Sunday, 12 January 2014

Author Interview|| Michelle Sagara West

Michelle Michiko Sagara is a Japanese-Canadian author of fantasy literature, active since the early 1990s. She has published as Michelle Sagara, as Michelle West and as Michelle Sagara West. She lives in Toronto and is employed part-time at Bakka. She was generous enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer our interview questions.

The Speculative Daily: What inspired you to start writing?

Michelle Sagara West: Like most writers, my inspiration for writing is a direct result of my love of reading. Books were like entire pocket worlds for me as a child; I loved them. I loved the stories and I loved the words. Sometimes I had to struggle with the words to understand and appreciate the nuances they contained--but unlocking them always opened up new avenues for me as a reader, and new ways of seeing both myself and the world around me.

I wanted to write books at a very young age--I thought, at the time, books were all made by hand, and I was frustrated because my writing and drawing didn't look like a real book.

But eventually I understood off-set printing, and printing presses, and publication, and at that time, I started to write, because I wanted to tell a story that readers would fall in love with, just as I’d fallen in love with the stories of others.

TSD: What were the major hurdles in getting your novel published and publicised?

Michelle: The major hurdles for me were writing and revising a novel. This isn’t as simple an answer as it at first seems. Writing for yourself is a simple act of creation; it’s not so much an act of communication. You understand how you think; you understand who your characters are. But when you’re writing for other readers you need to make certain that some of that knowledge is actually on the page. Too much, and it slows the story down; too little and it becomes confusing and possibly even seems pointless.
But learning to write is very individual, because literally no two published writers I know work the same way. Each of us has a process that works for us. Some are heavy outliners. Some can’t outline at all. Some write long, detailed character sketches; some learn about the characters as they write them. There’s no right way to write a novel; there’s only the way you’ve discovered that works for your novels - and so much of that is stumbling around in the dark looking for glimmers of luminescence. But that was the hard part, for me. In 1991, when my book was published, publishers accepted unsolicited (i.e. unagented) books, so I sent my book to Del Rey books. The editor liked my writing, but didn't like some elements of the book, and asked to see anything else I had either previously written or would write in the future.

There’s no right way to write a novel; there’s only the way you’ve discovered that works for your novels - and so much of that is stumbling around in the dark looking for glimmers of luminescence.

TSD: Do you base your characters on real life people?

Michelle: I don’t base most of my characters on real life people, in part because some of the stuff the characters go through is so personal it could wind up being awkward. And I don’t really do character sketches before I start to write. This doesn’t mean that there’s anything at all wrong with character sketches. Some people find them necessary--and writing is really all about finding your own process.

TSD: How do you deal with writers block?

Michelle: Writer’s block is interesting. Until I started working on two projects simultaneously, I used to think that I had stretches in which my creative brain was on strike. But I discovered that while it might take me 6 hours to write 400 words in one book, I could switch projects and write 1500 words in two hours, and I began to realize that sometimes the slowdown - or even the dead stop - was very much based in individual projects. Sometimes I can’t move forward because there’s something wrong with what I’ve just done, and I’m too close to it to see it.

When I first started writing, I couldn’t have worked on two projects simultaneously. But the way through, for me, was to set a minimum number of words that I had to write during a writing day--and to write those, no matter how long it took. This was probably as much fun as it sounds. 

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We thank you Michelle, for taking out the time to talk to us about your journey as an author. There were some great tips for aspiring writers.

Our favourite from Michelle's books are the Chronicles of Elantra series (yes all nine of them !) and next in line to read is "Silence" book 1 of ' The Queen of the Dead' series. Reviews for Cast in Shadow is going to be put up soon, so stay posted.

Click on any of the following links to buy book 1 of Chronicles of Elantra :

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