Hello everyone! Today I am pleased to welcome Michelle Areaux to the blog for an interview. Michelle Areaux is the debut author of Wicked Cries, she is also a mother and a middle school teacher.
Tell me a little about your novel ‘Wicked Cries’?
Wicked Cries is a young adult, paranormal mystery. The story revolves around Sadie, a sixteen year old high school student who plays messenger to the dead. Basically, if someone has unfinished business to take care of before they pass to the afterlife, they contact Sadie to send the message to their loved one.
The story begins as Sadie’s family decides to move from California to Salem, MA, where she uncovers that the dead didn’t stay behind. Once in her new home, Sadie uncovers a hidden journal left by Elizabeth. While reading the journal, Sadie learns that Elizabeth was condemned for practicing witchcraft, even though she declares her innocence. Sadie makes it her mission to uncover the truth about Elizabeth’s death and the history behind one of America’s most notorious moments in history; The Salem Witch Trials.
Of course, this story isn’t just about ghosts and history. I included several themes of friendship (Sadie learns to make new friends with Noah and Lucy), trust (Sadie has to find the ability to trust herself to make right decisions and trust her new friends with her secret), bullying, (Sadie becomes the target of the mean girl at school), and courage as Sadie has to find courage within herself to overcome her fears to clear Elizabeth’s name.
What was your inspiration for 'Wicked Cries'?
My inspiration came from a dream I had of a girl finding a hidden journal. In my dream, I couldn’t see what was in that journal, but I knew I could twist the idea into something fun. Also, have always been intrigued by the Salem Witch Trials so I thought it would be fun to write a story that incorporated real and imagined events. While in college, I had a history course where we had to focus on an event in history. I chose the Salem Witch Trials and with my new knowledge, dream, and desire to be a published author, I began writing Wicked Cries.
As an educator how would you inspire your students who hope to become writers someday?
As an educator, one of the perks of my job is that I get to talk about books and writing all day! When my students ask about writing or how I began my journey with writing books, I simply tell them to just start writing down their ideas, even if they don’t flow right away. I like to remind my students that everyone, even the big stars, musicians, athletes, and writers, were all at one point beginners. I began writing stories back in elementary school. Of course, they were silly and had no real point, but at least I was writing. I decided that writing and reading stories made me happy so I did it. I always pass that on to my students, especially the ones who aspire to be writers one day. It is easy to become discouraged in the publishing industry. Your writing may not be for everyone, but I always strive to remind people that you should write for you first and everyone else second.
When I wrote Wicked Cries and Runaway, I would write down events and ideas as they came. Later I would fill in the blanks and add more dialogue and plot as needed. The key to writing is just to do it. For those that truly aspire to be writers someday, I make myself open to them. I let them know they can ask me questions and for several students, I review their writing and give my feedback. It is really fun to watch kids dream big!
I know a lot of people worry about the literacy of our youth today. What kind of advice could you give to help us get children interested in reading and writing?
This is a great question and one that many educators like myself struggle with every day. My advice to get kids interested in reading and writing is to start them off with stories that interest them. Once a kid gets hooked on a certain topic or genre, they will go back and look for sequels or more stories like that. However, if you make a kid read books they hate, you ruin them from an early age. I like to give my students reading projects with several options based on their learning styles and creativity. I give them free range on what genres to read. I want them to learn and show me they understand the standards, but more importantly, I want them to enjoy doing it. With writing, that is another beast. I have found that again, giving kids options to select a topic that interests them, motivates more kids to write. For example, my students are writing an argumentative essay in class right now where they have to argue why the Children’s Bill of Rights are important. I have kids writing anything from why other countries should adopt these rights to how a topic like Designer Babies goes against the rights. Either way, I am still assessing their knowledge, only they get to pick the topic they enjoy, which makes their writing better because they care about what they are writing about.
In a more condensed version, just let kids read what makes them happy. The rest will follow!
Congratulations on your upcoming release of ‘Runaway’! Do you have another project planned next?
Thank you so much! This whole publishing thing is still very surreal to me. Currently, I am finalizing the editing phases of the sequel to Wicked Cries and I just began the sequel to Runaway. On top of that, I have two children’s books that I am having illustrations created for before I submit to my publisher for review.
I am also going a little out of my norm and I have started writing another novel, this one in the New Adult genre, which will be a little darker and more intense than the previous books I have published. I am really excited about this!
How did the experience of writing 'Wicked Cries' and 'Runaway' vary?
When I first began writing Wicked Cries, it was almost ten years ago. I was a college student and my responsibilities were limited. I was able to find free time to write and edit as needed. However, once finished, I was too scared to submit the story to any publishers. It took almost eight years after its making before I found the courage to send Wicked Cries to agents and publishers. I had started Runaway about six years ago, but once I had my first son, I found that time for writing was hard to find. My role as a mom and educator made it more difficult to find the time to write, but I guess you could say I am a multi-tasker. When I set my mind to do something, I just do it. Both stories were fun to write, just in very different ways. Wicked Cries allowed me to delve into my imagination and go places that I couldn’t with realistic fiction. I also had to really do my research. I wanted the information I presented about The Salem Witch Trials to be accurate and I didn’t want to offend anyone. With Runaway, I enjoyed researching different locations I had not visited and including places I had been. I felt like I was on the journey with Hallie and Jackson (Runaway) as they traveled around the globe.
YA novels are a very popular genre beloved by so many people, do you enjoy reading YA novels as well as writing them? 'Wicked Cries' is a YA Paranormal Mystery, do you have any plans to write a novel of a different genre?
I absolutely love reading young adult and new adult novels. I have found that writing these types of genres is just as much fun as reading them. I feel that with YA novels, you can be a kid again yourself. I wrote about first loves, high school drama, friendships, and family relationships. These are all things everyone, regardless if you are a teen or adult, can relate to.
I have plans for a few more children’s books which will be completely different from the paranormal side of Wicked Cries. Also, I plan on making Wicked Cries into a three or four part series. My goal as an author is to write a little of everything. I think what I am most excited about is the new adult novel I am working on. Like I mentioned earlier, it is a little out of my comfort zone and usual writing style, but I am really having fun writing this book. It is too early to give too many details yet, but I can tell you this; this new adult novel will be intense, raw, and have an edge of romance that I have not brought to my other novels. With that being said, I am still a teacher and mother. I will not write a Fifty Shades of Gray (even though I love that book), but I think this book could be a more tame version of a Jamie McGuire or Colleen Hoover novel. I absolutely adore those authors and can only dream of achieving their level of success one day!
I look forward to seeing the other books you'll write! Thank you so much for taking the time to have this chat with me!
Michelle Areaux is the author of Wicked Cries