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.
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.
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?
You have mentioned in a blog the intense criticism you experienced in college had affected your desire to write. Talk about that.
Who were (are) your inspirations in the writing field?
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.
As opposed to most writers on facebook, you keep your friend list number relatively low. Why is that? Is that a conscious decision?
Good grief...you did your homework...lol. 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|
Do you think elements of that cruise will seep into your writing in the future?
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?
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.
|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!
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?