FEBRUARY’S AUTHOR OF THE MONTH—Michelle aka M. L. HAMILTON
2018 was the Year of the Woman, with the #metoo movement, the wave of women elected to offices all across America, and author Michelle Hamilton inspired to make 2019 The Year of Discovery with a series of novellas about twelve women.
For January, Michelle tells the story of Madelyn Yates and her desire to open her own bed and breakfast. Each month, a new book will be released, featuring a contemporary woman and her trials and triumphs—plus these women will each have to face some kind of death, as well.
Q: We’d love to hear how you got the idea for this series, Michelle.
A: I was thinking about the incredible advancements women made in 2018 and I wanted to do something to honor that. More women were elected to political office, more women took their power back by sharing their experiences, and more women realized that things could be different if we stand up and march for what is important to us. I wanted to share the stories of twelve women leading normal lives, who suddenly decide to go after the brass ring.
I thought about the incredible bond women share with each other and wondered how I could entwine each of these twelve women’s lives together. Death is a great motivator for many people and the idea of these women being affected by another woman’s death and doing something to “live” their lives more fully just seemed appropriate. This month it’s the story of Destiny.
Q: Can you speak to the ways being a high school English and journalism teacher for the past 25 years has impacted your work as an author?
A: Teaching high school English showed me that students need powerful examples of writing to influence their own journeys through education and through their development as human beings. I decided to write a fantasy novel that was loosely based on Hamlet with my students in mind. I wanted to introduce them to more advanced vocabulary in the setting of an action/adventure.
Teaching journalism has made me more of an observer. A journalist is always hyperaware of his or her surroundings and being a journalism instructor for so many years has made me view everything through the lens of sharing the story, the facts with others. We’re in such an interesting time right now where journalism is under attack, but there’s never been a time when it’s more important to our lives. I’m proud to say I’m helping advance the cause in my small way. Just a few weeks ago, I found out one of my past students is up for a Hearst Award for investigative journalism. I couldn’t be prouder of her.
Q: I see from FICTIONDB, the gigantic fiction data base, that you have 39 published titles, the first one out in 2010. Now math is not my strong suite, but it looks to me like that’s more than four books every year, Michelle, a number most authors only dream of. Tell us how you do it, along with teaching and being a mom.
A: Who needs sleep? Kidding. I don’t watch much television. It’s amazing how many hours you can recover when you don’t watch television. And, my sons are grown and out of the house. I’ve moved into a more “advisory” role in their lives. It frees up a lot of time when you aren’t micromanaging another human being.
Q: Readers would love to hear the story of how you found the publisher for your World of Samar epic fantasy series of eleven books to date, starting with Book 1, The Talisman of Eldon (Emerald).
A: In 2010, I made my first New Year’s resolution. I generally don’t believe in them. I think that things that set you up for failure are a waste of time. This time, however, I decided to give it a whirl. How do you know you hate something if you never try it, right? I resolved to get serious about my writing. Either I would find an agent or after the year was up, I would just resign myself to writing for my own sanity.
I queried agents and agents rejected me. This became a sadistic cycle of sending out ten queries at a time and getting ten rejections back over and over again. Finally, a friend told me to look at a publisher who was actively building their “stable” (I hate that term). I queried them and amazingly got a request for a sample chapter. Then a full manuscript. Then a publication contract. I was stunned and delighted. I will forever look fondly on my five years with Wild Wolf. They taught me so much about the industry and they are all upstanding guys, who have my eternal gratitude.
Q: You also write the Peyton Brooks’ Mysteries, the Zion Sawyer Cozy Mysteries, and urban fantasy, plus a blog and a newsletter. What do you love most about each kind of writing?
A: The variety. Fantasy has and will always be my first love. I read it extensively as a child and I truly enjoy writing it, but I wanted to play with modern dialogue and settings. Peyton Brooks is my alter ego. She’s everything that most women want to be – tough, intelligent, and resilient. However, the crimes are all based on real crimes and that can be a bit gruesome. I need a break from that at times.
I decided to write Zion Sawyer because I love the mystery part of it, but I wanted the violence to be a bit more off screen. Zion is the antithesis of everything that Peyton is – she’s upbeat and happy go-lucky with an idyllic childhood. And she solves the occasional mystery, but it doesn’t really affect her that badly. The urban fantasies are an opportunity to write in a modern setting with modern dialogue, but fantastical things can happen. It’s sort of the best of all worlds.
Q: What writers groups do you belong to? How do they support your work and vice versa? Anything novice writers should be aware of when considering joining a writing group?
A: I am currently the president of Northern California Publishers & Authors (NCPA). It’s the only group I’ve joined so far, but I hope to join more when I retire (if I ever retire) from teaching. Being with other authors/writers is so powerful. It’s just a pleasure to be around artistic people of like minds.
Join. Get involved in a writing group and let people read your writing. I spent the majority of my life terrified to let anyone read what I wrote. What a waste of time and emotion. Sharing your writing is empowering, even when people criticize it. It all works to help you hone your craft.
Q: What would you like readers to know about you that has been a secret up until now?
A: Whew! Um, I have three cats? My sons regularly worry that I’m going to become a crazy cat lady. I don’t tell them that that ship has already sailed. I also have two dogs, so I think it balances everything out. I believe the vet should rename their new wing the Hamilton Wing, since I’m fairly certain I built it with the amount I pay in vet bills.
My students all find it worrisome when they learn I’m a murder mystery novelist. Nothing like a great witch’s cackle to enforce classroom management. Kidding again.
Other than that, I’m just your average school teacher who is probably on the FBI watch list for her fascination with bomb making and other such suspicious search results. Once I even did extensive research on anthropophagy (cannibalism). All in a day’s work.
Q: I know you are one of the Organizing Authors of the California State Fair Authors Booth, alongside founding author Naida West. Some writers have asked how they can be included in the booth. What should I tell them?
A: We start accepting prospective novels in January and by March, we’ve made our cuts. It’s a long, involved process, but we give each book our full, undivided attention to make sure it’s a good fit for the booth.
Authors wanting to inquire about participating in the CA State Fair Authors Booth may make an initial contact with Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org