Updated: Jan 4, 2019
Ladies and gentleman, your January spotlighted author . . . Michelle Falkoff!
Michelle, the author of Pushing Perfect, Questions I Want to Ask You, and more, generously agreed to answer some questions for our January author spotlight. Holly Goldberg Sloane, author of Counting By 7s (one of my personal favorite books), called Michelle's book Playlist for the Dead "a page-turner that combines genuine intrigue with heartbreak and desire." Another of Falkoff's books, Questions I Want to Ask You has an average five star rating on Amazon. Read on to hear Michelle answer questions about balancing a writing career along with a full-time job, books that make her cry, and every author's struggle: criticism.
Zoe: What was your first rejection and how did you deal with it?
Michelle: I’ve been rejected so many times it’s hard to remember what came first. My most memorable early rejection was from a creative writing class I took in college, in which the professor called my writing “pre-writing” and refused to allow the class to workshop it. She was probably right that I hadn’t written a fully-realized story, but all I took away from that experience was a fear of writing that lasted for years. It’s informed my teaching a lot—I believe very strongly that every piece of writing has some spark of life in it, and my job as a teacher is to look for the life and help the writer coax it out.
Zoe: What does a typical work day look like for you?
Michelle: No such thing, I’m afraid—I have a full-time job as a legal writing professor and administrator, so every day looks different. On some days I teach; others I grade; others I work on issues to help my faculty. When I’m lucky and/or plan well, I can write. That might be difficult for a lot of people because it’s so unpredictable (and it’s difficult for me too, to be honest) but I like the variety.
Zoe: How do you like to write? Pen and paper, typewriter, laptop?
Michelle: I’m pretty much all laptop all the time, though I’m transitioning to occasionally writing on my iPad.
Zoe: What is the toughest criticism you've been given as an author?
Michelle: I know it’s going to sound like I’m full of crap, but I don’t find criticism itself all that tough. People who are critical are reading with discernment, and when they direct their criticism at me it’s because they believe I can do better, and I always want to do better. What I find difficult is when people misunderstand what I’ve tried to do in my work, and that’s hard because it means I haven’t done a good job getting across what I wanted to get across. I think every writer has experienced the frustration of reading a review or getting feedback from a reader in which it’s clear the reader has taken something completely differently than how we intended it, and it’s well within their rights to do so—once the book is out of our hands, we have no say, and that’s frustrating.
Zoe: Favorite book? Favorite author?
Michelle: Too hard a question! Too many beloved books; too many beloved writers. Some perennial favorite books include Rebecca, The Secret History, and Stranger Things Happen. New favorites include Confessions of the Fox, Fever Dream, and An American Marriage.
Zoe: When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
Michelle: I’ve known I wanted to write since I was very young, but I don’t think I took my writing seriously until I was a practicing lawyer, late in my twenties, which is now longer ago than I like to acknowledge...
Zoe: About how long does it take you to write a book?
Michelle: Depends on the book, really. I’d say anywhere from a year to two years, depending on how much I’m struggling and how much time I have.
Zoe: Name a book that's made you cry.
Michelle: I’m not really a crier, but I just about lost it reading Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Starfish. That book stayed with me.
Zoe: Finally, what's your best advice for aspiring authors?
Michelle: Persistence! Keep doing it, no matter what. And remember that criticism is helpful—don’t let it derail you.
Thank you Michelle Falkoff for this great Q&A! Comment down below a book that's made you cry and what other author you'd like to see do a spotlight. Hope your 2019 is the best!