As many of you know, Michelle and her sister Nicole, were supposed to be on my show July 11th. Through the quirks of Blog Talk Radio, they were unable to get on the call. I asked them both to answer what would have been my interview questions. I am trying to get them scheduled for another time and will post the date and time when it's been settled. Meanwhile, enjoy the interview! ~ D
Dellani Oakes: Michelle, you have an incredible list of accomplishments. Why don't you share that with our listeners?
Michelle Izmaylov: I’d say “incredible” might be a bit of a strong word since I feel I still have a long way to go before I’m really “accomplished.” What I’ve done so far is published three books, two of which were traditionally published, and now I’m an editor at FutureWord Publishing and an illustrator at World Castle Publications.
DO: I have to ask, out of my own curiosity, which of you is older?
MI: I’m older in terms of age, but my sister is older in terms of brains.
DO: With such an impressive list of accomplishments and awards, I'm sure our readers are wondering how you got started writing so young?
MI: I’ve been writing (and doodling) ever since I could hold a pencil. And I’m serious. My first stories were kept locked up in my head because, back then, I didn’t know how to write . . . but the minute I learned my first language (which was Russian), I started to turn my thoughts into words. It’s something I’ve kept at ever since.
DO: What inspires you?
MI: It’s not “what” so much as “who” inspires me . . . and that’s practically every person in my life. For example, my sister is a huge source of inspiration and encouragement. Whenever I’m stuck on a writer’s block, some quirky comment she makes always sparks fresh thoughts. But I also think love is the soul of genius . . . and I think I’ll leave it at that.
DO: How do you work? Do you know the story before you begin writing, or do you let the story develop?
MI: Before I’ve written one word of my story, I come up with characters. After all, the “plots” of our real lives aren’t set out for us in advance. It’s how we face the problems we encounter in life that determines how our lives develop. In my books, I aim for the same approach. I create characters who work their way through ten major scenes I plan around their personalities, but all the space in between those scenes is filled with the results of the characters’ actions. Sometimes the nature of those major scenes will change based on my characters’ decisions in earlier scenes. And so basically, I only have a fuzzy idea of what the story is going to be before I start writing. My characters write the story for me.
DO: What gave you the idea for your first book?
MI: Watching a whole lot of TV and playing a ton of video games sparked my imagination . . . but getting the idea was the easy part. Then came all the work of actually writing!
DO: What is your writing process? Do you write start to finish? In episodes?
MI: I write according to my emotions, and I think that’s part of the reason my more recent (and better) books have taken longer to write. I won’t write a tragic scene in my book unless I’m feeling the pain of loss. I won’t work on a part that involves romance unless I’ve recently had such an encounter myself. So I actually do find myself writing in episodes and then filling in the more neutral details at a later point.
DO: If I remember correctly, you are an illustrator as well. Do you do your own illustrations? Do you ever do illustrations for others?
MI: I’m actually an illustrator at World Castle Publications, and the first picture book I ever illustrated for another author (aside from my sister) is coming out really soon. It’s called “Squazles” and was written by Bob Holton. Also, and don’t laugh when I say this, but I’m thinking about maybe becoming a syndicated cartoonist one day if I get good enough at comics. I’m going to be starting a webcomic series shortly. I mean, there’s just too much crazy stuff that happens in my life for me not to draw about it.
DO: Do you see writing as your future career?
MI: Yes and no. I see writing as something I do out of passion more than as a career path. My main career goal is to become a pediatric cardiologist, but there is actually an entire category of people called “physician writers” who are medical doctors who write creatively in addition to practicing medicine. So that’s one possibility I might pursue.
DO: Do you find yourself talking to your characters? What might a typical conversation be about?
MI: Okay, here’s a question for you . . . are there writers who don’t talk to their characters? My characters are really the ones dictating the story to me . . . and I just write down their thoughts.
DO: Do you purposely use symbolism in your stories?
MI: I do use symbolism, but usually it’s my inner symbolist getting the better of me and slipping in these things when I’m not paying attention. Sometimes, though, I do include certain symbols on purpose when those representations have special meaning to me.
DO: Do you consciously pick a theme before you begin writing?
MI: Usually not. I actually surprise myself sometimes by reading back over my work after I’ve finished to see the themes emerging—so many themes appear that I didn’t even mean to incorporate. And then I emphasize the themes I find during the revision phase of my editing.
DO: What age group are your stories written for?
MI: Depends on which story we’re talking about. My more recent work has focused on teens and is even edging closer to the adult level . . . and I think that reflects my own changing perspectives on my life. The older I grow, the more I understand about the world and the more serious my writing becomes. That’s also become more true as I learn more about science (since I’m a chemistry and biology double major at Emory).
DO: What are your current projects?
MI: I’m in the initial editing stages of my most recent manuscript, which is sitting at around 150,000 words at the moment . . . a bit too much, I’d say. Without giving away too much, this latest book chronicles the story of a teen growing up in a post-apocalyptic world—that and the car racer with whom (she thinks) she falls in love. At the same time, I’m also co-authoring a book with my sister.
DO: What is your latest release?
MI: That would actually be a book I illustrated called "Dart and the Squirrels". My sister’s the author, and she can tell you a whole bunch more about that story.
DO: Where can your books be purchased?
MI: Most anyplace (like Barnes and Noble and on Amazon).