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Friday, April 9, 2010

Author Michele Ashman Bell Interview

Please join me in welcoming author, Michele Ashman Bell, who has penned over twenty books so far, ranging from romance to children’s books. Michele, I’m thrilled you’ve joined us today and I’m really looking forward to learning more about you.


[Anne] Why don’t we begin with how you got started in writing? How difficult was your journey to publication?

[Michele] My interest in writing stemmed from my love of books and reading. I distinctly remember being in third grade and having my teacher read, “My Father’s Dragon” to us. That book tapped into my imagination and created magic for me. My love affair with books grew with each passing year. When I was twenty-six I read a short story in Good Housekeeping magazine that I thought was terrible. I exclaimed out loud, “I could write a better story than that!” and that became a challenge to myself to see if I really could. It took ten years to finally get published. I first started with the national romance market, but wasn’t comfortable with the content most publishers wanted, so I jumped to YA, then children’s, then juvenile fiction. All with no luck. Finally, I discovered the inspirational market and the rest, they say, is history. By the way, I kept every rejection letter/post card (somewhere around 65) I ever received and have them in a scrapbook.

[Anne] I don’t have my rejections in a scrapbook yet, but I have them in a large file. You have a new release. Will you tell us about it?

[Michele] My latest book, released on March 16, 2010, is a YA romance. It’s a “riches to rags” type of story. It’s the story of Kenzie Williams who has grown up in a wealthy family, in an affluent neighborhood in New York, and comes home one day to find out that her father has declared bankruptcy and has lost everything. Not only that, her parents have decided to split up. While they sort through their problems they send her to live with her aunt and uncle in Paris . . . Idaho! Kenzie’s so embarrassed she tells her friends she’s going to Paris, but doesn’t tell them it’s in Idaho. The transition is anything but easy and Kenzie feels like her life has been destroyed. But slowly, over the summer, she learns valuable lessons about what really is important. She also meets Adam White, a mysterious young man who captures her heart.


[Anne] Hey I like your heroine’s name :-). Where did you come up with the concept for your story?

[Michele] Our family went on a vacation to Bear Lake, Idaho and drove through some of the little towns in the surrounding area. We went through the “don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it” town of Paris, Idaho. Immediately I thought of the storyline and am excited to write the sequel which of course takes place in Paris, France.

[Anne] Okay, say you have this great idea for a book, what do you do next? How much plotting do you do?

[Michele] I’m a major detailed outline writer. It’s the best way for me to sort out the plot and catch weakness and holes. That doesn’t mean that my characters don’t surprise me, because they do. Sometimes they take me on major detours from where I wanted the story to go. When that happens I rework my outline and move forward. It’s like a road map to a destination, with a lot of side trips along the way.

[Anne] I love those side trips! I never know where I’ll end up. In your opinion what are the most important avenues an author should take in promoting their works?

[Michele] I’ve been published now for twelve years and I’ve seen a huge change in marketing and publicity tactics. When I began I sent out hundreds of postcards to readers to announce the release of my book. I did tons of autograph signings aka “the person who points where the restroom is located.” I’ve had my books on TV and I’ve also been on TV, several times. But by and large, social networks are the cheapest and most effective tool an author has. Both of my publishers are capitalizing on social networks and encouraging all of their authors to promote themselves and their books. I still enjoy getting out into the bookstores and meeting real people though.

[Anne] What is one of the most memorable thing’s that has happened to you since you’ve become a published author (for example: an awesome book signing or that one email you received from a reader that really made your day)?

[Michele] This is such a great question. For me the best part of writing is knowing that I’m making a difference in people’s lives. Once I received a letter from a woman in prison who told me that she had totally turned away from God when she was going through a terrible drug problem. She got a hold of one of my books in prison and felt prompted to pray. From that point on she began to soften her heart and feel the spirit work in her life again. And of course, there’s that letter from the eleven-year old boy who told me that he loved my books and that JK Rowling and I were his favorite authors. I still laugh about that.

[Anne] Wow! That is so awesome! And being compared to JK Rowlings…I’d frame that one. Now for a little fun! Do you have any unusual or not so unusual hobbies you’d care to tell us about?

[Michele] Ha! Well, yes, I do have a few hobbies. I collect Steinbach Nutcrackers, I have over thirty and keep them out all year long. I also collect Doris Day movies. I got all of them on video, and then DVD’s came out so now I’m collecting them all on DVD. And I am addicted to Zumba. I actually teach Zumba classes. I’ve taught aerobics for twenty-eight years (started when leg warmers were cool) and just as I was about to retire at 50 I discovered Zumba. If you don’t know what Zumba is, email me and I’ll tell you all about it!

[Anne] You’ll be getting an email from me. Sounds interesting! What snack are we likely to see sitting next to your computer when you’re typing away on your next best seller?

[Michele] Pretzels, peanut M&Ms, and string cheese. Depends on time of day and my mood.

[Anne] Now let’s pretend you’ve been stranded on an island somewhere in the pacific. What are three things you would miss the most?

[Michele] If my family isn’t with me, then for sure my family, first and foremost. My house (that way I can include; shower, bed, TV, computer, washing machine . . .). Target.

[Anne] A Target…now that’s my kind of island. What advice can you offer for any aspiring authors out there?

[Michele] DON’T GIVE UP! Really and truly persistence is the quality that is usually the difference between being published and not being published. What you lack in talent can be made up in hard work, but you have to be persistent and not let rejections block you from reaching your goal. Ten years was a long time to try and make a dream come true, but I wanted it badly enough I never stopped trying.

[Anne] Great advice, Michele! Where can we purchase your books? And do you have a website we can visit?

[Michele] All my books are on www.amazon.com. My newest book is available at http://www.valorpublishinggroup.com/authors.php. It will also be available at Amazon.com. My web-site is: www.micheleashmanbell.com and my blog is www.micheleabell.blogspot.com.

[Anne] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[Michele] Thanks so much for the interview and for letting me share a little about myself with your readers.

[Anne] It’s been a pleasure getting to know more about you, Michele. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.


Friends, be sure to drop back by on Monday. My guest will be mystery/suspense author, Robin Caroll, who writes deep South mysteries of suspense for an inspired heart. Robin served as president of the American Christian Fiction Writers organization in 2007 & 2008, and is currently a Conference Director. She’ll be joining us to talk about her new release, Deliver Us From Evil, and you’ll have a chance to win a copy of the book. 

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

8 comments:

Joyce DiPastena said...

What a wonderful interview, Anne! I loved getting to know more about Michele and hear about her new book. The premise sounds really cute!

Michele Ashman Bell said...

First of all, Anne, I love your blog. I spent most of the morning browsing around on it and got nothing else done! Second of all, thank you for the lovely interview. You are such a wonderful and gracious lady, and I'm so thrilled I had a chance to get to know you. Thank you for giving my book a moment in the spotlight!

Anne Patrick said...

Hi Joyce! Thanks so much for dropping by in support of Michele.

Michele, thank you for your wonderful comments. And your very welcome. I've enjoyed it.

Hugs!
Anne

Eryn Grace said...

What a great inspirational story! Thank you both for sharing it!

I also write inspirationals (with one publication and tons of rejections for my pen names), and it's a tough market at times.

Best wishes to you in your writing career!

Gail Pallotta said...

What an interesting interview, and how like a teen to say she's moving to Paris and just leave off the Idaho. Congratulations on your writing success and best of luck with Summer in Paris.

Redameter said...

Very interesting. The more interviews I read, the more in common I find I have with other writers. Isn't that a gas. It was a lovely interview and interesting sounding book. Good luck with sales.

Miss Mae said...

Michele, this was great! But I do have to chuckle about having your rejections in a scrapbook. Me? They're all shoved under my bed, under tons of dust! LOL

Michele Ashman Bell said...

Redameter,
I feel the same way. I do interviews on my blog and each time I read one I am amazed at how similar authors think and function. That's why it's so fun to connect with other authors, no one else gets us quite as well.
I would love to interview you on my blog, or anyone else who is interested.

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