Anita Cox: Welcome Michelle Brown! So you write romance. Tell us why romance?
Michelle Brown: I like writing stories about people who fall in love, and people who are in love, working together as a team. Being in a long-term relationship myself, I actually think the point where people work together as a team and the strains and pressures of a longer-term relationship are really interesting, even underappreciated by a lot of writers. The way people get attached to each other and the friction life causes—those are things that really, really interest me.
Anita Cox: Do you write in any subgenre?
Michelle Brown: I’d actually say romance is kind of the subgenre here; I write primarily science fiction and urban fantasy. Sci fi shapes almost everything I write, but so does a sense of magic. I think cities are really underrated as a setting, because there’s so much life and so many layers to their ecosystems—especially the ecosystems built from people.
AC: What is the heat level of your books?
MB: Moderate. I like writing honest sex scenes. I think they’re kind of a reward for readers, and can be either a nice break from action or a way to increase the tension, depending on what’s going on! I think there are different kinds of sex, too, so using sex to show and explore relationships between characters is really interesting to me.
AC: Tell us about you. Do you have any passions other than writing?
MB: I collect boxes and jewelry, and of course, I love my partner—he helps a lot with difficult situations in my writing, even if it’s just by letting me talk at him until I figure something out.
AC: I know that you have one/more very unique hobbies. Please tell us about it/them (Cannot be writing. Remember, personal unique details really make you stand out).
MB: I’m a crafty girl. I mostly knit right now, but I do knotwork, off-loom beading including peyote stitch and netting, I work with wire, and sometimes I do stuff with hemp. Occasionally I sew and do crewel embroidery, too. I also like to cook. I’m a bit of a jill-of-all-trades, but it’s nice to have lots of ways to exercise my creativity. I also doodle and draw a bit, and I have an extensive collection of boxes and jewelry!
Anita Cox: There was a place from your past that you’ll always remember. How do the memories of it influence your life/writing?
MB: Mmm, well, there are a few places I’ve lived—small apartments, especially—and my old high school was very evocative. So, too, was a different old high school. The public school, Western Canada High School, is a place of mysteries and fond memories. The private school, which will remain nameless…was not such a nice place, but the oppressive confines and the way there were windows everywhere, no hiding spaces, also left a big impact on me. The feeling of constantly being watched, unable to hide, is something I will never forget.
Are most of your works available or do you have what a drawer or closet of “not quite there” work? Do you think any of those old projects will see the light of day?
MB: Oh my gosh, I have an enormous idea file. You’ll all be seeing those ideas eventually; I have so much planned for the next few years!
Anita Cox: What is your writing “system” like, and how has it evolved over the course of your career?
MB: I generally start with longhand notes on paper, because I really like writing the “old-fashioned” way, especially in cursive—it’s easier to think in cursive, in some ways. I often draw maps and flow charts as I try to figure out plots.
From there, I dash out a few notes about how I want a scene to go or what has to happen, usually in point form, and then get writing in the word document. I type very quickly, so that’s my favorite way to get a story down.
Once I’ve written out a scene, I keep going until I run out of juice or get stuck. After finishing a chapter, I write a line or two of summary in an Excel spreadsheet that I keep to help myself keep track of plots and continuity for series.
After I’ve finished a work, off it goes to my inner circle of mentors. They look it over, I make changes, and then it goes to my editor. My editor critiques it, and after three or four passes, I send it to the formatter and prepare to unleash it on the world.
It used to be that I would just write scenes when the mood struck me—which still happens, mind you—and I’d go from there. The problem with that was that I would end up dithering and getting stuck on plot points. Moving from pantsing to planning has been a great transition, and has really improved my productivity.
Anita Cox: Do you have beta readers in your family or circle of friends, or do you trust your own instincts before you publish your works?
MB: Oh yeah. I have three or four people that I like to run things past; mostly close friends of mine. Sarah Dimento is one; Zig Zag Claybourne is another. And of course, my editor, Katie de Long, is worth her weight in ruby rings.
Anita Cox: Do you think of yourself as a particular type of writer and how do you think that influences the decisions you make about your stories/novels?
MB: I think of myself as being a part-time writer, because frankly, I often run out of steam. I’m trying to write a bit more often—my best days often come from times when I’ve just overcome sluggishness and forced myself to write. Sometimes those days will take me in totally unexpected directions, too. I’ve gotten faster at writing, mind you.
Anita Cox: What is your most recent book/story release? And could you tell us about it?
MB: After the Garden is set approximately a hundred and fifty years after a disaster, The Great Crash, which shattered civilization as we know it. People have rebuilt as much as they could, but it’s a different world than the one we know. The Memory Bearers, however, remember The Time Before—our time, and the time of the Crash. Ember, one Bearer, has come down from the mountains, giving up all she knows and loves, for the sake of an impulse she doesn’t understand. The people she meets in the city intoxicate her and appeal to her, and she senses her destiny is being fulfilled—but she has no idea how, why, or really, what’s going on. But her heart is pulling her in new directions, and a terrifying cult leader threatens to take away the little she has reclaimed…
Anita Cox: What led you to tell this particular story?
MB: I moved to Calgary in my teen years, and couldn’t stop imagining the beautiful, vibrant city in ruins. There was just something about the city that demanded to be in a story—and soon enough, a tale came to me. I’ve had to revise it a few times, but Calgary and Edmonton have both left their influence on it.
Anita Cox: Which part of your story was the most difficult to write? Why?
MB: The violent stuff and some of the more disturbing content. Definitely hard. Technically speaking, some of the emotional conflicts were also tricky, and for some of the science stuff, I had to do quite a bit of research—but I like research, and it wasn’t as emotionally taxing as, say, torture scenes.
Anita Cox: If one of your works made it all the way to Hollywood, what kind of a monster would be in the film? And which actor or actress would you have battling it (be wild and fun with this—readers like memorable, find, over-the-top answers in most casesJ). If your book doesn’t have monsters – think Bad Guy!
MB: Oooh. Well, the bad guy is supposed to be attractive…I’d be entirely okay with someone like Tom Hiddleston playing him, actually. Doesn’t have to be Hiddles himself, just someone with killer cheekbones and a piercing glare.
Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Leave your comments, rebuttals, and vehement agreements below. Don’t miss any of the phuquerie–get on the mailing list. Find Michelle on Twitter, Facebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out!
After the Garden by Michelle Browne
Memories of another life and lover guide her, but are they even hers? She is a Bearer—keeper of past lifetimes and gifted with strange talents. Ember must find her answers away from safe Longquan Village, snared instead in the sensuality and dangers of The City. Hidden among spider farmers and slaves, prostitutes and weavers, a nest of people like her are waiting.
A powerful man outside The City raises his forces, determined to hunt down the ‘demons’ who could taint his followers. Threatened from without and within, can the Bearers even trust each other?
Powers will rise and alliances will be forged in a dark new world. The Memory Bearers are coming.
This book includes violent and mature content. Reader discretion is advised.
She was looking in a mirror, marvelling at her powdered face. You can’t even tell, she thought admiringly. She picked up a bottle of perfume and sprayed some on her wrist. She dropped it, and there was a heavy sound, a clunking noise, as the bottle connected with the tile. Not plastic, but thick glass.
Hearing the crash, he appeared from behind the bathroom door. “Are you all right, honey?” he said, resting a hand on her shoulder.
“Oh yes, I’m fine,” she said, nuzzling him.
“You look exquisite. I can’t believe you spend most of your time in a lab coat when you look like this.”
“Believe it,” she said. He twisted her around suddenly and kissed her.
“How much time do we have before dinner?” he asked.
“Enough.” She took him by the hand. “Come with me.”
The memory slid away to another part of her mind. She considered telling—no, wait, who could she tell? Their names eluded her. She winced, frustrated. She’d already forgotten her family’s names. That was part of the deal, she told herself; she’d known what she was in for. Paranoid, she wondered if she would forget her own name next. It wouldn’t be that bad, though; and after all, she knew she would remember someday. When the time was right, the lock would open again, and she’d have the things she was giving up back. And though they were frustrating and mildly debilitating, she still had the fragments. That annoyed her, but it was a comfort.
Philosophy was the path of madness, she decided, shoving the bottle in her satchel. In the meantime, she had other things to do—she had to see if there was anything of value left in this house and get out of here as quickly as possible. Something unpleasant had happened here after The Time Before had come to an end, a small disaster after the fact, and she was eager to leave.
About the Author
Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer from Calgary, AB. She has a cat and a partner-in-crime. Her days revolve around freelance editing, jewelry, phuquerie, and nightmares. She is currently working on the next books in her series, other people’s manuscripts, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible. She is all over the internet, far too often for anyone’s sanity, and can be found in various places.
Other books by Michelle Browne:
The Underlighters (Book 1 of The Nightmare Cycle)
The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming (Includes The Underlighters and many other short stories)
The Stolen: Two Short Stories (Book 2 of The Meaning Wars)
And the Stars Will Sing (Book 1 of The Meaning Wars)
The Meaning Wars
(Book 3 of The Meaning Wars)
Monsters and Fools
(Book 2 of The Nightmare Cycle)
Within the Tempest
(Book 2 of The Memory Bearers Saga)