Author Spotlight Interview: Michelle Hazen
Today we’re talking to Michelle Hazen, whose latest book, Breathe the Sky, is one of the Amazon Editors’ Top Picks for Best Romance. It’s a real treat to have this opportunity to chat with Michelle about her books, inspiration and life outside of writing.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
MH: I’d say I write romance that feels real. Lots of heart and angst and humor and friendship all wrapped up together in every book, just like it is in life.
HG: That’s fantastic. So you probably draw inspiration from all around you! Have you always known that you wanted to write romance?
MH: What always draws me into a story, whether it’s on a tv show or in a book or movie, or in one of my own book ideas, is the love story. The love relationships, both romantic and friendly, are the most interesting and shiny part of every story for me.
So writing romance is kind of like eating dessert first, for me. It’s a whole genre of my favorite part!
HG: Ah, I love that. Breathe the Sky is your most recent release. What can you tell us about that love story?
MH: Breathe the Sky is an enemies to lovers grumpy/sunshine romance, with a grumpy construction foreman and the wildlife biologist assigned to his crew to keep the endangered species safe while they build.
They clash at first, and then bond once he begins to help her track and trap some of the animals to keep them safe. There are an egregious number of saving baby animal scenes!
I like to play with setting in all my books, like putting my couple in a rock and roll concert tour or on a horse ranch in Montana, or the neighborhoods of New Orleans.
This one is set in the Mojave Desert and based on my real life seasonal job as a desert tortoise biologist.
HG: That’s awesome! I’m sold! Not only are you an author, but you’re also a biologist. Wow! What is your writing process like? Has it changed at all since the pandemic began?
MH: Yes, the biology gigs are one job at a time, so I go down for several months to the desert, then come back home and write when it’s over. It’s actually kind of a great “day job” to keep me balanced, so I don’t spend toooo much of my life in front of screens all year long, lol.
You know, it’s funny, my husband and I both work from home normally (when I’m not at a biology job) so you’d think the pandemic wouldn’t have changed much. But we used to also be able to go OUT other places, too, and now it’s really just…apartment, apartment, more apartment.
I really miss writing in coffee shops. I was writing in parks and by the river this summer, but now it’s a bit cold to get my fingers to cooperate with typing under that plan.
HG: Sounds like a good balance! And I hear you, there’s something so charming about coffee shops especially in the winter. Fingers crossed for 2021! Take me back to the beginning of your writing career! How’d you get started?
MH: Fingers crossed for 2021!
I actually got my start writing Vampire Diaries fanfiction! I had written 3 novels by then, mostly to my hard drive because I didn’t know a single other writer who could help me edit my books.
Then I was watching this little vampire show and it was like a faucet turned on and suddenly I didn’t want to write, I HAD to write. After that, two things happened.
The first was that I had readers for the first time, and they left such enthusiastic, supportive reviews on my fanfic that it made me kind of start to believe that I could do this writing thing for real. It gave me the confidence to really think about publishing.
And then, Amazon pioneered the Kindle Worlds program, where it was legal to sell fanfiction as books in specific fandoms where the creator had agreed and was getting part of the royalties. They started out with only 3 fandoms, one of which was (wait for it) The Vampire Diaries!
I had written over a million words of fanfiction at that point, so I jumped right in and started publishing the novel-length ones. Amazon ended the Kindle Worlds program a couple of years ago, but before that, I’d sold over 10,000 copies of my fanfiction novels, and had 8 novels published, before I ever dipped a toe in the original fiction publishing waters!
HG: OMG. What an awesome journey! Seriously, that is VERY inspiring! With that being said, I think a lot of readers are also aspiring authors…what advice would you give them?
MH: As soon as you’ve managed to write a novel, enter PitchWars! It’s a writing contest where you can enter to be selected by a mentor, then receive several months of intensive 1:1 mentoring for your book and writing life, before being put in a highly prestigious showcase for literary agents. Even if you don’t get in, the Twitter hashtag #PitchWars is an incredible wealth of information to find out more about writing craft, AND the best place ever to meet other writers and beta readers who are at the same spot in their career as you are.
HG: That’s great advice. Cheers to the writing community. Speaking of that, if you could ask your author idol one question about their writing, writing process, or books, what would it be?
MH: I mean, mostly I would want to ask Maggie Stiefvater to take me illegal drag racing, but if it had to be a WRITING question, I would ask her how she manages to write stuff that’s SO weird and yet popular enough to be bestselling, because that’s a truly impressive Zen Koan to have conquered.
HG: Ha! Love that. I agree. As we’re about to wrap up, my last real question is, what feeling do you want to leave people with when they finish one of your novels?
MH: A feeling of hope, that their heart has grown three sizes and a sense that the world and the people around them seem just a little bit kinder than when they started.
HG: Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with us today! For readers that want to find out more about your stories and future projects, where should they go to connect or learn more?
MH: My website and newsletter where I’m giving away a newsletter exclusive novella called Love Heals this month, so it’s a great time to sign up.
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