Asked to describe her works of fiction, Dayton, Ohio, author Michelle Bolanger recalls a phrase she’d heard before.
“Someone coined the term ‘modern day parables’ for the kind of fiction I write,” she says. “I include themes that connect with our culture. It’s my way of trying to let the world know that there is always hope.”
A full-time administrative assistant who’s been thinking up stories “since I was old enough to do so,” Bolanger is the author of two stand-alone works she calls the “The Challenged Faith Novels” and three novels in her Cotiere Chronicles series.
“Saving Detroit” and “Safe Cages” comprise the “Challenged Faith Novels.” Each presents “real-life issues that Christians and non-Christians struggle with,” Bolanger explains.
In “Saving Detroit” a young man named Luke is kidnapped and sold into human trafficking. “It is a story of his return to faith in the God he believed abandoned him,” Bolanger explains. “I call this one my ‘crusade book.’ I wrote it in response to the statistic that nearly 50 percent of human trafficking victims worldwide are male. A portion of the proceeds from my book sales go to an organization that operates a home for boys who are trafficking survivors here in the U.S. It is one of only two such homes in the world.” ***
“‘Safe Cages’ is the story of two men desperately in love with each other who come face to face with God’s love and acceptance,” Bolanger says. “It is meant to be a bridge between the church and the LGBTQ community, or to at least help foster the kind of conversation that stresses love and acceptance rather than hatred and judgment -- from either side.”
Bolanger’s Cotiere Chronicles series, comprised of The Kiss, The Touch and The Light, is categorized as “Urban Fantasy Romance,” she says. “While it is based on Christian principles, there are no overtly religious themes in the books.”
The Cotiere Chronicles follow “an ancient race of people who have lived among ordinary humans for centuries,” she says. “They have been scattered and divided by an old rivalry that has left them on the brink of extinction. As a race, they are very loosely based on vampire folklore, but the only blood they drink is from their one true match, or their intended...
“The series follows the journey of four couples as they navigate their unique relationships as well as how each of them contributes to the re-unification of their people.”
How does this published author motivate herself to begin the act of writing?
“It depends,” she replies. “There are times when I have to exercise discipline and simply remind myself that the only way to complete the story is to put words on a page, even if they are ‘bad.’ When I find myself stuck, I usually look for images or photographs of people or places that inspire a scene or a bit of dialogue that gets me unstuck.”
Bolanger says she writes “best in the afternoon...I don’t have a set pattern, but I do know I can’t write in a public place such as a coffeehouse or a restaurant, or when there is any kind of activity going on around me. I am too easily distracted.”
“The most challenging part” of the writing process, she adds, is “staying focused on one project at a time! I tend to have two or three stories in progress at any given time. I’m learning to ignore the shiny new ideas that demand my attention by jotting them down with a line or two, then going back to the project I’ve decided to finish first.”
“Deadlines are evil,” Bolanger says with a chuckle. “Not really, but I don’t do well with them, at least not when I am trying to get the first draft done. Once the story is complete, I set deadlines by scheduling edits and then a publish date.”
Once she’s completed her first draft, the author relies on “a team of what I call ‘alpha’ readers who read over most of the story and give their input for changes or sections that need work. Then it goes to my content -- or developmental -- editor, who zeroes in on the parts of the story that need to be re-written, removed or corrected,” she says.
After writing and editing, Bolanger readies her materials for publishing. She uploads a book’s cover art to various sales platforms. After proofreading she formats files for e-books and paperbacks
“While all this is being done, I am also creating and publishing teasers and contacting bloggers and promotional companies who will promote and advertise the book,” she says. “Once all the files are ready, they are uploaded and verified before I set the release date.”
But the work doesn’t stop there. “After the book is released I usually focus completely on marketing and promoting the book for the month following -- before I start into writing my next book.”
Today the author is working on a “contemporary romance between a young orphaned and widowed woman and a gorgeous wealthy bachelor who owns and operates a private search and rescue company. The story is based on the Book of Ruth from the Bible so it will be inspirational fiction,” she says. “I anticipate publishing it next year.”
“I also have a short novella set in the same world as the Cotiere Chronicles but without the fantasy elements,” she adds. “The main character, Zane, was such an interesting personality I had to explore a bit of his history, and it turned into a fun little short story.”
What’s Bolanger’s advice for aspiring writers?
“Enjoy the process,” she states. “Learn all you can. Ask questions, and listen to the answers. Never stop reading, and if you write, no matter what genre or style, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t a writer…
“There is a difference between those who call themselves writers and those who actually write,” she continues. “Inspiration isn’t automatic, and sometimes it shows up only when you exercise discipline in front of a blank document and type one word after another.”
Michelle Bolanger is one of over 25 local independently published authors who are expected to attend the ReadLOCAL Indie Author Fair this Saturday, September 29, from 10 a.m. to noon at MidPointe Library 9363 Centre Pointe Drive, West Chester, Ohio. ReadLOCAL gives readers a chance to meet authors from the immediate area, buy books and have them signed by the authors. There is no admission fee.
All ages are welcome!