Right now he's celebrating the awesome news that his newest novel, The Blinded Gardener, made it through the first round of the American Breakthrough Novel Award! (Here's an excellent description of ABNA at erica & christy's blog).
Congratulations, Michael. I'm sure he's almost as excited about that as he is about winning my Junk in a Box competition. ;)
1. When did you start writing, and what made you realize you loved it---was there a single moment or more of a realization over time?
I started writing two years ago. With the economic crunch hitting at that time, interior designers were the first to get cut. Clients were not parting with their money. They were scared. I found I had much more time on my hands. Too much time.
I had always loved fantasy novels and J.K Rowling and Terry brooks are my favorite fantasy writers. I had always wanted to write a novel and for once I had the time. So, in March of 2009 I began to write Amber and the Whispering Willows. I felt like the words exploded out of my fingertips directly into my laptop. I loved it from the first word. It felt right. Comfortable. Three months later my first 125,550 word draft was finished. Then came the editing....
2. I just discovered that you are also an amazing illustrator! How long have you been drawing, and what drives what---did the story of Amber and the Whispering Willows inspire the illustrations or did the illustrations inspire you to write the story?
From the age of three I had always been creative. Never was there a time I didn’t have paper, pencil, crayon, and markers in my hands.
I wanted to write a story I could illustrate. I had planned to illustrate the moment I finished the first draft. It had been years since I illustrated so I wanted to see if I still had my talent. In interior design you do sketches all the time, but nothing figural. Luckily, the illustrations flowed as easily as the prose. I was so surprised that I could still draw and paint as intricately as I had in the past. It excited me to bring my characters to life.
|Michael's original illustration for Amber and the Whispering Willow|
3. From what I gather from your blog, it seems The Blinded Gardener wasn’t something you really planned on writing---more like it demanded to be written. What was your strongest driving force to write that story?
It’s funny you should ask that, Nicki. The Blinded Gardener came to me in a dream. Originally I was going to write a sweet story about how a blinded kid influenced another through his amazing garden. I wrote the first few pages and something didn’t gel.
I started again and the story came to me. My MC, Aidan surfaced as a bad-assed abused seventeen-year-old son of a Marine Corp Captain. I eventually had his father drag him to South Carolina where he meets Danny on his first day of school. Aidan’s intrigued, and wants to know everything about this blind guy he had just met. Only Danny isn’t thrilled to be stalked by Aidan. Over the course of time their friendship takes many twists and turns.
I wrote the first draft in six weeks and in first person. I wanted intensity and passion. I had written a short story in this style and it became a finalist in the Open City magazine contest. So I needed to see if it would work for The Blinded Gardener. It worked well. This edgy y/a contemporary called to me. The y/a market screams for real life and in-your-face-drama.
4. Modeling in NYC has to have been a completely different life than that of an interior designer & writer in Chicago---what do you miss most about those modeling days? What do you miss the least?
I started to model at sixteen. It was quite exciting for me. Although I lived close to Manhattan in a nearby suburb, my parents only took us into the city once or twice a year. That all changed when a photographer discovered me while I was shopping.
What I miss most is the money. No question. I made twice as much in a day than the average person makes in a week. My teenage modeling payed for my college education and kept me in a very comfortable lifestyle. As an adult I had everything I wanted. Outstanding apartment, designer clothes and accessories, and partying with the ‘beautiful people.’ I also met many famous people and traveled the globe. Which is another exciting perk.
Sounds great, Right? Remember, every pro has its con. Two major things:
The first, and it happens all the time, unwanted advances from photographers or clients. On one of my first jobs I was sexually assaulted. Luckily I can take care of myself. I was a tall, muscular kid and I knocked the perv out. Throughout my career it was a major problem. This they never tell you in America’s Top Model.
The second is drugs. Everywhere you looked cocaine. Especially at the time I worked. Mid 1980’s throughout the 1990’s. Since that was something I wasn’t into, it made it difficult to stay in the mainstream.
5. You said you've met a lot of famous people in your past, so I have to ask what I know everyone else must be wondering---did you ever meet Jeff Probst?
No, sorry. I'm afraid not. He is another ball field.
The people I met where famous models, like Brooke shields, Carol, Alt, Kim Alexis. I met them at parties and such. I also met Cher....yes, don't be impressed. She is a real BITCH! And she really wasn't much then. Linda Evans of DYNASTY.... an absolute sweetheart. Bette Midler, awesome lady, Marsha Mason of stage and screen, Judy Collins folk singer, Diana Ross-THE Diva, Michael Caine an absolute scream, and I've save this one for last Madonna. That was in like 85 she had just come out with Like a Virgin... What a down to earth and fun person. We hung out a couple of times .... LOVED her.
I don't usually like to name drop because it was such a long time ago. A whole other life. Yes, it was great. Yes, it was amazingly exciting. Yes, it wore me out.
Thank you so much for having me at your blog today Nicki. I hope that more bloggers will stop by and look at the illustrations the next time they visit.
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