Name: Michelle Rene but I also go by Olivia Rivard
Where are you from:
I grew up in Texas. Half in the country and half in the city of Dallas. I went to art school in Florida and graduated with my BFA in Illustration. I currently live with my husband and son in Dallas, TX USA.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest news of note is that my book, I Once Knew Vincent has placed as a Finalist in the Historical Fiction category for the Readers’ Favorite Book Award.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Well, I began writing as most writers do…when I was a kid. Terrible poems and such. I even spent a whole summer when I was thirteen handwriting an awful 200 page novel. I gave it up right about the time I went off to college thinking a career in art would provide me a better chance at a steady job. Hahaha, I know that sounds idiotic. Actually, I did get art jobs and they paid the bills. The thing was, I was miserable doing work for someone else. It wasn’t until I started writing again at the age of twenty three, that I realized what I should be doing. I was a good artist and it supported me, but I had the potential to be a great writer.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m still waiting for that moment! No, I’m kidding. It was probably when I finished my second novel and realized this wasn’t all a fluke. I didn’t think of myself as an “author” until I was published.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It will sound cliché, but it was a dream. A weird trippy dream while on a horrible cruise with a very very boring man. I saw characters and colorful imagery that I couldn’t explain. So I wrote down what I’d seen and chewed on it for a few months until I could make out what it was and a story that went with it. Thus, my first book was born.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Not really. I write in so many genres that my writing style bends and flexes into the mood of the book. The voice of a science fiction assassin sounds different than a young Dutch girl in the 1800’s. I’m a story teller and have a tendency to let my characters tell me how it should sound.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Sometimes it’s the first thing I know about a book. Other times, it tells me somewhere in the middle. I think too many writers focus on things like a title. Let the story flow, and it will probably tell you its name along the way.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The main message I ever want in my writing is for the reader to feel a closeness with the characters. Even if you hate a character, I want you to have feelings about them. I want my characters to feel real, and I want them to move readers in some unexpected way. The message is that these are real people not just imaginary ones.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Unless I’m writing one of my humor essays about my childhood in Texas, I don’t insert events from my own life. No character I’ve ever written has been me. I have drawn from experiences to put as much truth into a scene as possible, but I try not to use my life verbatim. My characters are not me, and I want to give them their own life as opposed to making their life an echo of mine.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I love reading and I devour just about everything I can. When anyone says they want to write, I tell them to read. It’s better schooling than any class or technical book on writing. If I had to choose one book that influenced my life more than the others, it would be To Kill A Mockingbird. Still a huge favorite of mine.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
There are a number of authors I adore in an array of genres. Christopher Moore, David Sedaris, Sue Monk Kidd, J. K. Rowling, Mary Roach, John Scalzi, Neil Gaiman… I could go on forever. And no, I don’t think I can pick a favorite.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The lovely group of authors that rally around me even in the low times. My agents who are so patient with me when I’m being sooooo impatient. There’s nothing like having a tribe of like-minded people around you to hold you steady in this very unsteady profession.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Definitely. It has to be. If I saw it as a past time, it would become a past time. But seeing it as a career makes it one.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There’s always something I think you want to go back and tweak or adjust. I try to let it be done once it’s done. Otherwise, it would never make it to the printer.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
We tell stories all the time in my part of the world. It’s constant. Funny stories, tall tales, fairy tales, anecdotes, etc. I learned at an early age I was good at it. I could tell stories to a group of people and keep them entertained. That’s really where I started. Telling stories.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Well, my current novel is way too rough to share an excerpt as yet. It’s a historical fiction piece about one of the first women tattoo artists and her life. It’s going to be a big one, so look out for it!
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
After years of writing, I don’t have a hard time doing the work anymore. It comes quickly and easily on good days. Instead, the most challenging thing is finding the time. You can tell yourself you are a professional writer, but life still comes knocking on the door to remind you of the dishes in the sink or the school appointment.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Most of my long distance travelling has been for conferences and award ceremonies. I’ve placed in three competitions so far that sent me to Washington, Chicago, and soon to Miami.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Most of the time, cover artists do it. On my science fiction novella, Vacuum, that was published recently, I actually did the artwork on the cover. The cover artist did the text. I did the entire cover for my horror novelette, Sewn. I also did the cover for my short story that’s soon to be a video game called Danielle’s Inferno.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Making it real. Making the people feel real. Giving them three dimensions.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that if it makes you cry, it should make your reader cry. Likewise, if you want them to cry, you better cry first.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
Hahaha. It depends which book I suppose. With I Once Knew Vincent, I’d love to see Sean Harris play Vincent Van Gogh. I think he’d be amazing.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you want to write, do it. Write a lot. Don’t stop because it’s terrible. It’s okay if it’s terrible. It will get better. When you aren’t writing, read. The best way to be a better writer is the read the ones that have it down to an art.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Buy my books? Just kidding. I suppose I hope at least one or two of my pieces resonate with you in some way. I hope you find joyful moments in them. I hope I make you cry with some because I did…a lot. Thanks for reading!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading Bird By Bird written by Anne Lamott. It is a book about writing and the realities of being a writer. It’s very insightful and something I recommend to just about any writer out there no matter where they are in their career.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t really. I think it was something involving a mouse and Christmas.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Cats and children. Not necessarily in that order, but they do both in equal measures.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Gene Wilder, who so recently passed. I always wanted to know how he was able to be so effortlessly whimsical and lovely despite all he had lost.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I don’t want anyone to take up time worrying over my grave. I always wanted to be buried under a willow tree with a stone that said something like…
Here stands a willow tree.
Please let it weep for me.
Live your life and let me be.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I am a mom of a toddler so my hobbies involve Sesame Street and poo. Well, and I’m still an artist, so painting, drawing, sculpting, illustrating, video games, etc.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My watch list swings on a scale from “oh how insightful and artsy” to “please don’t judge me because I like this.” If it has a good story and/or makes me laugh, I like it.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I love Cajun food most of all. I adore the most vibrant colors that hurt most people’s retinas, and music so good that makes me sing really loud and terribly because my singing voice is just awful.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Well, I’d be an artist, which I still do that on the side. I guess I currently do the two things I was meant to do. I’m lucky that way.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website is http://www.michellereneauthor.com/ . It has some information about me, my different pen names, and my work. There are links to where you can buy my books and the latest about what’s going on with appearances and the like.
Thanks so much for interviewing me!