Interview With Michelle Dwyer - WOW! Spring 2009 Fiction Contest Runner Up
Michelle Dwyer’s love for writing began in high school. She’d studied creative writing and soon after, longed to become a published author. However circumstances arose, causing her to join the military while pursuing business classes instead.
Despite receiving high accolades for her military service, she felt incomplete. When the opportunity presented itself, she finished her first romantic/crime novel and enrolled in the writing course given by the Long Ridge Writers' Group, all while completing her MBA. When she graduates from Texas A&M this fall, she will pursue her MFA in creative writing.
Through all that she has overcome, Michelle realizes that every experience, good and bad, has led her back to what she is supposed to be doing—creating stories that compel people to think.
Between graduate school and rearing two beautiful kids, this single mother writes articles as a premier writer on the Helium website under the pen name Krymzen Hall. She invites you to read her work at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles.
If you haven't read Michelle's entry, "Reflection", please check it out here, then come back for our interview with her.
Interview by Jill Earl
WOW: First of all, congratulations to you, Michele, for placing in our Spring ’09 Fiction Contest! How does it feel?
MICHELLE: Unreal, as if something good happened to me that only happens to other people. I was in a hotel room with my children when I checked my email and then discovered I’d placed. I started screaming and dropped my laptop. My kids thought something was wrong! To me, it was as if I’d won the lottery. Then, when I calmed down, and finished calling everybody, I had to check my laptop to make sure it still worked.
WOW: What a great response and we’re glad that your laptop survived your exuberance!
“Reflection” was haunting, but also had me thinking. Our reflections see so much, and are probably the closest to us. What were the circumstances that led you to write your piece?
MICHELLE: It was personal. I went through a divorce that left me with emotional scars, and ultimately, I had to look inside myself to find the strength I needed to heal. “Reflection” has elements of physical abuse, as I’m sure you know, which did not happen to me, but the components of the story and the message are the same: No matter how bad an experience, we all have the strength to overcome, if we allow ourselves to. Change is scary, no matter how good or how bad. Moving on to better things is no different than any other change—the future is uncertain. Luckily, through writing and perseverance, I’ve been able to reclaim who I am and realize that change is good.
WOW: Glad that you were able to take such a painful situation and redeem it, so that you could heal. As you’ve alluded, writing can be a great help in this. Hopefully, someone will read this and be inspired to utilize what you’ve learned for themselves through their own writing.
Speaking of which, what kind of writing inspires you?
MICHELLE: Anything. That’s the beauty of fiction. Authors are only limited to their imaginations. I enjoy reading stories that evoke my sensual side, and once I tap into that, then I can write about love, sex, and chance encounters all night. But I can also read an article in the Wall Street Journal, and before I finish, I’ve created a character, perhaps a single father, who realizes he’s been set up by his peers through a phony insider trading scheme, and now he has to find a way out before his custody trial. Stuff like that.
WOW: I’m definitely in agreement with you regarding how fiction can give the imagination a workout, while providing sources of inspiration for future projects.
Let’s talk more about your writing habits. Have you established a writing routine or schedule for yourself?
MICHELLE: Lately, I’ve been so consumed in graduate work that I haven’t been able to devote the amount of time I want to the craft. But I never go to sleep until I’ve either finished at least one story of at least 500 words, or have begun a new story, even if it’s, just a few lines. Writers write, no matter what. If I stop writing, then I’m not a writer anymore. Needless to say I have a pile of stories.
WOW: “Writers write, no matter what.” I need to make sure I have these words before me all the time, especially during those times I'm tempted to pass on writing in my journal. And having those 500 words written before turning in for the night is a good habit to establish, I think. That way, you can be sure you won’t get rusty.
Now, what would you like to have readers take away with them as they read your work?
MICHELLE: As far as the story, it depends on the moral I’m trying to convey to my readers. In general, I believe in second chances and redemption, so I hope that my readers will end up falling in love with the same character they originally started out hating. As far as what I write, I want my readers to understand that I am not afraid of pushing the envelope with some things. And I want them to say, “Wow, that has never been done before.”
WOW: I did see the theme of second chances and redemption while reading “Reflection” and I felt that the transparency and vulnerability displayed was times difficult to approach. I think it was good that you pushed the envelope in creating your piece, because I believe sometimes it’s necessary to go to an uncomfortable place to reveal the story that needs to be told.
Let's switch gears. Your bio mentioned that you’re enrolled in a Long Ridge Writers’ Group course. What are you studying and how did you come to select them?
MICHELLE: I’m taking the Breaking Into Print course. I’d been looking into writing schools and one day, I happened to be reading WOW!’s ezine and I saw the link to Long Ridge. At first, I was apprehensive because the school is selective. I had to take a writing test just see if I was good enough to enroll. That is some scary stuff, let me tell you! For a couple of months, I put off the test. Then I decided to go for it, and luckily, the school accepted me. Now I am almost done. I think enrolling in Long Ridge was one of my smartest decisions and it will help me prepare for my MFA studies.
WOW: Sounds great, congratulations on nearing completion of your studies with Long Ridge.
it's always good for writers to continue improving our craft. Classes, workshops and seminars are fabulous ways to accomplish this!
Do you have a particular genre that you prefer?
MICHELLE: Can I say this on national Internet? I like many, but erotica is one of my favorites. I think some people lump this into the category of pornography, but it is far from that. Well-written erotica is actually some of the most beautiful and thought provoking prose a person can read. I also like a good romance with sprinkles of mystery and hints of action. I’ll write a good fight scene any day. I think what drives me, however, is the lengths that people will go for the people they love. How much can one man take to reconcile with his lady? How far will a woman go to spare her best friend’s feelings? In short, things that threaten our moral codes give me plenty of material to write a compelling story, regardless of what flavor the genre.
WOW: So, it appears that your tastes tend to be multi-genre, which can help in making a writer well-rounded. And I believe your words serve as encouragement for writers who may be interested in erotica.
Moving to your personal life, you’re raising two children as a single mother, completed your first novel, are finishing up your MBA from Texas A&M, and will pursue a MFA in creative writing soon after. Just going through that list wore me out! How do you manage it all?
MICHELLE: Yeah, I’m worn out too! Honestly, I don’t know how I manage. It has taken tremendous sacrifice to get to this point. I think sheer will, organization, and sacrificing sleep allow me to achieve my goals. I can’t do this forever, but I am close to the point where I can take my life in a different direction and start enjoying the fruits of my labor, and I can do more for my kids. I love the business world; however writing will always be my passion. So I am hoping my MFA studies will feel more like fun and less like work. All you MFA’s out there can chime in here and give me some pointers, hint hint.
WOW: (chuckles) Okay, Michelle’s put a call out to the MFA’s! She’s seeking advice on how to make her MFA studies more fun. Can you help a writing sister out?
Also in your bio, you mentioned writing your first book, a romantic/crime novel. More congratulations to you! Can you share with us how your book came to be?
MICHELLE: People say all the time, “Man, I could write a book about such and such.” Then they go on about their lives never again revisiting the thought. But “could” and “will” are two different things. I knew that a lot of feelings and memories caged inside me needed to be expressed, and in 2002, Understanding the Affair was born. I told somebody close to me, “I will write a book.” And there you have it. The story contains some racial controversy and at times gets gritty; but because of personal experiences, I am in a unique position to write about what I understand, can deal with what is not always pleasant, and relish in the fact that there are brighter days ahead of the drama.
The book is NOT a biographical account of my life. But there are elements in the story that have come from my personal experiences, some that will probably end up shocking the people closest to me. Writing is hard work. It entails a lot of late nights and research. But I must say I think I’ve done a pretty good job.
WOW: I'd have to agree! Looks like you’ve pushing the envelope again with such an intriguing novel! Do you have any other projects currently in the works?
MICHELLE: I am working on a few novels. Of course I had to do a sequel to Understanding the Affair, entitled Understanding the Trial, where one of my secondary characters will take on a more leading role. My next project, Girls Turning Into Women, Again, is the brainchild of one of my friends, and is the story of a few ladies who either need to grow up, atone, or reverse the fallout from not following their dreams. It was funny. My friend called me one night VERY excited. She gave me the title and said, “Please do something with it.” So I am honoring her request.
And then, of course, I have to throw in some interracial controversy with Connecticut, my third project. Stay tuned…
WOW: Oh, we will! Can't wait! Before wrapping up, what bit of advice would you offer to our women/aspiring writers?
MICHELLE: Don’t quit. Sometimes it’s the people closest to us that create our biggest obstacles. All we can do is respect their opinions but follow our own dreams. And those rejection letters? Sister, just get some tissue, cry it out, and move on.
And always remember this: It’s okay to think with your head while following your heart. The two are NOT mutually exclusive…risky maybe, but that’s the beauty of life…
WOW: Persevere and follow your dreams. Thanks for the reminder, more wisdom to tuck away for the future!
Michelle, you're such an inspiration to me personally and I'm sure to our readers! It was quite enjoyable talking with you today. Best of luck with your studies and your writing!