Author Interview: Michelle Wilson, Olive
Drop the "aspiring" in "aspiring writer." That's what someone told author Michelle Wilson one day, and it was as if the universe gave her persmission to be what she had always wanted to be. Now the author of four inspirational books, Michelle wants to inspire other writers to write, and with her books she inspire people with a happy attitude. Read her author interview below!
Michelle Wilson's books:
Deseret Book 2013
Pink Umbrella Publishing 2019
When did you start writing your first book, Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.
I started writing my first book in 2012. I had started a blog in 2008, and after four years realized my love for writing inspirational nonfiction. I looked back at my posts and noticed a theme: the power of perspective. This was how the idea to write a book on it came to be.
Synopsis for Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?: "Michelle Wilson’s humorous yet poignant insights help women examine the limitations we place on ourselves out of insecurity and self-doubt. We have faith in God, but do we know that He has faith in us? When we see ourselves with God’s eternal perspective, we can feel confident and whole—even in our imperfection. Just think what we might accomplish if we truly believe that we are more important than we know, stronger than we realize, and extraordinary in every way."
What was the hardest part about writing your first book, Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
The hardest part about writing my first book was probably the lack of knowledge I had. Once I realized there was this entire world of writing and publishing I’d never been in before, I went to work. I rented books from the library, google all the things, and started attending writers conferences to hone the craft of writing.
Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I sent it to Chris Schoebinger at Deseret Book (whom I had pitched the book to three months prior, at my first writers conference ever, per his request).
What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
The editing process was quite simple on my first manuscript. The others…more painful.
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Let's talk about your newest book, OLIVE! When did you start writing OLIVE? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.
"Meet Olive. She's optimistic and well-intentioned . . . and a magnet for mishaps. When Olive's day goes from bad to worse, she wonders if her family and friends can love her in spite of her flaws."
A year or so after my husband and I adopted our youngest daughter, Grace, I was tucking her into bed. Worry clouded her six-year-old green eyes. After some loving prodding, she opened up to me.
She expressed concern --no, fear-- that if I knew all the "bad" things she thought or did, I wouldn't love her. I assured her that I already knew all the sides of Grace, her happy and sad sides, her good and wrong choices, her fears and faults, her strengths and weaknesses, and I loved ALL of her. She seemed hopeful, but not convinced. And I don't blame her. For a lot of kids that struggle with emotional and connection issues, whether from trauma, developmental disorders, disease, autism, or more, recognizing and accepting unconditional love can be difficult. And it was for Grace. After I kissed her goodnight, I sat on the side of my bed and wrote the first version of OLIVE. I wanted to have another way for me to express my unconditional love for her. She's 16 now, and finally knows how much I love her, not just part, but all of her.
What was the hardest part about writing OLIVE? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
I love poetry. The initial writing of this sweet story/poem came pretty easily to me.
Once your manuscript for OLIVE was finished, what did you do?
I sent it to a small children’s publisher a few years ago. She said she loved it and wanted to publish it with a few changes: if I could not make it rhyme and not be as sweet. So, basically, change the entire book. Lol. I passed.
A few years later, I was at a writers conference (SO many good things happen at writers conferences outside of classes) and met and chatted with Adrienne Quintana. After an hour or so she mentioned she published children’s books. I mentioned I had written one. I told her about OLIVE, she got goosebumps, and here we are!
What did you expect from the editing process with OLIVE? How was the experience?
I didn’t think I’d have to edit a short poem, but I was amazed the professionalism and keen eye of Merry Gordon at Pink Umbrella, who helped me fine-tune it. I’ve never taken a class on poetry, and was surprised by the technicality of beats and rhythm, as we all, generally, making sure every word counts. The poem was originally longer as well, so there was some paring down, which is also painful, to make it fit in the 32-page spread.
Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
I found my illustrator by accident. Lol. Angie Penrose has been my friend for over ten years and I’d never known she not only drew, but had a dream of illustrating a children’s book. It came up one night and she gave it a go. She’s so talented. I like to say I gave Olive heart but she gave Olive soul J
How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
After Adrienne and I initially met at the writers conference, things went pretty smoothly thereon. Pink Umbrella Books is absolutely wonderful to work with.
How have you marketed your first book?
Blog tour, FB Live video, launch party, contests—the usual.
How was the initial feedback from readers?
The feedback has been very positive. My favorite thing about OLIVE is the message of unconditional love. Some kids really struggle with doubts and fears, and I’ve met many moms who have used OLIVE to help calm those fears and reaffirm their love for their kids. Adults readers love the three pages of curriculum in the back of the book that help them have conversations with their kids about feelings, fixing problems, and forgiving. Young/early readers love the illustrations and the easy-to-read text.
How have sales been on OLIVE? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
It just released on October 29th, so it’s still hard to tell, but our first day went smashingly well J
Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
Children’s book tend to sell more prints.
Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
Pink Umbrella Books does because they are smart J
What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?
Writing and publishing have been some of the most wonderful and difficult things I’ve done. My first book happened abnormally quickly. (I pitched it Feb 2013 and it was published Dec 2013) It took me a while to find my balance and place after I was shotgunned into this world. I decided to write more inspirational nonfiction because I love to uplift women and connect them with God. I make them laugh and think, and He does all the heavy lifting J I also write fiction though I’m not published yet. I’ve written one novel, which is resting on the back burning, and am working on a second one right now. My next inspirational nonfiction will be released March 2020.
All my experiences have been different, and I’ve changed my approach with each one. Different publishers do things differently and there are adjustments that need to be made on the authors part. However, I’ve really learned to have more faith in my writing and value my opinion. If OLIVE had been my first book, when that initial publisher had asked me to change much of it, I might have, thinking they were the “experts” so they must be right. Yes, there are people in the industry that know SO much more than myself, but I have a confidence in my skills and experience that allow me now to move at a steadier pace and have more control behind the steering wheel.
When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I don’t have the luxury of having a set schedule to write, so I write in all the nooks and crannies of the day—early morning, afternoon, or evening. Having wordcount goals don’t work for me. Neither does “waiting for inspiration to hit.” Rather, I’ve found a hybrid approach where I make it a point to touch my WIP everyday, whether it’s writing, reading it, outlining, etc.
I write because I love it. It’s free therapy ;) In my fiction, I love creating stories that will make people smile. In my inspirational nonfiction, part of writing is who I work through my own stuff. But, more of it is because I love God, and I love His daughters. I don’t have any new ideas—because really, there aren’t new ideas, they’re all His—but I do love explaining His principles in a way that might resonate with women and help connect them with Him.
What do aspiring authors ask you?
How did I get published? How do I think of my book ideas? How do I outline my books?
What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
Oh- this is a biggie.
First off, I would say drop the “aspiring” and change it to “writer” rather than author. When I first started writing, I had “aspiring writer” on my bio. A kind person (whom I don’t remember their name) messaged me and said, “Friend, drop the “aspiring. You write words. You ARE a writer, right now. Give yourself the credit you deserve.” So, I did. I’ll admit, it felt a little undeserving and even pretentious when I simply identified myself as “writer.” I mean, I hadn’t published anything yet. (And here we segue in the second half of the above advice) See, there is a stigma with the word “author.” We think of author as someone who’s published a novel. But, technically, an author is a someone who has written a piece. I’ve written lots of pieces. And many of them have been pieces of crap. Lol. But, there’s the key word: written. Whether I was published or not, I was a writer. “Author” points towards the goal of publishing. “Writer” is who we are. So, first I would tell them to call themselves a Writer and own it. J
Next, I’d tell them to write and learn and read and write and learn and read. Read a lot. Now, here’s something weird about me. I am not a prolific reader. I’ve heard it said if you don’t read a ton you have no right writing. I completely disagree. Writing is a gift we have that flows through us. It doesn’t come from reaching a quota read of things written by others. HOWEVER, when you do read the works of others, it DOES help YOUR writing get better. Read critically and ask yourself why you love certain passages/language/plot/characters. Use that time to absorb elements of story and delivery.
Learn the craft and practice it. Take classes and workshops. Read craft books. Do your own writing exercises. Dissect movies and books for plot and character arcs.
But don’t get caught up in the craft and forget the heart—the story. In fiction, you are telling someone’s journey, from the beginning to the end. In your mind and in the reader’s mind, this person will be a part of their lives for a time, maybe forever. Keep your characters real and share their story.
Be cognizant of your goals. Do you want to get published? If so, be proactive. Learn about the process, hone your skills, understand the industry, and for the love of all that’s chocolate, be patient with yourself as you grow. Learn to see red critique marks on the page symbols your WIP as improving, not proof you’re a terrible writer. Get an ice cream cone every time you get receive a rejection from an agent/publisher. It’s all part of the process.
Go to writers conferences. Join writer groups. Mingle, get to know people. This is HUGE. Most of my best friends have been made since 2012 when I stepped into this world.
Get a critique group. You learn so much from getting your work critiqued as well as critiquing others’.
Know that writer’s fraud syndrome is real, and despite what you think, can get worse with every book published. You think if you can publish one book, you’ll feel legit. Then, when you do that, you wonder if it was a fluke and need to publish one more just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Then, when you’ve published two, the word “only” enters your vocabulary, and you see you’ve “only” published two books, not like the dozens of books others have, and you still don’t feel like a real writer. It has the potential to never end. Look carefully at how you “legitimize” yourself as a writer. Don’t allow fraud syndrome to rob you of any of your accomplishments, from writing one beautiful sentence that no one will ever see, or a novel that wins multiple awards.
Celebrate your writer friend’s success. There’s no place for jealousy in writing. It only hurts you.
I know this sounds like a lot, because it is. And I’m forgetting some things here too. Lol! BUT, most of all—love writing. If you find you don’t love it, don’t stop writing. Writing is a God-given gift meant to bring us joy. If you’re not, figure out what is going on and adjust. It’s OKAY if you the time and and season isn’t one for writing. It doesn’t change the fact YOU ARE A WRITER. I have my driver’s license, but, at this moment I am on my couch in my jammies by the fire writing this. Does the fact that I am not on the road suddenly make me not a driver? Nope. Same with writing. Take breaks if you need to. Learn when to push through stalled times and when to let things rest. Keep God as your writing partner and He’ll help you figure things out.
And always remember, you are a writer.