A Fabulous Interview with Michelle McLean

I met Michelle over a year ago on the Query Tracker forum. Since that time, we have become crit partners and agent buddies. Not a day goes by that we do not check in with other in some capacity. I have even had the pleasure to meet her in person. And let me tell you – she is fabulous!

Michelle’s book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, is set for publication by Career Press in late 2010/early 2011.  I asked her to stop by the blog and let us know more about her and the books she writes.

CF: Why did you begin writing?

MM: To be honest, I’m not sure why I decided to get serious about it. I was just sitting there one day and thought “why not?”

CF: How long have you been writing?

MM: I’ve been writing my whole life but I started trying to be “professional” about it (writing with publication in mind) about 4 or 5 years ago.

CF: What made you write Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers ?

MM: I had to look up the rules to a certain type of essay to help my brother with a paper for one of his classes. I have a MA in English and have written a LOT of essays and papers, and I already knew the basics on what I was looking up, but every source I found listed the information in such a technical and confusing way that I had a hard time understanding it. No wonder people who are already confused have a hard time!

I had just started my blog at the time and was looking for good subjects to discuss, so I started posting How To posts on several different subjects. But the posts on how to write essays, papers, and poetry got the biggest response. I started getting a lot of comments thanking me for explaining things in a way everyone could understand and telling me I had a knack for explaining complicated information in a simple, straight forward way. I had a few friends encourage me to write a book on the subject, and it ended up turning into two books – one on the essays and papers, and one on poetry.

My goal with it is to help people, especially students, get through their assignments with the least amount of pain and confusion possible. Essays are something that everyone has to write, whether they want to or not. Being confused by the process doesn’t make it any easier.

CF: Do you write other genres? What are they?

MM: I do. At the moment, I’m mainly focused on my non-fiction and YA novels, mostly YA Urban Fantasy and Paranormal. I also write children’s picture books and historical romantic suspense.

CF: Tell me a little about the Nonfiction journey towards publication? Is it anything like the fiction journey? What has been the hardest part so far? The most rewarding?

MM: It’s similar in that you have to query, but other than that, it’s pretty different than Fiction. For instance, most publishers will accept unagented material, even the big houses. I wanted to go the agent route though, since I knew if I ever got an offer, I’d have no clue what to do.

Also, with non-fiction, you don’t have to have your book polished before you send it off. In fact, you don’t even have to have it written. But you do have to have sample chapters and a proposal. And that proposal can be very intimidating. With sample chapters, it usually ends up being 60 or more pages.

Once you have your proposal, you send out your query, and if you get a request, you send your proposal (instead of sending a partial or full manuscript like you would for fiction). If the publisher likes your proposal, the next step is a publication offer.

The hardest thing, like with any genre or stage in the process I think, is the waiting. Waiting on agent submissions. Waiting on editor submissions once you have an agent. Waiting on those editors once they said they liked it and MAY offer. Waiting for those contracts to come once they’ve said yes🙂 The waiting will kill you if you aren’t careful🙂

The most rewarding…probably knowing that all that hard work, all those late hours and missed tv shows and unread books and everything else I gave up in order to write, knowing that it was worth it because I was able to realize my dream. Seeing that book on the bookstore shelves…that’ll be an awesome moment🙂

CF: What are the most important things you are doing to get ready for your publication date?

MM: Writing! LOL I’ve got a few new chapters I need to add to the book and a few other changes I need to make. And then my editor and I will go through any other revisions I need to make. I’m also working on a few marketing strategies, brainstorming ways to help sell my book. I began this aspect before my book sold, but nowadays, marketing your own book to the best of your ability is just part of an author’s job.  

CF: How do you manage to balance writing with other real-life things (like relationships, etc)?

MM: Honestly, I don’t always. But I do what I can🙂 I try to stick to a schedule, but when I really need to get some work done, the house is a mess and the kids are very happily living off of cereal🙂 I also pull a lot of early mornings and late nights so I can spend time with my kids and husband when they are home and needing my attention.

CF: Where do you find your inspiration?

MM: Everywhere. For fiction, especially. But with fiction, it’s more about the emotions that are evoked by what I’m experiencing…the songs I hear, the things and people I see and hear. With NF, I’m more inspired by the needs I see and the subjects I enjoy. The struggling student’s need to understand what is going on so they can pass their hated English course without pulling their hair out. The desire to share the things I love – history, poetry, reading, writing. I want to share the joy I find in these things and show people who may not be interested in these subjects that they aren’t as bad as they might seem.

CF: What can you share about some of your future projects?

MM: I am working on expanding the poetry section that was originally in the Essays and Term Papers book into a stand alone book that will teach students how to write many different types of poetic forms. And I have also begun work on a book based on the information I share on my blog, Papers, Prose and Poetry. It will focus on literary analysis essays and literary criticisms.

CF: Tell me a random fact about you.

MM: Hmmm….when I was pregnant with my son, my feet grew a bit, as they tend to do. But mine were a little weird and now my right foot is about half a size bigger than my left foot🙂

Thanks for coming by Michelle. I wish you great success with both this book and your YA endeavors. Be sure to check out her blog, webpage , and fan page  for more information on her projects!

16 thoughts on “A Fabulous Interview with Michelle McLean

  1. Laurie Marquis

    Fantastic interview! I love hearing what goes on inside the creative head. I also loved watching the growth process and love of reading, learning, and teaching with Michelle…I’m her mother!! She is amazingly brilliant and has such a talent to share what she knows in a down to earth, easy to understand way. Congratulations, Michelle!!

  2. This was a great interview! I especially liked reading what the journey to publication is like for non-fiction work. I don’t have any plans to write any non-fiction, but my husband is working on something, so this was really neat to read.

    Thanks Christine!

    And congratulations to you Michelle!

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