealing with one major crisis after another. It is a telling point that I didn’t write my first book (in the late 90s) until after I quit practicing law full-time and began working as a mediator and arbitrator. I guess dealing with other people’s crises on a daily basis sucked the creative energy right out of me.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Very much so. I don’t have one song per book; instead, I have a Writing Songs Playlist on my iPod. I use it when I write all of my books. Some of the groups featured are Metallica, Nickelback, Three Days Grace, Evanescence, Hurt, Breaking Benjamin, and other similar types. I guess you could call it a mix of heavy metal and dark alternative to evocative alternative. I am not a happy-happy song person.
If your story (pick whichever one/ones you want to use) was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
I usually have a type in my mind when I write, but don’t really go to the effort of picking real people I’d like to see in the role. For example, Eye of the Storm, Ren is a tall, athletic male with dark good looks. Maybe Hugh Jackman? Keely is a small, but curvy, strawberry blonde. A Reese Witherspoon type, although I couldn’t see her playing the role. I’d be a lousy casting director.
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
That was sooo long ago, I’ll have to guess. Most likely in my den at the computer since it was an e-book contract with an e-publisher who hasn’t existed since the early 2000s. My husband and then my crit buddies at that time (Cheri and Skully, love you both to this very day).
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
I was 11 – and it was Mary Stewart’s Moonspinners. Pretty tame on the romance, but the action was fabulous. The book was way better than the Disney movie based on it.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I am almost finished with the sequel to The Virtuous Vampire in my Gooden and Knight paranormal mystery series. The title is The Deadly Seance, and all the characters from the first book are returning and I will be adding a love interest for hunky Austin Homicide Detective Sam Adams.
The next book to be written is a tossup between the second book in the Prime Chronicles trilogy (Huw and Nadia’s book) and the second book in the Security Specialists International series (Vanko’s book). Both first books in these series have received great reviews and sales and lots of fan mail asking when the next one will be out. And that makes me very happy, but I can only write so fast.
Vanko’s book is started and is tentatively titled Weather the Storm. Huw and Nadia’s story will be titled Prime Selection, and is not started although there are logical plot threads to pick up from the first book Prime Obsession. With three series, I need to be on a three-book-a-year pace, but right now I seem to be on a two-book-a-year pace. With a few more months needed to get back to a calm routine, I hope to correct my writing pace by the end of 2010. God willing and the creek don’t rise (as we Hoosiers say).
Where can readers find you?
Website: www.monettemichaels.com (Also includes Rae Morgan)
Blog: Romantic Imperative, http://romanticimperative.wordpress.com/
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Neuhaus Belgian milk chocolate, any of them with hazelnuts, and they have a bunch that have hazelnuts and hazelnut ganache, and hazelnut praline and … well, you get the picture. These are the creamiest chocolates I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. Since I can’t find them in Indiana, I default to Cadbury milk chocolate with hazelnuts. The Belgian chocolate is far superior, but when I need a chocolate and hazelnut fix, I take what I can get.
Thanks so much for having me – and thanks for making Eye of the Storm a Recommended Read.