Author Interview: C. Michelle Jefferies, author of Emergence.
“Hit man, Antony Danic, has never killed an innocent man. At least, the corporation he works for never gave him a reason to think otherwise—until now.” –Emergence, Book One in The Prophecy Rising Series.
C. Michelle Jefferies is probably one of the nicest writers I’ve met. She is always taking time to help others with their own projects and freely goes out her way to make you feel good when you’re having a bad day. When she announced her book launch for Emergence I had to interview her.
About her: C. Michelle Jefferies practically grew up in a library, and she spent her early years reading books with her mother. When Michelle was ten, she realized she wanted to write stories instead of just reading them. In high school, she met another writer, who inspired her to write a full-length book instead of just short stories. Michelle finished that 189-page handwritten novel the summer of her junior year. She married her best friend and put her writing on the back burner while she focused on raising her seven children and volunteering as a breastfeeding counselor in her community. When her children were old enough for her to spend a few hours on the computer without them burning the house down, Michelle returned to writing and hasn’t stopped since. She can often be found writing or editing with a child in her arms or under her feet. With a passion for secret agents and all things Asian, she writes technical suspense and futuristic thrillers about bad boys turned good, all while beating herself up in karate class as she works toward her black belt in tang soo do.
When I write I find my main characters portray a lot of my own characteristics. Your main character is a male hit man. Do you see yourself in him?
C. Michelle Jefferies: Well, I’m a girl and I’m definitely not a hit man. So we’re completely different in those aspects. Antony has a box created by early childhood trauma. He takes those emotions he can’t deal with and stuffs them in that box. It’s a very effective coping tool for him seeing he’s an assassin as well as an atheist. I can’t imagine an assassin being emotional. It would create too much conflict in his personality. He’s a bit of a sociopath. (He doesn’t like that label)
So back to me, I’m not a sociopath, and I’m not an atheist, but to be honest I don’t interpret emotions or deal with them well. Sarcasm is lost on me. I probably wrote Antony the way I did because it was a release and an analysis of myself in that aspect. When I was little I was diagnosed with severe asthma and allergies. In a lot of ways it kept me from doing a lot of things I wanted to do. I couldn’t run or play most sports often sitting on the sidelines and observing life instead of participating. I love the whole “secret agent that has abilities over those we have as humans” thing. Probably because I dreamed of a life where I could do the things I wanted to do without ending up in the hospital. It’s been easy to develop characters that do what I can’t.
I have three other characters you meet in this series that I am developing their stories into book length. All of them are “secret agent types”. I know one has at least three books in his story the other two might be just one book stand alone’s, but their stories will all be seen in part as the Prophecy Rising series is written. I also have a minor character who wears Hawaiian shirts all the time. (Read the book to find out who he is.) He is the anchor character of the whole Emergence world. With the exception of one (maybe two) of the books in this parallel series, he is in all of them.
I love the theme of your Prophecy Rising series, “Technical Suspense, Secret Agents, and Bad Boys Gone Good.” Sounds thrilling! What do you believe are the keys to building suspense in a novel?
C. Michelle Jefferies: Suspense is an interesting genre. Kind of a mixture of a lot of things, a little mystery, little thriller, maybe some romance. Mine has a touch of science fiction and fantasy in it. Probably the reason I like and write the genre. In suspense you take the character and put them in a situation where the original problem you give them just keeps building and the stakes of the game they are in just get bigger and deeper. They often experience death of the characters around them and serious betrayal.
While you have your main character reacting to everything at first making the reader experience the tension, fear and other emotions. The main character needs to become the master of the situation around the middle of the book. Not resolve the problem in the middle, but start to take action and control of the situation so that the character grows and the reader has a satisfactory resolution by the end. If the main character never gets on top of the problem and starts to act proactively, yet the story problem is resolved at the end you cheat the reader by solving the problem by default. No character growth happens. Even if you are writing a series the main problems presented in that single book have to be resolved. There can be series wide problems that are left unfixed until the last book, but the immediate problem, the one that created the most tension has to be resolved.
You also have a middle-grade nonfiction book Enchanted Etiquette contracted with by Walnut Springs/Leatherwood Press. Do you find writing middle-grade a big change from adult thrillers?
C. Michelle Jefferies: I call myself an accidental Middle Grade author. The idea to write a book that teaches manners to young girls hit me from left field. It was so totally out of my box that I found myself at the library looking at other manners books just to see what they included. Not only am I writing for a completely different age group. This one is for girls ages five to twelve. (No assassins or violence in this book) but it is also non-fiction even if it has fictional characters. I actually spent more time researching this book and figuring out how to write it than actually writing it. Once I sat down with a firm plan on how to do the book it just flowed from me almost as if it wasn’t me that was writing it. I’m glad I wrote it. The experience was definitely a learning one. The best part of writing this book is, the book includes a recipe and craft with each chapter. Testing the recipes and crafts gave me and my children time to be together and enjoy the others company, which is what I wanted to do with the activities in the book. I guess it worked.
What piece of advice would you give to the novice writer?
C. Michelle Jefferies: One piece? Can I do two? One, learn your grammar, punctuation, spelling, while you’re in school and it’s free. (One grammar class at the local university here in my town would be over 700.00 dollars.)
The most important advice is to not let people’s opinions of you get in the way of your talent. You’re going to get critiques, and advice, and reviews. It’s the nature of the trade. Don’t let them get you down. Instead of letting the critique convince you that you can’t write and you’re going to quit, let their opinions make your work better. Revision and editing is where you take a good story and make it great.
Besides Emergence, what book would you recommend every writer have on their bookshelf?
C. Michelle Jefferies: This one’s easy. Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. It is the single most revolutionary idea about writing I learned. It took me from being a panster, (which is taking an idea and just writing it, no plan, no outlining, no direction) to a structure writer (firm plan, knowing the beginning middle and end, and why) and I have never looked back. If you don’t want to buy the book because you’re afraid it might not be for you? Go to his website Storyfix.com and look at his story structure series on the right sidebar. Try it out. You might be surprised.
This was a great interview with C. Michelle Jefferies, author of Emergence. You can find more about her at her Website: cmichellejefferies.com, Blog: cmichellejefferies.blogspot.com, Facebook: C Michelle Jefferies – Author, and Twitter: cmjefferies.