Today, I’d like to introduce to you to Michael Beaulieu, YA author, entertainment journalist, and friend. We met in The Alliance of YA Authors, a networking community of over 1000 young adult writers and growing, founded by Derek Murphy. Many are award-winning, bestselling authors and others are debut authors just starting out.
I noticed Book of Shadows Volume One: Casting, by Author Michael Beaulieu, in this group, and was intrigued by the theme of teen witchcraft. When I learned the setting took place local to me, I just had to read it. And the cherry on top? It’s less than a dollar on Amazon!
The following is my interview of Author Michael Beaulieu, where we discuss his writing background, what gives him inspiration, his advice for aspiring authors, and what’s next for his writing career.
AWRW: Hi Michael, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on A Well Read Woman Book Blog. Please tell us a little about yourself, what you’ve written, and your writing background.
MB: I’ve written screenplays since I was 17 years old – I’m now 43 – and have written over 30 of them. But my ideas were always a bit too quirky to be turned into mainstream blockbusters. They’re the sort of scripts that you usually see directed by their author. So, now my goal is to become a successful author of books and, hopefully, someday be able to produce my own movie based on one of my scripts. Speaking of scripts, Book of Shadows started off as a TV series. I created it as such and wrote 5 episodes before I realized that the screenplay format was proving to be a hindrance because scripts are always in third person and I wanted to write the character of Emma in first person and be able to write more about her thoughts and feelings.
I’ve also been doing music journalism since 1996 when I started my first zine, a heavy metal – now they call it hair metal – zine called ANT, The Only Cool Magazine that Bites, which I interviewed lots of heavy hitters for. Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue are just a few examples. Professional journalists from magazines like Metal Edge and Hit Parader were impressed and soon I was writing for LiveWire, a full color rock magazine distributed all over the The UK, Canada and here in the States. This lead to writing for a few other magazines, but they’ve all gone out of business over the years. I could probably get a gig writing for some other magazine or a popular website, but I find it easier to just interview people for my own music and pop culture site, Love is Pop, which also gives me the opportunity to interview people other than musicians, like authors and record store owners, for example.
AWRW: Wow. That’s an impressive background. What’s next for you as a writer? What are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about your current WIP and your expected publication date?
MB: Now that I believe I’ve finalized the cover, I am planning to make Book of Shadows: Volume 2: Rising available for pre-order on Amazon soon. I’m going to put this one in Kindle Unlimited since 99 percent of my books that have been downloaded from e-book retailers have been from Amazon. I’m probably going to release it on my birthday, 8/10, just to amuse myself. I also have Book of Shadows 3: Hunting all written, but it still needs to be edited. Currently, I’m working on Book of Shadows 4, but it’s still in its very early stages.
AWRW: Excellent! I wish you success with all of your endeavors. What are you reading now?
MB: Well, I recently read both of your books, Winter’s Curse and Spring in Summerland, and highly enjoyed them. I’ve just finished reading an excellent suspense thriller called The Caging at Deadwater Manor by Sandie Will. I really enjoyed that. The protagonist is an 18 year old girl who accidentally signs herself in at a psychiatric hospital, believing that she’s just signing paperwork so she can go back and visit with her Aunt. The staff at the hospital abuse her and it’s like my worst nightmare, as a bipolar individual who worked in the mental health field for 10 years.
AWRW: I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed the first two installments of my series, Season of the Witch. I’ll definitely have to check out The Caging at Deadwater Manor.
What authors and books have inspired your own writing?
MB: I would say that Francesca Lia Block is my biggest influence. Her books The Hanged Man and Violet & Claire really got through to me when I was anorexic, around the time I wrote Reckoning Daze. Also, my story Tristan and Beth was included in Love Magick, a short story collection she edited, and I have even taken her online writing class. So, yes, she’s had a big impact on me.
Another author who’s made a strong impression on me is Geoff Dyer, this British author who writes novels, memoirs, history books, essays, etc. He also writes books about trying to write those things and failing and those books are among his best. Like one of my all-time favorite books, Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence, which is both a book about Lawrence and a book about trying and failing to write a book about Lawrence. Following Dyer’s career has showed me that you can write whatever genre or type of book you want to and get away with it if the quality of your writing is consistent.
Bret Easton Ellis is another favorite author. I love how he can be so dark with his writing yet he only grows more popular as he gets more depraved. Some of the ideas he puts forth in American Psycho are just so dark that I never would have even thought of them, never mind put them in a book. He does it so brilliantly, though. But as much as I love American Psycho, my favorite book of his is Glamorama.
When I was younger, the popular young adult author Christopher Pike never failed to impress me. His books were generally mysteries, but there were always different themes. I always bought them on the day they were released and must have gone through two straight years of reading nothing but his books to get caught up when I was in my early teens. Then he wrote his first adult book, which was called Sati and was about a young women who says that she’s God – and she just might be. I was really blown away by that one because it was a totally different sort of mystery, whether or not she was God, and it wasn’t PG like all of his young adult books had been.
AWRW: I recently read and reviewed Book of Shadows, Volume One: Casting, an enjoyable YA read about teen witches, sprinkled with romance and teenage angst. As a male author, was it difficult to get inside the head of a teen girl, and write from her perspective? How did you handle that?
MB: I went to Catholic high school and the only other heavy metal fans that I knew of there were all females. Everyone else listened to MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. So, I used to hang around with the heavy metal girls more than any of the guys, and I always paid close attention to the things they said and did. It was fascinating to be let into their world. I think that really stayed with me and helped me write Emma believably. Plus, I’m often saying that I should have been born a girl, that I usually have more in common with female friends than male ones. Maybe that’s why I didn’t find it very difficult to slip into Emma mode.
AWRW: Emma, your lead character in Casting, was quite the character indeed. She’s boy crazy, often slips into French, and has a fierce loyalty to her friends. She’s often conflicted, and scared to let anyone except her friends see her for who she really is: a Wiccan with witchcraft in her blood. Since Book of Shadows follows her exclusively, what can we expect to see from her in upcoming books?
MB: That’s an interesting question. Emma will definitely remain loyal to her friends, especially Lia and Shar. Everything that happens in book 2 and book 3 all happens back-to-back in a matter of days, so she doesn’t have time to sit back and think about how, or if, she should change as it unfolds. There are things that weigh heavily on her mind, though. One of them is killing. Is it OK to kill people if it’s a matter of killing or being killed? The whole “it was them or me” thinking. That it was just self-defense. Everyone assumes they’d be OK with it if they had no choice, but that’s much easier said than done. Especially for Emma, a vegetarian who wouldn’t even eat meat because she’s so fond of animals.
Book 2 is called Rising because it’s largely about Emma, Lia and Shar rising above the fallout after what happens in the end of Book 1. Let’s just say it gets them scrutinized by the police. Book 3 is called Hunting, the title of which works on many levels because the girls find themselves hunted, which ultimately leads to them doing some hunting of their own. I originally wrote books 2 and 3 as one long book, which would’ve been published as Book of Shadows 2 with Hunting as the subtitle, but the book was 156,000 words, which is long for any book and extremely long for young adult fiction. I asked my mailing list and editor if they thought I should divide it in half and all but one person said to do it, so that’s what I’ve done.
Books 2 and 3 will continue to be from Emma’s perspective exclusively, but I can tell you that Book 4 will be from Emma, Lia and Shar’s P.O.V.s. Emma might author two chapters in a row then Shar might do one then Lia might do one then back to Shar then Emma – it all depends on whose character needs to narrate to best serve the story successfully. To that end, I’ve always looked at the book as having three main characters, Emma, Lia and Shar, it just so happened that Emma was the one who narrated the books because I wanted to write in first person and hadn’t considered having the p.o.v alternate from chapter to chapter until recently. The only other thing I can say about book 4 is that I had some ideas I found very exciting, which I think people are really going to love, that meant Emma couldn’t be the narrator because she wouldn’t be present during some of the pivotal scenes the book will entail. And in other scenes, she would not be a reliable narrator, hence the need to have Lia and Shar narrate parts.
AWRW: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since your first published work?
MB: Well, I started off writing screenplays and did that for 30 plus scripts before I finally decided to write a novel, so the fact that I’m writing novels now is a huge change for me. But even in the context of my books, I think my writing has changed.
Reckoning Daze was written between 2004 and 2006 when I was an anorexic living in Los Angeles, like its main character. I was in a very dark place and wanted the book to be dark accordingly. I was so screwed up that I wouldn’t have thought I could write a book, but when I read Francesca Lia Block’s The Hanged Man and Violet & Claire I realized you could write shorter books and still get them published. That’s why Reckoning Daze has so much in common with young adult books – because that’s what I was reading and feeding off of – even though the subject matter is definitely new adult.
Book of Shadows further pays tribute to Francesca Lia Block and Christopher Pike because it actually is a young adult book this time around. I think my writing has grown a lot since writing Reckoning Daze because Emma is a character who thinks a lot, who’s constantly evaluating everything around her, whereas Lindsay in Reckoning Daze is having one long panic attack throughout most of the book and is very delusional about how she sees herself. Emma’s very realistic – and healthy – about how she sees herself, almost the antithesis of Lindsay in so many ways. I don’t know if that’s an example of my growing as a writer or simply writing better-rounded characters.
AWRW: What are your thoughts on bad reviews? If you’ve ever gotten one, how do or would you handle it?
MB: Reckoning Daze has received four or five extremely negative reviews. When I published it, I figured it was going to be a book people would either love or hate, so I expected the reviews to be about 50/50. So, I was pleasantly surprised that only something like one in eight reviews was negative, the others extremely positive, a couple people even saying it was the best book they’d ever read. So, the good ones made up for the negative by far. Besides, I was actually glad that the negative reviews were really, really negative because it was proof, to me, that I can provoke strong reactions from people.
AWRW: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
MB: I would say to try writing different things. I wish I would’ve forced myself to write a book around the time I started screenwriting. It would be wonderful to have 20 novels right now instead of 30 scripts. On the plus side, I can use a lot of those scripts as outlines for upcoming novels and definitely plan to do so with at least two of them. Getting back to my point, you never really know what you’re going to like most until you try it. When I started music journalism, I thought that would make me happy but it didn’t quite do it. Don’t get me wrong – I love doing interviews but, for me, they feel more like a simple human interaction than a creative project. I don’t get the same fulfillment I get from writing books, or even screenplays, from journalism. The feeling I get when I finish writing a book is a hundred times more fulfilling than what I get from a good interview.
AWRW: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
MB: I should probably mention that shortly after I moved back to Massachusetts in 2006 I wrote a memoir about when I was living in Los Angeles. It’s called Fear & Self-Loathing in Los Angeles and it’s largely a romance, a love song of sorts dedicated to the woman I was seeing when I lived out there. It’s very much about being in the deep end of anorexia and drowning, too. Reckoning Daze was like a highly fictionalized version of my life at the time and I was really happy with the way it turned out, but I immediately realized that I wanted to tell my story, if only because I’m a big fan of eating disorder memoirs. I still need to change a couple of details about the woman I dated so that people who know her won’t read the book and know that it’s about her – so I don’t get sued – but other than that I’d just need a cover and could put it out later this year. The book has already been read by plenty of proofreaders, an editor, and a few betas, so I think it’s as good as it’s going to get. Which I think is pretty awesome. 😉