Author Interview: Michelle Montebello

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A selection of our members are reading The Forever Place by Michelle Montebello. The author took some time out to chat with us and you can read the interview below.

Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Michelle. Our Beauty and Lace readers love your books, so I’m sure they’d like to know a little more about you

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

Thank you for having me here today! I live in a semi-rural town called Camden, on the outskirts of Sydney. I’m married with two children (Connor 7 and Eve 11) and when time permits, I love to read, play tennis and travel.

Where do you get your inspiration from to write each book?

It can come from anywhere—a documentary or an event in history that I’m intrigued by, sometimes a topic I might read or hear about. It will usually start as a small seed which I’ll grow with layers and sub-plots and different characters until it resembles a storyline I can work with.

How long do you spend researching before you start writing?

It depends on the genre. My historicals require more research than my contemporaries, so it can be anywhere from two to six months of reading, speaking with various people and visiting places. I will get the plot down in parallel, so that my research is targeted. And I will continue to check and recheck facts until the last read-through.

Are you a dog or a cat person?

I’m a dog person, but we have two Netherland bunnies at the moment—Cotton and Biscuit.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a plotter. I’m quite detailed with my plotting too. I’ll know what every chapter and scene will look like before I dive into the first draft. I’ve tried pantsing but unfortunately, it all falls apart around chapter 10. I take my hat off to those who can “pants”. What an incredible gift!

When did you first know you wanted to write? And how long after that was your first book published?

Some of my earliest memories have been of writing stories. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a pencil in my hand scribbling words down. And although I wrote from a young age, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when the children were a little older and life had calmed, that I wrote and published my first novel.

Tea, coffee or wine?

I love all three, although coffee is my favourite. I got a fancy coffee machine for Christmas off hubby and the novelty still hasn’t worn off!

To date, you seem to have self-published all your books. What are the advantages of self-publishing, and would you consider traditional publishing?

Self-publishing is great if you want to retain the rights to your books and have complete control over release dates, cover design, your branding, how you wish to market your books, and how often you wish to release them.

I’m in the driver’s seat and for this reason, I choose to be self-published. There are pros and cons to both sides though. I would consider traditional publishing in the future, as being a hybrid author can offer the best of both worlds.

Two of your books, The Lost Letters of Playfair Street and The Quarantine Station, have both either won awards, or been finalists in significant awards, both domestically and internationally. Can you tell us about each of the awards, and how you feel about them?

It is always a thrill when my book is shortlisted or when it wins an award. To know readers are loving the stories I put out makes it all worth it.

The Quarantine Station was a finalist in the 2021 International Book Awards. This was significant, as it was a panel of judges completely foreign to me, based in the United States, who thought my book stood out over two thousand other entries. There may have been a tear or two when I received the news!

The Lost Letters of Playfair Street won the ARRA 2020 Favourite Contemporary Romance and Favourite Australian-Set Romance. Similarly, this blew my mind, because I was shortlisted with some incredible Australian authors, and never imagined my humble little book would win. I’m still pinching myself.

Do you have a dedicated writing space? And what time of day do you most enjoy writing?

Yes, I work in my office which overlooks the garden. I typically write in the mornings, when I’m freshest, and will aim for a thousand words per day, with more on the weekend if I can manage it.

How has Covid-19 impacted your life?

I’m used to working from home, so I haven’t felt the impact there. However, during lockdowns, home schooling can be a challenge and the children get bored. I feel for them, cooped up inside. We try to get out as much as possible, but it becomes a juggling act between work, schooling, exercise, and housework! And I’ve had to postpone several signing events which I’m disappointed about. I miss my book friends and would love to see them soon.

What is your favourite meal:

• To cook – anything that is loaded with hidden veggies and iron that the kids will devour. I feel like super mum when that happens.
• To eat – I love Italian food—gnocchi, risotto, pizza. I cook all of it from scratch and it’s yummy!

What would your advice be to someone who wanted to be a writer?

If you’re just starting out, I would recommend doing a creative writing course. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something to break down the process for you. A story is never just words on a page. There is the plot, character development, show don’t tell, scene-building, pace, editing, and many other aspects to consider when writing your first draft. A course will help explain it all. I did one and it changed my life.

Do you have your next book planned? When do you expect to publish it, and can you tell us anything about it?

I’m currently rewriting my debut novel Interwoven. It will be rebranded as The Summer of Everything, with a new cover. The whole Belle series will undergo a rewrite and rebrand. I’ve learnt a lot since releasing that first series and while it receives lovely reviews, I feel I can make it an even better story for readers. I’m expecting to release the first two books in mid-2022.

Thank you, Michelle, for your time answering these questions. I’m sure all of us who have read The Forever Place hope it too goes on to be an award-winning book, and we look forward to reading The Summer of Everything when it releases next year.

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