Coffee & Conversation with Michelle Ray, our next ABC Speaker!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Today we have the lovely Michelle Ray, author of Falling For Hamlet, joining us in the cyber cafe for some Coffee & Conversation!

Meet Ophelia, high school senior, daughter of the Danish king’s most trusted adviser, and longtime girlfriend of Prince Hamlet. She lives a glamorous life, has a royal social circle, and her beautiful face is splashed across magazines and TV. But it comes with a price — her life is dominated not only by Hamlet’s fame and his overbearing royal family but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go.

After the sudden and suspicious death of his father, the king, Hamlet spirals dangerously toward madness, and  Ophelia finds herself torn between loyalty to her boyfriend, her father, her country, and her true self.

This is a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet from Ophelia’s point of view filled with drama, romance, tragedy, and humor. And this time, Ophelia doesn’t die.

“Everything here is engaging, most of all the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia.” The New York Times

“Teens will happily brush up on their Shakespeare in this wickedly smart retelling of the moody Prince of Denmark.” Family Circle Magazine

Michelle is also going to be the guest speaker for next ABC Event on Saturday, December 10, 2011, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Wheaton Library, 11701 Georgia Ave., Wheaton, MD 20902! Please R.S.V.P: if you plan to come, or if you want further information

And now that Michelle is settled and cozy with her favorite coffeehouse beverage, a gingerbread latte . . .

And her favorite snack, anything sweet, (but she loves dark chocolate covered graham crackers and there’s actually some in her purse right now. Yummy!) . . .

. . . Let’s begin the interview! First off, when did you decide to be a writer?

Just a few years ago. If I think about it, I’ve been a storyteller for my whole life, but the process of becoming and believing that I am a writer has been a slow one. Before writing, I was involved with theater, and even planned to pursue directing after college. But for many reasons, I became a teacher instead. Driving cross-country to graduate school, I zoned out in South Dakota, and my husband (then boyfriend) asked what I was thinking about. With not a little embarrassment, I told him I was telling myself a story, something I’d been doing since I was a small child. He asked why I never wrote them down, and I said I wasn’t a writer. He said, “You would be if you wrote them on paper.” Touché.

It took a while after that for me to get started, and a lot longer to believe that I was any good. The biggest moment was sharing my work with two friends and having one text me with great fury that I’d killed a beloved character, and the other tell me that at that same moment in the story, she’d wept and that I’d ruined her night. Being able to elicit such a strong reaction with my words and imagination was incredible, and made me want to keep going.

Awesome! Love that. 🙂 Okay, how long did your path to your first book sale take, and what were your biggest hurdles?

The biggest hurdle was finding an agent. I was rejected around 23 times. Maybe more. When Ammi-Joan Paquette replied to an email saying she LOVED it (the all-caps was her), I wondered what was wrong with her. I’d been told by other agents that my writing was brilliant but my idea wouldn’t sell, and that my idea was brilliant but my writing was bad. So was suspicious of Joan. Turns out she’s amazing and sells manuscripts like mad. From the time we signed contracts to the sale to Little, Brown was less than two months, and there was an auction.

Now that I think of it, the biggest hurdle was probably keeping up my confidence when being rejected that many times. My husband is my biggest cheerleader, and my friends were really supportive and wouldn’t let me quit. But it seemed pointless to keep going for a long time.

What is your favorite writing how-to book?

I must admit that I don’t read many of these. I didn’t go to a writing program, and so I learned by reading and thinking about story structure. I also love movies, and what I love in movies tend to be the same things I love in books – highly charged emotion, action, some bloodshed, and the occasional beautiful view.

I’ll mention two writing books that I’ve bought and finished. The first would be Stephen King’s On Writing. It made me laugh out loud on the subway, it offered interesting insight into his hurdles and process, and it reminded me not to be too fussy with wording. Just say it! The other book is Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. She taught me about the “two inch window” when describing a scene, not getting overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, and that my feelings of anxiety and jealousy are okay and natural.

Where’s your favorite place to work?

I can work anywhere. On my porch while my kids play. When I cook. While driving. While falling asleep. While doing hall duty. At the children’s museum. I spend a lot of time imagining scenarios and character interactions so that when I sit down to write, I’ve often thought a lot through already.

How were you inspired to write your current or upcoming release?

I saw Hamlet at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C. It was modern and magnificent. The only problem was, Ophelia in a modern context made little sense. On my way out of the show, I started wondering would make her betray Hamlet if she wasn’t confined by the mores of the past, and then I started to wonder what would happen if she didn’t die. By the time I got to the subway, I had a basic sketch of the book.

What is your favorite line(s) from this book?

“My old self heard Horatio’s words and agreed: Hamlet had once been wonderful. My new self wanted to reach into the air and tear the kind words apart.”


“The rest is silence.” – Well, I stole that from Shakespeare, but I like how I used it. And it still works, ya know?

Are there any other genres that you’d like to tackle some day? Or, what’s next on your agenda, any juicy projects you’d like to tell us about?

I would love to write a MG book, but my stories are too gory and heartrending. I don’t remember my early teens and tween years the same way that I remember my late. I remember the facts of being eleven and twelve (I giggled a lot, I know who my friends and teachers were) but not the feelings, not what made me tick. Maybe someday I’ll remember. You’d think being a middle school teacher would help, but it hasn’t.

I’ve finished a historical fiction book and started another. One is for teens and one is for adults. I’m not sure what will happen with either, but the research and move away from modern sensibilities is fun and something I’d like to continue. And I still love adaptations. It’ll all depend on what the market and my imagination will allow.

Time for the lightning round—no more than four words per answer!

Do you . . .
Outline or wing it?   Wing it (unless forced)
Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped?  Depends on audience
Sell by proposal or completed draft?  Varies
Prefer writing rough drafts or editing?   Both. When inspired.
Dread marketing/blogging or love it?   Dread
Read Kindle or traditional books?   Books. For now.

And finally, what’s your favorite:
Time to work?  Sunday mornings at coffeehouse
Music to listen to while writing?  Silence or “whisper rock”
Writing tool?  Laptop
Pair of shoes?  Barefoot
Guiltiest pleasure?  Singing musical theater driving
Line from a movie?  “We’re not odd. We’re just overly expressive.” – Howard’s End

Awesome, thanks so much, Michelle, for stopping by! Best of luck with your writing and upcoming ABC Event!

Happy Writing, everyone! 🙂


About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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One Response to Coffee & Conversation with Michelle Ray, our next ABC Speaker!

  1. ediehemingway says:

    Really nice interview! I’m looking forward to the ABC event.

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