Visiting the Donor Center today is Michelle Garren Flye, writer, editor and all around cool lady. She’s seated in the lab and Herbie has her prepped for her donation. Sit back, relax and enjoy getting to know Michelle Garren Flye…
AJ: Who is Michelle Garren Flye?
MGF: This is a tough question for me because there are a lot of answers to it. I am, first and foremost, mom and wife for my family. That will always be the most important thing to me. Then I’m a writer and editor. I love that part of me, too. However, I’m also, in no particular order now: PTO president, a lover of kayaking and tennis, a former librarian and reporter, a bit of a hippie, a little insecure and still about twelve years old at heart.
AJ: Twelve years old at heart is a good thing, especially since children today grow up entirely too fast. A twelve year old hippie librarian however… that could go in so many directions. You say you’re a writer and an editor. First let’s tackle the editor part. As an editor, do you pull out the red pen and hack and slash at a manuscript like my ninth grade English teacher or do you prefer to work with the writers, give them suggestions and feedback to better them and their stories? (Yeah, longwinded, I know.)
MGF: Actually, that wasn’t longwinded, really. My answer might be, though, because, again, that’s not an easy question to answer. I guess I fall somewhere in between. I try to treat everyone’s manuscript the same way I would want mine treated. Which essentially means I try to make it better while preserving the author’s voice and not imposing my own into the story. I always try to be sensitive to whether or not what I see as an awkwardly written sentence really needs to be rewritten or if it might contribute to the feel of the story the way it is written. (And that was an awkward sentence right there!) That said, time does not always allow for a great amount of sensitivity, and if I see that something needs to be eliminated, out comes the red pen. And I’ll admit I am death to commas. If I actually had a red pen, it might run out of ink getting rid of unnecessary commas.
AJ: Death to commas? Poor little hooks. They never had a chance. Now, to the writer side of Michelle Garren Flye. Tell us a little bit about the writer, how you got into writing and what you write.
MGF: Commas may seem like harmless little hooks, but they can be as invasive as fire ants. Seriously.
I tend to think of my writing “career” up until now in two separate stages. The first was from age 7 to age 18. I wrote my first story at age 7 and toyed with writing fiction until I graduated high school. At that point, I thought I’d try to put my writing skills to a practical use and went to college with the intention of becoming a journalist. I did graduate with a degree in journalism and actually got a job or two in that field but quickly discovered it wasn’t for me. I then did my post-graduate degree in library science, which suited me much better.
The second stage of my writing career began when I was 32. That was the year I wrote a vampire story that was, to my great surprise, accepted by the now-defunct Thirteen Stories. I got serious about writing then and actually started finishing the stories I started. I’ve had some success since then with my short stories and flashes, although it’s far from overwhelming.
I think I’m starting a third stage now, as a novelist. I’m not sure where this one will take me, but I’m planning to enjoy it.
AJ: Speaking of novels, didn’t you have a novel published recently?
MGF: Why yes, I did. How nice of you to ask. My contemporary romance novel SECRETS OF THE LOTUS was released in ebook format by Lyrical Press, Inc. at the beginning of July. It’s received some fairly kind reviews since then, and I’m hoping it’s the teeny tiny beginnings of my “real” writing career. And yes, it’s pure romance. To give you an idea of how “pure”, here it is in a nutshell:
Society reporter Josie Stewart thinks she knows what makes billionaire Dan Mason tick. He has no intention of allowing anything, even his own conscience, to get in his way. But when Josie accidentally uncovers one of the family secrets, she glimpses a side of Dan that most people never get to see. Drawn to him, she puts her own career and reputation in jeopardy to keep his secrets. But some of those secrets are darker than she knew. Neither Dan nor Josie expects the danger lurking in their future — or the passion.
See? No trace of horror. I haven’t given up on that field, though. My second novel, which is completed and looking for a home, has a little side ghost story twisted up in it.
AJ: Though I’m not much into romance, it sounds quite interesting. However the ghost story one… well, that I can sink my teeth into. Can you tell us a little bit about where the idea for SECRETS OF THE LOTUS came from?
MGF: Thank you. Yes, it is interesting. SECRETS was a lot of fun to write because the characters basically told me their story. I remember thinking about the old adage “write what you know” and I wondered what would happen if I wrote a story with a totally unfamiliar element. I decided to try setting a story in New York, a place I had never been to, at that point. I had a lot of fun with Google Earth and watched Ghostbusters and a few other movies set there. Then I conceived of two characters I felt were likely to live there. So I really had the setting and the characters long before I had any real idea what the story would be.
AJ: Did you start singing Ghostbusters after watching the movie? I mean, who yah gonna call? On another note related to SECRETS, with this being your first published novel how was the experience for you and how did you go about finding the publisher?
MGF: I sing the Ghostbusters theme just about everyday. I mean it just lends itself to life in general so well. “Who yah gonna call? Pizza Hut!”
Back to the story of my foray into the world of publishing. After I finished writing SECRETS OF THE LOTUS, I knew I had a long road ahead of me, so I looked around for a little help. I was lucky enough to retain the editing services of the talented Ellen Meister when she was between writing projects of her own. Ellen gave me some invaluable editing feedback which helped me rewrite SECRETS in a form that I felt was good enough to start bugging agents with.
Bug them I did. I queried every agent I could find listed on the internet with an interest in romance or women’s fiction. I got some interesting responses. Most were form letters saying it wasn’t right for them. A few were more encouraging, saying a partial showed promise but wasn’t there yet. One agent actually asked — on the strength of the query and the first ten pages — for a full manuscript and blurbs of any future projects I had in the works. Of course, I got all excited, fought with my old printer for most of an afternoon to get it to print out the entire manuscript, and sent it all off.
He said no.
Dejected, I put the whole thing away, intending to never look at it again.
That night I started researching small publishers of romances. The first one I found, Lyrical Press, sounded promising, so I queried, and they responded within two days that they were interested. Being a first-time author (of a novel, anyway), I had some questions, so I called a lawyer and he agreed to go over the contract for me.
Here’s my first real learning lesson. Don’t call just any lawyer. They can be very expensive! I thought this guy would be okay because he had just handled the closing on our new house, but he ended up doing a much more thorough job than I had expected and let’s just say I probably won’t make enough in royalties to get all that back.
He did a thorough job, though. He found a certain clause in the contract that concerned me. I contacted Lyrical Press about it and after some back and forth through email, we worked it out. They changed the wording enough so I could sign and feel good about what was happening.
Okay. Contract signed. Editing begins. The editor Lyrical Press assigned me was fantastic. She found things in my manuscript I never would have imagined were problematic. She made suggestions for improving. She basically did what Ellen had already done, but on a more intensive scale (I couldn’t’ve afforded to pay Ellen to do this much work!), and I learned a lot through the process. My editor was also extremely professional. If I disagreed with her, I only had to say so. We worked every disagreement out.
Then I got the cover art, designed by the publisher, Renee Rocco. It was gorgeous! I started posting it everywhere I could think of.
Finally, we were done with editing, had the cover art, all that was left was to have the book formatted for ebook. That done, I just had to wait for the release date, which has been and passed. I’m now in limbo until I get my first royalty statement. I have no idea how many copies have sold. I do know the book has received two favorable reviews.
I also know that although I like Lyrical Press and have found them to be very impressive when compared to other small presses, I know it’s not the route to take forever if I want my books in actual brick and mortar bookstores, which I do. Ebooks through small presses are a great way to get into the publishing industry — at least I can say to agents now that I have one published novel — but if you want a bestseller, you really have to go the traditional route. There are no shortcuts.
AJ: This is great information to have for folks looking to get their novels published. Even going the ebook route is somewhat difficult. Where can readers find SECRETS OF THE LOTUS?
MGF: SECRETS OF THE LOTUS is available on the publisher’s website: www.lyricalpress.com in multiple formats and also through many other ebook sellers including Amazon, Mobipocket, Books on Board, Fictionwise and All Romance eBooks.
AJ: One last question and I’ll let you get back to slashing manuscripts with your bloody red pen: Is there a website or blog people can visit in order to find out more about you?
MGF: Yes indeed. My latest blogging effort can be found at http://michellegflye.wordpress.com/.
And thanks, AJ. This has been a lot of fun. More fun than killing commas, anyway.
AJ: Thank you, Michelle, for coming by The Donor Center. We appreciate your time and, of course, your blood, but more so, we wish you a lot of success in the future. Oh, and if you stop by the front desk on the way out, Herbie will give you some orange juice and a cookie…
(Herbie’s note: No commas died during the course of this interview.)