Archive for June 4th, 2008

NT: Hi Michelle! Thank you for interviewing with RRAH. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

MM: I wear several hats as wife and mother, but also as a legislative analyst for a life insurance trade association, and as a romance writer.  I live in Maryland, but was born in England, and grew up in Guyana.  As a child in elementary school, I excelled in reading, which naturally translated into writing my own stories.  Early in the 90s I joined a local RWA chapter and learned the basic craft for writing romantic fiction.  In November 2002, I received my first sale with a two-book contract under Black Entertainment Television’s Arabesque Imprint.  Since then I have written ten books and now am contracted with Harlequin’s Kimani Romance.

NT: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How long did it take for you to make your first sale?

MM: I always wrote stories and poetry, without a thought about making it a career.  I absolutely love to read, bordering on an addiction for all kinds of books. Some genres are more of my favorite than others  – like women’s fiction and romances.  The dream of being published took shape in the early ’90s when I had a toddler and an infant, attending university at night for my Masters in International Business, and working a day job.  The goal toward getting published moved slowly, but the dream never went away.  In 2001, I finished up my first contemporary book which took about six months to complete.  About three months later, I sold it to BET Books in a two-book deal.  Open Your Heart was published in November 2002 earning an Emma award nomination for Favorite Debut Author.

NT: Is writing a full-time job for you or do you juggle another job?

MM: I have a day job that follows the career path that I simply fell into after I graduated from the University of Maryland with a Bachelor’s in English.  I like the stability of having a day job, including 401Ks and health insurance benefits.  Simple necessities that are not the norm of a writing career, especially in these tough economic times.  The indirect benefit of juggling the day job and the writing career is discipline.  Without the focus and skill of multi-tasking, I couldn’t finish my books on deadline.

NT: You have a new release this month, can you tell us about NO ONE BUT YOU?

MM: No One But You is the first in my Ladies of Distinction series about sorority sisters in post-university life, sharing dreams, experiencing heartache, and looking for love.  This book under Harlequin’s Kimani Romance was released in April 2008.

In college, Jackson Thomas and Sarafina Lovell were joined at the hip—soul mates. Right up until the day he chose his family business over her! Now Jackson is back, and Sara plans to give him one sultry goodbye kiss to prove she’s moved on—until his sizzling kiss awakens memories of passion too hot to ignore.…

Jackson knows he was a fool to let Sara go, and he intends to win her back. To convince her he is still worthy of her love, she’ll need a lot of sweet, sensual loving…and he’ll need a little help from her friends.

NT: What inspired the idea for this story?

MM: My own personal history inspired the premise of the story.  I met my husband in college, then after graduation a few years later, we married.  I remembered how, in college, we would daydream about our lives together and with family.  However, we didn’t have the drama that unfortunately visits so many relationships.  Our relationship went quite smoothly with a happy ever after.  In the story, No One But You, I wanted to shake up the happy, predictability of enamored college sweethearts.  The story poses the WHAT IF question about past loves. What if the only obstacle was timing and with a second chance, this person re-enters your life.  Would you grant that second chance?  Would you be willing to try to recapture that spark?

NT: Which of your characters’ story was the hardest to write? Which was the easiest?

MM: Laura Masterson in Here and Now was the easiest.  The character is a physical therapist who was dumped by her boyfriend for his goal to be an Olympic athlete.  After he is hurt and his career threatened, he comes back into her life.  At the time, before I crafted the story, I had to undergo physical therapy after a car rear ended me.  Research was a breeze.

The hardest character was Omar Masterson in Straight To The Heart because he was my youngest hero, thus far.  There was a fine line between having him go through his angst with finding a job that he could feel passionate and being mature enough to deal with his girlfriend’s issues.

NT: Do you have a writing routine? What is your average writing day like?

MM: Since I have a day job and young teens, I write in the evenings and weekends.  Around 9 p.m., after kids’ homework and their other nightly duties are taken care off, I write.  Then on the weekend, I write for long hours and into the wee hours, especially on Saturday.  I have my jump drive on hand so I can work anywhere there is a computer and I have my Alpha Smart which is so much lighter than my laptop.

NT: Is there any plot/setting/character that you’re dying to write but haven’t yet?

MM: I have a sexy thriller set in the Caribbean with great characters waiting in the wings.  The timing is right in the industry since steamy and hot are in and a thriller allows for some great yucky things to happen to lots of people.

NT: What aspects of your life have you found creeping into your stories?

MM: I don’t tend to hold in my problems.  And I will tell it like it is rather than fester on unspoken issues.  My heroines are not mousy and have that right amount of cynicism toward life and love.  So far, this type of character works for my story and I have personal satisfaction when I hear from readers holding up my heroines as role models.

NT: Is there anyone you use as a sounding board when you’re stuck on a scene?

MM: I use Celeste O. Norfleet or Candice Poarch when I’m stuck on a scene.  Thankfully I can return the favor, too.  But they know my voice and style.  When I explain my story, I have their attention.  They can help me without taking over my story.  If they are not available, then I get my handy writing pad.  Writing long hand tends to keep the wheels moving as I create scenes or the plot, in general.

NT: Who are some of the authors who inspired you when you were still working towards becoming published? Who are some of your favorite authors to read?

MM: Favorite authors include: Nora Roberts, Patricia Gaffney, Candice Poarch, Celeste O. Norfleet, Francis Ray, Donna Hill, Beverly Jenkins.

While I worked toward being published, I listened to authors such as Nora Roberts, read Kristin Hannah, and enjoyed authors of the line that I was aiming for, such as Donna Hill, Robyn Amos, Rochelle Alers, Shirley Hailstock.

NT: What was the most interesting thing you had to research and what was the hardest thing to research?

MM: The most interesting topic I researched was the history of the underground railroad.  I wanted a bed and breakfast (Finders Keepers) to be the central meeting point for the characters.  A safehouse used in the underground railroad provided the perfect haven for souls seeking freedom.  The house was not only a refuge, but a place to grow strength for the continued journey.  This “character” in the story was needed by the heroine and hero.

NT: What was the most memorable reader reaction you’ve received about your books?

MM: It might sound trite, but each reader’s letter touches me because most of all the person took the time to write me.  I’ve had a soldier from Iraq who shared his enjoyment of my story.  Unfortuately he died before I could respond.  God bless him.  I’ve had letters from prison.  I’ve heard from young girls who feel as if the story talked to their hearts.

NT: When not busy writing, what do you like to do in your spare time? (If there is such a thing *G*)

MM: In my spare time, I enjoy watching movies.  British comedies are fantastic.  I usually try to catch up on my reading.  Sometimes just hanging out with friends with no looming deadlines is a great way to wind down.

NT: What are the latest additions to your TBR? What are you most eager to read?

MM: Celeste O. Norfleet is one of my favorite authors.  Anything she writes, I have in my library.  Thankfully, she’s prolific.

When Love Calls – Celeste Norfleet

Riding the Rails – Kimberly Kaye Terry

Sweeter Than Honey – Mary Morrison

NT: Any advice to aspiring authors? What craft books helped you that you would recommend to aspiring writers?

MM: Aspiring authors don’t lose heart.  Keep supportive, healthy minded people around you.  I attended writing workshops.  I didn’t tend to read too many craft books.  At some point, you need to follow your instinct.  Too much information can be crippling or contradictory.  Most of all, you have to write to be a writer.  You have to complete the book to be an author.  An editor needs actual work in her hands before she can award you with the prize of being published.

NT: What can your fans look forward to from you in the near future? What are you working on now?

MM: Gamble On Love, the second book in the Ladies of Distinction series, is due out in October 2008.  This book is filled with drama and loads of sexy.  Readers will not be disappointed.

At the moment, I’m writing the third book – Only In Paradise set on a tropical island.  We’ll see if rules of employment between boss and employee will stand to keep them apart.  Somehow I don’t think so.  Only In Paradise will be released in 2009.

NT: How can readers contact you?

MM: Readers can contact via email at michellemonkou@comcast.net.  Visit my website at http://michellemonkou.com for updates, along with http://myspace.com/michellemonkou.  For those who prefer using snail mail, my post office box is P.O. Box 2904, Laurel, MD  20709.

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His undercover rapper…

In college, Jackson Thomas and Sarafina Lovell were joined at the hip—soul mates. Right up until the day he chose his family business over her! Now Jackson is back, and Sara plans to give him one sultry goodbye kiss to prove she’s moved on—until his sizzling kiss awakens memories of passion too hot to ignore.…

Jackson knows he was a fool to let Sara go, and he intends to win her back. To convince her he is still worthy of her love, she’ll need a lot of sweet, sensual loving…and he’ll need a little help from her friends.

Read Full Post »