“Accidental” is cannibalized from a contemporary romance I wrote several years before and put aside, knowing it needed a lot of work. The aspects of two people meeting, attracted to each other, and having a lot of circumstances keep trying to push them apart, is pretty much unchanged from the original. Where the first story idea came from … it’s so long ago, I can’t remember the source.
Abby and Tyler were both created as secondary characters for other Tabor Heights stories -- I introduced them in previous stories, specifically “Common Grounds” and “The Second Time Around.” I was lucky when I published the 1st year of Tabor Heights in that I was able to have most of the stories either rough drafted already or strongly outlined, so I could decide what happened in other people’s stories as they intersected throughout the whole year of Tabor Heights books. After that it was a simple matter of deciding what characters would appear in and influence the events of “Accidental,” and then adapting the original rough drafted story.
What started you on your writing journey?
I’m a daydreamer. I can remember wanting books I read and TV episodes I watched to keep going, so I would add characters and new problems for the main characters to deal with. It was essentially what people do with fan fiction -- and yes, I belonged to a Star Trek club at one time and we wrote lots of Trek fan fiction. I came close to writing “Mary Sue” stories -- essentially, a homely girl everybody else overlooks, but she’s smart and she impresses Kirk or Spock -- or both of them -- and by the time she saves the Enterprise, he or both of them have fallen in love with her. Fortunately, I never wrote a genuine “Mary Sue.” My characters, if they encountered the crew of the Enterprise, usually got adopted by Dr. McCoy and they wanted to get off the Enterprise as fast as they could!
Anyway, my daydreaming turned into a really bad habit, and interfered with studying. This is a bad thing when you’re attending a college preparatory private school -- you need to study and pass exams. I had tried writing stories before, and they always died when I attempted putting them on paper, so I took the current daydream that was taking over my life and wrote it down … and kept writing. That was more than 35 years ago. The rest is history.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!)
I like fantasy and humor, especially when they’re mixed. I like danger and heroics and adventure. I like modern day stories with an element of not-quite-normal. This could be due to falling in love with the Chronicles of Narnia when I was in maybe 3rd or 4th grade -- we had an illustrated Sunday school paper that had a chapter from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe every week, and I liked that sense that there could be magic just around the corner. I like the silliness of the Janet Evanovich/Stephanie Plum books, and the totally weirdness of British humor in the Discworld books (a fantasy world, an actual disc that floats through space on the backs of four elephants perched on the back of a giant turtle) as well as the Harry Potter books and even more, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books. I like the Theodosia books by R.L. LaFevers, the 500 Kingdoms books by Mercedes Lackey (revising fairy tales, with magic and faerie godmothers and people having to deal with all the “traditions” of faerie tales that are trying to take over their lives). I like some of the YA books out there dealing with magic, and that has an influence on what I’m writing. I also like Camy Tang’s Sushi series, Kristen Billerbeck’s Spa Girls series, and the Sisterchicks books by Robin Jones Gunn. I read a very interesting book a little while ago that I got from Barnes & Noble when I was checking out their Free Book Friday offering. This one was called “No Dawn for Men,” and dealt with J.R.R. Tolkein meeting up with a young Ian Fleming and doing some espionage behind enemy lines in pre-WWII Nazi Germany. Did I mention I love fantasy? So Lord of the Rings is right up there.
Honestly, I have too many books I love to mention here. Every Monday I blog about what book I read the previous week -- at least, that’s the goal. Check out my blog to see what I’ve read recently: www.MichelleLevigne.blogspot.com
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I took a dance class in college. Considering what a klutz I am, how overweight I am … I only took it because it was a requirement for the drama program I was in. I was totally miserable, and I knew I was going to be miserable, because on the first day of class, the teacher said at least four times, “I know this is hard for you drama students to understand …” Which was really stupid of her, because 3/4 of the students were there as a drama program requirement. She just antagonized most of her class from the get-go. Yes, we all struggled to survive. I absolutely hated it. We each had to do a solo routine at the end of the class, and I picked “March of the Villains” from my Superman soundtrack. Thank goodness it wasn’t videotaped!!! We’re talking America’s Funniest Home Videos, but I would not win the prize money that week. Blackmail material.
Yes, I was traumatized by a dance teacher. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
Lol. Michelle, you are hilarious! Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
I don’t know that it’s a spiritual theme, but a lot of my stories seem to circle around the idea of what it means to be human, to be alive, to be considered a thinking, reasoning being with responsibilities and freedom. In several of my book series -- science fiction and fantasy -- I have characters struggling through several generations against those who want to control them, their land, their talents, by claiming they aren’t human, that they are defective, that they don’t have rights because they don’t fit into a narrow mold that someone else has randomly created. I like something comedian Mike Warnke said a long time ago, about Christians who run around with big cookie cutter, and they slap it down into the “dough” of a person who is trying to be a Christian, and essentially anything outside the cookie cutter has to be discarded. Then he says essentially, “If God didn’t want all that extra dough there, why’d He put it there in the first place?” So a lot of that is reflected in some of my stories. In my Tabor Heights books, where all the stories center around the members of one congregation, some of the nastiest people are the Pharisees and legalistic Christians who make everyone else miserable by trying to force everyone to live by their standards, constantly judging and criticizing. So maybe the question of, “What makes someone a real Human being?” can be transposed to “What makes you a real Christian?” or even, “Don’t tell me my extra dough doesn’t belong -- God put it there!”
I just finished “recycling” a paranormal romance I wrote 13 years ago, that I have wanted to revise and “redeem” and turn into an inspirational fantasy -- getting rid of the romance elements. At the recent Realm Makers conference, I pitched the idea to an editor at a major Christian publishing house and he liked the idea. I also mentioned I was revising a paranormal romance, and I write really fast, and promised him I’d get the first book to him by the end of the year. Well …. I have 2 months to revise and polish. I’m pretty happy with the first draft. I added 80 single-spaced pages at the front of the book, telling the story of the heroine’s parents and setting up the “quest” that is the major and controlling story arch for the whole series. Then, I took the 13-year-old book and gutted it, cutting about 27,000 words. I’m much happier with the new story. It has an epic quest, prophecy, angst, a little magic, a big, nasty enemy, and wolves. Gotta have wolves. It’s a recurring theme/symbolism in a lot of my stories. But that’s all I’m going to say for now.
Fast worker/writer you are! How I admire your ability to do that. Who is the most fun character you ever created?
That would be Lanie Zephyr -- she’s my broken, semi-pseudo-superhero who lives in the weird little town of Neghborlee, Ohio. Lanie and her friends have super powers, but they’re not big, flashy superhero powers. They basically use their talents to protect Neighborlee, which they refer to as the weirdness capital of the United States. There’s magic in Neighborlee. I describe it as being a combination of Roswell, Eureka, and Buffy’s Sunnyvale -- minus the vampires and the weird science. Lanie has a snarky sense of humor -- plus she has a sideline career as a comedienne. She broke her back in the first book I wrote about her, and all her stories are told in her POV, so she can make all sorts of snide comments and cultural references. I have permission to borrow my brother’s comedy notebook, to put words in Lanie’s mouth and mind, and remark on just how weird the ordinary world is. Right now I have 5 books planned for Lanie, and she showed up quite often in other books set in Neighborlee.
What fun! When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
My next book due is the next and last Tabor Heights novel.
TRUCK STOP ANGEL is due in early December from Desert Breeze Publishing. It deals with a young woman who is at the end of her rope. Her ex-husband is wanted by the police (events dealt with in the Tabor Heights novel “The Wrath of Bubbles”) and when he leaves town, he breaks into her house, trashes it, gets hold of her savings passbook, and cleans out her bank account. She doesn’t even have food to feed her kids in the morning. Luckily, her foster-mother and three former foster-brothers are renovating a diner on the edge of the industrial park and want her to work with them. They dig in and help her with her children, and help with various crises that strike our heroine, Hope, including the murder of her ex-husband. Of course, being a romance, there’s the boy she loved in high school, now a cop, who wants to win her back.
You have an exciting life as an author. I imagine you'll be holding a manuscript in your hands when you pass away with the note: Be sure to publish this! :) Thanks for joining us, Michelle. Loved having you.
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MICHELLE is giving away a copy of ACCIDENTAL HEARTS. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.