Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives.
Michelle Ray is a middle school teacher who lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband and teen girls. Falling for Hamlet, her first novel, became the E! TV series, The Royals, starring Elizabeth Hurley, which she finds highly entertaining. Her other Shakespeare novels are Mac/Beth and Much Ado About Something, technically YA though many adults have enjoyed them. Her newest book, A World on Fire, is based on her professor husband’s research about what happened to the Jews after they were expelled from Medieval Spain.
Wolf: If you could be any animal in the universe, what would it be and why?
Michelle: A cat. They don’t care!
Wolf: Interesting. What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
Michelle: Gefilte fish. Jarred fish cakes in goop. I like it but every Passover I wonder why.
Wolf: You and me both. I like mine with lots of horseradish. If you had to pick a weapon, what would it be and why?
Michelle: My glare. My students say it’s scary and it definitely stops people in their tracks.
Wolf: Good one. What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Michelle: Giving them a happy ending. I’m not good at that. I always want everything to be ambiguous, but my draft-readers are always like, “No! Let us have something positive.”
Wolf: I get that a lot too. What is the meanest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Michelle: In my latest book, A World on Fire, the main character decides to cross the Mediterranean to find her fiancé. Let’s just say it’s historically accurate but it doesn’t go well for her. Actually, writing it didn’t feel mean. Just true and sad. Okay so really “mean”? In Mac/Beth giving the main character a mother more interested in her daughter’s fame and income than her well being.
Wolf: That is mean. And sad. BTW, I love the cover for A World on Fire. You’ve just been turned into a plant. Describe yourself.
Michelle: Something prickly that turns out to be helpful.
Wolf: I’m picturing sewing and hypodermic needles. Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
Michelle: Neither. Both. It depends. The animal’s personality affects how/if I connect with them. Some cats and dogs are irresistible. I’m kind of neutral about dogs, which apparently makes me more attractive to them. I’m like a bad boyfriend – the more aloof I am, the more the dog is like, “I will make you love me!” It’s a running joke with my friends because their dogs seek me out and lean on me all the time! A rude cat turns me off, but sometimes it cracks me up. I had a roommate whose cat used to prance across the coffee table, pause, and hang up the phone (some of you will remember the land line phone with the part that was separate). When a sweet cat drapes across me and purrs? Love it!
Wolf: I’m a sap for a cute pup. While walking in the woods you come across…
Michelle: Nature and think, “How come I don’t spend more time out here?”
Wolf: Good question. After you finish reading, go take a walk. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Michelle: Flight. Airports make me tense.
Wolf: Interesting. I’m fine with airports but hate flying. There is a door at the end of a dark, damp corridor. You hear rumbling. What do you do?
Michelle: Run the other way!
Wolf: Smart. Unless it’s your washing machine. What five items would you want to have in a post-cataclysmic world?
Michelle: Nothing. And here’s why: after reading many, many post-cataclysmic books & watching The Walking Dead for so many years, I have come to the conclusion that, should there be a disease outbreak or a zombie apocalypse, I want to be taken out in the first moments, thank you very much.
Wolf: Makes sense. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Michelle: Oh that’s hard! Okay, I think I like Hamlet the best. I’m still in love with him. My best friend reads all my drafts and she says my boys always start out too perfect. I guess it’s true. I’ve always had great guys around. Hamlet is funny and smart and handsome and, well, a prince. He gets a little nutty midway through the book, but Ophelia still has a thing for him to the bitter end, as do I.
Wolf: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Michelle: I like stories of all kinds, so I love movies and well-written TV shows, but my favorite place is the theater. I also love grabbing coffee with friends. Great stories come when you sit down with people to chat. (Author friends are dangerous. Many personal details from real life become part of the characters’ stories.)
Wolf: I hear you. What are your two favorite books about writing?
Michelle: On Writing by Stephen King & Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. Both gave me the confidence to say I’m a writer and the permission to not be perfect while doing it.
Wolf: Super. Thanks for stopping by. You can connect with Michelle through these links:
Facebook: Michelle Ray writer