Monday 3 October 2011

Author Interview: Michelle Davidson Argyle

Today we welcome multi-published author Michelle Davidson Argyle (left) to share some thoughts on her latest novel, Monarch, recently published by Rhemalda Press.

What sparked the idea for Monarch?

Monarch came about over a period of a few years. I wrote three short stories from which I gleaned the idea, but I think the original idea came from reading Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek where she has a section about monarch butterflies - and it's so moving and beautiful that I wanted to capture something like that in a novel. Of course, knowing me, I had to go and throw spies into the mix. *smile*

Which part of researching Monarch was the most personally interesting to you? Were there any facts or themes that you would have liked to include, but they just didn't make into the story?

I think the most interesting research was looking into the CIA. Just try getting straight facts on a government agency which prides itself on secrecy! I ended up reading a few biographies from now-retired CIA operatives. That gave me a lot of insight into how the agency is run, for the most part. Of course, my worst nightmare is that a real CIA officer or employee will read my book and just die laughing at how wrong it all it is!

As far as anything that I wanted to include, absolutely! I wanted a scene in Mexico with the butterflies. I wanted to include more about the illegal logging, but it just didn't fit into the plot and would have slowed the story down.

What is the toughest battle Nick must face in Monarch?

Nick's toughest battle is learning to face to his own heart and how he truly feels about his loved ones. This, of course, affects how he treats and thinks about them. This, in turn, seeps into his fledgling relationship with his new love interest, Lilian. He's never quite sure how he feels about his wife's suicide - and his daughter who could have stopped it. In reality, Nick is in limbo with his emotions. He's fine running around keeping everyone from physical harm, but when it comes to his heart, he's in that cocoon stage trying to figure out when and how he'll emerge.

 When writing a novel, how do you develop and differentiate your characters?

That's tough to say. Honestly, much of my novel character development happens on a subconscious level. I do write outlines, and I will write out character traits, but only loosely. In respect to characters, I like them to develop organically. If I try to force them into pre-made little boxes, I run into nothing but trouble.

What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?

I'd have to say Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I mentioned that book up above. It's not a novel, but a mixture of memoir, philosophy, poetry, and reflection. It's absolutely incredible, and literally turned me around to writing fiction instead of focusing on editing in my schooling. It's odd that a nonfiction book turned me onto fiction, but it was from that book that I wrote my short story, "Clover," and from that which two of my college professors said I had an amazing gift and should seriously consider creative writing instead of technical writing. I'll never forget that moment.

American author Susan Daitch once said "I feel a certain amount of embarrassment, a lack of preciousness about my work, and would rewrite all of them given half a chance . . . Once the books are in print I have to turn the spines against the wall." When you reread your own novels at a later stage, how do you feel about them?

That's sad for Susan! I usually always want to rewrite things, but there's a drive in me that won't let me leave my books untouched on a shelf. One of the main reasons I started writing novels in the first place was because there aren't other books out there that tell the stories I wanted to I have to tell them. Because of that, one of my greatest joys in life has been reading my own fiction, and I must say that getting it published and reading it in such a polished, beautiful printed format, is even better! I think it will be a sad day that I don't read my own fiction once it's "finished." It's true that a book is never finished, only abandoned, but I'm still happy to enjoy it even once I've abandoned it to publishing. 

You can read my review of Monarch here.

To thank Michelle for her time, I'm giving away a FREE PRINT COPY of MONARCH to one lucky reader. To enter, for the draw, please leave a comment below and on the 10th October 2011, I'll use to pick the name of the winner.


Denise Z said...

Well I am becoming more and more intrigued about Monarch. I thank Michelle for sharing a bit of her journey with us today and I appreciate the lovely giveaway opportunity.


Lisa said...

Hello Michelle, hello Judy.

Thank you for the insight on how an author develop a book, and a thriller too! Sounds challengingly exciting. Thank you also for the giveaway opportunity. Looking forward to the result:)

Mary Preston said...

I can only imagine what walls went up when you began to research into the CIA. MONARCH looks wonderful.


The Blonde Duck said...

I love meeting new authors!

And I loved what you said about flowers on my Mama Kat eloquent!

Bish Denham said...

I've read about Michelle's book on other blogs and I must say, I'm very interested.

Excellent interview.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous author interview. I loved the bit about research as i've had some positive and negative experiences with trying to get information from people.

Claire Robyns said...

I love the inside info on how a book came into being and the research thereof. The good news is that even if those CIA autobiographies got it wrong, most of your readers would never know (else someone would have to kill them)

Rachell said...

I love hearing how stories evolve, and the processes involved in any creative endeavor. I like knowing "how stuff works".
Can't wait to read it. I love a good mystery with lots of character development. I've requested Michelle's books for my local city library!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

DENISE: I’ve entered you in the draw! Thanks for joining in!

OCEANGIRL: It’s always so fascinating seeing how an author arrives at the final story.

MARYBELLE: Ja, I think I would have been too scared to even try…who knows what might have happened if the CIA learnt that I existed…!

BLOND DUCK: Me too! (I mean, love meeting new authors!)

BISH: It’s a very unusual thriller!

MADELEINE – I’ve found it a real struggle getting info out of people. Once sent out over 100 questionnaires and got back 3 responses!

CLAIRE: Hahaha! I’d rather not say anything about the CIA research then…!

RACHELL : I’m one that hates watching the “how the movei was made” parts of a DVD – would rather keep the illusions! :) And how lovely for Michelle that you’ve ordered her books for your city library!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Monarch looks awwwesome. Thanks for the interview.

Marja said...

Interesting interview and the you tube is great as well I love butterflies so it would be interesting to see how to wave them in a story. Thanks for visiting.

Jannie Funster said...

Yes, from what I've seen lately Monarch seems to be causing a great buzzz -- I mean flutter in the blogosphere.

I'd like to read it!!

Ann Summerville said...

Interesting cover.

Ann Summerville said...

It's taken me a while to get with the social networking program but am now following you on Twitter.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Journaling Woman: Monarch *is* awesome!

MARJA: The Monarch butterflies are an intersting background to an interesting book!

Jannie: haha! very good! The blog is indeed a-flutter with the sound of Monarch!

Ann: So glad you're on Twitter - I've hooked up with you there!

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said... has just helped me select a winner of the print copy giveaway of Michelle's MONARCH. And the winner is.....


I'll pop over to your blog and get your email address so I can give you the good news!