Dead Girl, Live Boy. It’s a book about an odd brother/sister relationship and the long-term effects of a disturbing family dynamic.
Tell us something about yourself.
I was raised in a small town, Mineral Wells, Texas. When I turned 26, I decided to move to Detroit to follow an emotionally remote older boyfriend. Nobody thought this was a good idea. I ended up absolutely loving Michigan (Great lakes, great times!) and Detroit in particular. The year I became a Catholic, my mother and best friend died within months of each other and my dad followed them into the sweet hereafter a couple of years later. Let’s say I’m glad I picked a religion that values suffering! I’m a huge Iggy Pop and the Stooges fan, along with the Velvet Underground and all the blues greats — Son House, John Lee Hooker. I’m a big Detroit Pistons fan as well.
What inspired you to write this book?
A friend of mine had friends who had a very odd brother/sister dynamic. I met the brother once, right after he mutilated his face in a very dramatic way. The image haunted me so I knew I had to write about it.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?
I admired the Wapshott website and the editor, Ginger Mayerson, seemed like she would be a good fit for the material. Turned out I was right. Ginger has an amazing amount of energy and passion she brings to her projects. I couldn’t be more pleased.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I’ve been struggling with writing my whole life, since I hauled my first Selectric typewriter to my apartment (the thing weighed about fifty pounds). I suppose my start can be traced to an early essay that I assigned myself: “The History of Voodoo.” This was followed by the creatively titled “The History of Voodoo Two.” I then wrote a story in the fifth grade about a boy who dies of spinal menigitis during the Christmas holiday. You could say I had my thematic elements early.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
Sitting down and actually doing it. Not getting too caught up in whether or not it’s good when you put the words done. Coaches call this paralysis by analysis. I think the hardest thing is to let go of all the reasons you shouldn’t be writing. The horrors of distraction!
How do you do research for your books?
I usually do very minimal research. I find that research is a trap for me, the whole rapture of the deep thing. I end up looking up one little thing on Wikipedia and an hour later, I’m about forty entries away from the original one without a clue how I got there.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
I learned how to complete a longer project. I’d focused on short stories, essays, and poetry and Dead Girl, Live Boy was my way of tricking myself (by writing it story by story) into a novella. It helped me understand structure.
What are you reading now?
A biography of Karen Carpenter titled Little Girl Blue. She’s one of my favorite singers, so haunting and eerie.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I like all types of books and read anything I can afford. My favorites include Caroline Knapp, Larry McMurtry, Augusten Burroughs, John Updike, Sue Kaufman, Zoe Heller, and many others.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I just finished a novel, How To Own and Operate A Haunted House which is an imaginary version of a high school reunion I did not attend. My best friend Hank died a few years ago so I brought him back to life in this novel for one last ride. I’m now working on a memoir titled You Are The Camera.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Stick with it if it’s something you feel you really want to do. Try to write every single day at the same time. At the same time, don’t get overwhelmed. Steady progress will complete a book just as well as a big burst of inspiration and energy, neither of which I have. Do it for the love of the thing itself and try not to get too result-focused. Don’t take any rejection personally.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
my blog (www.michellespells.blogspot.com) and readings wherever I am able
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?