Thursday, May 3, 2012

Michelle Franco Interview

Michelle Franco is a married mother of two from Stockton, California and step mother of another two. She works in the health care field by day, mainly in the psychology field. She started out gaining a degree in Writing but switched to Psychology for various reasons covered in this blog. Her first book, Where Will You Run? came out last year and the 2nd installment, Where Will You Hide? is currently in the works.  There are excerpts from both books at the end of this blog. 

We discussed a wide range of topics, including her childhood, family, inspirations for writing, her process and various writing related topics. As well,  we discussed a topic she is very involved in...bullying. 
Below is that interview.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Bakersfield, CA. We moved to Stockton, CA when I was very young, and I have been here ever since. 

 You are a Miami Dolphins fan, but you live in California, how did this happen?

 That's funny! I guess that does look strange with 3 teams in CA. When I was in junior high, my parents got my younger brothers football jerseys and helmets for Christmas - one Raiders and one 49'ers. I got bashed by those helmets so much that I can't stand either team. Just one look at a Raiders or 49'ers helmet can send me into a Guess I picked a team as far away from California as possible. Plus, I had a mean crush on Dan Marino.

Where is Stockton in relation to other major cities in California?

Stockton is about 45 miles south of Sacramento which it the capital of California and about 70 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Anything about Stockton that brings something to your writing that you might not other include?

Not really. Stockton is an amazing city and had the chance to be the capital at one point. It is an inland port and has a rich history of shipping and agriculture. It is a cool combination big city surrounded by farmland. Unfortunately, many of the city planners tried to keep Stockton small pushing the agriculture side, so the downtown area and port suffered and there is a lot of crime. They are trying to revitalize it, but it has been hit and miss and Stockton has been devastated by the housing crash and downturn in the economy. Growing up here, I guess I take the city for granted and don't really notice what I have around me.

You are married. For how long and how old are your kids?

This August, we will have been married 19 years, and we are still crazy in love. It has been a wild ride, but I am extremely blessed to have found and married my best friend. I have two step-children who are 25 and 23. We also have 2 children together. They are 14 and 11. We had custody of the older two, so we used to joke around and say we had to deal with algebra and diapers at the same time. 

Are there any other writers in your family?

I'm the only writer, but my siblings are all very talented as well. Both of my brothers are incredible artists. I would love to be able to draw and create the way they do. One of my brothers is an architect. Sometimes we tour the houses he designs, and I think how cool it would be to create a house or a building that you could actually use and would be around for years to come. My youngest brother is also a talented musician. He works in the field of computer graphics and designs my book covers. My sister is an amazing photographer and does my author promo pictures. 

Does your husband write?

LOL...not at all. He is a voracious reader though. He's a huge sci-fi fan and mows through books. I finally got him a reader because we were getting buried in paperbacks. He has been incredibly supportive of my writing and doubles as my tech support. 

When did you get the writing bug?

I have been writing for years. I was lucky enough to be chosen in high school to participate in the creative writing program in English honors based on my essay writing skills. Then I went on to college as an English major taking classes in literature, poetry, and writing. I entered the teaching credential program with the idea that I would teach high school English. After spending some time in a high school classroom, I realized I was not cut out to be a I decided to take a semester off and work on my minor which was psychology. I loved it so much I switched my major to psychology and kept English as my minor. I continued to write poetry and short stories and even had some of my poems published locally.

You have mentioned in a blog the intense criticism you experienced in college had affected your desire to write. Talk about that.

That was rough. I had so much support and encouragement in high school and junior college that I was fairly confident I was on the path to a writing career. When I transferred to a 4 year college I was really surprised at how harsh the instructors were. They were so critical, and it wasn't just me. They bashed everyone. The message they pushed was "There will never be another Chaucer, Hemingway, Browning, (etc. enter classic literature author here), so don't even bother. Everything you write is crap." I was used to constructive criticism and even welcomed it if it improved my writing, but it wasn't even constructive. They were absolutely the most pompous people I have ever known. They just wanted students to vomit back their opinions, and God help you if you didn't agree with them. Apparently, I asked too many questions. I hadn't learned yet that sometimes in college it is better to keep your mouth shut and do what is expected to get to the end goal. In the end, I got my degree and those professors are just a memory, but a lot of us came out of those classes so discouraged. Many other students changed their majors as well because of it. I wonder how many talented people they missed. I can't speak for all English professors, but this was my experience. I continued to write, but I was not as eager to share as I had once been. 

Who were (are) your inspirations in the writing field?

Despite the problems in college, I really love classic literature. I have a wide range of authors I admire, but I can't really say that anyone in particular has inspired me. I have tried to learn something from everything I read - good or bad. Lately, I will have to say that I have been inspired by indie writers. I love the energy, enthusiasm and support. It reminds me of when I was writing in high school and junior college. It is more like a community of artists; celebrating learning and success without being so competitive and critical. Of course I have met some jackasses; but by far, the indie writers I have met through this process continue to surprise me with their generosity and support, and it has done a lot to heal those old college wounds. 

You switched to Psychology after you got discouraged about writing in college. What have you done with that education?

I paid for my education by working at the state hospital here in Stockton, so I had been interested in psychology long before I changed majors. After I finished my B.A., I got hired to work in a new program for severely mentally ill adults through the psychology department at the University of the Pacific. I was able to go to graduate school there and complete my M.A. in psychology with an emphasis in behavior analysis. I worked there for 10 years - 8 years in administration in their various programs for mentally ill adults. I really loved that job. After I had my children, it became more difficult to manage and child care costs were insane, so I left and started my own business. I work as a Behavior Analyst consultant to care homes for severely developmentally disabled adults. 

You have said you like to see the conversations between people,  especially on Twitter. How does that creep into your writing?

I love the way people interact. Conversations can say a lot about a person if you pay attention. Most of my stories are driven by character dialogue which I really enjoy writing. 

Michelle's dog Samson.
You post a lot about animals. Where does that love come from and what causes, if any, are you involved with in that respect?

Many of my relatives lived on farms and ranches in the Bakersfield area, so I was raised around many different animals and learned how essential they can be. At our house, we always had dogs growing up, but I also had pet rats, birds, fish and even a raccoon. My husband also loves animals, so we have always had pets as well. Currently we have two dogs, three cats, three guinea pigs, an aquatic turtle, two fish and Mr. Fluffington the hamster. It's a great way to teach kids about compassion and responsibility. I'm not officially involved in any animal causes, but I do donate to our local shelters when I can.

Mr.  Fluffington

As opposed to most writers on facebook, you keep your friend list number relatively low. Why is that? Is that a conscious decision?

Good did your It's true, I have been very selective about my Facebook account. When I started on Facebook, it was a way for me to keep in touch with close family and friends. I didn't want to use it for anything else because it was personal for me. I tend to be a little paranoid about sharing information, and I liked being able to be a goofball and say what I wanted without having to monitor myself and make it more "professional." That's what I used Twitter and my blog for. However, I talked about it with another author who is very social. She said that if I am going to write and publish books then I just need to put myself out there and let people get to know me. I have struggled with that and continue to struggle as I add on more "friends." On the upside, I have met some incredible people and have not regretted anyone I have added so far.

T-Shirt Michelle's sister made for their boat cruise trip

You recently took a boat cruise. Where did you go and how did you find that experience?

My sister surprised me and booked a Disney cruise to Mexico for the two of us. It was amazing! We had the best time. I had never been on a cruise before, and I was really impressed with the food and the entertainment. It was nice to be able to spend time just relaxing and reading. I don't get to do that very often. We stopped in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Mexico is beautiful, but the vendors can be really annoying. Also, having the tourist areas patrolled by soldiers with machine guns made things a little uncomfortable at times.

Do you think elements of that cruise will seep into your writing in the future?

It's possible. I had a really good time and will at least write a blog about it if nothing else.

Your book is called Where Will You Run? What is it about?

Mari Lucas is a homicide detective in San Francisco. She has been raising her sister who has had some problems with law enforcement. After making a wrong turn trying to drop off an illegal package, her sister overhears an incriminating conversation and believes she may be in danger, but Mari doesn't believe her. When her sister goes missing, Mari is forced to take a second look at her sister's crazy accusations.

How did you come up with that story?

When I'm bored (which doesn't mean I'm not doing, I make up stories to entertain myself. I make up movie-like scenes in my head especially when I'm exercising. If I like the story, I think about it more often and may take notes and add more detail. My sister, best friend and I love to read paranormal romances and share books. One night, we happened to be talking about some of the books and authors we liked, so I shared a few of my story ideas with them. They really liked the plot I developed for Where Will You Run? so I wrote that one first. 

How is the second book blues working out?

Ugh...Bad time to ask. I have been working with the public library here, and they are going to do a local authors day on June 16th for me and another author who is a very good friend of mine. They bought several copies of our books to keep in the library and bought one for us to sign and raffle off at the event. They are also making our books part of their adult summer reading series, so I really wanted to have the second book done in time for that. I am trying very hard to meet that deadline, but sometimes life has other plans. I still haven't learned that I can't control everything. 

Other than facebook, what modes of social media do you use to promote yourself and network?

I am on Twitter @MEFranco1. I haven't had a ton of success with book sales on Twitter, but it has been a great place for me to meet other authors who I have since moved to my secret Facebook inner circle. I was invited to join a Triberr group of authors who promote each other's blogs on Twitter. They have been a great resource for advice and support. I'm also scheduled to do a podcast interview that I am obviously nervous about. I will be answering questions without having time to think ahead which is never good for me. I tend to say things I shouldn't. Thankfully, it isn't live, so they can always edit it later. I have my blog as well which has been more helpful than I had originally thought. I am looking into some other options as well, but I don't want to spread myself too thin and not be able to keep up.

You tell very funny stories in your blog. Why don't you do more of that?

Humor is my favorite thing. I love to tell funny stories, and I will continue to do that in the future. I hate to say it, but the reason I don't do it more often is simple: blog statistics. My blogs about writing, other authors, social media and my opinionated rants have the most views. The funny stories are often only read by people who know me and like to read them because it's me. I imagine it has a lot to do with the fact that my blogs are more often promoted on Twitter and most of my followers are other authors who are more interested in subjects that have to do with publishing and not necessarily interested in me personally.

You have mentioned to me before that you like my blogger group because the blogs are not just simply promotional vehicles to sell books or promote work. Talk about your strategy to both promote while not being pushy.

That's true. I get so bombarded with writers constantly trying to promote stuff that I get tired of seeing it. I hate when the first interaction I have with an author is "Buy my book" or "Read my blog." That shotgun approach by some people has really shaped the way I promote my own book and blog. I won't tweet promo stuff more than once an hour, and I break that up by talking to people. I NEVER directly ask anyone to buy my book or read my blog. I post or tweet the link and people can buy/read or not. When I published Where Will You Run? last August, I wish I had known then what I know now about promoting and platforms. The problem was that I didn't know enough then to know what I didn't know. If that makes any sense. I thought finishing and publishing my book was the hard part. Nope. My next book release will be completely different. I haven't been promoting my current book at all the last few months because it takes up so much time. I took the advice of a fellow author/blogger who recommended tweeting less and writing more. I have been trying to finish the next book and then I will do a big promo push for both of them this summer using what I have learned. I forgot - I am also on Goodreads, but I don't use it very often. 

Relaxing by the pool with her book.

When you are not writing, working or tending to the kids, what does Michele like to do for fun?

I love to read whenever I get a chance, and I like to catch up on movies and television programs I enjoy. My number one preferred free time activity is date night with my honey!
That's pretty I need to pick up some hobbies or something! 

You speak out on bullying quite a bit. Is there an incident that makes you so passionate about that subject?

I had to deal with bullies when I was a child until I was big enough to fight back, and that was tough. Then I had to protect my younger brother from neighborhood bullies as well. When it started happening to my kids, it was competely different. I had a very hard time dealing with my own rage. The schools have that whole "No tolerance" policy for bullying, but when it comes right down to it, they really can't do much. I have always said that while bullying was hard on me, it made me a fighter. Some people may argue with that, but it's true for me. It made me a stronger adult. Bullying now is so different though. It is a whole new kind of cruel. You add in social media and it can happen around the clock. It doesn't stop when you leave school. They also bully in packs. You can't just beat up the one kid being mean to you and be done with it like I did in school. It is out of control and parents need to step up and be responsible for the behavior of their kids. I didn't even share the problems with my son. He has special needs and between the bullying and the inability of the school staff to deal with it and his educational needs, I am now homeschooling him. 

If you had a magic wand,  what is the solution you would like to see to this problem,  if you think there is one?

That's a tough question. If I had a magic wand, I would just wave it and make the problem go away. As far as real solutions? I wish I had a good answer, but I don't. Unfortunately, my experience has been that the parents of bullies are sometimes as bad if not worse than their children. Why should the kids care if the parents don't? Compassion is something that has to be taught, and it has to start at home. If kids have to wait to learn to be good humans at school, it's too little too late. I can tell you what I'm doing with my own kids. I talk to them all the time. We are very open about bullying, and I go out of my way to emphasize all the things they do well. I tell them how amazing they are hoping to give them some confidence when they face others who might say otherwise. I talk to the school whenever my daughter tells me anything that is problematic, so they at least have a record of it. My children do not have Facebook accounts or personal cell phones. I have an emergency cell phone available if they need one. Their online time is limited and supervised. And since it's me, we often use humor to lighten the mood.

What is your writing process?

You know the writer who is highly organized and well disciplined? The author who has outlines, separate files for each project, research notes and scheduled writing times? Yeah, that's not me. It's actually the anti-me. I wish I were that kind of writer, but my brain doesn't work that way. I tend to write in chapters. Sometimes one, sometimes several. I never know. When a chapter comes to me it literally gushes out, and I have to sit down and write it. I have tried to put it off thinking that I will be able to write it later, but it will never be as good if I do. I write out of order which drives me crazy and makes for a lot of editing work. My outline is more like a timeline. I put chapters in where I think they are going to fit in the story. Sometimes I don't even know what is going to happen until I write it. I jokingly say that my characters keep me on a need to know basis. It's very frustrating. I don't trust it, but I am learning to work around it. I have talked to several other authors who suffer from the same annoying writing process, and they have given me some good advice. Based on what they had to say, my goal is to set aside time every day to write. If I have a chapter in my head, I write it. If not, I work on a blog, or do research, or something that requires me to write. I am trying to learn to be more disciplined as a writer even if the writing process for my books is chaotic. Hopefully, that will help me focus, and I will be able to finish my projects on time. That's my goal anyway.


Excerpt from Where Will You Run?
“Sit for a minute, Mari.” Captain Martin looked tired. “I don’t want this to get awkward, but I am sorry about your sister.”
Mari nodded using every bit of will power she had not to let her eyes well up at the unusual show of emotion from her boss. Neither one of them had much experience in the feelings sharing department, so they both looked like they wanted to crawl out of their skins. He cleared his throat again as he often did when he wasn’t sure what he wanted to say next.
“Dr. Kimball told me a few other things as well.” He started cautiously.
Mari looked at the floor. She was afraid the doctor had a big mouth, so much for his sanctimonious speech on confidentiality.
“He couldn’t tell me specifics obviously.” Martin said as if reading her mind. “But he had some concerns because she was implicating Christopher Collins and he was afraid of any possible backlash. He just thought I should be prepared. For some reason, he thought you might take what she said seriously and try to go after Collins.” 
Mari just stared back at him with a determined look in her eye.
“Shit.” He leaned back in his seat. ”That’s what I was afraid of. Are you crazy too? You can’t go after someone like Collins based on the claims of some lunatic.”
“My sister is not a lunatic.” Mari said through clenched teeth. “I’m not saying I believe everything she said,” She hoped that dumbass shrink had kept his mouth shut about the vampires at least, “but I did promise to look into something for her, and I will.”
Martin leaned forward putting his elbows on his desk, and his head down while he rubbed his temples. His graying hair was thinning and Mari could see parts of his scalp shining through the patches of fuzz. He finally looked up at her with a strange, distant expression.
“Let me explain something to you. There are exactly two ways this can end. One, you go after Collins and he is clean and you commit career suicide. Life as you know it will be over because he will destroy you for implicating him in criminal activities and damaging his reputation. The second way it can end is that Collins is involved in something illegal and he can’t afford to let you expose him and, again, life as you know it is over because he will destroy you. To summarize, either way it goes this can only end with you getting crushed by a powerful, rich man. You can’t take him down on your own Mari. He has too many friends in high places.”
“What are you saying? You think I should back off Collins even if he is involved in something?” She was a little surprised that he responded the way he did since he never seemed to be afraid of anything or anyone.
“It doesn’t matter what I think. I’m saying that if you go after Collins without any real proof, you may be on your own. I can’t help you if you go out on this limb. No one can. If you’re wrong, you’re screwed. If you’re right, you’re screwed. This can’t have a happy ending.”

Excerpt from Where Will You Hide?

           She opened the car door and took off. Her jacket was soaked even before she had covered the short distance to what she now saw was a massive wood door. She knocked on it with her knuckles making a little thump sound that she could barely hear.

            Nothing happened, so she turned her fist sideways and pounded on the door. She could feel her clothes sticking to her as the water started soaking through. The rain started to run down her body, down her legs and into her shoes. Her hair was plastered to her forehead and face and the cold chilled her to the bone. She wrapped her arms around herself and started jumping up and down to generate some heat.

She was questioning her decision and considering returning to the car when the castle door creaked and opened a few feet. She squinted as her eyes adjusted to the light. She was standing in the shadow of a large man. She guessed he was about 6’5” and built like a wrestler. With the light shining behind him, she could see that he had blonde hair, but his face was shadowed.

            “What do you want?” he asked in a deep voice that tickled her chest.

            “What do I want?” she echoed. The fact that he left her standing in the pouring rain pissed her off. Memaw would be appalled by his manners or lack thereof.

“Well, gee, I was taking a tour of castles in the pouring rain and yours happened to be the next on the list.” She bit out sarcastically.

            “You need to leave.” He started to close the door and Kylee panicked.

            “Wait! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. Look, I’m lost okay? I need directions to get back to the main road. Can you help me?”

            He didn’t close the door, but he didn’t say anything either. Her patience had run out as her teeth started to chatter.

            “I’m standing in the freezing, pouring rain, think you could make a decision sometime today?” she yelled louder that she wanted to.

            She couldn’t see his face, but she could feel his eyes on her. He took a step forward

“Where are you headed?” His deep voice cut through the storm.

“Sc-Scarborough.” She said between shivers.

He pointed back the direction she had come from and started to tell her how to get back to the road that would lead her back to her warm, dry hotel room.

Kylee realized that he was going to leave her outside wet and freezing, alone in the dark with some sketchy verbal directions to somewhere she wasn’t familiar with when she couldn’t see the landmarks he mentioned and would most likely get lost again.

“You know what? I’ll find it myself.” She interrupted him and spun back towards the car.

“Thanks a lot jackass!” She flung over her shoulder as she tried not to slip on the wet grass and mud getting back to her car. She could hear him saying something, but she wasn’t listening. She got back in her car and turned it on blasting the heater. She held her hands in front of the vents and winced in pain as the hot air hit them. She continued to shiver and tried to think of her next move as she defrosted her hands.

It was no use. There was no way she was going to be able to warm up in her wet clothes. She looked up to see that jackass had closed the door. Nice. So much for chivalry. She cursed herself again for getting into this stupid situation in the first place. She should have just stayed in Burniston.

She would have to wait for the rain to stop and pray she didn’t freeze or run out of gas in the meantime. She hated to admit it, but she was going to have to stay put. She didn’t want to chance going down that gravel drive again. Jackass would just have to deal with it. She wasn’t going to make her situation worse just to make him happier by leaving his creepy castle.

She unleashed a few choice curse words and took her wrath out on the steering wheel before turning off the car to save gas. She looked in the back seat for a blanket or something, anything dry, but it was empty. She didn’t want to get out of the car and check the trunk or boot or whatever the hell they called it.

A flash of light caught her attention and she noticed that jackass had opened the door again. She squinted trying to see through the rain. It looked like he was motioning for her to come in. She started to open the door, but stopped. She knew it was the smart thing to do, but for some reason, she couldn’t do it. She would rather freeze out here than do what jackass said. It would serve him right if she froze to death in his front yard. Then she thought about getting out of her wet clothes and getting warm and reached for the handle again.

She could see by the outline that jackass was standing with his hands on his hips. He waved at her again. Her pride was going to be the death of her. She cursed herself and stayed put.

She thought he would close the door, but he shocked her by walking out into the storm. He came straight for her car. She fumbled for the locks but didn’t make it in time. He jerked the car door open letting out the small amount of heat she had.

“Come inside.” He ordered.

“No!” she yelled back.

“You can’t stay out here. You will freeze.”

“You should have thought about that before! Don’t worry. I’ll be gone in the morning. I won’t be bothering you again.”

He was just a shadow, but she could feel the anger coming from him. Good. She reached out to close the car door, but instead of moving out of the way, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her out of the car.

“Ow! Hey! Let go!” Kylee felt a stab a fear as he slammed her car door shut and literally dragged her towards the light. When they were safely inside, he let her go and slammed the wooden door before rounding on her.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you always so stubborn!” he yelled.
            “I don’t know. Are you always such a dick?” she yelled back.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry about that... typos.

    Excellent interview! I love reading author interviews... I get so much insight into the writers... the path they took to get where they are now and some of the pitfalls they encountered getting there.

    Best wishes with all you do, Michelle.

    Veronica Marie

  3. Great interview. Interesting and insightful, always great to hear more about the Lovely Michelle. Love that doggy too:))