Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Michelle Ule - Writing Stories Inspired by Experience

Navy wife Michelle Ule is a graduate of UCLA and the author of five novellas and a novel. She lives in northern California with her family where she works at a literary agency, teaches Bible study, plays in a woodwind ensemble, and writes.

Michelle is a long-time lay counselor in both crisis pregnancies and budget counseling. She loves to travel and is an accomplished genealogist. You can learn more about her at her website.

Michelle is also the columnist on the fourth Monday of each month at Novel PASTimes.

Welcome back! What do you consider the best resources for historical research?


Primary source materials are really important and Google is so very helpful in that respect. I recently completed a lengthy WWI novel that took me two years to write. I estimate I googled ten times per page in that book and at one point I thought Google was going to ask me to step aside for a while, I’d worn out my welcome. (Joke)
            
I have found some stunning stories in old books discovered while googling a subject matter. I’ve used Baedeker’s 1913 Egypt travel guide; letters written during the 1898 Alaska gold rush with a truly shocking story I managed to fit into my The Gold Rush Christmas (which will be rereleased in September 2015 in A Pioneer Christmas Collection).
            
I’ve done plenty of research in libraries and recently have discovered a lot of information for the biography I’m writing in Ancestry.com. You just never know!
            
The best, of course, are people who actually were there and tell you their stories.

What or who inspired you to write inspirational fiction? How does that keep you plodding ahead with your writing each day?
            
I’ve been a Christian since my teenage years and have taught Bible study my entire adult life. My friend Lynn Vincent once said she saw no point in writing fiction that did not have an inspirational component to it, what else do we have to offer the world?
            
We live in a difficult time that glorifies the ugly and wallows in the shameful. I think there’s more to life and inspirational fiction that genuinely reflects the emptiness God can fill with his forgiveness can encourage and help readers. That’s why my stories all end like the psalms: “hope in God for I will yet praise him,” though obviously not stated that boldly!

What helps you maintain productivity as a writer? And what do you find most challenging about the business of being an author?

I got my first writing contract the very day we drove our last child to college. My productivity is a result of being “released” from the most important job of my life—and the one I spent 30 years overseeing: raising my children and supporting my naval officer husband. Once our life settled down, all that reading and traveling I did while raising the children came to the fore and I wrote out a number of the stories that had been festering in my mind.
            
I see those years as important—my experiences gave me wisdom and insight into the human condition I can now write about with authority. I know what it is to suffer a miscarriage, to watch a parent die, to move and move again. I’ve been a lay counselor for many years—I’ve consoled and counseled people in crisis; I’ve heard the anguish of hearts. I feel like I understand life better now than I did as a younger ambitious writer. I hope that comes out in my work.
            
My productivity comes from my work ethic—I owe something to the characters I’ve created and the story I’m telling. My WWI novel is about finding hope in the midst of unimaginable destruction—with God leading the way. He’s there; you just have to look for him.
            
The author business is challenging in the time that’s required to market well. I spend a lot of time working on my website, writing two blog posts a week, tweeting and engaging on Facebook. As an extrovert a lot of that is fun for me—I like to write my blog posts—but it does take away time from the actual writing. Some days I spend 10 hours at my computer. I could not have done that when I had children at home.


Do you feel you are more of a character driven or plot driven writer? How do you think it comes across in your writing?

I’m interested in my characters and how they change, but the stories are an awful lot of fun to plot. I do plan out my work and see the characters unfold as they move through the story, so maybe I am plot driven?

Would you like to share about what you are working on now?
           
I’m under embargo from my agent from talking about most of them . . .  
            
I’m working on a biography of a WWI character who is not as well known in the Christian world as I think she should be. I’m just finishing the research and working on a proposal.
            
I’ve got a really silly contemporary story that has made my friends and relatives scream with laughter but it’s such a fun idea, I can’t talk about it until it’s sold.
            
I’ve got a Civil War novel that’s been demanding my attention for several years now, and is impatiently waiting for me to get to it: it’s an examination of marriage against the backdrop of the war and asking the question of what true love is.

Do you have any last words of wisdom to share with aspiring authors?

Please don’t be in a rush. The writing world is based on timing and God’s timing for your life and work is more important than publishing. Hold your writing life and career loose and watch for opportunities. If God has called you to be a writer, he’ll find a way to use your skills—often in ways and in stories you don’t expect.

Thank you, Michelle, for joining us at Novel PASTimes. It has been a privilege to interview you.


Enter the Rafflecopter drawing below which includes leaving a comment
by answering Michelle's question below for you for a chance to win
The 12 Brides of Christmas or an ebook version of The Sunbonnet Bride
winner's choice.

Michelle's question:
What’s your favorite period for historical novels and why?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

13 comments:

Terri Wangard said...

I like World War II, which I have been writing, and World War I, which I envision doing next as a multi-generational series. Why do I like war stories? I started because of a family story, but it's also how everyone pulled together and stretched beyond themselves.

Kathleen Rouser said...

Hi Terri! I agree with you. War can bring out the best or the
worst in people. Such times are pivotal in our history, so
I can see where you're coming from. Thank you for
stopping by Novel PASTimes today!

Pam K. said...

I really don't have a favorite historical period to read about. As long as the book is accurate to the time, I don't care when it is set. I learn alot by reading about different times in history.

Mama Cat said...

Interesting, hard to know how to answer! I would say Civil War thru the end of 19th century. The country is being re-built after such a terrible division, and the pioneers are going West. New starts, adventures, the stuff of the Little House years and similar - even though I know it wasn't as easy as the Little House books made it seem. jeaniedannheim (at) ymail (dot) com

susanlulu said...

I like the 1800's - the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
susanlulu@yahoo.com

Kathleen Rouser said...

Thank you for stopping by Novel PASTimes, Pam K. Yes, accuracy is
helpful, though there always seems to be a little wiggle room for
poetic license.

Kathleen Rouser said...

Hi Mama Cat (Jeanie), thank you for your thoughtful comment. Post Civil War
through the turn of the century was a very eventful time, so I can understand
your interest in this era.

Kathleen Rouser said...

Thanks for stopping by, Susan Lulu. Laura Ingalls Wilder's books have
certainly lent a certain charm to the 1800s, farm life in that era, and
movement into the prairies. I loved sharing those stories with my
children.

Michelle Ule said...

So sorry I missed all these comments yesterday! My life got away from me.

It amuses me to see how many of us were influenced by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sometimes I think it was because of the simplicity of those terrific Garth Williams pictures that captured Mary and Laura's innocence, even as it illustrated pioneer life. My PhD Astronomy son was just looking through our copies of the books the other night, remembering all his childhood when I read them aloud FIVE times! :-)

Thanks everyone for sharing.

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