Michelle Marcos Interview

I am delighted to be speaking with author Michelle Marcos today. Thanks for taking time to speak with me today Michelle!
I'm thrilled to be here! Thanks for the opportunity to visit.

To start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I come from a large family-that is, I'm the fifth of six large children. We lived in Hialeah, Florida, which is a city of mostly Hispanic working-class folks. My mother was an office clerk, and my father worked at the same factory for 31 years. I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated with all things British; in fact, growing up, I sometimes used to fake an English accent with strangers just to see if I could convince them. After college, I became a middle school teacher (one of the "cool" ones), teaching English to children of other countries. My career took a strange trajectory after that-I worked at a detective agency, in the theatre, as a resume writer, at an environmental technology center, and for Habitat for Humanity. I credit my career path with contributing to my eccentricity. Now I write historical romance, and that's been the best job EVER.

Can you tell readers a little bit about your current release Secrets to Seducing a Scot?
Secrets to Seducing a Scot follows the story of socialite Serena Marsh, who writes a sizzling newspaper column that sets all of Regency London ablaze. Her father, who is an ambassador, is sent to Scotland to quell a rebellion, and Serena must leave the fashionable and cosmopolitan lifestyle she loves for the provincial and embattled Highlands. But when her life is threatened, her father hires fugitive hunter Malcolm Slayter to safeguard her well-being. Malcolm Slayter is a fearsome man, skilled in battle and criminal detection, and not beholden to any clan-and Serena wants nothing to do with the brutish and unsophisticated man. She bristles under the strictures Malcolm places upon her, and he is damnably unmoved by her sway. But it isn't long before Serena begins to appreciate his battle-honed body and his gruff Scottish ways, and she discovers that his constant presence in her life just isn't enough. Soon she wants to go beneath the scowl to somehow unclench the fist of the man who hides a brutal secret and a haunting past. Serena comes to learn that that there is no party in London quite as electrifying as a revolution in Scotland, and the only thing more intriguing than a man in a kilt…is a man out of one.

How long have you been writing?
When I was in the fourth grade, I wrote a poem that my teacher entered in the Dade County Youth Fair. "The Blue Horse" won first place. I suppose you could add "8-year-old poet" to my career path. :)

I started writing When A Lady Misbehaves my first year out of college, while I was working as a teacher. Back then, I was writing only for fun…it was just a hobby, and no one was ever going to read my story except me. But then I joined RWA and attended a couple of conferences, and it slowly dawned on me that I just might be able to get this story published. So I finished it and sent it out to agents. When I finally signed with one and sent her a revised manuscript, it took only about two months to sell it. So all in all, the road to publication took me sixteen years and two months.

What satisfies you about your writing?
I love the stories that I create. In fact, I wish it were possible for me to read my books instead of write them, so that I can indulge in them faster!

One of the greatest joys of writing is creating characters who are well-rounded-who have particular gifts and particular flaws-and watch them deal with their problems and obstacles. It's fun to watch my hero and heroine, in spite of their failings and poor choices, somehow fall in love. Even villains are heroes in their own minds, and they are equally driven to achieve their own dreams.

But I'm particularly drawn to inhabiting my characters' world with them, even though I'm only a silent witness. Have you ever walked into a haunted house at a fairground, or watched a really immersive movie, and you became willing to believe you really were in that situation? It's like that in writing…you just want to escape into that environment for a while.

Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing?
There are so many great romance writers who have influenced me, too many to name. Judith McNaught, Johanna Lindsey, Elizabeth Thornton, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Lisa Kleypas, Teresa Medeiros…these are just a few who remain permanent fixtures on my keeper shelf. But I think it's essential to study writers who are outside romance fiction, too. Though I'm not a diehard fan of horror, Stephen King is a master at crafting the page-turner. The writers of the TV show Lost were fantastic at suspense, writing a cliffhanger not just at the end of every episode, but at the end of every segment. Liz Curtis Higgs, who writes Christian fiction, conveys emotional complexity ingeniously. Katherine Stockett wrote character voices exceptionally well in The Help. I think it's important to be open at all times to great storytelling, and study what it is that makes it memorable for you.

When writing historical romance, what is more important to you as a writer - the character relationships, or providing historical accuracy?
Character and story are paramount. Without these two elements there is no novel, and 300 pages of historical accuracy is a textbook. Having said that, historical accuracy is extremely important, because anachronisms will jar the reader out of the story and make the characters seem inauthentic. Plus, a character's voice, attitudes, and actions emanate from a place and time in history. And I do love to do research. Not only does it lay the framework of the story in my mind, but I also get to amass an eclectic collection of interesting factoids. For instance, when I wanted a character in Gentlemen Behaving Badly to pull out a pencil and take some notes, I had to stop writing to research whether pencils were even around in the early 1800s-they were. There's a fun fact to share at parties.

What's one thing you would like your readers to know about you?
I can still do a mean English accent.

If you could meet any one person (past or present) and ask them only one question - Who would it be, and what would your question be?
I'd give anything to have met Jesus Christ when he was walking around on earth. He was so unafraid of being thought different, and he was a real maverick in how he treated second-class citizens like women and poor people. I'd have walked around with him taking down every single one of his words and teachings (I've always thought the Gospels were just too short). I don't think I'd have a question for him-I'd just thank him profusely for taking my place on that terrible cross.

It's been a long week of writing, editing and coming up with new ideas. Now the weekend is here and you can actually relax how would you spend the next 24 hours? One restriction, you're unable to pick up a book!
Well, if I can't get my immersive experience from a book, I'll find another way. Computer games are my kind of fun (uh-oh, my geekiness is showing). Games in the Myst/Riven vein, or Sherlock Holmes mysteries, will lose me for hours. I can't wait until they make a computer game out of a romance novel.

Congratulations! You just won a year off from work to travel anywhere in the world and write the story of your dreams. Where do you go, what type of book do you write, and what's the title?
The story of my dreams has already been written! I took a couple of weeks off two years ago to travel to Scotland. That trip inspired the story for Secrets To Seducing A Scot.

What can readers expect from you in the next 6 months?
If readers love Secrets to Seducing a Scot, the first Highland Knaves book, they'll also delight in the second in the series, Lessons In Loving A Laird [February 2012]. It's the story of Malcolm's twin sisters, Shona and Willow, who were also branded as knaves. One particular thing I liked about writing this story is that the prologue is the same event as in Secrets to Seducing a Scot, except that it's written from the point of view of a different character. Plus, it has another great heroine (an untamed farm girl who wants her freedom) and an amazing hero (a London doctor who has no intention of letting her go).

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I'll be finishing up a book giveaway in a few days, in which readers will get a chance to score a signed copy of Secrets to Seducing a Scot. To win, just enter your email on my webpage.

Thanks for taking time to answer my questions today Michelle.
Thanks for having me here!

Interviewed by: Tammy