Today’s Author Answers are from Michelle Gagnon, a former modern dancer, dog walker, bartender, freelance journalist, personal trainer, model, and Russian supper club performer. To the delight of her parents, she gave up all these occupations for an infinitely more stable and lucrative career as a crime fiction writer. Take it away, Michelle!
MG: The best description of the PERSEF0NE trilogy is that it’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo meets The Bourne Identity.” I love that, and I think it does a great job of summing it up. The two main characters, Noa and Peter, spend the greater part of three books trying to outrun and outsmart and evil corporation; fortunately, they’re hackers, so they have an edge.
WN: What is your favorite writing advice?
MG: I meet a lot of writers who have written 50, or 100 pages of a book. And that’s precisely when a lot of them give up. Listening to them, I’ve figured out why: when they got to that point, they went back and started editing their work. Granted, everyone has a different process, but here’s my advice: don’t start editing AT ALL until the bones of the story are in place. I’m currently finishing the rough draft of my 12th novel; and when I say rough, believe me, it’s no exaggeration. The manuscript is riddled with typos, overwrought metaphors, and clunky dialogue. I accept that much of the time, I’m going to despise what’s appearing on the page. But I grit my teeth and keep going, because the rough draft is called that for a reason. It’s all about getting the bones of the story in place. Later, I’ll end up reworking it chapter by chapter, scene by scene; I make between 15-20 passes on every book I write. So there’s plenty of time to fine tune it later. The problem with editing as you go is that it’s a much slower process. I usually write 10 pages a day; during the editing process, I’m lucky to get through 3. So when a first time writer finally gets back to page 50, after perfecting those opening chapters, it’s daunting; like looking up at Everest, and realizing that you’ve barely reached base camp. Many, many people give up at that point. Avoid that by not stopping until you reach the end.
WN: When you aren’t writing, where are you most likely to be found?
MG: Dance class. In my 20s, I was a professional modern dancer in New York, and I still take class several times a week.
WN: The Nerds are very fond of thrillers. What’s it like from your side, to write for the YA set on topics that typical for thrillers?
MG: So much fun! The challenge for me, after writing an “adult” series, is that these kids aren’t FBI agents, cops, or ex-military; they don’t have guns, and need to really rely on their own wits to get themselves through. A big part of it for me was finding ways that teens could outsmart adults that were believable and that really worked in a thriller (like the scene where Noa runs into a high school to evade armed pursuers, knowing they’ll set metal detectors off and initiate a lockdown).
WN: This question isn’t very fair, but do you have a favorite series or character?
MG: It changes from week to week, honestly, depending on what I’m reading. But in terms of movies, I’m a Star Wars girl, hands down.