Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview with Michelle Davidson Argyle and MONARCH Giveaway!

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was when I signed up for my first ARC—a copy of Michelle Davidson Argyle's debut novel MONARCH. When it came in the mail, I was giddy with excitement. And, honestly, since then I've read the novel twice because I enjoyed it so much (come back next Wednesday for my full review). So, to be able to interview Michelle as well is a great, exciting honor for me.

Also, because this novel is so fabulously amazing, it HAS to be shared. Want to read it? Keep reading below for more information on how YOU could win a copy of MONARCH!

For those of you who don't know her, let's start with a brief introduction:

Photo and biography courtesy
of the author's website
Michelle graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor's Degree in English/Creative Writing in 2002. Her short fiction has been published in the University of New Mexico's national literary journal, Scribendi, 2002, the Rose & Thorn Journal, 2010, Suspense Magazine, June 2011, and Stories for Sendai Anthology, 2011. She served as the editor-in-chief of Utah Valley University's literary magazine and has won awards for her short stories. She is also an editor/publisher of “The Literary Lab Presents…” series of anthologies.

Michelle is a mother, artist, and writer who lives in the Rocky Mountains with her sword-wielding husband and energetic daughter. She writes contemporary, literary, and fantasy fiction. Cinders and Monarch are two of her published novels. The Breakaway will be released in 2012 by Rhemalda Publishing, and Bonded (which includes Cinders) will be released in 2013 by Rhemalda Publishing, as well.

Michelle likes peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. And cheese. Lots and lots of good cheese.

(Can I just say, me too! You can never have enough cheese!)

So a warm welcome to Michelle. *applause*

Rosie: First, congratulations on the release of MONARCH. It's a wonderful novel.

MDA: Thank you! And thank you for interviewing me today.

Rosie: So much of MONARCH is influenced by monarch butterflies, and there's even information at the beginning of the book on how the reader can learn more about them. Is this a personal interest that you've had for awhile, or something that developed while writing the novel?

MDA: I’ve always loved butterflies, but the idea to include them as the main theme in a novel came about when I was reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She has a section in there all about the monarch butterflies, and it’s absolutely brilliant and beautiful and it touched me in a way that really stuck. I got the idea to include monarchs in a novel, and of course I decided to include spies into the mix because I like to shake things up like that.

Rosie: One of the main characters, Nick, has worked as an undercover CIA agent in Brazil. How much research did you put into living the CIA undercover life?

MDA: I did quite a bit of research on the CIA, but there’s only so much you can find out about the CIA online! They’re kind of secretive about some things. So I turned to some biographies from former CIA officers. I loved one in particular – Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy by Lindsay Moran because it was personal and entertaining, but full of some really great information.

Rosie: MONARCH is an edge-of-your-seat thriller, and I couldn't put it down. This doesn't happen to me very often. Unless it's a secret you'd rather not reveal, how long did it take you to write MONARCH, and how many rounds of revisions did you go through to get it to its current (amazing) state?

MDA: From conception to publication, Monarch took me seven years to complete. Actual writing time, however, is probably more like a year. I began the book in November of 2008 for National Novel Writing Month and submitted it to Rhemalda Publishing in October of 2010. That’s two years, but a good portion of that was also spent writing and self-publishing my novella, Cinders. Monarch  then went through edits with my publisher. I must say, however, that Monarch was a bit of a challenge for me. It was a complete disaster after I finished it in 2008. After a few revisions I chucked it all and rewrote the entire book from scratch. I’ve learned a lot from writing Monarch!

Rosie: One of the suggestions to writers seen around the internet these days is to write scenes that contain no more than 4 people. However, your climax scene not only has several important players, but it's also done so well that it doesn't feel crowded or confusing. Do you have any tips on writing group scenes?

MDA: As I always like to say, I don’t believe in rules like only including four people in a group scene (although I can understand that from a new writer’s perspective). Still, talk about limiting your storyline and storytelling skills. I tell the story how it needs to be told and the scene you are talking about in Monarch that meant including more than four people. It wouldn’t have worked otherwise because the entire point was to bring everyone together for that climax.

If I have any tips on group scenes I’d have to say plan everything out in every possible way you can imagine. For this group scene I drew out a picture of where everyone was, where they moved during the scene, and where they are at the end. I then had my husband help me figure out the fighting sequence (yes, I had to make it more complicated with fighting, hah!). I also told the scene from three different points of view over the course of several chapters, but that was what I had done for the entire book, so it worked.

These kinds of things in writing are completely dependent on the author’s skills, the point-of-view of the storytelling, the style of the novel, and other such factors. I don’t think there’s any magic formula for it except for practice and experience.

Rosie: What authors and/or books would you consider your strongest influences?

MDA: I adore The Awakening by Kate Chopin, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I also like Dostoevsky, Virginia Woolf, and Flannery O’Conner. Those are the classics I love that have influenced me. As far as contemporary, I’d say Marilynn Robinson, Tom Clancy and John Grisham. I’m kind of eclectic, can you tell? I’ve slowly been opening my door to more fantasy and I hope to add some of those to my favorites list.

Rosie: This is your first novel with Rhemelda Publishing. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to work with them?

MDA: I found Rhemalda Publishing when one of their authors, J.S. Chancellor, contacted me about reviewing my novella, Cinders, soon after it was released in 2010. She adored the book and when I looked up more about her I found her publisher and decided they might be a good fit for Monarch. After some intense revisions I submitted the book in October of 2010 and voila! Here I am. If only it was as quick and easy as I make it sound. *laughs*

Rosie: What upcoming projects do you have in the pipeline?

MDA: My young adult/new adult novel, The Breakaway, will be coming out next year (2012) from Rhemalda — hopefully late spring. It’s the story of a girl kidnapped by a family of jewel thieves. In 2013 my novella collection, Bonded, will be released by Rhemalda Publishing. This collection contains my novella, Cinders and two other fairy-tale inspired stories – Thirds and Scales. After that, I’m not sure. I currently have an idea for a young adult historical (possibly considered paranormal) novel set in Scotland. I don’t stick in one genre, can you tell? I hope that this project will release late 2013 or early 2014.

Rosie: And a random question to keep you on your toes: If the all the world were set up like Pangaea and all you could road trip anywhere, where would you go and why?

MDA: If all the world were set up like Pangaea I’d have to choose to visit anywhere by the coast! I dearly love the ocean.

Thank you so much to Michelle for letting me interview her. Once again, I'm very excited about MONARCH, and I want everyone to read it. Of course, giving away a copy to everyone would be an incredible (or incredibly expensive) feat. But, I can at least offer one copy for a lucky reader to win.

Want to win a copy of MONARCH for your very own? Leave a comment below. Want to be eligible for more entries? Tweet, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn links will all give you one extra entry toward winning. Just be sure to leave me links in the comments section, and feel free to tag me in any posts.

Entries close at 8PM EST (US) time on Tuesday, October 11. The winner will be announced here on October 12.

Good luck :)


Jessica Bell said...

Awesome interview ladies! :o) I enjoyed Monarch very much too. What a talent, Michelle is! :o) Don't enter me into contest. I've got one :o) xx

DanielleQ.Lee said...

Breakaway sounds awesome! Can't wait to read Monarch! :)

Carol Riggs said...

This was a really fun and informative interview, thanks to both of you, ladies!! :) (but GAH!--peanut butter and tomato sandwiches???!!!) Sounds like a great book, one I'd like to read! Love the cover, too. :)

Heather said...

Awesome interview Rosie! Sounds like a great book!

Michael Offutt said...

Michelle is like super-woman. When she sees a burning building, she rips off her jacket and underneath is a shirt with a big "S" on it. Then she flies over, puts out the fire and markets her book to the firemen. Then she swoops over to rescue a puppy and give publishing advice to the people who lost their dog.

Michelle IS AMAZING.

Oh and if that weren't enough...she's so photogenic that she could pose for Vogue magazine. Go check out her photo spread on her blog.

Theresa Milstein said...

Interesting questions, Rosie. I didn't know about the 4 person rule in settings. Show that every rule can be broken. Good luck with the book, Michelle!

S.P. Bowers said...

Great interview. Personally I prefer tomato and melted cheese sandwiches with a little bit of salt. Mmmmmm.

Wendy G. Ewurum: Blog Author said...

She is totally awesome and her books are on my TBR list. Thank you so much Rosie.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Whoa, imagine being able to write a thriller? That's a whole different animal. I applaud Michelle!


David Powers King said...

I've yet to meet Michelle, but from your interview, she sounds like someone you'd want to hang out with. Awesome interview and giveaway! Count me in! :)

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