July 12, 2012

Author Interview: Michelle Pennington (Candid)

Michelle Pennington is the author of Candid, the first book in the True Images series.

Hi Michelle, thanks so much for doing an interview with me! I really appreciate it :) So let's start..

1. When and how did you start writing?
Well, technically I started writing when I was four.  I followed my mom around constantly asking how to write letters and spell words until she would beg me to go watch cartoons or do something equally brain numbing. I had a fascination with it even then. The first piece of literature I ever attempted was a poem that went, “You know you’re in love when a dove flies above.” I don’t remember how old I was (6?), but I do know I thought it was incredible. It was kind of a jolt to read it later and realize how bad it was. Since then, I’ve never stopped. It’s like my brain has always been set to writing mod. Thank goodness, I’ve improved somewhat since those early attempts.

2. Do you have any author inspirations that have influenced you in any way? 
I always say that Georgette Heyer is my favorite author and has taught me the most. Most of your readers probably haven’t even heard of her, but if they even somewhat enjoy Jane Austen, they should check her out. No one is better at creating great characters, snapping out witty dialogue, or researching to bring a story to vivid life with impeccable detail. Funny enough, I’m just as influenced by authors I don’t like. I won’t mention names, but when I read a clunky piece of description or roll my eyes at cheesy dialogue, I pay attention to it. If I can figure out why it doesn’t work, I can avoid doing it myself. 

3. I always need some background music when I write, even if it's for school. Do you need some background noise when you write or does it have to be total silence? 
Silence? What’s that? It’s summer and I’ve got three kids running around here all day. The closest I get is that precious early hour when the only sound in my house is a symphony of early morning snores and grunts coming from the various bedrooms in my house. I soon drown it out with the click clack of typing on my keyboard however. It’s the best time to write. The rest of the day, if I’m going to write, I have to have music on. I’ve currently got six different playlists for writing on my ipod. Some are for certain moods, some for certain characters, and I have one for a story I desperately want to write but I have to put on hold for now. It’s dangerous to listen to that one if I’m trying to work on something else. 

4. If you couldn't be a writer, what would you do or be instead? 
Funny enough, a marine biologist. I’ve only seen the ocean a few times in my life and I live in the hills of Arkansas, but I’ve always been fascinated by life in the sea. I realized that at an early age that it wasn’t going to work out for me unless I was just incredibly passionate about it, and the only thing I’ve ever been insanely passionate about is writing. I remember my biology professor actually tried to talk me into majoring in biology, but the creative writing classes were like sirens luring me away. Today, I get me fix on the discovery channel. I’m a diehard Shark Week fanatic. (Oh, my gosh, it’s almost here too! Yeah!)

5. I wish I could take pictures the way Sienna does! Did you always know you were going to write a book centered around a girl who loves photography? 
The story evolved while I was in high school. I was in yearbook for three years and editor my senior year. This was back in the days of film photography so we had to sort through hundreds, possibly thousands of photos to do the book. I spent so much time taking them, sorting and organizing them, digging through them, and cropping them (the old fashioned way) that it isn’t surprising that I dreamed about photos. One night I dreamed about a girl in a room full of amazing photographs she’d taken. Since my dreams are vivid and stay with me for a long time, I couldn’t stop thinking about her and wondering what made her tick. Once her love interest showed up, I knew I would write her story someday.

6. I'm always fascinated with character names, how did you come up with yours? 
Well, the story behind the name Sienna is kind of funny. I chose the name because her mom is an artist, so she would have chosen something that meant something to her. Sienna is a color that artists use in their palette, either as raw sienna or burnt sienna. (I didn’t want to name her Umber or Ochre!) Anyway, one of my editors was teasing me that I named my MC after my van. I stared at her blankly for a moment before I remembered that I drive a Toyota Sienna. Huh. Lee is actually my maiden name. I was Michelle Lee growing up. For years after getting married, I’d sign something and realize I’d only left enough room for Lee on the line and somehow had to squeeze Pennington into the same space. That took some getting used to. I’ve always thought Lee is a great name for a strong man, so I chose it for Sienna’s love interest. Once I got to know him as a character, it didn’t matter that Lee had been my name for 20 years because from then on, it was his.  

7. Speaking of characters, is Sienna or Lee based off of anyone you know? What about Sienna's mom, Sophia? 
Sienna is really just herself. The old fashioned manners and work ethic that I gave Lee were based on a friend of mine, and his mom inspired Lee’s mom The two are kind of inseparable really. I’ve known a lot of southern women in my time, so I’ve got a good handle on what makes Sophia tick. I can’t wait to bring her out more in the next book. Sophia… well, since I’ve studied art, I’ve realized there are a lot of creative minds that tend to be more bitter and dramatic over things that have hurt them. They kind of thrive on the pain and use it as a muse. It’s great for their work. Not so healthy for their other relationships. Luckily, there’s still hope for Sienna’s mom to get a grip on reality.

8. I know there is a sequel to Candid and I'm really excited for it. When does it come out and what can we expect from Focused?
Focused is going to be more intense than Candid in some ways, more satisfying in others, and it’s going to be significant for some characters – like Sienna’s mom, as I already mentioned. There are two things about Focused I’m incredibly excited about. One is that it picks up a few hours from where Candid leaves off so we jump right back into the story. The other is that I’m alternating Focused between Sienna’s and Lee’s point of view. In so many ways, Focused is more about Lee so it’s important that we get into his head. It’s a nice place to be.

Focused will be out this fall. I don’t have an exact release date yet as there are so many factors that can change one, but I will get it out as soon as I can. For anyone who wants to keep tabs on its progress, they can like my facebook page or follow my blog.  

Favorite Tv Show? Person of Interest
Favorite Candy/Chocolate? Dark Chocolate Pecan Turtles
Favorite Color? Teal
Favorite Book? This is different every time someone asks me… The Nonsuch by Georgette Heyer.

The million dollar question-
What 3 things can you never be without?
My chapstick, my Kindle, and my ipod

And that's it! Again, thank you Michelle! It's been so awesome!! Maybe I can interview Lee one day! <3

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