Michelle Gent: Writer, Publisher, Biker Oh My
Picture this if you can:
The rumble of a motorcycle can be heard long before it arrives. It’s like the sound of thunder, but overhead there is not a cloud in the sky. It’s all blues and whites for now.
The sun glistens off the approaching bike, giving the impression of stars in the daylight. As the motorcycle comes to a stop, the engine idles with a steady pop pop pop and people turn their heads. Dressed in all black leather with a helmet that shimmers like a black pearl, the rider gets off. Clearly, this is a woman–her shape gives her away. Her movements are graceful, like someone who is a lifetime biker.
The helmet comes off and a shock of brilliant red hair is exposed. She whips her head to one side, wipes the hair from her face. There is wicked little I-know-something-you-don’t smile on her face.
She is there for an interview. The interviewer stands, wipes his sweaty hands on his pants and walks toward her.
Hello’s are exchanged and seats are taken. Beverages are ordered. After a little idle chit chat about their mutual likes and dislikes–especially particular sparkly vampires and buff chested werewolves, the first real question is asked.
And so it begins…
AJ: Who is Michelle Gent?
MG: Hmmm… I’m a wife, mother, writer, biker, jack-of-all-trades kinda person. I’m 47 years old, just about to become a grandmother (that has got to be the SCARIEST thing I’ll admit to, ever!) but still young at heart and mind. I’m temperamental, kind, thoughtful, thoughtless, busy, easy to distract and a good housekeeper (if I ever get divorced, I’m keeping the house!)
I have a wicked, sense of humour, a sharp tongue when called for and I certainly don’t suffer fools gladly. I’d rather back the underdog than the favourite and I hate bullies. I also speak my mind. My advice is to never say anything that you wouldn’t be prepared to say to the person you said it about (if that makes sense?). I suppose what I mean by that is that if you’re going to talk about someone, be prepared to say it directly to them as well as behind their back. Also, don’t tell lies, you don’t have to remember anything if you tell the truth – I dislike liars too.
I love animals. I have a rottie called Bear, 4 cats (only one is mine, I’m not the crazy cat-lady, honest!), 2 chinchillas and lots of fish – indoor and outdoor.
Is that enough or do you want my neuroses about my weight (not really neurotic, just need to diet and exercise) and things?
AJ: No, Michelle, that’s good, thank you. Are you sure you’re not the crazy cat lady? I haven’t seen her around in a while. I like your saying and it made complete sense. I say something similar: If you want to know something, ask me, but make certain you want the answer.
Now, before we get to your writing, becoming a grandmother is the scariest thing for you to admit to?
MG: Oh yes, the prospect of being a grandmother is terrifying. It’s the responsibility for a new life all over again. It’s also a reminder of the ticking of life’s clock. The one that never stops, never slows down and is always ticking away those precious seconds which, when we were small and waiting, longing for Christmas, seemed to take forever! Now, we seem to get Christmas almost twice a year don’t we?
I’m really not sure that I’m old enough to be a grandma, that’s the top and bottom of it. I don’t feel old enough, that’s for certain.
In all honesty, I really can’t wait for my new granddaughter to arrive – she’ll be here in May sometime. Her name is Mia Rose – I really can’t wait to meet her.
Tammy, Mia Rose’s mum said that she wanted a boy but I told her the baby was going to be a girl. She wasn’t pleased with me when she found out that I was right, she said it was my fault. hehehe.
AJ: I definitely understand that. When we were kids we thought we would be young forever. I think, with age, the trick is not to lose that youthful exuberance we had as children.
You’re also a biker?
MG: Yes, I’ve been a biker since I was 16, pillion at first and then I got my own at 17. I ride a Ducati Monster, 900cc of V-Twin rumble.
I didn’t pass my test for a number of years because there wasn’t really any need to. I was happy riding pillion and we travelled all over Europe on various trips. We managed to visit 11 different countries in just 18 days in the summer of 1984!
I finally wanted to take my test, passed it first time and bought myself a nifty Yamaha 350LC (Wheelie machine). It was black, cobbled together from bits and pieces of other Yamahas, but it was mine and I loved it. I sold it to my brother on the proviso that he sell it back to me. He didn’t, I was gutted. That’s what you get from doing favours for family I suppose.
I was without a bike for 6 years when I finally decided it was time to get another. I got a bank loan and a motorcycle magazine and within 3 days, I picked my new bike up!
AJ: I’ve only ridden on a motorcycle twice in my entire life so you can color me impressed.
Now, let’s move forward and talk about your writing. Tell the readers out there how you got involved in writing.
MG: I’ve always loved reading. I remember reading everything I could lay my hands on as a child. I remember the colourful books that my granddad used to read to me. My favourite was about a cute little winged horse.
It followed, therefore, that I should also enjoy writing.
I don’t remember writing an awful lot when I was at school, but I suppose I must have. I enjoyed English classes and one of the most enduring lessons was when we were learning about plurals (I think). I had written a full page of plurals in sentences and I was most pleased with myself. I took my book to the teacher and he told me it was wrong. I had put apostrophes before every single ‘s’. I had to go back and correct them all, but guess what? I’ve never forgotten that lesson and you can bet I don’t put my apostrophes in inappropriate places. Actually, that’s one of my biggest peeves, people who don’t know that plural’s of things don’t have apostrophe’s… ARRRGH!
Anyway, back to writing. I do remember when I first started thinking that I could possibly write a novel myself. I don’t read, I devour books and I’ll go straight through an author that I like and read everything that they’ve ever written. I had read a number of one particular author’s works before I started to see a pattern. Everything was formulaic, it was as though there was a recipe to his books and he never deviated from it. OK, I understand that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but when you can actually see where a book is going to end up, way before half way, it kinda defeats the object of buying the book and reading it. I actually remember putting it down in disgust once I’d finished and thought: “I can do better than that!”
It did take a while before I got around to putting my money where my mouth was of course, but once I had, I found that I was right. I write how I like to read –if that makes sense. I like being in the thick of the action, where the writer takes you with him. I don’t like being a remote observer, so that’s how I write, taking the reader through everything that the characters are experiencing.
AJ: I think a lot of writers are born out of that very same feeling: I can do better than that.
How many books do you have out there, Michelle?
MG: I have three full novels and four complete short stories.
You can see all the titles here
AJ: So, tell us about this Dusty the Demon hunter.
MG: Oh Dusty… She’s a half-demon. Her mother was seduced and tricked into becoming pregnant. Her parents didn’t believe that she hadn’t been ‘messing around’ with boys and they were extremely angry with her – until they were forced to acknowledge the truth. They felt terrible because they’d disbelieved her and they turned themselves around and supported her through the birth and childhood of Dusty.
Dusty’s mother was killed by the same demon that seduced her. He had come for his child but Dusty’s mum wouldn’t give her up. Dusty’s grandparents found them both when they came round for Dusty’s birthday party later that day. They took Dusty in and learned as much about demonology as they could. They are now experts in the field of demonology and Dusty is benefitting from their studies.
Dusty is a novice half-demon and although she can travel to the Astral Plane with ease, she is still very naive in the ways of demons and half demons.
In the first story, Dusty is called in to help her friend, Ange. Ange is having terrible dreams and Dusty realises what the problem is. She is being attacked by an incubus – a similar demon to what Dusty’s father was.
The story follows Dusty to stop the incubus and while doing that, she meets another half demon, a boy called Hunter.
The next story still involves Ange but it’s her cousin that’s in danger this time. Dusty has to travel to the River Styx, gather water and defeat the Harpies that are plaguing Ange’s cousin. Hunter follows Dusty and we can see their relationship is blossoming.
Trouble x 3 is a story of Vampires. Dusty thinks it’s unusual that a vampire is asking for her help, but she goes along with it (after protecting herself as much as possible, of course).
The 4th Dusty was a free download from my publisher’s newsletter. I wrote it specifically for the newsletter. Dusty Meets Santa.
You can still download the newsletter and the story from here
The 5th story is about a doppelganger. It causes all sorts of problems for Dusty and Hunter.
I’m working on the 6th Dusty now. I’m aiming to get a new story out every month for her… I’m not doing too bad so far.
AJ: Being a half-demon, does she have some kick ass powers?
MG: She’s kick-ass all by herself. She has better reflexes, stamina, strength etc and she’ll outlive humans by centuries, but she hasn’t discovered her powers if she has any – not yet at least.
AJ: Sounds like she could be the ever evolving type.
What inspired you to create Dusty?
MG: I’m hoping that she can evolve, that would certainly extend her shelf-life.
I think I was being cynical when Dusty came along. I’d read about a few of the Kindle Millionaires and how they had got to that magic number of sales. I was reading about one young lady (sorry, her name escapes me) who had sold in excess of a million copies on her 99c range. I actually did think it was an excellent idea but I was in the middle of writing Blood… on the Moon at the time and didn’t think I’d be able to devote time away from that to write a story that would fit the category of ‘Young Adult’. I didn’t even know if I could write a suitable story for that genre, but I did think that I could have a go at a short story. Where was the harm in that? A diversion from Blood… –I thought it would be relatively easy.
How wrong I was, it wasn’t relatively easy at all, it was easier even than I could have hoped. It was almost as though this teenage half-demon had walked into my office, sat beside me and was dictating to me!
I started her story on Saturday evening and by the time I left off and went to bed, I had 8,000 words down. I was astonished.
AJ: Don’t you just love when a story tells itself like that?
What route did you take in getting your books published? Did you go traditional with a publisher for all of them or did you go the self publishing route (or both)?
MG: At first, I took the ‘usual’ route. I wrote to agents, got a few replies, then wrote to publishers, got fewer replies. Some didn’t even bother to look at the MS – you really can tell if the package of paper you sent out has been looked through, can’t you?
After a good number of years, I attended a sci-fi convention and met someone that was quite high up at a publishing house. She seemed very nice an even interested! She said it was ok to send her my book but to split it in half and work on it before I sent it. The book was 170,000 words at that point, and too big, she said. So, I split it, worked on it, padded it out so that both sides were approximately 100,000 words and sent it to her.
It took six months and a prompt email from me to tell me that “It’s not what we’re looking for.”
What a monumental waste of time!
After eleven years of trying to get someone to at least look at my work, I decided that I knew it was a good story and I have enough faith in myself, so despite the stigma of self-publishing, I’d go it alone!
My husband was right behind me every step of the way! After all, he had supported me for the two years it had taken to write it, so why stop now? We did our research and finally chose the company that would work best with my MS. It would cost between £6,000 and £8,000 ($9,500 – $12,680) to get the books we figured we’d need to make our initial investment back.
On the day that I was to sign the contract and send it back, I had a visitor. A friend of a friend, Philip Gardiner, came over and had a chat with me. He advised me that we could actually do this ourselves for a fraction of the cost. I believed him and persuaded my husband that we could.
Six weeks and a hell of a learning curve later, I took delivery of Deadlier… than the Male in hardback.
I was so utterly blown away by the feeling of MY book in my hands that I took the decision that we couldn’t keep the feeling to ourselves, we had to pay it forward.
Gingernut Books has a handful of authors on their books now and I was their first mainstream published author.
So, I suppose it’s both then. Self-published through to traditional.
AJ: It’s sometimes disheartening working and waiting and then getting rejected, but you stuck with it and pursued something you believed in. That is the way it should be done, in my opinion.
You mention Gingernut Books. Can you tell me more about that?
MG: ‘Gingernut’was what my father-in-law always called me. We were looking for a name for the new publishing company and I was Googling different, catchy names but there were always lots of hits. I came up with Gingernut Books and voila! No other hits for Gingernut Books. It made sense really.
From my first two novels, we then went on to publish Daniel D Longdon’s first novel, DEVASTATION and we’ve published a few more since then too.
AJ: I had a feeling it had something to do with a nickname of sorts.
Anything exciting in the future for either Gingernut Books or Dusty?
MG: Things are moving along. I’m entering competitions etc with my work and I’m also doing a bit of film work too – scripts, acting (hahaha! No, really.) and I have to write a couple of books based on films – I have an agreement with the directors.
Dusty is hoping to make her way into a full novel very soon (maybe after the next story).
Red, on the other hand, is already in three full novels… soon to be four – she is more than kick-ass, she’s also cut-throat. Red has battled with Jack the Ripper and has come out on top.
AJ: Hold the phone (yeah, I know–a little Shrek reference there). Red? Before we go, tell me about this Red.
MG: There may be a few spoilers in this so be careful how you go 😉
Red is a five hundred year old werewolf. Her name was originally Hazel. She was turned by request (my Wolves cannot bite someone they want to eventually mate with, it produces anomalies in their offspring). When she was bitten, she was also raped and she didn’t realise that her husband to be didn’t know about that aspect of the attack, she was led to believe that he had sanctioned it. That caused all sorts of problems.
She didn’t know that she was prophesised to lead the Wolf society into a ‘New and bloodier age’ and that she was exceptionally important to Wolf society because of this prophecy.
Hazel fled from the family she had been living with – her husband, the Queen and her Consort and the Wolf that had bitten her.
The book Deadlier… than the Male takes us back and forth in time from present day where Red is head of the Wolf police force to the time when she was turned and the trials and tribulations she encounters as she realises what she has been turned into.
She is unaware of her powers and potential but others aren’t so ignorant of those facts. She is mentored by an Ancient Wolf and her journey to becoming Sentinel Exemplar begins in France.
AJ: Kind of an emotional rollercoaster for your character? That’s a good thing, in my opinion. Deadlier… than the Male is the book you shopped around and eventually put out yourself.
Earlier, while discussing trying to get someone to look at this book, you said you eventually did it yourself with the help of a friend. Can you explain that process of doing it yourself for those out there who may be considering doing the same thing?
MG: The process is quite difficult. As I said, it was a steep learning curve. We had to become not just a publisher, but a publishing house to get the kind of distribution we wanted (worldwide). That in itself was difficult enough, but we also had to set up a company too.
There are a lot of different processes in the publishing of a novel and wow were we surprised!
The cover art had to be sourced and licensed, back and front images and fly cover for the hard back. Then it had to be proof read, copy edited, typeset, acknowledgements, copyrights, ISBN numbers purchased and a plethora of other things to consider. Gingernut Books had to then comply with rules and regulations. For example, by law, there must be at least one copy and usually six copies of each printed book supplied to the British Library.
That was for the first novel, the self-published one.
My second and third novels were published by Gingernut Books traditionally – that is to say, I am not paying for any of the process. Gingernut Books is covering the cost of production and distribution. I do have to wait until costs have been covered before I can look forward to the royalties of course. I also have to do most (if not all) of the marketing but I do get support with business cards, posters etc for my book signings. To all intents and purposes, I am now a traditionally published author.
Gingernut Books are also publishing other works by other authors and though progress is slow, it is exceptionally satisfying.
AJ: How long has Gingernut Books been around?
MG: Since July 2010
AJ: You’ve been a busy woman, Michelle.
Before we go, where can we find both you, Michelle Gent and Gingernuts Books?
MG: Here are my links;
Gingernut Books newsletter:
Thank you so much for the interview. I hope I haven’t rambled too much.
AJ: No. Thank you, Michelle. Herbie prefers drawing blood from the women. He says they don’t cry as much.
Is there anything else you want to tell the readers out there?
MG: Hmm.. You can tell Herbie that I’m not allowed to play with sharp things… for the safety of others.
A wink and a nod are given after Michelle stands. She puts the helmet back over her head, hiding the ginger hair. In no time at all she is on her bike and the motor has rolled over. The pop pop pop of the engine seems louder than before.
She gives a wave and… was that a flame that sparked from one finger? The interviewer looks on, stunned for just a moment. By the time he realizes that, surely there was no flames coming from her finger, she is gone, but the rumble of her bike can still be heard…