Sunday, June 7, 2020

Michelle Halliwell - The IAN Interview

Nice to meet you. I am Michelle Halliwell, a Catholic native of South Carolina. When I’m not writing, you can find me spending time with daughter, cooking, or reading. My favorite color is sky blue and I love the beach. If you read my book, the Butterfly Miracle, I hope you enjoy it.

IAN: Please tell us about your latest book.

Michelle Halliwell: The Butterfly Miracle is a coming of age tale about abortion. A Catholic who has won a scholarship to Harvard University gets drugged and raped. Unfairly impregnated, she must choose between her faith and her dreams.
It’s a short novel but it’s very impactful. Two thirds of the 17 reviews on Amazon gave it 5 stars so most people really like it. Two of my readers loved it so much
that they each purchased twenty copies and distributed them to all their friends. That’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever received.

IAN: Is The Butterfly Miracle published in print, e-book or both?

Michelle Halliwell: Both : )

IAN: Where can we go to buy The Butterfly Miracle?

IAN: What inspired you to write The Butterfly Miracle?

Michelle Halliwell: God inspires me. I rarely feel that my words come from me. It is more like they flow through me. To be inspired means to have the spirit in me. Only God can empower me in that way. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Likewise I am inspired when I surrender myself to a greater power, and I become capable of much more than little old me should be capable of.

IAN: Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?

Michelle Halliwell: Not only do I outline my books, I outline every scene. Some writers improvise. They’re proud of that and they should be. For me, however, I am a total and complete planner.

I outline stories on stacks of notecards: one scene per card. It’s great because I can move my notecards around, playing with the order of the scenes before I write them. This helps to avoid time consuming rewrites and it also empowers me to concentrate on every scene with a special emphasis on what the scene means from the perspective of the entire story. Finally, outlining goes a long way in helping me cope with writing despite having a crazy schedule, because the outline helps me keep my place in the story.

IAN: What was the hardest part of writing The Butterfly Miracle?

Michelle Halliwell: The hardest part of writing the Butterfly Miracle was that I’d just had a newborn baby. I took care of her while writing this book. My detailed outlines helped me to pick up or put down the writing as the moments allowed. She falls asleep. I write. She wakes up. I put it down and change her diaper. I feed her and write. I put it down and burp her. Without an outline to guide me, I would have never been able to finish because the distractions would’ve been too great.

IAN: How long did it take to write The Butterfly Miracle?

Michelle Halliwell: 18 months

IAN: Do you have a specific writing style?

Michelle Halliwell: My reviewers have described my style as: fast-paced, elegant, intelligent, funny, and beautiful. The description I think makes the most sense is elegant. I evoke the scene and turn it in as few words as possible. No backstory or over-describing: I will usually just give you a present tense scene. Every scene is an emotional experience in real time. The consequence of that is I get readers telling me “I’d never read Christian Chick Lit but I started your book and couldn’t put it down”.

Also, I’m a great dramatist. I write excellent dialogue and my stories are impactful. My favorite experience is having tough guys who have led soldiers in wars break down weeping while reading my little butterfly book.

IAN: How much of The Butterfly Miracle is realistic?

Michelle Halliwell: This is the question I most often get from readers. I never answer it.

IAN: How is your book different from others in your genre?

Michelle Halliwell: Writing on the topic of abortion is difficult because many of us feel strongly one way or another. My book takes a definite pro-life position. Many pro-life books, ‘Unplanned’ for example, emphasize the terror of the actual procedure of killing the fetus. The Butterfly Miracle says ‘Life is beautiful and should be respected’. It’s not demonizing or shocking.

Also, the story shows what women face when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. It shows how the attacks from overly judgmental people can harm women. It is special because it is both pro-life and pro women.

IAN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Michelle Halliwell: I have always written things. When I was seven, I wrote a homily and gave it to my priest. One summer of college, I locked myself in an apartment and wrote a 400,000 word novel which I have never even read. I don’t know what is in it but I do know the first two chapters are unreadable. I suppose my interest in writing originated at my conception.

IAN: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Michelle Halliwell: My favorite writer is GRRM. He created Westeros but he had masterpieces long before that. Sandkings and the Monkey Treatment are two of the best short stories ever written. His capacity for creation is probably unmatched, great characters and an expansive world you don’t ever want to leave. I also love his capacity for procrastination. I hope he never finishes his Song of Ice and Fire novels. If you’re reading this, George; understand: if you don’t finish the novels, your life’s work will be remembered by its final season on HBO.

IAN: Who designed the cover?

Michelle Halliwell: I did! Do you like it? Much of the abortion debate centers around whether a fetus is different from a baby. A poetic question (Einstein would call it a thought experiment) to ask is do you think killing a caterpillar is different from killing a butterfly? As you can see, the lovely lady in the red dress is releasing all the butterflies. That’s a good artistic representation of what my book is about.

IAN: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Michelle Halliwell: Learn how to write dramatic scenes. Every scene must create an emotionally meaningful experience by turning a value through conflict. Here is an example.

A woman who never lies compromises her honesty by telling her father that he will be okay, right before he closes his eyes for the last time. The value is her honesty. The conflict is that in order to keep it, she must cause her father pain in the last moment of his life. The value turns from honest to lie when she comforts him with a lie. Her lie represents an internal sacrifice on which adds drama to the scene. Not every scene needs a death but every scene does need a value that it turns on through conflict.

IAN: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Michelle Halliwell: Pro-life is most often argued in negative terms. “Abortion is evil and must be stopped.” There is a positive way to explain it. Being pro-life is to celebrate God’s wonderful power of creation, which is a force of nature existing within us. Now you are alone. Then you give birth. Now you have a little person whom you love unconditionally, and he or she will return your love with no questions asked. Where did this little person come from? God wanted him or her to be here. Being pro-life means not interfering with that.

IAN: Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?

Michelle Halliwell: My next book is not only unrelated to the Butterfly Miracle, it’s probably the exact opposite. It’s about zombies!

A zombie (who is way tougher, stronger, and sexier than the protagonist) kidnaps his wife and infects her with the zombie hunger as a way to seduce her. The protagonist must break into the police station (the zombie is using the jail as his pantry) to save her before she becomes an adulterous cannibal.

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