Michelle Paris is a Maryland writer whose essays about grief and mid-life dating have appeared in multiple editions of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. Her personal journey to overcome grief was highlighted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She is member of Romance Writers of America and the Maryland Writers’ Association. She is currently enjoying chapter two of her life with her second husband, Kevin, who keeps her from being a cat lady—but only on a technicality.
So, lets find out more.
Tell me about yourself
I live just outside of Washington DC (USA) with my husband Kevin and our four (yes, four!) cats. Fun fact, we got married during the pandemic and had a zoom wedding! I write about hope with humour. A few of my essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul inspirational book series. And my debut novel, New Normal will be published by Apprentice House Press in May of this year.
What do you like to read?
I love to read books that make me laugh out loud and tell a good story. I pre-order anything by Jennifer Weiner, Kristan Higgins, and Cari Scribner. I also enjoy reading memoirs. Kindergarten at 60 by fellow Apprentice House writer, Dian Seidel has been my favourite book of 2023. The next book on my reading list is Not Dead Yet by Hayley Walsh.
How long have you been writing?
Forever! My mother used to complain because as a child, I would write on the walls. I guess I’ve always enjoyed it. I was an English major in college and had a long career in the PR industry.
Tell me about your debut novel titled ‘New Normal’ due to be released in May
My debut novel, New Normal will be published this spring by Apprentice House Press. New Normal tells the story of Emilie Russell who struggles after being widowed suddenly. With the help of friends, including a new furry one, Emilie soon exchanges tears for laugher and slowly embraces a new normal life.
What inspired the story?
New Normal is loosely based on my own life. I was widowed suddenly when I was 40. I found writing very cathartic and helping me get through the grief process. I’ve always been a sucker for a happy ending, so I decided to write my own.
What came first for you. The plot or the characters?
Good question. It’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario for this book. The main character is based on me, and some of the things that happened to her actually happened to me. The side characters are composites of people I know or completely from my imagination. What I enjoyed most about writing this book was that I could use my creativity to change the outcome of what happened to me. I can say the characters and the plot evolved over the years I took to finalize the manuscript.
Tell me about your journey to publication
It took me about three years to complete the first draft. I sent that draft to an editor that tore it up (and rightfully so). There were a lot of things that needed to be fixed but I was too close to the manuscript to take in the feedback—however helpful it was. So, I put it on the shelf for another year or two Meanwhile, I kept writing. I wrote a couple essays about grief and mid-life dating that were accepted by Chicken Soup for the Soul and a few other online publications.
Being published gave me confidence. So, I continued to write, even started a second novel. But my first novel, New Normal kept calling me. I believed it was a good story with good characters. I revisited the editor’s comments and tightened the story. After that, I sent it out to several agents and was pleasantly surprised to get a few requests for full manuscripts.
Even though none of these lead to an offer of representation, I found it to be an encouraging sign. I took any feedback I received and continued to strengthen the manuscript. At the end of 2021, I decided to self-publish when a publicist I spoke to suggested I send the manuscript to small presses. She recommended Apprentice House, which happens to be in Baltimore, not too far from my house. When I got an email from Apprentice House in March of 2022, I assumed it was another rejection. I had to read it a couple of times before I let their words sink in.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have been given?
Find a critique group that feels safe and gives good feedback. I have been a part of a group for 14 years, and they have provided invaluable encouragement and made me accountable. I wouldn’t have completed my first novel without them, and I doubt I’d have the courage to submit my essays either.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I just finished my second novel, Eat Dessert First, it’s a light-hearted women’s fiction story about how a plus-sized baker learns to love herself in her effort to find romantic love. I believe heroines should come in all shapes. And I hope we start to see more main characters that are plus-sized.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My husband and I are huge fans of live music. Are tastes range from rock and roll to blues. We like to discover new acts as well as re-discover legends. And I’m not ashamed to say I watch anything on Bravo. (Okay, maybe a little ashamed. ;-)
Thank you to Michelle for sharing with us and I will most certainly be adding 'New Normal' to my 'To Be Read Pile'. If you would like to check out Michelle's work. click on the links below: