I first heard about Michelle and her books in the best way possible — word of mouth. I bought the first in her self-published "Dark" series — kind of space opera/science fiction romance. I loved it, bought the rest in the series, then discovered she was also a traditionally published historical writer, and a writer of historical mysteries, so I bought those too. And that's not all she writes. Find out more about Michelle here.
Anne: Michelle, you were born in the United Kingdom, grew up in South Africa, then moved to Western Australia with your husband and children. Growing up, what books and authors influenced you most?
Michelle: I can genuinely say I almost always had my nose in a book, so that list is very long. Here's a very abridged version, and I've probably left lots of favorites out: As a child I loved CS Lewis and Tolkien, Malcom Saville's Lone Pine Mysteries, Robin McKinley (The Door in the Hedge was a favorite) & Nancy Drew to name just a very few. As a young adult I inhaled Sharon Penman, Mary Stewart, Dick Francis, Tolkien again, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen. And then my university major for my first undergraduate degree was English, so I devoured Rushdie, Austen again, Margaret Atwood and for fun, Terry Pratchett, AS Byatt, and Iain M. Banks.
Michelle: I love history, is the easy answer. I studied it at university, and I find it fascinating.
(There's a link here to Michelle talking about her fascination with history.)
Anne: Your move into paranormal romance was quite a departure from the historical novels — what prompted it?
Michelle: I've always loved fantasy as much as I love history (and science fiction, too). For me, historical novels, fantasies and science fiction all inhabit the same space as true escape novels. They all require the same intricate world-building and a recognition that you're taking the reader to a place neither you nor they have ever been, or can go, in real life.
Anne: That's so true. The first books I read of yours were your self-published science fiction romances, the "Dark" series, which got huge word-of-mouth buzz (and a Goodreads average of 4.17 from 2715 ratings.) In fact Dark Horse won a Prism Award for Best Futuristic at the San Diego RWA conference, though I hadn't come across them at that point. Tell us a little about the "dark" series.
Michelle: The Class 5 series (Dark Horse, Dark Deeds and Dark Minds) came to me while I was writing a 1920s romantic thriller. I was struggling through some research for the 1920s book, and the characters of Rose and Sazo just burst into my brain. I already had a number of science fiction novels outlined, but this one really pulled at me, and I decided to stop the 1920s book temporarily and get down a few chapters of Dark Horse. I ended up never going back to the 1920s book, I just kept writing Dark Horse, it had me in its grip and didn't let go. :)
Anne: It didn't let me go, either — I glommed all the "Dark" books, one after the other. And I loved this quote you made on another site: "It’s such a fun genre, especially the sub-genre that I write, space opera, which has all the action, adventure, and romance of Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy and Serenity. There is nothing not to love about it."
I think a lot of readers here would also enjoy your "Regency London" series. What's that series about?
Michelle: The Regency London series is a connected series of three books, each a complete story within itself, but with overlapping characters. The books are set chronologically at an extremely interesting time in British history, during the Napoleonic Wars. The first book, The Emperor's Conspiracy, focuses on the real, and almost unbelievable, plot by Napoleon to smuggle as many of England's gold guineas out of the country as possible, and cause the British economy to collapse.
The second book, Banquet of Lies, focuses on the secret deals and spying going on between countries involved in the Napoleonic Wars, particularly the secret deal the British did with the Russians (who were in an alliance with Napoleon, but then switched sides), and the final book, A Dangerous Madness, centers around the biggest news story of the Regency period, the assassination of the English Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval. It was the JFK assassination of its day, and with just as many conspiracy theories. Each book is a romantic thriller / mystery, and I give author notes at the end to discuss what I made up and what's real.
Anne: How have you found the difference between self-publishing and being traditionally published?
Michelle: Never say never, but I'd think long and hard before going back to being traditionally published. I know it's not for everyone, but I've worked as both an editor and a publisher for an academic publishing house, so I've always known what goes into getting a book to market, and I love the control over all aspects of the process. I also love that I make a good living as a self-published author, while still being able to offer my books to readers at a lower price than my traditionally published books are priced.
Anne: Could you share a snippet of your writing please?
Michelle: Here's the start of A Dangerous Madness.
Sunday, 10 May, 1812
Phoebe stood next to the portrait of Sir Harold Fitzpatrick as instructed, the note the footman had given her crumpled in her fist.
She hadn't seen Sheldrake all evening, had had to endure hours on her own of being either snubbed or fawned over, but he must have seen her―the note was evidence of that. Just one more odd instance in a string of them.
A waving motion caught her eye and she turned slightly to see a hand reach out from behind aquamarine velvet curtains. A man's hand.
He grabbed her sleeve and pulled her into an enclosed nook that by day was a perfectly innocent bay window. Phoebe blinked, trying to adjust to the sudden dark after the well-lit gallery.
“Sheldrake?” She peered at the man taking up most of the small space.
“Good grief, keep it down, would you?” Phoebe’s betrothed's forceful whisper was as loud as her soft-spoken question, but she bit her tongue.
She wondered what her tongue would look like after they’d spent a lifetime together. Maybe one day she’d bite it in half.
Anne: You can read more about Michelle and her books on her website, and here's her Goodreads page. And there's a blog here where Michelle talks about science fiction romance. Michelle, anything else you'd like to mention?
Michelle: If you love fairy tale retellings and fantasy romances, I'm happy to say that the ebook version of my retelling of the fairy tale East of the Wind, West of the Moon, entitled Mistress of the Wind, is free on Amazon today (May 29th) and tomorrow (May 30th) before it goes back to its normal price. You can download it here.
Anne: Thanks so much for joining us on Word Wenches, Michelle. It's been lovely.
Michelle: Thank you so much for having me, Anne. It's an honor to be invited 🙂
Anne: Michelle will be giving away a book to someone who leaves a comment, or who answers this question: "If you could go back (or forward) in time, where and when would you go to? And why?"