Friday, October 24, 2008

Introducing a New Author

Today, it's my privilege to share a brief interview with an exuberant personality and a hard-working, dedicated writer who is enjoying the wonder of seeing her first novel in print. Welcome, Michelle Sutton.

Michelle, you’ve built a reputation as the go-to person writing “edgy inspirational” novels. Would you care to share the thought process that moved you in that direction rather than, say, “nail-biting inspirational fiction” or “soothing” or “laugh-a-minute”?

I’d say it has a lot to do with the fact that I work with hurting people for my career, not to mention that I have always been the kind of person who wants to dig deeper.

Your debut novel –It’s Not About Me—has been instrumental in helping launch a new publishing house—Sheaf House. How has that role challenged you? How has it energized you?

In some ways it’s scary and a huge responsibility. The other authors are just as capable as I am and have a great product to sell, but I want to pull my weight, too. And YA is hot now. I joke with Joan and tell her I want to be the Karen Kingsbury of Sheaf House and make her millions. J One can dream, yes?

You and Bonnie Calhoun form the publishing and editorial hearts of Christian Fiction Online Magazine. How do your magazine editing assignments dovetail with your novel pursuits? What have you learned in your editing responsibilities that has had an impact on your own fiction?

None of it really dovetails. I see it as a separate entity. How CFOM impacts my own fiction is it takes up the majority of my free time. Ironically, I will probably make more money every year from my job as CFOM Editor in Chief than I ever will as an author. So why do I keep writing fiction? The love of it, pure and simple. I want people to read my stories.

According to early reports or what you’ve heard from reviewers, describe a reader’s approach to your book when first picking it up compared to his or her feeling when the reading experience is over.

People tell me they expect something fairly edgy, but I still manage to shock them a bit. By books end I get a lot of “Can’t wait for the sequel” comments, which is gratifying.

I’ve heard that your book often makes a splash at booksignings, surprising book store owners with the exceptionally enthusiastic response of their customers. Is it the book’s subject matter, your contagious enthusiasm, or a clever marketing plan?

I think it probably has a lot to do with my personality. I am a people person and not afraid to strike up a conversation with people in stores. J That helps a lot. So does advertising and word of mouth.

Your book is of interest to a wide range of fans, but describe your typical reader. Young, unmarried? Young, married? Middle-aged? Churched? Unchurched?

I have no typical reader. Though my target market is 16 -23, my youngest “fan” is 9 and my oldest is 81. Even the older folks say they remember being young and enjoyed going back in time in the story. However, I have sold many copies to the unchurched. This mainly happens at booksignings. It’s a huge risk for me to promote a book that people may find too “Christian” for them, and a bit scary, too, but I’m willing to risk it.

Even this early in your debut novel’s life, you’ve earned the honor of a four-star review in Romantic Times magazine in the inspirational category. Blog readers want to know—how loudly did you scream when you heard the news?

I expressed more of a huge sigh of relief. I was worried it wouldn’t do as well. So the sound a made was a huge WHEW!

Have you had a defining moment as a writer?

If you mean like when I knew I was cut out for this biz, I’d say it was when published authors kept asking me to send them more chapters.

How has writing changed or deepened your faith?

It has humbled me in many ways, yet I still fight pride and other nasty temptations like wanting people to notice me, etc. I wish I didn’t struggle, but it’s hard not to want to be revered as an author. Being content as a nobody is a pretty big challenge for me. But I want to believe that I am not doing this for the accolades but simply because I love to write and I want people to read my stories.

How did writing It’s Not About Me affect your understanding of the needs of the human heart and the depths of God’s grace?

It hasn’t expanded things much, but maybe deepened them a tad. I’ve always been a deep and introspective thinker and so pondering the human heart is just something I do.

Give us an “elevator pitch” for your next novel.

A young woman is pregnant after passing out at a party and she has no idea who the father is. Her best friend, a handsome single man, wants to marry her so she will keep her child. Will two hearts with such different agendas ever become one, or are they destined to remain “just friends.”

Some blog readers will want to know more details about your writing life and this project in particular. Which of your websites or blogs is the best one for them to connect with that information?

I have a blog that I post on in addition to my website. The address is

Thanks for sharing your time and your insights with us, Michelle. Do you have anything you’d like to add in closing?

Nope. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on my story if you get a chance to read it.


Linore Rose Burkard said...

Great interview, Michelle. I figured I should drop by since I'm always heading into the deep end of things and then wondering how on earth I got there! I've seen your book all over the place, so congratulations on good promotion. What's the youngest age group you would recommend read "It's Not About Me"? My eleven year old daughter is a big reader.


Kathleen Rouser said...

Hi Michelle and Cynthia,

Nice job on the interview. Lots of good information.
I appreciate that you are dealing with the tough issues
that face young people today, Michelle. Thank you for sharing.

Michelle Sutton said...


It depends on how sheltered she is. If she is familiar with a lot of the ways of the world she should be fine. If not, you may want to read it first and decide. :)

lisalickel said...

Thanks for putting a wonderful interview together, Cynthia and Michelle. Michelle welcomed me when I splashed into the deep end of Edgy Christian Fiction Writers without a lifejacket, and I still wonder what I'm doing. I thank Michelle also for promoting stories that are more realistic and not simple formulaic, take-me-away Calgon pieces of fluff.

Lisa Lickel