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Interview With Michelle Buckman

1. Tell us a little about yourself? Married/single, children, how many books authored, etc.

Michelle Buckman author of A Piece of the Sky (RiverOak Pub, Sept 2005)

I have been a freelance writer for seventeen years. My parents said I would starve as a writer, so I earned a degree in computer programming, which I promptly turned into writing software manuals, a very boring implementation of writing, but at least a start. Gradually, I expanded my freelancing to trade publications and national magazines, all the while studying fiction with a vengeance. After several trashed manuscripts, I knew "A Piece of the Sky" was the book I needed to publish, and sure enough it sold. I have another book under contract and several others in discussion, but it's too early to talk about those.

I was born in New York and spent my childhood in Toronto, Canada, but have lived all my adult life in various areas of the Carolinas. My husband and I have four wonderful children (my world revolves around them) and too many pets to list, but my favorite is a toy poodle that sleeps in my lap while I write. Our goal is to retire somewhere along the North Carolina coast; I do my best writing at the beach.

2. How many years have you been writing?

I wish I could say I wrote my book last year and it sold instantly, but writing has been a longtime love and learning experience. Since my parents wouldn't allow me to study English Lit in college, I am a self-taught writer, which has made the journey much longer, but very rewarding. I can honestly say writing has been a lifelong endeavor.

3. How much time do you spend writing daily? Do you consider yourself full-time or part-time? Do you write in the mornings or evenings?

I write full-time. I home school my children, so mornings are dedicated to them, but when the children head off to their individual assignments, I head to my desk and work on non-fiction (freelance articles) and marketing. My fiction writing is most often done in the late afternoons and wee hours when the house is quiet. I often get up at 2 a.m. and work until 5 or so, then crawl back into bed until 9. It's an odd schedule, but it works for me. I also take several one-week writing retreats during the year at my in-laws' beach condo during the off-season. My mother-in-law enjoys having the grandchildren visit while I go into seclusion to work non-stop without interruption for a solid week. It really helps me jumpstart or complete a project.

4. Do you set daily goals for your writing? Number of hours, pages, word count . Tell us how you set your goals.

In terms of fiction, I work in scenes, not pages or hours. My goal is always to finish writing the scene that's clear in my head, and usually a note or two about another scene that's developing so I never sit down to a blank page.

5. Where do you write? Do you have an office or a corner? Tell us about your space and what makes you most comfortable.

This is a good question since I just made a major adjustment to my writing space. We moved into a 150-year-old house about four years ago and my desk was placed at one end of a large family room because there wasn't room in the living room, which is where I worked in our previous house. (I have a very big desk.) Unfortunately, the interruptions and the sound of the television in the family room were playing havoc on my writing, so I finally moved the dining room table into the family room and moved my desk into the dining room. The change has been fantastic. I can block out all the family noises and still be available if someone needs me. Most importantly, if I'm deep into a chapter or article, I don't have to stop working when my husband comes home and turns on the television in the evening.

6. Do you plot or not? Expound briefly on your methods or theories in the plotting department.

I really prefer literary stories, so plotting is not as important to me as character development. My stories are about characters and their relationships; the plot is merely the stringing together of scenes that fulfill that development. Nevertheless, I do plot to some degree. When I sit down to a new story, I write the first and last chapter. (I can't take a trip without knowing where I'm headed.) Then I write scenes as they come to me, rarely in order. I jot down notes at the top of the file as plot ideas come to me, but I don’t act on them until a scene develops fully in my head. I am not a fast writer, nor do I rush to get a first draft completed. (I could never participate in the BIAW game.) Instead, I write and rewrite each scene until I'm totally satisfied with it. When I type "The End," my book needs very little revision. It's a different method from most writers, but that's what works for me.

7. Is your first draft rough or do you aim for a polished manuscript the first time through? How much time do you spend on rewrites?

My full manuscript revision is generally a read-through to make sure I haven’t left any gaps. I then turn the manuscript over to three very specifically chosen readers who offer their comments, and I revise accordingly. Then it goes to my agent for comments, and upon her approval, is sent out.

8. How does your Christian walk influence your writing? Any advice for integrated God and writing.

I know I’m odd in this factor, but I don’t write for CBA. My faith is my life and that comes through in my writing as I explore character motivation and action, but I never sit down at my desk and think, "I’m going to write a CBA book that contains XXX message." Whatever develops is through God’s grace. It’s never intentional. I guess this is why I produce what is considered "edgy" in CBA. My editor says not only do I push the CBA envelope; I’ve torn it up and thrown it away. That’s because I have never acknowledged the envelope; I don’t write according to rules. I write the story that lives and breaths inside of me, and know that God will impart whatever he wants into that story as He sees fit. If I produce a story that is unfit for CBA, I trust it will sell in ABA, which doesn’t bother me a bit. Faith shouldn’t be confined to one segment of the publishing world.

9. What was your biggest obstacle in regard to writing and/or getting published? How did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle was to stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a marketer. It wasn’t until I set all my writing aside and really worked at selling my manuscript to an agent and editor that I finally got a contract. In fact you can read about that journey on my website:

10. Do you have any advice for a new writer?

First and foremost, study the craft. Read books and magazines on writing, attend conferences/workshops, and study (don’t just read) books by your favorite authors.

Remember that God is ultimately in control, and the best way to succeed is to do the work and then place it at the foot of the cross. And if you really, really want to make it as a writer, don’t give up, but don’t ignore those messages from God directing how he wants you to use your time.

Do you have a website? (If yes, give address)

Any recent or upcoming releases you¹d like to mention?

A Piece of the Sky (RiverOak Publishers, Sept 2005)
Pretty Maids All In A Row (Avalon Books, June 2006) co-authored with A.H. Jackson

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