Michelle McLean writes children's books under the name Michelle Raynor, and her first one came out this summer! A Magical World, illustrated by Toni Wilson.
Alex and his sister Izzy are stuck inside during one stormy, rainy week. But, they still manage to have the most spectacular adventures. They sail the seven seas on a pirate ship, swing on jungle vines, swim through the ocean, roam with the dinosaurs, and visit many other fantastic places! Just how, they never tell a soul. They simply smile and wink and zip their lips, and then disappear into their room. Into a wonderful, magical world.
I got the opportunity to ask her some questions about her writing and specifically about this wonderful book and what it's like writing in vastly different genres, from picture books to regency fiction to humorous how-to's. I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did! Here's Michelle!
Katrina: How pivotal were your own children in the inspiration of A Magical World?
Michelle: Extremely J In fact, they were my little co-authors for this book. The power went out one stormy afternoon and the kids were bored and a little scared by the thunder. I often make up bedtime stories for my kids, so we sat down and I started telling them a story. Every time the kids in the story would disappear into their magic world, I let the kids tell me where they’d like to go. We ended up on a pirate ship, in the jungle, as dinosaurs and race cars. And it all ended up in the book J I also let the kids choose the names of the characters in the book.
Katrina: There’s a misconception that children’s books are somehow easier to write because they’re shorter. How long did it take you to get A Magical World ready for press?
Michelle: I can actually get the first draft out pretty quickly. Revisions take longer, though not nearly as long as a novel, of course J To be honest, I’m not sure how long it took me to get A Magical World done…I wrote it several years ago and it languished in a file until recently. LOL. If I’m not working on any other projects at the same time, with all focus on the picture book, I can get one done in a couple weeks. Not counting the illustrations, of course, though Toni Wilson, my illustrator for this book, is INCREDIBLE. She can get a final copy picture done in 2 or 3 days.
Katrina: I love a good subplot in a picture book. Whose idea was the rubber ducky on each page?
Michelle: That was my illustrator’s idea. Actually, I think her son came up with it. We added a couple in just to see how it would look and we just fell in love with the cute little guy :D
Katrina: How many books in this series have you already written, or plan to write?
Michelle: This particular book is a stand alone, but my next book is the first in the My Favorites series. The first book will be My Favorite Kind of Toot and will hopefully be out by the end of the summer. I have three other books in this series done so far (manuscripts, not with pictures yet), including My Favorite Kind of Kiss, My Favorite Kind of Cuddle, and My Favorite Kind of Sneeze. I have a few others ready to work on – there are endless possibilities for this series J
I am also working on another book in a totally different style, with a good friend of mine, writer and artist Lisa Amowitz. Our book is called Lyria’s Extraordinary Wish and is much more lyrical/poetic with just stunning pictures. My books with Toni are much more cutely humorous J
Katrina: Do you listen to any different kind of music when you write for children as opposed to when you write for teens and adults?
Michelle: I don’t generally listen to music when I write, period, though I will sometimes listen to the Film Scores station on Pandora or classical music when writing for teens/adults. (Editing is a different matter, as is “getting in the mood” – I have playlists for that). For my kids’ books, I don’t listen to music. I get that first draft out very quickly, usually just a day. And then I have to go back through and clean everything up J When I do my kids’ books I tend to go into short periods of extreme concentration that music just doesn’t help J
Katrina: You’re one of those rare cross-genre authors! Tell us a little about what you’ve published in the past and what you plan to publish in the future?
Michelle: You know, one thing I love about what I do is the variety. Writing different genres allows me to explore several different sides of my creativity and it’s just a blast. Plus, since my NF books and novels are (or will be) published traditionally, and my picture books are self-published, I get to experience both sides of the industry. It really is incredibly interesting being involved in both worlds.
My very first published book was the NF Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers. I have two new NF books currently on submission – Poetry Pointers, and How to Put the Analysis in Your Literary Essay. I am working on revisions on a historical novel with my agent right now and will hopefully be submitting that soon.
And as I said above, My Favorite Kind of Toot should be out by the end of the summer. I’ll probably release one more picture book by the end of the year, though I haven’t decided which one just yet J Lisa and I are going to go the traditional route with Lyria’s Extraordinary Wish and will be subbing that out in the next few months.
Katrina: Those sound so cute! What’s your advice to children who want to write books for publication?
Michelle: Write what you love and what you’d want to read. And don’t give up no matter how hard it is. There are a lot of setbacks, a lot of disappointment, and it can take a very long time. But if this is what you really want to do, then do it, no matter what J
Katrina: Make up your own question here. What do you wish someone would ask you?
Michelle: A lot of people ask me about why I chose to write under a pen name – first off, my agent suggested it J Though I originally was opposed to the idea (I really wanted to see MY name on the shelves), I ended up agreeing. Since I write in multiple genres that are so vastly different, I thought it would be a good idea to use different names to help keep my audiences separate. If I just wrote YA and adult novels, I probably would have stuck with one name.
But I want my picture book readers to be able to easily find more picture books, my non-fiction readers to easily find more NF books, and my novel readers to easily find more novels. If I wrote everything under one name then a novel reader might do a search and find NF books or picture books and assume I didn’t have any other novels, etc. Writing under different names helps me avoid any confusion.
So, my NF books are under my own name, Michelle McLean. My picture books are under Michelle Raynor (the last name is a mixture of my children’s names), and my novels are under MacKenna Marquis (my niece’s name and my maiden name – my full maiden name is already in use by another writer) J
Where to find A Magical World:
Smashwords – (epub version for any ereader available here)
Apple (via the iBookstore)
Lulu (paperback version)
Coming soon to Borders for Kobo, Sony, and Scrollmotion