Q&A With Michelle Chastaine - author of Eclipse Arts

Amanda K. (BookBuzz)

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Author Michelle Chastaine with her book Eclipse ArtsPhoto byBookBuzz

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Michelle Chastaine is a dedicated writer who discovered her passion for storytelling at an early age and embarked on her literary journey during Nanowrimo 2010. With a keen eye for crafting engaging narratives that transport readers to captivating realms and vibrant characters, she has become a masterful weaver of thrilling adventures. Hailing from Georgia, Michelle draws inspiration from the natural beauty of her surroundings and the rich history of her community, often accompanied by her three beloved feline companions. Armed with a background in K–8 education, specializing in elementary education and middle grades literature, she possesses a deep understanding of young readers' developmental needs and interests, reflected in her collection of captivating fantasy books tailored for 6th graders.

Author Q&A

What inspired you to write your first book?

Eclipse Arts is my fourteenth book, but I have a bad habit of writing novels and then shelving them. Maybe I’ll go back and rewrite some of them eventually for publication. I wanted to write something that I would really love to write and keep writing, so I made a list of my favorite genres, and eventually mashed up performing arts and fantasy. I knew it was the right one when a whole bunch of ideas and stories started filling my mind. I sang in school and professional choruses for thirty years, play various instruments, and love fantasy books. I have so many stories to tell in this setting.

My very first book was a Nanowrimo novel that I wrote for fun. It was a YA spy novel. I had a good time writing it.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My books mainly deal with family, friendships, LGBTQIA+ issues, and school life.

Everyone is on their own journey and must find their own path. Your family, friends, and school can help you with those things, but eventually, you have to make your own choices. Some of those voices around you might be very strong in their opinions while having a lot of power, like Ephy’s stage mom. People close to you may get upset if you don’t take their path, but sometimes you just know it will make you unhappy.

As a child, I received a lot of mixed messages from my family and teachers that I should go down specific paths, but I should also dream big. I fought with expectations that I should look, act, and live a certain way, but was told I could accomplish anything I wanted. The messages were conflicting, and I didn’t know how to find my own way. I also knew in elementary school that I didn’t fit in a gender binary, but we didn’t talk about gender issues back then. I write about the things I wish were in books when I was that age.

Do you feel like it’s most important to have A) Strong characters B) Mind-blowing Plot twists or C) Epic settings?

I think strong characters are the most important to me, but the setting came first for this story. I don’t know if I would term it “epic” in fantasy terms, but it speaks to me, and I think it will speak to others.

I write in a cozy style, so there really aren’t big plot twists. The stakes are important to the characters, but at least right now, nobody is out saving the world. Each character is just learning how to live in their own way while their superpowers cause more trouble than help. I do think that in addition to those things, I hope Eclipse Arts does gently pull at the readers’ emotions and provide some comfort to those who might feel like a misfit.

Picture this: You feel uninspired and you’ve sat at the computer for an hour without conquering any words. How do you get your creativity flowing?

Once I sit down and open Scrivener, I usually don’t have any trouble writing, but starting is the hard part for me. I have to schedule writing time every day and use Freedom to block social media and other distracting websites so I can just write. It does help to make notes at the start of every chapter or section, so I know where I’m going with that scene. Even if I just add one note, it puts my mind into the story.

If I need a mind break, I like to play with slime. My favorite right now is a coffee-scented snow slime that makes lots of fizzy sounds.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

When I was revising my first novel, I attended JordanCon just after Brandon Sanderson had taken over the Wheel of Time. I went to several of his writing panels where the crowd was small, including a very memorable panel where he got us to practice pitching our novel ideas to him. I was terrified, but he liked my idea.

I’ve watched his fantasy masterclass on Youtube and listened to him talk about writing in various places and platforms since then, so I think he’s had the most impact on my fiction writing career. I tend to write in a fast-paced sort of way like he does, and that style was why my editor recommended middle grades to me. I hope to emulate his support of other authors, too, as I’ve watched him create situations for other authors to be successful, including donating to all the Kickstarter literary projects after his own Kickstarter was so successful.

Who designed the covers?

Liana Tjen, a SCBWI illustrator, designed the cover. As soon as I saw her mockup of Liska, I knew she was the right illustrator for Eclipse Arts. She grasped the characters’ personalities, but gave them each their own flair.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I think the two pieces of advice that seem to help other writers the most are:

1) Write the first chapter at the end of writing the first draft. If you are trying to write the most perfect beginning without knowing your book inside and out, then you might never get started. Just start with the action or the scenes you are really excited about and go from there. Once you get most of the book written, you will have a much better idea of how to start and what direction the first chapter should take to lead the story.

2) Every little bit moves you forward. I once wrote a novella one sentence a day, just to see if I could. And I did! It took four years, but it got done. Write a few paragraphs a day, write on your phone in line, write a few lines every time you sit down at your computer, or whatever small moments you have here and there.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

The Eclipse Arts series is available on most major book retailers, or they can visit my website at michellechastaine.com

Connect with Michelle online:

Website: https://michellechastaine.com/

Eclipse Arts is available for purchase on Amazon.

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Amanda is a PR manager and book lover from Georgia. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two doggies.

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