Monday, 24 October 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Michelle Levigne

STEPH: I don't know much about White Roses. What's it about?

MICHELLE: This follows up and concludes the story begun in "Common Grounds," where Hannah is threatened by a copycat of the White Rose Killer. It starts with Toni coming back to town, determined to identify and bring to justice the boy who killed her big sister 20 years before, who was never caught and has grown up to be a sick, dangerous man.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

MICHELLE: I don't honestly know, because I have written it and re-written it multiple times over the years. I had the first 9 or so Tabor Heights books rough drafted before I approached Gail, so it's anybody's guess. But I had 3 drafts in my files, so at least a month for each revision. Then lots of "sitting and fermenting" time in between each one, making notes for changes, especially as the town grew more solid in my mind and the lives of other characters got more three-dimensional and details changed. For instance, Xander and Hannah both had different names many drafts ago.

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the story?

MICHELLE: I worked at a local, weekly newspaper that yes, is the foundation for the Tabor Picayune, and there was an incident where a girl vanished and her body was found wrapped in an old tarp in the Metroparks. It turned out her boyfriend strangled her in his bedroom and his aunt helped him move and hide the body. Months later, I heard rumors from someone who worked at a church-type counseling place that there was a girl being counseled, and her boyfriend was pressuring her for sex, and she just stopped coming -- and the speculation was that she was the girl who was killed. Especially since a witness to the murder said the murderer fondled the body after he strangled her.

I had it at the back of my mind: What if they never caught that boy, and the murder preyed on his mind, and years later he saw a girl who looked like the dead girl, and he sort of cracked and thought she had come back to him?

STEPH: What was the inspiration behind the Tabor Heights Series?

MICHELLE: Not really an "inspiration," per se -- I was just writing different stories with subtle or outright faith element, in a small town, and I realized they all sort of "fit" together, like a big puzzle. With some adjustments in each story, I could have characters overlap and "visit," and adding the "visiting" characters' stories and lives to the main story of each book made them all richer. And Tabor Heights was born.

STEPH: Hollywood is calling! Cast the leads of the movie.

MICHELLE: Actually, I'm going to plead the 5th on this one. Because some of the characters are based on real people I worked with or came into contact with -- at the newspaper, in the towns that I used as foundations for Tabor. There was this couple at the newspaper who were good friends, but I thought they were JUST friends. I referred to them -- in my mind, at least -- as Lois and Clark. Curt and Toni are based on them. And that's all I'm gonna say!

STEPH: What's the theme of the novel?

MICHELLE: There are so many threads in there. I guess a big one is exploring the damage that secrecy can do. Angel wouldn't have died if she and her boyfriend hadn't kept their middle school romance a secret. They would have caught him 20 years ago if Angel's parents and known who her boyfriend was. And the secondary romance in the story, Police Chief Cooper and Angela Coffelt, edior of the newspaper -- she wouldn't have been targeted by the White Rose as his next "true love" if the Chief and Angela had gone public with their relationship. Toni and Curt even play at deception -- pretending to be a "couple" to keep the White Rose from targeting her. They're miserable for a while when they both realize they want a real relationship, not a "shield" one.

And of course, there's the longing for justice. And the longing to be loved. And trust, loyalty, faith, and keeping promises. I tried to make the readers feel a little sorry for the White Rose Killer -- he just wanted someone to love him, but he certainly went about it the wrong way!

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

MICHELLE: I'm lucky enough to have an actual room where I can close the door. One end is filled with bookshelves, and I have posters on the walls -- and maps of my various towns or fantasy lands that I write a lot of stories in. I have a drafting table I inherited from my father, and my notebook computer, notebooks, snacks, big tea mug, books for reference and DVDs waiting to be watched sit on it. On the opposite wall, sitting back-to-back with the drafting table, is my computer desk/hutch with an older desktop computer that I mostly do my bookkeeping and web site maintenance on,filing cabinets, and more bookshelves foroffice supplies. I also have a big walk-in closet where I dump promo supplies and shipping boxes and we store lots of out-of-season clothes. And of course, I have my music system -- gotta have my music when I'm writing. I'm listening to the soundtrack for "Dragonheart" while I'm answering these questions!

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

MICHELLE: Mixture of both. I do a general outline, and then insert all the notes I've gathered over the last few months of brainstorming and letting the idea ferment. I give myself permission to go off on tangents and "color outside the lines" because sometimes the best stuff shows up when I go wandering. I find out things about my characters or their friends or their pasts that I hadn't even thought of yet. And that sometimes creates big changes in the plot. Sometimes it's like sitting down with a script and watching a TV show or movie, and seeing all the things that got on screen that weren't in the script. It's fun -- like being surprised, or reading along with your intended audience WHILE you're writing the story.

STEPH: Fun Question: Who's your favorite football team?

MICHELLE: What's football?

Honestly, I don't really care about footall or basketball. I adore the Cleveland Indians. They did so great this year! Vast improvement. World Series next year for SURE!


  1. Sounds like a great book! Great interview, it is fun getting to know you!

  2. We echo what Tami said - so much fun getting to know our fellow authors. Great interview - look forward to the remainder of the week!