The first book in the Faxinor Chronicles ends with Andrixine announcing she’s pregnant. There’s a big problem that needs settling: Andrixine is the Sword Bearer, charged with the defense of the kingdom of Reshor. She’s already made a number of enemies, both personal and political. Finding out the most powerful warrior in the land is pregnant opens the door to opportunities for ambush by enemies. Lorien is the quintessential lady. At one point in the story, the two sisters talk and Andrixine basically says that Lorien got to be their mother’s daughter because she, the heir, was busy learning everything necessary to run the estate -- to essentially be their father’s “son.” Lorien loves politics and courtly manners, knowing the right curtsey and address, singing and dancing and all the fussy little details that would make her sister pick up a sword and start swinging. Lorien is the perfect person to send to play all the political games of court and befuddle and distract all the people who would cause her sister trouble, both ambassadors and adversaries on the king’s council.
Andrixine heads to the mountains that are the border between Reshor and their ancient enemy, Sendorland, ostensibly to patrol during the winter -- and hide her pregnancy -- Lorien heads in the opposite direction, to the capital, to play political games. She believes herself ready to do whatever it takes to protect her sister and her kingdom. Of course, the book is about the obstacles thrown in her path, and the bitter lessons she learns while growing spiritually and emotionally. And of course, falling in love.
Does music help you write?
Definitely. I buy soundtracks for movies that I love, and try to play music that fits the mood of whatever I’m trying to rough draft at the time. When I sat down to write for National Novel Writing Month, I bought two new soundtracks -- iTunes is a dangerous place, because it’s instant gratification. I bought “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Star Trek.” The soundtrack for the reboot of the entire series. Great music. Fun. I need music to drown out the distractions sometimes -- I am essentially the aide to my physically handicapped brother, so my office is in the loft of his condo, and I’m there all day to help him with things. So when his TV is going or he’s playing video games or talking on the phone, I slap the headphones on, plug into my iPad or computer, and slide into my own world. Playing soundtracks helps release the creative side and helps drown out the internal editor that wants to criticize every sentence I write. Rough drafts just need to flow. I need to get the images in my head out there, and not worry about whether what people are doing makes any sense until later. Funny thing is, if I manage to silence the internal editor and just follow my ideas and constantly asking, “What if …” I usually find that the rough draft works together really well, and needs only minimal tweaking. Music gets me into the right mental and emotional and creative state to tap into the story that’s waiting to be told.
How do you find the time to write?
I try as much as possible to reserve mornings for me, for writing or revising. Afternoons and evenings are for the “day job.” I’m a freelance editor for several publishers, as well as editing other writers. After a long day of making someone else’s words make sense, my creativity and energy are drained, so I have to save the mornings, with all my energy, for ME.
There’s no such thing as “finding” time to write, because if you wait for it to appear in front of you, for it to fall open in your schedule or for your family and friends and obligations to kindly set aside time for you … ain’t gonna happen! You have to steal the time to write. You have to carve it out and fiercely protect it. You have to make writing and the time to do it a priority, because that’s just the way the world works: whatever you value, someone somewhere is going to immediately set out to deprive you of it. Someone somewhere is going to try to make you feel guilty for wanting an hour to yourself. You have to decide what your priorities are, and you have to make sacrifices. Granted, some sacrifices are easier than others, such as choosing writing over exercising, or writing over cleaning the house <G> but someone is going to criticize you for choosing writing over meeting Mr. Right, or taking on yet another committee at church or volunteering to bake and run a bake sale at your kids’ school or working at VBS and Sports Camp and being counselor at summer camp. Know what I mean? Steal the time. Carve it out. Protect it. If you can, hire some mercenaries to stand at your door and keep away the rest of the world. Eventually, all the people who think they have more right to your time than you do will start to get the message. They won’t like it, but it’ll be their problem, not yours.
Do you type or write by hand? Computer? Typewriter? Legal pad? Any special reason for choosing to write this way?
I usually have a notepad with me somewhere -- my purse, next to my bed, on the coffee table. This is the extent of the “hand” writing that I do. I then file the notes in OneNote -- I have folders by genre or by the “universe” or series that I’m writing in, then sub-folders for the various books within the series. I also am trying to assemble “guidebooks” both to help me keep details straight for subsequent books featuring the same characters/places/groups, and hopefully to have something to offer readers. Guidebooks to various universes or series, for people who want to know about the other books available, or want to find out if a favorite character shows up in another book -- or favorite characters have descendants, that sort of thing. These all go into OneNote.
At some point, I have enough notes to put together an outline so I have an idea of where the story is going, and I know I can get to the ending that I have in mind. If I haven’t actually written anything in the book except the outline, I try to write the first draft on my AlphaSmart Neo. When I’m really organized -- which doesn’t happen much anymore! -- I take the first hour of the morning after my devotions just for rough draft writing on the Neo. However, if I have scenes or I’m revising a fan story I wrote years ago, or I’m adapting something else, say a series of short stories that I’m turning into a full-length book, or turning a screenplay into a book, then I write on the computer.
I hardly write anything longhand anymore, mostly because my brain works a lot faster than my handwriting, and my handwriting is atrocious. I used to just throw handwritten notes into folders and envelopes, and then when it came time to write the book I would transcribe the notes, but I learned it was a waste of time to do it that way -- my handwriting is so bad, sometimes I can’t figure out what I wrote. I have to transcribe the notes into the computer within a couple days of making the notes.
Do you archive everything you write?
Do you mean do I save everything I write? Absolutely. I did throw out the first few books and short stories I wrote because they were so absolutely wretched, and I didn’t want them found in my files when I died. Hey, vanity rears its ugly head … Anyway, I do save everything now. There have been some hand-written things I have looked for, to put them in the computer, and I can’t find them. There’s a Star Trek novel I would love to adapt, that I can fit into my Commonwealth Universe. I can’t find it -- it was stored on four legal-size pads. However, other things have survived, and been adapted. For instance, a Star Trek fan novel that I self-published for the fan market has been turned into a book in a new universe I’ve created called the Seed Worlds. There are fanzine stories that are so old, there are no computer files for them. I intend to scan the fanzine pages into the computer someday and adapt those stories -- I have no idea what universe they will fit into, of if I have to create a new universe for them to fit in, but they are in my bookcase and I will use them someday.
Off the top of my head, I do think I will use some of them soon. I am writing a book in Wattpad, where I rough draft a chapter every weekend. Right now, I’m working on a humorous pseudo-memoir called “The Old Broads Reunion Tour,” about a group of friends who met in fandom and wrote stories together. I’m going to copy some of my fan stories into the finished book, changing them somewhat, and label them the stories the four friends wrote together. So … nothing is every wasted!
Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
The short answer is yes, I’ve resurrected projects that I stopped in the middle of writing, or projects that are just folders full of notes or partial scenes. Some books were abandoned partway through because I started writing them without knowing where I was going, or I was so excited with the images in my head and then the energy died within a chapter or two -- or, as happens a lot lately, I have to put the project aside because I have a deadline, a contract book, or a very heavy schedule of editing work to do. There’s only so much time in the day, and it seems as I get older, days get shorter!
Case in point: I have a tendency to write stories that aren’t connected at all, and yet as time goes on I get these “brilliant” (at least, I think so) flashes of “Hey, this connects to that,” and I put different stories together into universes -- or in the case of my Tabor books, towns. I had the idea of creating a whole series of adventures for my heroine, Rhea Jones, from my Writers of the Future winning short story, “Relay.” Well, I realized there was a “history” hiding in the shadows, for the various people she runs into, a vast organization that she gets involved with. I realized that some other stories I had written dovetailed into what I needed. Wildvine County was born. When I stopped rough drafting the books, I had 19-1/4. Now, 20 or 25+ years later, I am pulling the books out of my dusty computer files and will be revising -- massively, drastically -- and sending them to my faithful, long-suffering publisher, Writers Exchange of Australia.
What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
Westerns, most likely. I don’t really enjoy watching them -- yeah, I know, high treason not to like John Wayne or Roy Rogers. I did somewhat enjoy the Lone Ranger, but I much prefer things like Zorro, Robin Hood, the Scarlet Pimpernel, if you’re looking for historical heroes. If I ever tried writing something that seemed somewhat Western, it would turn into a fantasy, time travel, something like that. The closest I’m getting to Western is a Steampunk I’m trying to sell right now. Post-Civil War. But of course, it has a strong fantasy element to it, with some time travel -- evil scientists from far in the future tried to go back in time to either stop Bethlehem or Calvary, devote Christians with the technology followed them back in time to try to stop them. They ended up in a parallel history world, two secret societies constantly battling through the centuries -- one trying to rebuild the machine and try again, the other trying to keep them from finding the pieces of the machine. But that’s about as close as I’ll ever come to a Western -- and it certainly isn’t a “real” Western!
How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Three: Trying to finish the first draft of “Hoax, Inc.,” part of my Neighborlee series.
My Wattpad weekly project, “The Old Broads Reunion Tour.”
Doing second revisions of my Commonwealth Universe story, “Nova Vendetta, Part I: The Injustice.” Think the pirate movie, “Captain Blood,” in a science fiction setting.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
My next release is “BWU Stories,” part of my Tabor Heights series. It was originally to be three short stories, but I only wrote two, and they were long enough to fill up a book. BWU is the university in the town of Tabor Heights -- Butler Williams University. The first story starts just before Christmas break begins, where the heroine finds out her semester abroad has been canceled due to the criminal activities of her teacher. She has no funds, lost her scholarship, and has been tainted by association with him. Thanks to friends at church who are on the faculty at BWU, she gets transferred and starts her academic career all over. She becomes friends with the heroine of the second story, which takes place during the summer term, and appears in that story as well. So, it’s called “BWU Stories” because they take place on campus and deal with students.
After that is the next Quarry Hall book, “Charli.” Quarry Hall is a sister or parallel series with Tabor Heights, following the adventures of young women who work for a philanthropic foundation, putting themselves in danger rescuing the “little people” and undergoing spiritual challenges and growth.
Thanks for sharing with us, Michelle!
Connect with Michelle Levigne at:
Michelle Levigne is giving away a copy of Lorien. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.