Author Interview with Michelle Picarella
July 24, 2015 1 Comment
A little late than never… 😛
This month I give you an interview with a good friend and fellow author, Michelle Picarella. Not only is she CEO of Twisted Core Press, and their anthology imprint 7DS, but she has released a new book called Livian.
- Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?
I’m Michelle Anderson Picarella, a born Tarheel. (I claim both North and South Carolina as my home.) My writing genres vary, though I tend to lean toward fantasy and anything with a comedic flare. I especially like writing family-friendly works. Beyond writing, I am a publisher- a part of 7DS Books and Twisted Core Press. We publish the truly twisted concepts of fiction. If you can compare a book as similar to another popular book, it isn’t Twisted. We are here to give the readers something they’ve never experienced before.
- With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
I cannot say that anyone in the arts starts out thinking about a career in the area. We don’t stop to think about the risks or the uncertainty. It is a passion that calls to us at a young age. This is true for anyone in the arts, from painters, actors, singers, etc. The passion grows with age. At some point, you step back and look at the two paths. Passion or stability? I believe this was a much harder choice for other decades, but we live in an era in which nothing is certain. No career is solid and everything is changing daily in how our societies function. This is the time to jump. Passions are just as likely to become roots of security in a time when an author can become a millionaire without an agent and most of our rooted careers are moving overseas or cutting budgets for new jobs.
Of course, all authors won’t become millionaires. All books will not become movies. I know this, especially to be true for myself. However, anytime I think of the risk and ever-changing literary industry, I also think of the textile mill my father dedicated his entire life to climbing the ropes of success to only get a pink slip right before retirement as the company moved to Mexico. I think of how lost he was from the day the mill closed, right down to his final days. My father was so truly dedicated to this company, I can tell you his hobbies, but not his passions. I do not think he had time to chase any dreams. I do know this: Shortly after the mill closed is when my father became supportive of my writing. He wasn’t a man of many words, but I do think it was his way of enlightening me of which path to take in life. Everything in life has risks, but what is the point of life if you aren’t living with passion in every breath?
- Speaking of risks, so many people are writing novels. Do you see this as a good thing or bad?
Everything has a yin for a yang. I truly believe everyone has a story to tell. That does not make everyone an author. It also does not mean everyone hires editors. Nor does it mean that the most in-depth books following professionally published guidelines are going to be worth your time.
I hate the term “slush pile” but it is truly the best way I know how to describe what has happened to the readers. Nobody likes waiting anymore. Patience is retro, if it is a quality of modern folk.
This is not only the floodgates opening of authors no longer feeling the need or desire of literary agents and being held as worthy by traditional publishers. This is authors feeling the need to produce books to remain in a group of top authors, both traditionally and otherwise published. It is not only a feeling, but a fact. Shelf life of a book is now longer but shelf life of an author is the new fifteen minutes of fame.
I think we see much more of an author publishing a book and thinking they are done. The book will make the NYT Best Seller list and they’ll buy an island and drink all day. I see more authors with “dead” books which make the huge “slush pile” just that. The books may be great, but once a WRITER sees real work is what makes an AUTHOR- they bail with the scoff of being published and check it off the bucket list.
I find this insulting to the real authors of the world and to the readers that gave them a chance, possibly liked their book, but will never see another from said “author” because hard work isn’t part of the arts. Right? Yeah, okay. Bless their hearts. (I am southern. You may Google that for the not-family-friendly translation.)
I do wish we could ax the dead books of writers to showcase authors. I do. But I am pretty sure freedom of speech and such means authors must push and continue to be seen like never before. We are not competition. If a fantasy reader likes fantasy, they’ll read all the fantasy they can. What bookworm reads only one author?
The saddest part to me, and you may laugh is simply this:
I used to dream of some secret society of authors with wing backed chairs, fireplaces, hidden libraries and stiff drinks. I would dream of sharing stories and obnoxious literary jokes with the most admired authors of our time, the elders and royalty of authors…. I know this never existed, but I hoped something would feel similar to it with bookish events or even the “Ohhhh” and “Ahhhh” replies when telling someone I was in the literary industry. But now, everyone is in the literary industry. We are either authors/writers, editors, publishers, agents, promoters, bloggers, reviewers, artists, sellers or printers, etc.. The question must be, are we the readers?
- What are some advantages of running your own publishing house? Disadvantages?
I cannot speak for my partners, A.T. Russell and Daniel Picarella, only myself. The best advantage would obviously be a minimal fear of rejection on my own manuscripts. LOL. Seriously, if I tried to run something ridiculous through with that Twisted Core logo, I know the guys would shoot me down, thank goodness. A huge advantage is for us all to work together, taking the pros of what we like of both indie and traditional and trying to work around the cons as well. We are providing what we want as authors, to our own authors. Remaining authors keeps us grounded, I think. We see the changes from both perspectives and from there, we are able to adapt with the ever-changing processes of modern publishing. We have core points of what we stand for and how we work closely with each author to obtain their goals, because every author has a different end goal for happiness and success. Beyond those core points, we are constantly working on “the new.” I think a lot of publishers are held back by what history and other publishers list as the only way to do things. Those days are gone. The stones of old fashioned publishing crumble more each day. We don’t want a stone foundation. We are happy with roots that know how to evolve and grow with the environment around us.
There are a few disadvantages as well. It is the same as any small business. The hours are long. The investments of time, money, work, trust, research and so many other things are a juggling act. You can’t let your balls drop. LOL. Another disadvantage is the fact that people think if they know you, you will publish anything they’ve written. This is incorrect. Enlightening people of this fact is not always pleasant. Also, strangers always have a story to pitch. It does not matter where I may be or what I may be doing. If the publishing house is mentioned, I am pitched. It does not matter if I am shopping, eating, doing something with my kids, or even going to a public restroom, I’ve been pitched. Never pee-pitch a publisher. Please.
- Let’s talk about Michelle the author. Was there any one influence that made you want to write?
I was lucky enough to have a mom dedicated to raising young readers. My brother and I became bookworms very early in life. I can’t imagine life without reading and I give full credit to having a great mom. Also, my family is full of bookworms and writers. My grandmother was my favorite poet. She was such a bookworm, there was even a bookshelf in her bathroom. My aunt and several of my uncles were born with the writer gene, as well. If I had to name one main influence, it would certainly be my family.
- What is the best thing you like about writing?
I think I’ve discovered a bit more of myself with every new writing. I’ve read things post-publishing and connected the details to my own life, loved ones, or feelings. I rarely plan to make writing a personal experience, but I do adore when it happens beyond my initial realization.
- Let’s talk a bit about Twisted Core Press and 7DS. What made you decide to start your own imprints? Is there something about them that stands out from all the other Indie markets?
A series of events led to the imprints of TCP and 7DS. Personal experiences as an author in the traditionally published world led to the original title of Seven Deadly Sins, which was formed with seven different authors and published through a new and growing Seattle indie publisher, which was one of the authors on the book as well as a personal connection in my own life. Once the personal relationship ended, the book was pulled and we had something too wonderful to allow it to fade. Another author on the collaboration, A.T. Russell became my business partner and we ventured into indie publishing with our combined experience to form Twisted Core Press, a home for fiction titles, and 7DS Books, the short story imprint for more collaborations like Seven Deadly Sins. We brought in Dan as our third partner and have grown at a perfectly planned progression.
Standing out from all the other indie markets has been the main goal of both imprints. We are created for the readers, but we keep an author voice by remaining authors. There are many great indie pubs out there, in which we do try to reach out and connect as a united-indie front. I won’t proclaim our worth is better than any of these, but I will ante up and stand tall on the fact that we are different.
We do not mass-release. We look smaller because we are. We are a hybrid ideology of traditional and independent. Each book is worth the time, editing, formatting, covers, and one on one author interaction that we craved as authors with someone else behind the wheel of our publishing ventures. We do not take away author voice in editing.
We will not change the feel of a book. We will pass on a manuscript before we attempt to change what an author wants to express.
Also, if you can compare your book to a popular title with severe similarities, we will not have any interest in reading or publishing that title for our readers. We are the “something different.” We do not expect HEA, love triangles while trying to save the world, or weak women needing the salvation of a man. Nope. We are the Twisted Core of plots, characters, and ending. Reading should be an experience that lingers well past the final page. That is what we are. That is what we love.
The same applies for 7DS Books, which is invitation only and allows submission to Twisted Core Press. 7DS is also one of the few indie publisher-released collections that pay royalties. Some have offered copies of the book, which many authors never see, but very few of our indie publishers pay royalties and hopefully, we will see more of this trend growing.
- 7DS is strictly short stories, and readers will notice that the DS means different things with each anthology (7 Dress Sizes, 7 Demon Stories, etc). Who’s idea was it for the play on words?
The DS originated as Seven Deadly Sins being our debut; our first creation, at which point, we did not know we would open our own imprint and create more. We do have other titles, not a DS, such as Linger, Dragons of Faith, and Slayers, but I confess, we do have a list of DS titles, because, well, they are fun. Many plots and DS title themes come from our own 7DS authors for future works. We are offering readers a chance of finding up to seven new favorite authors per title and we encourage our authors to use 7DS not only as a platform-builder, but for cross-promotion and networking. We round-tabled many topics during our 7DS retreat and tossed many ideas for titles around but we always get random messages from authors with great ideas for new titles. That being said, the idea for the play on words is certainly a joint effort. In the end, the main 7DS stands for 7 Different Stories.
- If you weren’t writing or in the publishing business, what would you be doing?
Well, previously I’ve been a journalist, a substitute teacher, and helped run a custom building construction company. Considering my health issues and being unable to do any of those things, I really do not know.
- At the end of the day, when all is said and done, what makes you happy?
My kids. My three wonderfully brilliant, story-inspiring kids. If I can strive, provide, and make them proud, nothing else matters.
Where to find Michelle online: