Monday, July 11, 2011

Author Interview, Liz Michalski

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Michalski, author of Evenfall. Read below for Liz’s insights on writing, publishing and Evenfall. Also, Liz was kind enough to offer to answer any reader questions, so if you have anything to ask her, leave it in the comments and she'll stop by later to answer them!

Cross a Murphy woman and she'll haunt you the rest of your days.

That's what they say in Hartman, Connecticut, where the Murphy women are known for their beauty, willfulness, and disastrous luck with men. No one knows the truth of this saying better than Frank Wildermuth. Fifty years ago, he fell in love with Gert Murphy, but through fate and bad timing wound up married to her sister. He spent the rest of his life quietly regretting his mistake. Now Frank's dead --dead, that is, but not quite gone.

All Andie Murphy ever wanted was to get out of town. But she’s back to settle Evenfall, her Uncle Frank’s estate, where some things never change -- and some things have changed a lot. Aunt Gert, for example, still drives her crazy. On the other hand, Cort, the wide-eyed farmboy she used to babysit, is all grown up -- with a whole new definition for the word sleepover.

But if you're a Murphy woman, love never goes smoothly. As Andie struggles with her feelings, Frank sees a chance for redemption -- one that could cost his niece dearly. They'll both need to decide --

Is true love really everlasting? Is home a physical location, or a place you carry in your heart? And if you truly regret your mistakes, can your deepest dreams come true?

Hi Liz! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, Evenfall. What was your inspiration for the story of Evenfall?

I woke up with the first few lines of the novel in my head one morning. I didn't have any plans for them, but I wrote them down. A few weeks later I was touring a home much like Evenfall, and realized the ghost from those lines would be perfectly at home there.

Finally, I was living in a beautiful rural area, and I could see it start to change as developers came along. Evenfall, which is set in Connecticut farmland, was a way to hold onto that.

You have three incredible narrators. What came into your decision to write this from multiple point of views. How difficult was that?

I knew, from those first lines that started the book, that Frank would be first person. Gert is such a strong character that I decided to keep her in third person, so as not to overpower him. Andie's voice evolved as I went along. Having three different narrators was hard to balance sometimes, but it was useful in that they each had information the others didn't, which allowed me to tell the story more completely.

I loved all your narrators, but I will admit I had a soft spot for Gert and thought her character was just wonderful. Which narrator is your favorite, if you had to choose? Also, which is the most like you?

Oh, I have a hard time choosing! I do like Gert, though -- she reminds me of those New England Yankee women you see in movies like Adam's Rib. And Andie is so lost, it's hard not to root for her.

Speaking of characters, you had a few animal characters in this book. I know you’re an animal lover. Any of your own pets represented in these pages?

I've had a fascination with goats since one tried to eat my dress when I was five, so it was fun to find a way to put them into the book. Unfortunately, livestock isn't allowed where I live now, much to my husband's relief.

And I've always loved big brown dogs like Nina - she's based on several dogs I actually owned. (Actually, I put together a whole 'secret page' on my website about Nina for readers who like the book. If they e-mail me at, I'll send them the link!)

Oh, and… the love interest, Cort. Yummy. He was a very swoony love interest. Not really a question, but just felt it was worth mentioning. Watching Andy reconnect with him was quite fun!

Evenfall has one, er, steamy bit with Cort and Andie, and I can always tell when friends have read it -- they're like "Ummm, about that scene..." Or they just say the page number and smile. My lovely kindergarten teacher came to one of my readings, and when she bought the book, all I could think was "Oh, no!" :)

Evenfall has such a wonderful and unique setting. Is it based anywhere real?

It is, actually. I spent about 10 years in rural Connecticut, and Evenfall is based on that area of the country. It's quite beautiful -- I drove through there last summer with my daughter and she kept saying "Mom, it's so green!" Just fields and fields in some places.

What was your favorite part of writing Evenfall?

I think creating characters I can care about, who wind up haunting my dreams a bit, is the best part about writing.

Most challenging?

Creating enough tension to move the reader from page to page, chapter to chapter.

Reading Evenfall, I often felt myself often wanting the things she writes about on her farm, particularly with the canned peaches and the homemade tart she made to share with Cort. What are some of your favorite goodies/snacks?

Kettle-popped popcorn with real butter and salt. Pizza. Anything with tomato sauce, actually. And on the beach, at least twice a year, I have to have a frozen Snickers bar and a cold Coke.

What can we expect from you in the future. Any projects underway?

I'm just under 100 pages into my next book. It's a little more magical than Evenfall. It's about a family where, in every generation, one daughter develops the ability to make things disappear -- to wish things away. It makes adolescence and all those mother-daughter fights particularly interesting. : )

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I've always written -- I was a reporter, then an editor, then a freelancer for a long time. As a reporter, I always liked the character-driven pieces best -- the interviews with people who were a little different, a little exciting. I think writing my own story was just a natural outgrowth from that.

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

I was extremely fortunate. When I was about halfway through my manuscript, I attended a writing conference (Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace in Boston). I'd signed up for a critique of my first 20 pages with an agent. I wanted to make the most of my chances, so I researched all the agents who were attending, and found one that I thought would be a great fit. He liked what I'd written and agreed to see the rest when I'd finished. I sent it to him, and he signed me a few months later.

And how about finding your publisher?

My agent worked with me for about a year on revisions -- he has a wonderful ear for nuance. He sent it out, and he had an offer within a few days. I've been really, really lucky. BUT -- and it's a big but -- I feel like I need to tell aspiring authors not to get discouraged -- I spent years working on this story. A lot of them! So although it looks like it all happened very quickly, a lot of hard work went into getting to that point.

Tell me how you felt when you first saw your cover? I have to say yours is one of the prettiest I’ve seen in a while and captures both the general feel/theme of your book as well as the story. That must have been a great moment.

The cover was one of the most exciting moments for me -- I actually screamed when I opened the e-mail. I absolutely love it. Which is kind of funny, because it was the exact opposite of what I'd envisioned. I'd thought it would be kind of pale and ghostly, but the saturated color pops so well and the image totally captures the story, so it shows what I know. : )

What is the best part of the publishing process?

Besides being lucky enough to have my book published? I'd have to say it's the people I've met. To connect with other writers and book lovers has been pretty amazing. (Present company included, Jenn!) Aw, thanks, Liz.:)

The worst?

Hmmm. As a debut author, the challenge of getting my name out there has been daunting at times, particularly since I tend to be a little shy. I'm lucky, though - my family, especially my mother, has no qualms about telling people to check out my book! : )

Thanks Liz! I’m looking forward to reading more exciting books from you in the future!

Jenn, Thank you so much!

Click the cover below to order Evenfall, and be sure to check out Liz's website or find her on Facebook.