Books For Catholic Kids Author Profile: Michelle Buckman
This is the first post in a series of interviews with members of the Catholic Writers Guild. Get a glimpse into the life and work of author Michelle Buckman.
Michelle Buckman is the author of seven novels, a longtime writer and freelance editor. She is a Christy Award Finalist and the recipient of the Catholic Arts & Letters Award. She is an international conference speaker renowned for her dynamic discussions on writing and faith, and has been a featured author at many trade shows, but loves participating in the great discussions of small book club groups as well. She was born in New York, raised in Canada, and has lived in the Carolinas for over thirty years. Walking on the beach is both her inspiration and favorite pastime. Turning in Circles is her seventh novel. To learn more about Michelle, visit her on the web at www.michellebuckman.com.
Michelle, why do you write?
I write because I was born to be a writer. Stories well up in me and I write them down.
Was there a moment when you decided to be a writer?
There was a short bit of time when I (like many little girls) thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, but that ended after two days of volunteering at a vet’s office. After that, writing was my sole goal.
I wrote my first story when I was seven, but I attacked the craft seriously while pregnant with my first child, determined to make a go of it so that I could quit my day job to be at home with him. That first novel that was truly horrible, but I was given enough encouragement at a writing conference to continue studying the craft of novel writing. In the meantime, to earn a living, I turned to writing articles, first for local publications, and gradually broadening to national magazines, and then became a newspaper columnist, and finally the senior managing editor of a business magazine. During those years, I refined my writing skills, signed with a couple of agents, and published seven novels.
Although I continue to work on novels, I am also a freelance editor, an international writing instructor, and speaker.
Please, describe your audience.
With the exception of Death Panels being aimed at readers of dystopian novels, my readership is women who like fiction with a literary flare.
What role does your faith play in your writing?
I don’t sit down to write Catholic fiction. I write what the characters show/tell me. Faith comes through as part of my characters and my belief system.
(As an editor and reader, I can assure you that anyone who sets out to write a “Catholic novel” will end up preaching to the choir. Faith should be woven in naturally through characters whose actions and decisions are based on that faith, not stuck into a story to make a point.)
What do you hope to achieve in your writing?
My tag line is “Fiction that rethinks Life,” which pretty much summarizes my goal: to entertain, to make readers think about life from a new perspective, and to make a living.
Where do your stories come from?
Characters introduce themselves to me, and I write their stories down. (Have you ever seen the movie The Man Who Invented Christmas, about Charles Dickens? Exactly like that. Exactly.)
In your books, do you describe people you met and places you know?
I am inspired by people watching, so my characters are not people I know, but rather people I’ve watched out in public. Locations are inspired by places I visit. I love small town settings because life in small towns is so intimate and transparent.
Which authors have influenced you the most?
Anne Tyler. Her work taught me how to write descriptions that mean something, that define a character with a few mere words, and to turn the simplest plot into a moving story.
Maeve Binchy. She taught me the intricacies of writing family dynamics and concise wording.
Why did you join the Catholic Writers Guild? How does it benefit you?
Back in the old days of publishing (and still so when done well), the first and foremost requirement of a book deal was having speaking events lined up for the release of a book. Since Death Panels and Rachel’s Contrition were both sold to Catholic publishers, I searched for Catholic conferences, found the Catholic Writers Guild (CWG), and contacted Ann Lewis, who was the CWG president for ages. We had a great chat and I ended up as the keynote speaker for the 2010 conference, with my talk being “The Wonder of Catholicism and Expressing that Catholicism in Fiction.”The group had only been in existence for a year, so I guess that makes me somewhat of a founding member. They have been family to me ever since, and I’ve taught a workshop at the annual conference at least every other year.It’s amazing how the group has grown since those early days.
How do you write? What does your work day look like?
I write in the wee hours, when the house is quiet. When I’m deep in a novel, I go to the beach for a week and write nonstop.
Do you consider yourself a successful author? Do you have a day job?
Writing was a different game when I started in 1988. Writers were isolated and relied on Writer’s Digest Magazine for information. Books were paper and were sold in bookstores. Manuscripts were mailed in, which was quite costly, but kept agents from receiving a hundred per day. The internet was really more of a concept than a reality, and after it was up and running, my family and I moved to a remote farm and had no internet at all for a decade.
Despite all that, I attended conferences, mingled, learned, and acquired an agent. I got multi-book contract deals, wrote for a living, and managed to put my clan of children through college. More to the point, though, I was able to devote my time to doing what I loved—writing.
My day job is freelance editing for individuals and publishers. I am extremely thankful that my years of being in this business have afforded me a wonderful network of connections in the publishing world.
Do you have any advice for beginning authors?
Study the craft.
Read, read, read, read.
Study some more.
Revise, revise, revise.
Realize that some manuscripts need to be tossed.
When you’ve written one that’s ready for the market, you’ll know it.
Jump on marketing before the book hits print.
Thank you very much for the interview, Michelle, God bless you.
Michelle Buckman Books:
The subject matter and genres of Michelle's books are diverse, but they are unified in exploring how individuals impact the lives of others. Besides Turning in Circles, she has written two out-of-print teen novels, Maggie Come Lately and My Beautiful Disaster. Pretty Maids All in a Row, a mystery co-authored with A.H. Jackson, is also suitable for teen reading and also out of print. There are still used and a few new copies of the three out-of-print books available on Amazon.com, as well as Kindle versions.
The dystopian novel Death Panels is suitable for older teens.
The year is 2042.
America’s Christians are decimated, persecuted—most of them huddled together on a federal reservation, the rest forced to worship in secret underground communities. The State knows all and controls all: what you eat, what you watch, how you think and pray. Tolerance is the highest virtue. Deviance is the norm; speaking out against it is a crime. Any lifestyle choice is fine… as long as it doesn’t lower your Federal Healthcare Score. Too low and the Health Continuity Councils—or “Death Panels”—will hold your life in their hands. For powerful, ambitious Senator Axyl Houston, this isn’t enough. He wants the Death Panels to have the power to euthanize the genetically weak and imperfect; he wants America to lead the global Unified Order in purging future generations of disease and imperfection. Against him stands David Rudder, an escapee from the Christian reservation—called the Cloistered Dominion or “Dome”—who in the simple, merciful act of rescuing a Down syndrome baby from termination becomes entangled in a chain of events that could lead to a revolution for the Culture of Life...or to its final destruction.
As David goes on the run with baby Frankie, other Christians come out of hiding to help his mission: Jessica Main, an airport janitor who lives with the remorse of having aborted her only child; Anne Shelton, who struggles to maintain her place at the side of Senator Axyl Houston; Dr. Markus Holmes, a fellow doctor who has avoided handling terminations whenever possible, and his wife Betty, who never understood the truth behind the words until she volunteers at a center and has to look in the faces of the children being turned over to the system; Marty Young, a teenage rebel who finds his cause; and Axyl’s assistant Trudy Bullock, who investigates David to satisfy her curiosity and ends up joining his cause.
In the course of three days, David touches these lives, which in turn touch others, until it becomes evident that a small ripple can create a huge wave.