I first met Michelle Dennis Evans through #pblitchat – a twitter-based chat I co-convened at the time, for those who loved or created picture books. Michelle has also been a participant in January Month of Poetry, which I co-ordinate each year – and we continue to interact on Twitter. Michelle has recently indie-published her YA Contemporary novel, Spiralling Out of Control – her first published work. Exciting times!
Given our connection through both poetry and picture books (and the fact that they’re the focus of my blog), I thought I’d ask some questions that stem from these commonalities.
But firstly, welcome Michelle, and congratulations on the release of Spiralling Out of Control. I imagine it has been a busy and exciting week for you, launching Stephanie’s story into the world.
Hello!!! I’m so excited to be here and not just chatting on Twitter or frantically punching out another poem in MoP! And, oh boy, yes! This week has been crazy, daunting, exciting and fun.
Has your experience in writing poetry and picture books influenced how you approach your novel writing?
Absolutely. The discipline needed to write concisely in picture books is also needed in novels. And when I found I just couldn’t get the beginning of my novel to work – I wrote a poem… and that poem is now the intro to Spiralling Out of Control. In fact, I have included several poems throughout this novel. Poems help me get my head around how the characters are really feeling.
Poetry and picture books are both genres that are very often read aloud. Do you read your YA writing aloud during the writing or editing process? How is this beneficial?
Yeah, I would probably read my manuscript out aloud at least three times -once while I’m making sure the story works, then a couple of times when proofreading. I pick up so much more when I read word for word out loud, and I also listen for some kind of natural rhythm to my sentences and paragraphs.
Picture books are very visual – the epitome of show, don’t tell – with illustrations to bring a character to life. While writing Spiralling Out of Control, how did you bring your characters to life and keep them real in your mind – so this could then be portrayed through your words?
I do keep a notepad in front of me with a page of notes and a very messy mind map to help me remember the basic details. I guess I keep the characters alive because I know their personality and their actions and reactions flow from my knowledge who they are. When I first drafted Spiralling Out of Control, I distanced myself from the main character Stephanie, because what she goes through is quite painful, but with each revision I understood her more, loved her more and found myself wanting to rescue her.
Given our shared Month of Poetry history, I think it’s only fitting to ask you to write a poem (any form, any length) in some way inspired by Stephanie’s story. It may be one you’ve included in the book, it may be something completely new… but it has to be a poem. (The taskmaster is here. :P)
So, I wrote this when I was in Stephanie’s head…
Get Me Out Of Here
The music pounding in my head
This place too wretched to find a friend
I’ll never ever find my place
I’ll never ever show my face
I’ll let this music blow my mind
It’s loud and fierce to steal the time
I know and want too much now
I won’t find it in this town
Just let me head south
Words stuck in my mouth
I want to scream
I scream in my dreams
I want to yell at you
Don’t tell me what to do
How could you misplace me?
I tell you and you don’t see
I’ll show you that I can
I’ll go and live with my friend
I’ll rule my own life
I’ll keep out of strife
Play this music
To hide my emotion
I don’t want your attention
Get me out of here
Never leaving is my fear
To you I have nothing to give
I want out, I want to live
There’s a lot of anger and angst in Stephanie’s voice there, Michelle. A real cry for help…
Where can people buy Spiralling out of Control and read more of Stephanie’s story? Is it only available electronically, or is it also available in book form – or is that something that is coming soon?
At this point in time Spiralling Out of Control is only available as an ebook.
At only $1.99 you can buy one for yourself and a couple for your friends… hehehe
Thank you so much for having me here on your blog, allowing me to share a poem and promote my novel today Kat. I can’t wait to hang out with you again in January with MoP … I have another verse novel idea bouncing around in my mind…
Thanks for visiting, Michelle – and for reminding me how fast January is approaching. All the very best with your writing endeavours, and new book promotions. Enjoy!