Interview with author M.Y.Zeman
Michelle Y. Zeman is a New York-based author. Her current work is “The Chronicles of a Wererabbit series”, where we follow Snow the heroine in the books. M.Y. Zeman is currently working on her third book in the series. I had a chat with her about her work, her inspirations, how she overcame doubt and how she would advise others to follow their dreams.
Tell us a bit about your background, like how old you were when you first showed an interest in writing and at what point you realized you absolutely wanted to become an author?
I have wanted to be an author ever since I can remember. Even before I was old enough to write, I would make up stories about my stuffed animals, my Mom would write them down for me in little booklets and I would draw the pictures with my crayons. I read constantly, all kinds of books with my favorite being fantasy and science fiction. I wrote my first 'novel', a 30-page typewritten story when I was ten. It was called, “Tex the Talking Parrot.” I sent it to a publisher and got my first rejection letter. I continued writing and got a lot of encouragement from my Mom and teachers.
Did you ever go through periods of doubt that you would ever publish a book and, if so, what encouraged you to overcome your doubts?
Many times and I still do. In fact, I gave up my dream of being a writer for many years. When I entered college, I had a creative writing teacher who told my class on the first day that if we hadn't been published yet— we did not belong in the class. I had entered as English major and after that, I switched to Math and entered the computer field when I graduated. I was going through a lot in my personal life at that time but looking back now, I realize that I should never have let that one teacher's comment mean so much.
I continued writing articles, short stories and poetry for myself, friends, family and most of my jobs. But I convinced myself that I would never be an author of novels.
Years later, I was teaching math. I was cut down to part-time and then laid off entirely the next term. As devastated as I was, I begin writing again. My cousin, Craig, who has written novels, gave me a lot of help and advice. My mom also greatly encouraged me and I finally did write my first book, Running into the Black.
What inspired you to write the first book about Snow in “The Chronicles of a Wererabbit”?
Running into the Black is an adult novel that deals with many serious issues, including the need for prison reform, PTSD and rape trauma syndrome. I'm very proud of the book but it took a lot out of me.
Then Mom said that I should write something fun, something that I would want to read. I began writing about vampires and what they would be like if they existed in our modern society. I was trying to come up with a character that I hadn't seen before and I looked at my rabbits (I have three) and jotted down, Snow- Girl/Rabbit. As I would describe the story to my mother and cousin, they would always say that Snow was their favorite character. Craig suggested I make her the center of the story. At first, I was reluctant but once I did begin writing from her point of view, I fell in love with her character and story. It was the story I should have been writing all along.
Did you know from the start that you would write a series of books?
Yes. I wanted to write a series like Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter. Also, the story and universe that I created was much too large to fit in one book. There will be a total of seven.
Explain to us the difference between writing the first and the second book in the series of Snow. The experience you gained from writing the first, did that make it easier writing the second book or did you feel a pressure on yourself?
The second was both easier and more difficult. I had more confidence because people liked the first one so much. But I also was very afraid of it not living up to the first.
Most of the first is about establishing the world and characters. I knew my characters very well by the second book so that part was easier.
How much time do you spend creating your characters?
I spend a great deal of time creating my characters. Most of the first book is about establishing Snow and her dads. I also spend a lot of time on Josh in book two. Each subsequent book will include more action but I want to make sure people know and care about them first.
I am also interested in character relationships in general. As Snow’s father, John says, I believe that we are all connected and I like to explore who we interact and affect one another and the world in general.
Your books feature both heroes and villains, who is most difficult to create, heroes or villains?
Most people probably say heroes, but I find villains more difficult. I enjoy creating my heroes. I love them with all their flaws, good and bad traits, obstacles to overcome etc. I just don’t have as much fun with my villains.
You are currently working on your third book about Snow, what can we expect?
I'm very excited about book three because it has much more action and the themes are more serious. Snow is enjoying being in love and feeling very good about her relationship with Josh. That is; until; she goes to a fortune teller, who gives her a disturbing prediction. She then goes (with Josh, her dads and friends David and Charlene) to investigate a mysterious island filled with mythical and endangered animals. There is much more to the island than it seems and, she encounters greater dangers than she’s faced before.
What advice can you pass on to others who are sitting around with heads full of ideas for books, stories etc but just don’t know how to get started?
First, have confidence in yourself and don't ever give up.
Next, Read and write as much as you can. Reading is important because it will inspire you, increase your vocabulary and give you a sense of structure.
One of the best pieces of advice I got was from my cousin. When I began writing my first book, he suggested writing it as a screenplay first. This allowed me to concentrate on dialogue and keep descriptions of places and events to a minimum. I was then able to go back and fill in the details.
Are you currently involved in other writing projects?
Yes, I'm very happy to be working on a Children's book about a disabled rabbit named Mumford. He was such an inspiration because he never gave up even though his back legs were paralyzed. Yollie Boag, an amazing artist, is illustrating. Mumford's mom, Michelle Bosse is also working with us. Sadly, Mumford, crossed OTRB not long after we began. But his spirit will live on in the book.
For more information and how to purchase the first 2 books in the “Chronicles of a Wererabbit” series go to:
Snowball: Chronicles of a Wererabbit
Snow Bunny: Chronicles of a Wererabbit book two
By Bente Jokumsen