Hello there, fantasy fans! Last week, Tellest has the pleasure of promoting the work of upcoming author Michelle Simpson, whose historical fantasy Betrayals, the first book in her A Time of Reckoning series, graced our website. We had the wonderful opportunity to talk with the author herself and learn more about what makes her tick. Now, you can do the same. Read on to discover who Michelle Simpson is, and why you should keep your eyes out for her books.
Tellest: Hello Michelle! First, I just wanted to come out and thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your writing journey and your new book. You and I have been talking for a while before we were able to coordinate on everything, so that makes it feel even more rewarding to me. I’m excited to introduce you to a new audience, and to get to know your process and your story a bit better.
Michelle Simpson: Thank you so much! I felt very welcomed by you, and really appreciate your time and questions in the getting to know one another phase. I am also really excited to meet a new audience, too!
T: My interviews always begin with a bit of a softball question to get things rolling. Chances are, if you’re writing, you’re passionate about it, and that usually comes from some sort of inspiration. Did you have a favorite author who influenced you, or did you have a family member or friend of the family who had a flair for storytelling?
MS: Not fair, LOL, to only be able to choose one author, but I will.
While I adore history, especially ancient & medieval history, one of my favorite authors is Nicholas Evans. He is probably most famous for writing “The Horse Whisperer” although my favorite book of his is called “The Loop.” His voice is beautiful, and creates the vivid images in my head as I read. His writing, to me, is elegant and thoughtful. Again, not my go-to genre but I read all of his books when they debut.
T: Your writing is also very immersive and helps to bring your version of old Ireland to life. Certainly, some of it comes from studying the authors you like. But what other techniques have you come to use to make your prose and your sequences seem so vibrant?
MS: I once read somewhere, and maybe it is true for some, and maybe not, was to write what you love to read and/or watch. This works for me. I adore the time period I wrote in. Watching movies in that period, or realm works, too. I am not sure how, but I always felt connected to the idea and essence of this. To see/read/be a hero with all odds stacked against you, and fighting for something that means everything to you, without apology, is admirable. It is romantic, and fierce, and also vulnerable. So using all senses helps me; watching the movies, listening to music of the period (or as close as you can get) and even sometimes visiting the place will all cultivate that creative space within.
T: Have you had a chance to visit Ireland and envision where some of the events of the past may have occurred for your story and your characters?
MS: I have not…yet. The start of the Pandemic in 2020 derailed, like many others, a lot of my travel plans. And traveling is something I am passionate about. Ireland is my next trip slated for 2023, and then adding Norway (again) to the tail-end of that trip for research purposes related to the 3rd book, which will still be rooted in Ireland, but begin to delve into the Viking influence that was amping up in the time period.
I have always felt attached to anything Irish, though. Being from the Boston area, we have a lot of Irish culture here. I remember once seeing the Broadway show, Riverdance, and when the opening music started I got goosebumps and felt emotional, but couldn’t explain why. Maybe it sounds silly, and my friends laughed at the time, but there is something so deeply magical and beautiful about the country and culture. My dad’s side is Irish, so I feel connected in that way as well.
T: You managed to do something that most people could only dream of. Releasing a book of any quality is challenging enough, but you’ve launched a fantastic story filled with action, intrigue, and great relationships. What advice would you give to someone who has yet to write their first sentence, but who wants to begin telling stories?
MS: My advice would be to simply write. My brother writes short stories, and he tells me he doesn’t have a novel in him. I think, in a sense, we all do, though. So write, even if it is in a journal, or a short story, or just an idea and build on it. You would be surprised what could happen. But do it. Like anything, we have to practice to be comfortable. I also like to, and this may sound silly, but it can be so much fun, is to start a story on a road trip with friends or family, out loud, and then create “in the moment.” Ideas may come that way, too, and it flexes your creative juices.
T: Writing is no easy task but finding a place to start is wonderful. Keeping up at it can be another challenge entirely. As someone who is also busy with a time-consuming job, how do you maintain a schedule or find the time to work on your passion in a consistent manner?
MS: You are correct, as far as a demanding full-time job, so it can be harder. Weekends are my time. A set time, generally in the morning, after a workout, I feel ready to be creative. I will dedicate an hour or two to focus. And I try not to put too much pressure on myself, if not a lot happens. I can be edit-happy, too, and read, and then re-read certain parts many times and then change it. But it helps me. I also read it out loud, as if I was reading to a friend, to see if it sounds like that is how a conversation would happen, or if I chose the correct adjective, etc.
The bulk of the books took place with my dog, Brady, at the time laying by my feet, and he was an inspiration. I was off all day on Fridays during this period. Sometimes he would just go lie down 1st, by the desk, as if to say, “Michelle, it’s time to write. Did you forget it is Friday!” I would write and then we would break and go for a walk, and write again. Brady is no longer with me, but I loved my writing Fridays and my books are dedicated to Brady.
T: What has been your biggest challenge in bringing your first book into the world? Did you have more troubles with coming up with the story, writing it, or introducing it to the people you’d want to read it?
MS: I think it was introducing it to people who would want to read it. I am a little shy, not going to lie, and it is something I spent so much time creating, that any “rejection” or feedback seemed daunting. But I decided I would not let that stop me. How could people know me, or my story, if I didn’t give them, or myself a chance. Writing it was so much fun, and I was inspired and had so many ideas, and still do, with the characters, or the next book, etc.
T: Betrayals is awesome, and I’m sure you are going to receive tons of wonderful feedback for it. That said, because art is so subjective, there is going to be a day that someone has something mean to say about it, whether it’s true or not. What’s your expectation for when that happens? Furiously write a new story to show them what’s what? Compose a message to them that you never intend to send? My go-to is retreating into a pint of ice cream, but to each their own.
MS: I am a sensitive person by nature, so I am sure it will sting, but feedback is feedback and when constructive can certainly help. Again, if it is meant to help someone grow, I am a “someone’ that would benefit, too. But yeah, people can be mean, too, and I may retreat into a pint of ice-cream (anything with a coffee base and Oreo cookies) or probably feel that “hurt” and hopefully not let it get to me too much. As a competitive person, it would more than likely fuel me to write more. After I come out of my ice-cream coma, of course 🙂
T: At some point, you’ll even get the reviews that almost seem like they’re trolling. Some people think that a story is written specifically for them, and if they don’t see a particular kind of scene, the feel slighted. It’s a funny feeling seeing the rating for your book slide for very odd reasons from time to time.
At the same time, you’re going to start developing your superfans who always leave reviews, maybe pointing out the parts of your books that they love the most. Most would probably argue those are great deal better to receive. But then you might enter the realm of fan service. What’s your position on that? Do you give in to what fans want, or do you keep to a strict position of what your book was always meant to be?
MS: My personality is such that I listen and observe. It is what makes me pretty darn good in my career path, so I would listen, of course, and take it in. Feedback is important, too. I think for me it is how the feedback is given. Is it meant to be constructive, or mean? I lean toward sensitive, too, so getting ready to hear both will be good for my growth, overall, as a writer.
I imagine I would lean toward my idea and go with it, but giving fans what they want is also important and would be taken into consideration. But, giving on one side, may alter another’s version of what they were hoping for, so it can be tricky, I would think.
T: A Time of Reckoning, Book One: Betrayals is a powerful book filled with characters that have razor sharp wits, great dialog, and a story that entices readers to follow through, one chapter after the next. How did you come up with this gold? Did you manage to put it together on your own, or did you have allies on your quest to create such a great tale?
MS: The idea was mine alone, and based on a period in time I loved, but also had vague facts recorded over time, so this is where my fantasy/magical/creative liberties came in. Ireland, in that time, was not well-documented so I had some fun mixing facts with what I would believe a healer/priestess practicing Druidism would think and do. Because Ireland truly valued female warriors in their history, choosing to have my heroine embody this, while surrounded by men and a religion that did not value their strengths was really fun.
T: We talked a little bit earlier about how one of your techniques to figure out a story is collaboratively on a road trip. You also mentioned that your brother writes as well. While A Time of Reckoning is decidedly yours, have you ever though about working on a story that’s connected through multiple people?
MS: Good question. I had never thought of that, and am not opposed to it. For these books, it was important that they were all me, to show myself, and my vulnerabilities and to take all the feedback, positive or negative, as an individual. This is something that I had been afraid to put out, and getting over that, and going through the motions and the “ride” is all about me and my personal growth. But to write with another could be so much fun!
T: I hope that you’ve proven to yourself that you’ve got what it takes to deliver this. You’ve done what a lot of people have only dreamed of, and you’ve done it very well.
People write for a lot of different reasons. Some do it to say they can. Others have a story that is itching at the back of their mind to be told. And there are those who write to explore other sides of themselves. Now that your first books are about to leave the nest, what’s your reason to continue?
MS: I want to continue because I love it. I have loved books, and writing and reading since I can remember. I remember the 1st story being read to me when I was very small, and a neighbor took the time to sit down with me while my mom folded laundry. I remember story time in elementary school and being so happy to listen. I still love libraries, and quiet places that are filled with books. These spaces calm me, and I feel connected to them. Writing is fun, and I had written a few “books” that were passed around in Middle School for fun. I still have one, and when I look at it, I try to identify with the teenage Michelle that wrote those words.
I like how you mentioned that some people write to explore other parts of themselves. I get, that, too. In Betrayals, my heroine, Devin, is probably similar to me in character. Her sister, though, I had so much fun writing. I thought, how would I behave if I was truly a selfish person and simply didn’t care about others as much as myself. That is definitely not me as a person, but oh man, to write her felt freeing in some way.
T: Betrayals ends with enough oomph that you could, in theory, end it right there, but I get the sense we’re bound to see a sequel before long. Are you aiming to bring another book to the shelf, so to speak, or are you taking a break from A Time of Reckoning?
MS: Yes! Book Two, The Reckoning, is set to go. I could have released it as one giant book, but I thought that two would be the best route. Personally, I love reading a big story, with complicated dynamics, battles, grit, love and lust and simply losing myself over a period of time. The Witching Hour comes to mind, by Anne Rice, or any of the Game of Thrones novels, or the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
T: With that in mind—and this might not be a question you’re ready to answer just yet, so forgive me if it isn’t—do you plan to continue this series after book two, or are you moving on to other stories?
MS: I have already thought of, and begun to write a 3rd and, more than likely, final book in the series. Although, it could go on for a 4th book due to the changeable time the book takes place in. It is on the cusp of when the Vikings attacked Ireland. And just like Irish Druid folklore, Viking history is rich in magic, and spells, and a fantasy of its very own. I really want to clash those cultures with the strong women in my books to see where this could go.
T: It certainly doesn’t hurt that you created such a strong foundation with your first books. Do you find a certain appeal to sticking around with the characters and lore that you’ve created? Or are you always stealing glances, so to speak, at another story you’re itching to tell?
MS: I think, like a good Netflix series, sometimes it just has to end. I know that there is a book 3, and possibly 4, but then I would want to switch gears. This is what I think at this moment. People grow, though, and fictional ones can, too, so that makes sticking with characters and books a good road to stay on. If people want to continue to read about the players in Betrayals, then that would prompt me to keep going.
If it is not historical fantasy, then it would involve just fantasy….witches, people that are not like the rest of us. Would love to tell some stories like that. I also love a good Top 20 book that involves people navigating relationships within families, a gritty romance interests me, so I would venture in those waters, too.
T: Michelle, I wanted to see if there was somewhere we could point people out to so that we can help them learn more about your book and your backstory. Do you have a website or a social media link you could tell us about?
MS: Well, my actual website is in process, but I am happy to connect/report on my Instagram page where I am ramping up more and more. There is also my Twitter account.
michellesimps0815 – Instagram
@chelle9054 – Twitter
T: I wanted to thank you again for taking the time to talk with me about your books, and about the future of your series and what may come outside of that. With how busy the world seems to keep us, chatting about ourselves can sometimes seem like a challenge. That said, I’m glad I was able to learn more about you, and I’m sure a legion of new fans will be as well. Good luck getting more eyes on your first book, and on the upcoming release of your second. We hope to hear from you soon!
MS: Thank YOU so much. I am deeply appreciative of your time, your talent, and everything you do as a writer and the time you spend helping other writers.
I want to thank Michelle Simpson once again for allowing me to conduct this interview. You can tell straight off the bat how incredibly driven she is, not just in writing, but in all facets of life, so to be able to speak about her books and her process was very rewarding. Fans of historical fiction will no doubt love her books. If you’re interested in her debut, you can Check out A Time of Reckoning: Book One Betrayals on Amazon today!