Monday, April 20, 2015

Author Interview: Michelle Smith

Visit author Michelle Smith's website.

We are so thrilled and honored to feature writer, critique group member, mental health advocate, and all-around awesome human,  Michelle Smith.  

Michelle’s debut novel YA novel, PLAY ON, is now available as an e-book and will be out in print on April 21st. 

First, an intro to PLAY ON

In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.

Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek–he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn’t everything–maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.

RW: We have so many questions for you! But, we also know you are crazy busy with your release day (!!!) so we’ll try to keep it together. Let’s talk about your debut! You’ve mentioned PLAY ON is the book of your heart. Could you share what makes this story so dear to you?

MS: I think because it comes from such a personal place. It probably sounds cheesy, but so much of my heart and soul went into those pages. There are thoughts that I never thought I should share—thoughts that I didn’t know I could share. The idea for this book was in the works for a long time, until I finally worked up the nerve to start writing it. And I’m really glad I did! 

RW: I think many writers feel a sense of vulnerability putting their words out into the world. Not only have you jumped that hurdle, you’ve gone a leap further and opened up about yourself, authoring posts for outstanding sites like To Write Love on Her Arms and, don’t bleed. breathe. Can you tell us about the decision to share your personal experiences? 

MS: The primary reason is so others will realize that they’re not alone. 

When I was going through the thick of depression, I was convinced that no one could possibly understand what my head was doing. That I was broken, that I was scarred, that I was beyond reaching. That there was no possibility for this to go anywhere but down. Depression is a very convincing liar, and it’s easy to believe those lies. So I want others to know that, while depression is so very dark and painful, there is hope, and the darkness doesn’t last forever. 

RW: As critique partner, we’re all constantly amazed by your voice.  Your characters always ring true, so vivid and memorable. Can you share a little about your character development process? Character sketches? Channeling spirits? How do you do it?! 

MS: Good gracious, I adore you guys.

I just…write people? Haha! My stories are always characters first, and I love to dive into their heads, to feel what they’re feeling, to say what they’re thinking. I will say that some characters are a little more difficult to connect with at first. In my most recent WIP, I was called out for boxing myself and my characters in, which was completely justified (I kind of realized I was doing it while writing). So my editor sent me a character development worksheet that was 8 pages long (I am not even kidding), and I just went to work. I was able to dig into them a little deeper, and it helped immensely. 

RW: We’ve got a great thing going here at RW: a blogging platform with a built-in critique group (often times support group!). But joining a critique group can be a daunting endeavor. Can you share what made you decide to reach out to the writing community?

MS: My first experience ever working with a beta reader was back in my fan fiction days. She nitpicked my grammar, let me know when my characters were being waaaaay too unrealistic, and told me when I could do so much more with a story when I tried to play it safe.

I loved her for it. And five years later, she’s still one of my closest friends. She’s also the one who talked me into writing my first book.

Critique makes you a better writer—it’s really that simple. Yes, critique can be difficult to handle in the beginning, especially if you have paper-thin skin, but it’s a necessity. Sometimes we nail a scene. Sometimes our chapters need work. And sometimes our entire book need a re-write. As writers, we often get too close to a story, and we’re unable to see the things that just aren’t working. Outside eyes help. 

All that said, it is important to find a critique group that matches your style—some readers are brutally honest, and some are more gentle guiders. The one necessity is that you find a group that’s honest. We absolutely need cheerleaders; we also need people who’ll give it to us straight, and won’t let us get away with anything less than our best.

Needless to say, I’m so happy I found you guys. 

RW: Can you share any deets about upcoming projects?

MS: Very, very little deets at this time. But I will say that we haven’t seen the last of Lewis Creek and its baseball boys. ;)

RW: More from Lewis Creek? YES! Okay, final question—and this is incredibly important—what is it that makes Dean Winchester so damn compelling?  *pause for moment of reflective sighing*

MS: *cracks knuckles* Now you’re speaking my language.

We have pie.

We have the Impala.

We have his love for Sam…

And Castiel.

We have the heartbreaking moments.

And we have general badassery. 

All that to say:

RW: You’re the best Michelle!!! 

MS: YOU are. 

About Michelle:

Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.

Connect with Michelle:   Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr


  1. BEST interview! Thanks so much Rina and Michelle! I'm so glad we'll be seeing more of Lewis Creek!!

    Love, love, love the final question and all the Dean Winchester-wonderfulness! You gals are super-awesome-amazing!

  2. I love when WONDERFUL things happen for WONDERFUL people. This is one of my proudest moments at RW. Rina this is a fantastic write-up! Thanks so much and thank you Michelle for giving the YA community such a beautiful book.