Author FAQ with Michele Barrow-Belisle

So Fire & Ice was optioned for a Movie! Exciting! What can you tell us about that? Well, as you can imagine we’re all super excited about it! And I’ve had a lot of conversations with the producer, who fortunately wants to keep me on board in adapting the book to a screenplay. That doesn’t always happen, so I’m very grateful. I think it’s a dream most writers have, but it was equally important to me that my stories remain as true to the book series as possible. Hopefully we’ll be able to release more info soon! It’s so hard keeping things secret, lol.

Do you have dream cast in mind? From the very beginning I pictured Morgan Freeman as the wizard Hawthrin. That would be amazing! Other than him the other characters have varied over the years. I can see Aimee Teegarden as Lorelei, and Avan Jogia as Adrius and Nick Roux as Zantheil, Zoe Kravitz as Abby, Predrag Bjelac as King Etienne,   Eva Green as the ice witch-Octahvia,  Effy Stonem as Venus, and Idina Menzel as Vivianne, Lorelei’s mom.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, your education, family life and such? Well, let’s see, I live with my hubby and son in Southern Ontario, Canada. I studied psychology and early childhood education in university and college and then went on to major in business management. I spend my days writing and sculpting, the two pastimes I’m most passionate about. It’s so important to fill your life with the people and things that bring you joy.

Your favorite childhood books & authors? There were so many stories and authors I adored. From Dr. Seuss to Judy Blume there were countless stories I got lost in. The Narnia series, and several others by C.S. Lewis, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Ring by Tolkien, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Lord of The Flies by William Gerald Golding, Christy by Catherine Marshall, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews, Diary of Anne Frank, Jane Austins books, Beverly Cleary books, everything Nancy Drew, not to mention a ton of sweetheart romances read in my teen years... too much information?

What do you love now?  Many of the books I enjoyed as a child, such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, I still enjoy today. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series... loved it. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga... enjoyed that too. I might add I adored the movies made from those series as well. Anne Rice’s books, Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith, Fallen- Lauren Kate, Stardust by Neil Gaiman. That's the tip of the fiction iceberg. I also love reading metaphysical non-fiction books that question the nature of reality. So many books, so little time...if only there were more hours in a day. But at some point I have to make some time to actually write!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?  In the recesses of my mind, I would say yes, since writing was always something I loved to do. But it only submerged to the forefront of my awareness after several story idea sparks came to me refusing to be ignored. Once I started writing again, it was like a drug... thoroughly and utterly addicting.

How long have you been writing?  Well, for nearly as long as I've been able to write, I've been making up stories and characters in my head. Writing them down just seemed the next logical step.​

When and why did you begin writing?  I’ve been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil… make that a crayon. I used to make up stories and invent long involved plays for my friend to star in, when I was a child. I’ve had a journal or a diary for as long as I can remember, and the ideas for stories and characters and plots dance in my head constantly. I took a long break from it after university, but coming back to it again has been like finding a piece of my soul.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?  I’d self-published four books on my own and published two books with different publishing houses, but I still hadn’t given myself that label. In the back of my mind I had some lofty expectation that when I officially became a writer, I’d know... like the skies would open up and pour out rainbows and fireworks and stuff. Needless to say that didn’t happen. And it wasn’t until someone very casually and matter-of-factly said to me, “oh, so you’re a writer” that I gave it some thought and realized yes, I guess I really am.

What inspired you to write your first book? Well, my very first book was so long ago that I can’t remember what it was about much less what inspired me. But this book came from the characters in it. I woke up to ideas and dialog and scenes playing in my mind in the middle of the night and they wouldn’t stop until I began writing them down. I started, and I’m re-inspired every day to keep going.

Where did you get your inspiration for writing FIRE & ICE and BITTERSWEET? When I first started the story, many years ago, it began as something I could read to my son when he was about 8yrs old. I’d already self-published a series of how-to books by that point. We’d been reading the Magic Treehouse book series together and I had the thought, like many humble author has at some time, I could write that. And so I started writing what became Fire & Ice. But the story wanted to become so much more than a short middle grade novel, and so I set it aside for a few years. I took an amazing online fiction writing class at Savvy and fresh new ideas for how to shape it into a full length novel sprang to life. It sort of snowballed from there, because once I gave the characters a new lease on life, they wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d finished writing the entire book. Then they went on to insist their story should be a trilogy.  So then came the second book and third is underway. Now I’m not sure they’ll let me end things there though, lol.

What are your current projects? I’m currently working on Darkest Light, writing and revising a New Adult alternate historical romance called Courting Scandal, a short story for an anthology called FLIRT, and a new book featuring fallen angels and demons called Counted Shadows. I’ve never been very good at doing one thing at a time or finishing one project before starting another. At any given moment I could have half a dozen things on the go. But I am getting better at completing manuscripts.

Do you have a specific writing style? I imagine I do, but it’s hard for an author to label their own style. I’ve been told it’s very lyrical and beautiful and real and that I write dialog brilliantly, so let’s go with that. It sounds good to me.

How did you come up with the title?  I always had the title in my mind because of the characters the fire and the ice represent in the story. I love the polar opposites and the way that in and of themselves neither one is necessarily dangerous, but taken to extremes, they can be deadly. It’s simple and straightforward and unfortunately quite common, but it really does represent the story well. Plus the publisher let me keep it so it must have been a fairly good choice.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?  I’d love for readers to recognize there is power within them that may be lying dormant. To know that more of their lives and their choices and their destiny are under their control than they realize. The main character discovers this by uncovering hidden magical abilities, but I believe we all have inner magic to a certain extent. And that it’s our choices, more so than a preconceived destiny, that shapes our future.

How much of the book is realistic? To a certain extent all of it is realistic. Ok, so no, I haven’t actually traveled into a Faery realm and encountered other beings, but they represent people and places and situations that are quite real and very human. That said, the worlds are more dreamlike than realistic, and I would really love to visit. That’s one of the most exciting parts about this becoming a movie. The chance to actually step into this imaginary world in real life!  

Are the experiences you write about based on people you know, or events in your own life?  No, they are all made up, although after reading through my first draft, I realized that various aspects of the main characters reminded me of people I’ve known.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?  J.K. Rowling. I love not only her books but also her story. It’s so inspiring. I confess, I’ve watched every interview, read every biography and even watched the unauthorized biography movie… more than once. ;)

What book are you reading now?  Between paperbacks and what’s loaded on my Kobo, I’m reading the The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Loving this series!), also NeverNever by Colleen Hoover and  , and in non-fiction: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr Joe Dispenza and E-Cubed by Pam Grout.  

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I discover new authors almost daily, so it would be difficult to list them all, but I really do like a lot of the fresh new voices in contemporary New Adult, which wasn’t a genre I was interested in before.

Name one person that you feel supported you, outside of family members. My writing mentor, the NY Times best-selling romance author Lori Wilde. She was instrumental in shaping my first story into what it is today, and she helped me take it from the boring walk-in-the-park it started as, to the thrilling compelling read it is now. *she said modestly.* ;)

Do you see writing as a career? Yes, I absolutely do see it as a career and a wonderful one at that! There are people who will say you can’t make money at it, but there are far more people making a wonderful living at it. I chose long ago to align with those who believe in what is possible. It’s the career I see for myself for a long time to come.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?  I think anything I would have changed, I did change during the million and one rounds of edits. Kidding! Actually, I really like the story as it is and Astraea Press has brilliant editors who helped. I wish I could have included all the bits they made me cut out of it, but then it would have been ridiculously long, filled with details only interesting to me.

What kind of research do you do? And what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research? I’ve always loves faerie folklore and Celtic mythology so I’ve read a lot of books on the subject. Fantasy is a genre I’ve adored since childhood. I once bought a book of spells to see what types of elemental magic witches Fey might use, and naturally I had to try out a few of them.  All in the name of research, of course. ;)

Do you have a favorite character from the book? I really love Adrius. He’s the ideal hero in my opinion. Yes he makes mistakes and wrong choices, but behind them all is this unrelenting need for love, and his love for Lorelei. There is a soulful depth to his character that I hope to bring to life in a novella, sharing his perspective and his experiences before and after meeting Lorelei. He never really gets to fully give his side of the story and there is so much more to him than we get to see. He’s the ultimate good guy… plus, he’s really hot!

Playlists for books is becoming very popular….do you have a playlist with your books? And what is your favorite type of music? Here’s the playlist for Fire & Ice series (I’m working on the youtube playlist)

My Immortal - Evanesence
Forever and A Day - Jewel
Again - Flylead
Loreena McKennitt- The Mystic's Dream
Ce he mise le ulaingt (The Two Trees) - Loreena McKennitt
Whispers in the Dark - Skillet
Before We Come Undone - Kris Allen
The Secret Forest - John Kelly
Sweet Dreams - Jewel
The Magic of The Wizard's Dream - Rhapsody
Bring It Back -  Kris Allen
Never Ending Road - Loreena McKennitt
A Dangerous Mind
Angel Stading By - Jewel
Tears -
Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
Fire & Ice - Pat Benatar

I create playlists for every story I write and I find music a very powerful catalyst in transporting me into the heart of a story or scene. Personally, I love eighties music, dance music, soundtracks and classic rock, but my playlists consists of a huge range of music, depending on my mood.  
Do you have a particular writing routine once you start a book? I tend to be undisciplined when it comes to sticking to a writing schedule, which is why I love events like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Generally I write in a sporadic fashion. I might write 2500 words one day, nothing for the next two days and then bam, suddenly write 12,000 words the next. I’m trying to stick to more of a routine, especially now that I have three novels on the go and a deadline of the end of the end of the year!
What’s the most difficult part in writing? Definitely for me it’s plotting out a story. I’m notorious for diving in without having any real idea where the story is going to lead, aside from knowing I want the characters to have a happily ever after. This method works for the most part, but it has gotten me into a jam on occasion, writing myself into a corner and have to restrict things in order to get out. Now I try to plot at least a basic framework before beginning. I also have a hard time writing concisely. I want to include every minute detail, but no one wants to read every last detail running around in my head. So I do a lot of cutting.
What comes first for you? The story? Characters? Or setting? Usually it’s the characters and then they dictate the story and the setting. For Fire & Ice however, the setting came first, because Mythlandria was a very visual place that I could see in my head and I had a very clear image of how it looked.
If you weren’t a writer, what other path might you have followed? I would have to do something else creative, like continuing on with my sculpting business. I don’t know how to live life without creativity of some sort. It’s what feeds my soul and brings me joy and lets me share that joy with the world. Isn’t that what life is all about? That or I’d follow my childhood dream of becoming a movie star.
Is there an aspect of writing that comes easy for you, and what do you find the most difficult (ie: plot, character, dialog, etc)?  I often hear full conversations in my head, so writing dialog is relatively easy for me. It’s funny how you can say that in the company of writers and not freak them out. But fleshing out those character’s strengths, weaknesses and motivation is sometimes a little more challenging.
Now for the hot seat question! Tell us, if you dare, what is the wildest or funniest thing you have ever done (that you can share!) and what did you learn from it?  I never could turn down a dare, so here it goes. I like to mix business with pleasure, so when a friend and I spent a week in the big apple, and we decided to make our New York experience as exciting as possible. We’d already completed our meetings with bigwig execs, and on an impulse, I looked up the address of a publishing house who had requested to read my manuscript. Our intention was to walk through the lobby, soak up the “atmosphere” and then hit 5th Avenue for some shopping. Well, security generously asked if they could help us, and to my absolute horror my business-savvy friend very calmly gave him the editor’s name and asked if this was where the publishing house had their offices. Almost immediately, there was a flurry of activity which included security asking for our ID and taking our photos, while a second guard was on the phone to the editor, notifying her I was here to see her. I attempted to explain that we didn’t actually have an appointment and that we were just visiting from Canada, then literally held my breath, waiting for the moment security escorted us out of the building, and perhaps even back across the border. But to my surprise, everyone was extremely welcoming, and we were invited up to their offices. The editors we met with were lovely, and graciously offered us a stack of books to take on our return flight. It was an amazing afternoon and we achieved our goal... it was in fact an exciting trip. I guess fortune really does favor the bold.  Plus I found the most amazing pair of shoes, so how does it get wilder than that?! ;)

What is the most valuable advice you've been given about writing and what would you like to pass on to other writers?  My advice to new writers is the same advice I live by: Start. And then don’t stop. It sounds simple and yet it’s profound. So many people talk about wanting to write a book, but unless you actually start you can never finish. As the queen of procrastination, I was guilty of this myself for a long time. Eventually you have to just do it. Don’t worry about whether it’s any good, just start. Keep going until you get to where you want to go. Then celebrate, decide where you’d like to go next, and keep going. Write what you love, relax and remember to enjoy the journey. And to quote something NY Times bestselling author Lori Wilde once told me: “You can do this.”


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Links to Buy FIRE & ICE: Kindle: Paperback   

Links to buy BITTERSWEET

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