Friday, November 28, 2008

Interview with Tanya Michaels

Hope all our US readers had a great Thanksgiving! I wanted to post earlier but was having internet troubles. Better late in the day than never...

This month, it was my time to answer some interview questions about myself. It was lots of fun, and as always, I'm thrilled to be among so many other HAR authors!

How did you make your first sale to the line?
I used to write for Harlequin Temptation, which I enjoyed, but once my husband and I had children, I noticed family and community sneaking into more of the stories. For Temptation, which was a steamier line, the editors (and readers!) preferred that the focus be more on the couple than secondary characters like siblings, kids or lovably meddling neighbors. My editor suggested that American Romances—which definitely tell the story of a man and woman fall in love, but have more room for the supporting cast that I have so much fun with—might be a better fit. Boy, was she right!

Tell us a little about your family and where you're from.
My dad was in the Army, and we moved around a good bit during my childhood, which made it hard to be “from” anywhere. I always craved a sense of home, and creating that for my characters—a place to belong, someone to belong with—is one of my very favorite parts of writing for American. I’ve particularly had fun writing my Four Seasons in Mistletoe miniseries (the first, Mistletoe Baby, is in stores now) because they’re all set in the fictional town of Mistletoe Georgia and returning for each of the three subsequent stories feels like a homecoming to visit old friends. My husband, two children (a kindergartener and a first grader) and I live in Georgia. We’ve only been in our current house for a couple of years but in the state for a decade now, so Georgia officially feels like home!

Tell us about your book.
This particular book is something I’ve never tried before—a story about a couple who are already married. In Mistletoe Baby, David and Rachel Waide had temporarily separated but agreed not to tell the rest of the family until after the holidays because they don’t want to ruin a Christmas wedding (the hero’s brother is getting married). So for the duration of the holiday season, they’re having to pretend that all is well. And in doing so, they start to remember why they fell in love in the first place. By the way, I did a November podcast about this book which you can listen to at, a wonderful site where you can learn even more about Harlequin American Authors and even buy our books if you’re so inclined *g*

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Well, I sold the four-book series way before it was time to actually write the stories (I had other projects that had to be completed first). Oddly enough, when the time came to work on the manuscript, we were coping with an illness in the family, the stress of which was really taking a toll on my husband and me. It was bizarrely ironic that during my only book about a husband and wife, my husband and I were weathering the roughest patch in our ten year marriage! So some days, I just felt emotionally raw. The good news is, I think it made the book even better. And the really good news is that writing about a couple coming that close to losing each other was a daily reminder not to take my own spouse for granted! I am firmly of the belief that romantic happily ever afters are completely realistic in life—as long as you’re willing to put in the effort—and also of the belief that romance novels have a lot of value, whether it’s to help you smile through a difficult time or a reminder to cherish those you love.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Aside from spending time with my family, I like to read and watch movies! (Come to think of it, I often read to or watch movies with my kids or husband, so those can be family activities, too.) I read in all genres, books from my fellow Harlequin American sisters to fantasy to young adult to nonfiction. I couldn’t possibly list all the writers and books that I’ve enjoyed (I was trying for a while to keep a running tab of the books I read just this year on my personal blog, but it got away from me—I read far more that I update) but a few of the authors I enjoy include Holly Jacobs, Jennifer Crusie, JD Robb, George RR Martin, Dave Barry, Stephanie Bond, Elizabeth Hoyt, Eloisa James, Laura Marie Altom, Jane Graves, Dorien Kelly, Kresley Cole, Juila Quinn, Jennifer LaBrecque, Shelley Galloway, Teresa Medeiros, JK Rowling and Trish Milburn.

Some of my kids’ favorite books include Click, Clack Moo and related tales, the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne, the Geronimo Stilton chapter books, Peter and Fudge stories from Judy Blume, the hilarious “Pigeon” and “Knuffle Bunny” picture books from Mo Willems, and, for early readers, beginning stories featuring lovable dogs Biscuit and Noodles. I think it’s important to instill a love of reading early!

What is your writing routine?
What is this “routine” of which you speak—I know it not. My work schedule looks more like something out of chaos theory—getting up early (only to have the seven year old hear me and wake up. 7 tries not to bother me by pouring milk without asking for help…a white lake leaking beneath the kitchen appliances and tears ensue), I get the kids off to school, but only have an hour because kindergartener’s class is going on field trip and each child needs an adult escort, get home at about 3, write for fifteen minutes before refereeing sibling squabble. Write for a whole two hours (glory be!) before must stop to fix dinner (there are only so many nights I can tell themselves to grab a Lunchable from the fridge before the school nutritionist and our pediatrician hold an intervention). After dinner, I help with homework and baths and bedtime reading and accidentally nod off myself before hubby wakes me up and asks, “Aren’t you on deadline?”

True story—two weeks ago, while I was trying to use the comparatively quiet nighttime hours to work on a book, 7 woke up at a quarter to ten with a sick tummy. Then 5 woke up with a nightmare two hours later, followed by 7 waking up to ask for a drink of water and later 5 also waking with a sick tummy. (Neither went to school the next and, coincidentally, I got no writing done.) Routines are great if you can swing them, but I’m also a big believer in staying flexible and creating opportunities. The other moms in carpool line know not to come knock on my minivan window and chat if they see my laptop propped against the steering wheel. Heck, all these interview answers were typed while at Chuck E. Cheese.

How long have you been writing?Since grade school, children’s book I still read to kids. Wrote first full length (400+ pages) manuscript my freshman year of college (I was 17) and sent it, unrequested, to an editor at Pocket. They never even acknowledged it with a rejection (in retrospect, the writing was so bad, I can’t say I blame them). In college, I got my first writing related job which I followed with a string of freelance jobs either writing or copy-editing. I joined RWA in 1998 (Romance Writers of America, which helps educate writers in both craft and business matters), then sold my first book to Harlequin in 2001! But it was just last year that my first Harlequin American was released.

I hope for many more HARs in the future!!! And I wish you all a lovely weekend and happy reading.


Gillian Layne said...

Thanks for the great interview--I LOVED Mistletoe Baby! I've been married 20 years, so it was comforting to read about the ups and downs of a married couple, and to have someone write about how the romance can still be as strong after the marriage as before! I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series. :)

Trish Milburn said...

Fun interview, Tanya. And thanks for mentioning me as an author you like to read. And OMG, my name is next to JK Rowling's, one of my favorite authors.

You write great stories, and here's to many, many more.

Estella said...

I enjoyed the interview, Tanya!