Today, Lyrical Pens is delighted to present Part 1 of our interview with Michelle Ladner. Michelle is a multi-faceted artist, is a world traveler who lives in Ocean Springs, MS, and is married to Bryan Ladner who is a micropaleontologist.
Welcome, Michelle. Thanks for taking the time to be with us today. In addition to being a student of all-things writing (which I know you are), tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m pretty lucky in that my daily focus is being a student of writing. My husband works from home and I do what I can to assist him with his business—but mostly I’m trying to develop a writing lifestyle that works. Anyone who balances even just a couple of other responsibilities alongside being a writer knows what a challenge that can be. Outside of writing and reading as much as I can (because I think you have to be a reader to write well), I have a few of other passions: travel, photography, food and wine, paper art crafts, watching films.
Now for something different: Tell us a tidbit about yourself that you haven’t revealed in another interview.
I ate a cricket when I was two. It’s a story my parents loved to tell at dinner parties and family reunions. I like to think my masterwork at the pinnacle of my writing career will begin with that very line: I ate a cricket when I was two.
Love it! That would make a great opening line. Your current work is titled EMMA. What inspired you to write this particular story?
My work in progress EMMA is a story that, in many ways, is a personal one. After a tragedy and some trouble finding a writing project that would stick, I fell upon this idea as a means of self-therapy and the idea took off. Emma is a young psychologically troubled woman who escapes to a fantasy world in order to avoid the demons of her past. In broad strokes it’s a story any creative soul could relate too. But at its heart, it’s a story about the weight and cost of regret.
The first line of a novel is often called THE all-important hook that draws readers (and prospective agents/publishers) into the story. How did you come up with yours for EMMA?
I’m not sure I’ve crafted the first line of any of my novel projects. I agree that first lines carry weight, so I tend not to settle on them until I’ve finished a project. Since I haven’t reached a publication draft, I think it’s still something that could change. But whenever I start a first draft, I tend to try to begin with something that conveys character, tone, and conflict. If I have done all that in the first line, I feel like I can continue. For example: I ate a cricket when I was two.
What method do you use to get to know your characters?
I’ve recently discovered Scrivener (LP note: A software program for writers) and I think it’s a great tool for character development and research, though I haven’t quite settled on how I will utilize it. I tend to write my way into the character, usually writing ten to twenty pages of stream-of-consciousness in the character’s voice that never sees the draft. Grabbing onto the voice of a point of view character is important, and I think the way to settle on it is to write that voice into existence, read it aloud to hear how it sounds then fine tune it. I think it’s also important to keep a character profile on reference sheets or index cards. More than once I’ve forgotten eye or hair color, and it’s a lot easier to fix those details along the way than it is to comb through an entire novel draft to change or even find it.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Great question. I’d say she’s a little bit of Holden Caulfield and Ester Greenwood combined and paired with Juno Maguff and Hester Prynne. So THE SCARLETT LETTER meets JUNO meets CATCHER IN THE RYE meets THE BELL JAR.
Can’t wait to meet her! What do you consider the most important element of a story?
The most important element of story, I think, is character. A reader has to care about whom everything is happening to.
On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing and where?
I’m in the process of a creating a new writing schedule. In the past, I’ve been a bit of a binge writer. I’d write for several days in twelve to fourteen hour shifts. That doesn’t create a lot of life balance and increases burn out. I don’t recommend it. My hope is to get on a three to four hour a day schedule.I’m trying out new writing spots also. My favorite is my home office desk, in my pajamas. Sometimes I write on my laptop on the living room. That tends to happen when I’m combating insomnia. I’d like to learn to write in coffee shops. What a cliché, right? I think it’s important to learn to write anywhere because sometimes my writing life puts me on the road. Being able to write with a myriad of voices in the bustle of a new environment has proved an important change I need to make in my writer life.
Please join us tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview with special guest, Michelle Ladner.