Interview: MJ Williamz + Laydin Michaels
October 17

Interview: MJ Williamz + Laydin Michaels

MJ Williamz interviews Laydin Michaels:

Your fourth, and in my opinion your best, book, Captured Soul, is coming out in October. Tell us a little about the inspiration behind this book.

Hi MJ, Thanks for interviewing me. I’m so excited about Captured Soul finally seeing daylight. It is probably my favorite book so far. Naturally, it’s a thriller. It is the story of Kadence Munroe, an up-and-coming abstractionist, and Mallory Tucker, a New York City gallery director.

Kadence had an experience in art school that shook her confidence in both her art and her belief in love. She is about to have her first solo show, with Mallory hosting. She is shocked to discover her adversary from art school is also showing at the gallery. The ensuing events lead to danger and love.

How did you come up with the title Captured Soul?

Captured Soul came to me as I brainstormed the plot of my book. I’m inspired to write new books by visual experiences. In this case, I was farting around on the internet looking at sculptures. I came across the most amazing bronzes I’ve ever seen by pure chance. The figures were so amazing and, at the same time, mysterious. I could feel the soul of the pieces in the work and I was moved. From there, my little muse ran wild, coming up with a particularly despicable villainous sculptress. Captured Soul felt and sounded right, you know what I mean?

You write excellent edge-of-your-seat suspense. How do you keep ratcheting up the suspense in your novels? Is it easy or is it something you struggle with?

As my wife and office partner, you know that the suspense is the easiest part for me. It takes me no effort to build that tension and hook the reader. I think that’s due to my love of thriller novels. I can’t stop reading a good suspenseful book. It’s the romance that bogs me down and makes me want to pull my hair out. I’m an instant attraction and forever faithful sort of person. Conflict in a relationship is false in my experience, and I have a hard time not putting my characters together, in love, way too soon.

You also write some pretty creepy characters in your books. Do you ever have nightmares while writing?

I never have nightmares about my characters. I generally have nightmares that are more along the lines of Your deadline is tomorrow and you have thirty thousand words to write. I’m glad you think my villains are creepy—that’s always my goal.

In your first book, Forsaken, your main character has social anxiety. You wrote that so well. Did that require a lot of research?

That’s a yes and no for me. I have social anxiety, so I knew exactly the feelings I wanted to express with Blake. My anxiety is not as extreme as Blake’s, so I did a great deal of research on the symptoms of severe anxiety and medications that help. I also researched Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and serial killers, to make the villain authentic.

What part of writing is most fun for you? What part do you find the hardest?

The best part of writing, hands down, is the moment a new idea hits me. It’s like a movie in my head. I can’t wait to get writing. The hardest part is the romance.

Your characters, even the bad guys, always ring so true. How do you come up with such believable characters? Again, does it take a lot of research? Or is character development fairly easy for you?

In a thriller, the villain is very important. They are the fuel that starts the fire, that burns down the house, that gets the protagonists running. If they come across as false or weak, you have no book. I have always allowed my villains to develop organically. When I begin, I know what they are going to do, but not always why. As I write, the why becomes clear and the research kicks in. So in Captured Soul, I knew Sheva would be the killer, but as she grew, I realized what was driving her. Her whole process of creating art became a microcosm of her God complex.

Now that you have book number four in the books, so to speak, what would you say is the most valuable lesson about writing that you’ve learned so far?

Listen to your editor. Listen to your editor. Listen to your editor. They will shape your writing and get you out of the way of your own writing. I will be forever thankful for the care and feeding I received as a fledgling author at Bold Strokes Books. My editor rocks.

Who’s your favorite character that you’ve written to date? Why?

That’s a tough question. I’ve liked many of my characters (even the evil ones). If I have to choose, I’d say it’s a tie between Levi in Forsaken and Bertie in Bitter Root. Levi, because she embodies all I have learned from young children in my thirty plus years of teaching. She is brave, but vulnerable. She knows instinctively that grown-ups can’t always do everything they say they can, and she looks just like me when I was a kid.

Bertie, because she is genuine and loving while not taking any BS. She is an amalgam of my mom and Ms. Horton, the two women who had the greatest influence on my life growing up. They are strong, determined women who love unconditionally.

Who’s your least favorite character you’ve written? Why?

Easy, JB Nerbass. He wasn’t as filled out in my head as I wanted him to be. I don’t think I did a good job making him real. His redeeming quality is he was named for my great uncle and my cousin.

Your book covers are all outstanding. Do you choose them yourself?

I love the process of building a cover! I can’t take credit for the real work, though. I have found the initial images and given the graphic team my input for additional art and such, but the women who deserve the credit are the artists at Bold Strokes. The cover of Buried Heart is my favorite. I found that image after flipping through screens for more than two hours. I love it.

What advice would you give to new/aspiring writers?

First, get an editor. Whether you’re a signed author or an independent, get a professional editor to work with your manuscript. Second, listen to your editor. Third, have fun.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author? Or is it something you’ve always dreamed about?

I started writing in middle school and always enjoyed it. I loved writing term papers and essays in school and was the managing editor of my high school paper. I never dreamed I’d write a book, but it’s an amazing feeling.

Do you have the luxury of being a full-time writer? If not, what’s your day job?

I’m not a full-time writer, maybe one day. My day job is in early childhood education. I’m co-owner of a Montessori preschool.

When you were in school, what was your favorite subject?   

My favorite subject was either ecology or social justice. I went to a small Catholic prep school that had the most amazing and inspiring teachers in those classes.

What’s your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

I love to read, though these days it’s mostly listening to audiobooks. And playing computer games with you is an absolute favorite.

Do you read a lot? What’s your favorite non-lesfic book?

I do! I read two to three books a week during the school year and more during the summer. I have so many favorites, so I’m just going to list mainstream authors I love. Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Greg Iles, Camila Läckberg, Val McDermid, Louise Penny, David Eddings, and many more.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

That is also a hard question to answer—there are so many great movies! I guess if I have to choose, it would be Blade Runner.

Is there anything you wished I’d asked but I didn’t?

I think you did a great job. Thank you, MJ.