Michele Lang writes paranormal tales set in contemporary, urban settings: the stories of witches, lawyers, goddesses, bankers, demons, and other magical creatures hidden in plain sight. In addition to writing fiction, she has practiced the unholy craft of litigation in both Connecticut and New York.
As a lawyer, Michele founded and directed Project Dandelion, a program dedicated to helping women to escape poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. Project Dandelion, created in 1992, helps women and their families by offering workshops, one on one consultations, written materials, and legal advocacy.
Michele lives with her family in the village of Sea Cliff, NY. Ms. Pendragon is her first novel.
What made you want to become a writer?
Books. I’ve been a fanatic reader since I was two years old, and even when I’m not reading, stories tell themselves in my head. Books are the most magical objects I know…think of it! Someone who’s been dead for hundreds of years can speak directly to you through his or her words, and you can complete their story simply by reading it. Writing fiction is the greatest job in the world.
But it goes deeper than that. I believe with all my heart that we are here for a reason. Part of why I am alive is to help other people to rev their own creative engines and get them excited about their own missions in life. As a lawyer, I helped women to find their way through the legal system and out of dangerous situations. As a writer, my work is designed to amuse, inspire, and liberate people from the more deadening aspects of daily life. My books celebrate the power of dreams to change the world.
Was the journey difficult? Any help? Any obstacles?
My primary obstacle was fear. And my greatest fear was that I wasn’t good enough to write the stories down as I heard and saw them in my mind. I also feared that I didn’t have the right to tell my own stories at all. I had to learn to believe in myself, trust my talent. Once I accepted the fact that my job was to tell the stories, not judge how good or bad they are, I could get out of my own way and write them.
My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Brady, helped me a lot. He called my parents into school to tell them I was the best writer he’d ever taught. His encouragement gave me permission to become a writer. Writers don’t need someone else to tell them they can write. But Mr. Brady’s belief in me meant so much.
Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. If you love something and it makes you wildly happy to do it, believe you are meant to do that very thing, and give yourself the time and permission to do it right. You deserve it! And for all you know, someone out there needs you to do it, too.
Where does that inner drive to write come from?
Sometimes it’s a whisper, sometimes a roar, but that inner voice keeps on telling the stories. If I don’t write them down, I start to go a little crazy.
How do you keep readers turning pages?
Most people learn and grow as a result of surviving their worst nightmares. When a reader cares about a character and their troubles, they will keep reading to find out how they make it through the train wrecks and disasters. I love all my characters, especially my villains. But I’m terribly hard on them.
How often will you revise and re-write your work?
It depends on the needs of the story. My first draft comes at a white heat, and I’m careful not to go back and edit what I write as I’m getting that first draft down on paper. After I let the rough manuscript sit for awhile, I go back and do a hard edit. Sometimes I edit so hard that I end up rewriting huge chunks of the story. But once I do that hard edit, the toughest part is over. I do a light polish to make sure the manuscript shines before I send it off to my editor. After my editor takes a look, I sometimes do another hard edit…but it’s never as extensive as the first one.
What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?
I love transmuting the affairs of the world into fiction. What in society infuriates you? Drives you to despair? Makes you laugh for joy? Take those passions, those struggles, and put them in a fictional place, give these problems to fictional characters to grapple with. For example, like many people I find myself obsessed with the threat of terrorism. I take my desolation and my hopes and churn them into my stories.
I also mine ancient legends, like those of Robin Hood, King Arthur, or the Greek gods. What would those characters do in a different setting? With different enemies? I’ll interview characters and legendary figures to get answers to these questions, and before I know it, they’re telling me their story.
What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?
Deadlines. Get some – if you can’t get a publishing contract that forces you to write, find a writer’s group that can give you an outside deadline to meet. I find that writing fast shuts down the inner censor because I don’t have time to listen to it.
Also, try to write something every day, even if only a sentence. It keeps you in contact with that inner voice, the stream of stories that keeps flowing under the surface.
Do you have a favorite book?
I love so many books — I can’t pick a favorite. I will say that I loved reading Watership Down by Richard Adams. I first read it when I was twelve, and I read it over and over again. I loved the quest in that book, the loyalties of the characters, the deep struggles they all fought to survive.
Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?
The early morning. I’m all alone, the outside world is quiet, and afterwards, I can enjoy the rest of my day knowing that I got to write first.
What is one saying or proverb you live by?
Never give up on your dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” and I think she was right.
Read everything you can get your hands on. And write. For so long I aspired to write. I dreamed of writing, read voraciously, wrote long journal entries about writing. It was all good, but at some point, you need to stop analyzing and dreaming, and commit. Embrace the inevitable dreck of your early efforts, and despite the dreck, believe. Have faith in your ability to improve and have the humility to admit how much you have to learn. Your love for words will take you everywhere you need to go. Please don’t wait any longer to get started.
Don’t be afraid of the day job. I could never have become a writer if I hadn’t practiced as a lawyer first – I learned about human nature, and how to finish what I start. Find a job that stretches you and brings you in contact with a lot of people, if your temperament suits you to that kind of job. Give yourself time to get good at that job, and to make friends with people who aren’t writers. The more deeply you live your life and love the people in your life, the more material you will have to write about.
If you write in genre fiction, do yourself a huge favor and join a local or national writers’ group like Romance Writers of America. I’ve learned about the business of writing from generous writers who’ve shared so much knowledge with me. If you can’t afford to join, haunt the blogs of your favorite authors and learn from them. But please don’t stop yourself from writing while you learn, because the best way to learn is to set yourself free and write.
Where can we find out more about your work?
For excerpts, contests and more, please visit my website: www.michelelang.com
I also give talks at libraries, reading groups, and schools. Please contact me at Michele@michelelang.com regarding interviews or speaking engagements.
Finally, my first novel, Ms. Pendragon, comes out this month in paperback. You can find it at your local book store or on Amazon.com