I’m delighted to welcome Stephanie Michels here today for an interview and a look at her new release, The Calico Heart, co-authored with Patricia Kiyono. Don’t forget to comment and leave your email address for a chance to win in her giveaway!
Hi, Stephanie, and thanks for being my guest! Tell us a little about The Calico Heart:
The Calico Heart is the first book in The Stitching Post Romance series. The Stitching Post is a fictitious quilt shop set in a lovely small suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Once a week, a group of women, ranging in age from early 20’s to one quilter who just celebrated her 85th birthday, meet at the shop to quilt, visit, and share their friendship. In The Calico Heart, we introduce you to one of the woman, Sylvia Miller, who has just taken an early retirement so she and her husband Dave can travel. The problem arises when her husband Dave suddenly announces he doesn’t want to retire or travel.
On the surface, Sylvia Miller has a perfect life. She’s married to her college sweetheart, has three great kids, a rewarding career, and wonderful friends. But beneath the appearances, Sylvia is restless. She loves her husband, but wants to see more of the world than their peaceful Michigan town. For years, she’s dreamed of the interesting places she wants to visit. Now, their youngest child is grown, and Sylvia is ready for adventure.
Left a penniless orphan, David Miller promised himself his family would never know the same humiliation. For twenty-six years, he and Sylvia have lived frugally, saving for the future. Now, Dave is on the brink of a promotion that will ensure their financial security, but Sylvia wants him to retire and travel with her.
When Dave refuses, Sylvia decides to go alone. But it’s a decision that could cost them much more than money.
What inspired this story?
My good friend and critique partner, Patricia Kiyono, is an avid quilter. She belongs to a quilt group in the Grand Rapids area, and the interesting women there inspired the idea for the series. She proposed it to me, and I was happy to join her in the project. I believe all women are unique and each of us has a story to tell. The series will tell stories that explore situations women experience: love, death, abuse, new babies, illness, and second chances for love.
What are your writing goals for this year?
Patty and I are hard at work finishing book two of the Stitching Post series, this one with a much younger couple. Then Patty is starting book three while I work on number four. Meanwhile, I’m also working on a somewhat tongue-in-check paranormal romance.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
After spending what seems like a lifetime in the corporate world, it is absolutely heavenly to get up in the morning and not need to put on pantyhose and nylons to go to work. So, I often write at my computer in the mornings, wearing pajamas and fuzzy slippers. It’s especially nice in Michigan’s snowy winter. But on a more serious note, I love to rearrange the world the way I think it should be in my writing. I’m a real romantic and absolutely love “happily ever afters” and love that overcomes obstacles.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, character, or…?
Yes, yes, and yes. I think it depends on the story. Sometimes, an idea just pops into my head, and I need to research it to see if it’s even feasible. Other times, some fascinating character will keep popping up in my head, just begging me to tell his/her story.
Do you have a favorite time of day for writing?
I am a real night owl. Even when I was working, my most creative time came after dinner. I like to write late at night (starting at nine or ten in the evening) and will keep writing long past midnight. On occasion, I’ve headed to bed when the rest of the world is starting to get up for the day. It makes life a little crazy, and I certainly don’t recommend it. I’m trying to force myself to write more during the day nowadays, but I still give in if I have a burst of ideas late at night. Just remember one thing: write every day. If it means getting up an hour before the rest of the family (or going to bed an hour later), make the time! Those 500 to 750 words you write will add up. If you write 750 words a day, in a little over two months, you’d have a 50K book! So, don’t be foolish and wait to write until you retire (like I did). Do it now.
How do you balance writing and everyday life?
I think that’s a question most people ask themselves whether it is writing, a sport, a hobby, or their career. With writing, it’s a little easier because our work is portable. You can write at your computer or with a pen and notebook (or even the back of an envelope) while stuck in line at the bank. But writing can also a handicap, because our friends and families will call or stop by while we’re writing we are at home. Sometimes, people don’t understand that those who work at home still have a job that needs to be done. My family is really good about my writing. When they call, they usually ask, “are you writing?” If I am, they make the conversation brief. If I’m not, we’ll chat. Of course, it also helps that I have a daughter who is an author.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Germany! I lived there for a short time and absolutely fell in love with the country and the people. Since I’m an incurable romantic, the castles on the Rhine fascinated me. I imagined stories about each of them. I’d love to go back. Maybe I could combine it with other places I want to visit in Europe. Like Czechoslovakia, England, and Ireland.
What do you like to read?
I read everything and anything from children’s books to encyclopedias. But for pure relaxation, I’ll choose a historical romance or a light high-heel detective type book. I also enjoy thrillers by authors like Michael Connelly, John Grisham or one of the Alex Cross series by James Patterson.
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
The summer I was four years old, I was quite ill, and my parents showered me with books (instead of television) to keep me occupied while I recovered. I spent hours listening to anyone who would read to me. The stories took me from my sickroom into a marvelous world filled with adventures. I’ve loved reading ever since.
These are few of my favorite things:
1. Prime rib, medium rare with a baked potato
2. Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night”
3. Playing Words with Friends on the computer (although Patty regularly trounces me)
“I don’t want to go.”
Puzzled, Sylvia put down the travel section of the Sunday paper she’d been reading at the kitchen table and turned toward the breakfast bar where Dave was assembling sandwiches with studious care. “What do you mean, honey?”
“Just what I said, I don’t want to go.”
“But we’ve been planning this for ages –”
“No, Syl. You’ve been planning it.”
“Okay.” She nodded. “Granted, I’ve done most of the research, but it’s been based on the things we’ve talked about. Things you’ve always enjoyed: history, archaeology, and —” She laughed and drew air quotes with two fingers of each hand. “Plenty of photo ops.”
“I don’t need to travel hundreds of miles for those things. I can see them on TV and be a lot more comfortable, too.”
“Come on, honey, you know that’s not the same as being there in person.”
“Close enough,” he said, carefully spreading the mayo on a slice of bread so the condiment covered it from crust to crust.
Sylvia leaned back in the chair and stared at him. “Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?”
He frowned. The expression changed his pleasant features into a stern mask that suddenly reminded her of his late Grandfather Beaumont.
“Not funny,” he muttered in a tone that sounded eerily like his grandfather’s, too.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” she replied then busied herself gathering up the newspaper and folding it to control her irritation. She took a deep breath then tried again.
“Honey, when we were younger and the kids were small, you told me you’d always wanted to travel. That you’d never had the chance when you were young. We promised we’d see the world together one day. When the kids were grown, we were retired, and we had enough money saved.”
“That was then.” He picked up the slice of bread, checking to make sure it was properly coated. Apparently, it passed scrutiny. He set it down and picked up the next slice. “I’ve changed.”
“So have I. That’s evident every time I look in my mirror and see a new wrinkle or another gray hair,” she teased, trying to lighten her husband’s mood.
“That’s not what I mean.” He laid down the bread and knife and finally looked at her.
A chill crept up Sylvia’s spine, warning her she wasn’t going to like what her husband was about to say.
I’ll give away a copy of The Calico Heart to one commenter. Just tell me who first introduced you to the love of reading?
Bio: Stephanie Michels considers herself a “Jill of All Trades” having worked as a computer trainer, advertising copywriter, cosmetologist, personnel agent, radio DJ, magazine columnist, and a financial planner among other things. She recently left the corporate world to focus full time on her writing.
Raised in Michigan, Stephanie has also lived in Ohio, South Carolina, Missouri, and Germany. When her children were young, she returned to the Mitten State from Germany to be near family. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, playing word games on computer, or spending time with family and friends.
She and best-selling author Patricia Kiyono, are co-writing The Stitching Post Romance series about a group of women who meet once a week at the Stitching Post Quilt Shop to work on their various quilting projects. The quilters are various ages and come from all walks of life, but, like each of us, they have their own stories to tell.
Bio: Patricia Kiyono During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level.
She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her children and grandchildren. Current interests, aside from writing, include quilting, sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures.
You Can Find The Calico Heart at:
Astraea Press www.astraeapress.com