Spotlight On: Author, Artist and SA volunteer Michele Barrows-Belisle

Join us as we spotlight various members in the Savvy Authors community. We’ll introduce you to volunteers, members active in the Savvy writing community, as well as recently published authors from Our Authors, editors, and agents.
This week we are shining the spotlight on multi-talented author, artist and SavvyAuthors volunteer, Michele Barrows-Belisle. In addition her work as Moderator for the SavvyAuthor’s Yahoo Loop, Michele is a sculpter, crafting amazingly lifelike dolls, fairies and more for the collectibles and toy industries. She is also a published author with several non-fiction books to her credit. Her debut young adult novel, Fire and Ice (Faerie Song Trilogy), released on July 4th through Astraea Press. Michele has graciously agreed to take some time from her busy day to sit down and talk with us about her work.
You have written several instructional books on sculpting, magazine articles and now your first work of fiction, a YA novel called “Fire and Ice”. Can you give us a glimpse into the story?
I like to describe the story as Phantom of the Opera meets Lord of the Rings. But in case that only makes sense to me, here’s a better taste. The story is about high school senior Lorelei Alundra, a girl who can see and heal people’s pain and can sing with the voice of an angel. But because her gifts are controlled by the dark faerie who gave them to her, she’s spent most of her life hiding from them. Content with the level of semi-normality she’s carved out for herself, Lorelei is unnerved by her inexplicable attraction to Adrius, the new guy in her art class. The normalcy she clung to takes a turn for the bizarre when her mother falls ill and to save her, Lorelei follows Adrius into another realm. She ends up trapped, forced to fulfill a destiny she wants no part of, or risk her mother life. One mistake could put the fate of their world, and her soul in jeopardy. And as reality becomes more terrifying than fiction, Lorelei discovers three truths; fairytales are more real than reality, destiny sometimes makes mistakes… and falling for your prince charming, could get you killed killed.
I believe you are working on book two of the Faerie Song trilogy entitled “Bittersweet”. Does this novel pick up where “Fire and Ice” ends?
Bittersweet picks up almost exactly where Fire & Ice leaves off, about a day or two later. We see how the main characters are faring with the new and more complicated set of circumstances before them. In the first book, much of the story takes us on a journey into Mythlandria, a world inhabited by witches, elves, and fey. Bittersweet brings the characters back to the human world for the majority of the book to explore what happens when Lorelei’s two worlds collide. The third book in the series tentatively named Darkest Light, is evenly split between both worlds.
Who are some of your favorite authors and did any particular novels influence your choice of genre?
Growing up I adored C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. I still love their stories today, and in adulthood I’ve added authors such as J.K Rowling, L.J. Smith, Terry Goodkind, Neil Gaiman, Becca Fitzpatrick, to my list of favourites. There are countless fantasy, romance and YA books I adore reading, and given my passion for those genres, it seems natural that my writing combines all three. In a sense, Fire and Ice reflects aspects of everything I’ve ever lived, dreamt, read and watched.
You are a professional artist and sculptor; your portfolio (which is stunning!) contains babies, faeries, Santas and confectionery delights that look good enough to eat! Which ones do you enjoy creating the most?
Thank you! I get consumed by characters at times, all insisting upon being brought to life in some form, either in clay or though my writing. When that happens I become obsessed with sculpting characters. But truthfully, whatever I’m drawn to sculpt becomes what I enjoy the most. When I grow tired of sculpting tiny baby feet, I might move on to fairies, and think, wow, I could sculpt these forever! Whether that lasts a few hours or a few months, eventually another lightning bolt of inspiration hits and I’m off in a different direction. Right now I’m pretty obsessed with sculpting lifelike miniature food, likely because I’ve eliminated things like sugar and cheeseburgers from my diet. This way I can at least vicariously get my fill of chocolate. —Ok, so I haven’t actually given up chocolate, but you get the idea.
What is your favorite medium to sculpt in and why? 
I sculpt almost exclusively in polymer clay. It’s so easy to handle and work with and it’s very forgiving. It takes paint and coloring well, and dries to a lovely finish in a regular home oven. When I’m creating pieces for reproduction, or for manufacturers, I find it far easier to ship a cured original sculpture than to create plaster casts and molds to ship overseas.
You give a lot of credit to your life coach, Jessi Jordan. How has her coaching changed your writing for the better? 
When you set goals and work with someone to achieve them, they tend to manifest so much faster, and usually far bigger than you had originally imagined. That’s one of the benefits of working with a business coach. I’ve worked with several wonderful coaches, and Jessi Jordan is amazing. In addition to coaching, she’s a music producer who’s worked with performers like Beyonce and Pink, and she brings that star-power energy of success with her. Working with her pushed me to reach higher, and expand my belief in what was possible to achieve. As a result I’ve set my sights on bigger goals. Being in the company of people who are already playing a bigger game is inspiring. I’ve always believed the saying if you can dream it you can achieve it and the world is full of people who are making a fabulous living doing what they love to do. They don’t buy in to the starving artist mentality, they don’t moan about how hard it is to succeed and they are not focused on the reasons why things won’t work. So, while coaching might not have impacted my writing directly, it certainly has helped sharpen, clarify and clear the path towards my lofty writing goals. We were recently contacted by a producer in LA interested in optioning the book for film, and I was again reminded of how powerful having lofty goals and dreams can be. I’m grateful to be able to explore all of these possibilities.
What have you participated in here at Savvy that you enjoyed the most, and what workshop or event would you recommend everyone try at least once?
I remember the first time I discovered the SavvyAuthor’s website. I felt like a kid in Disneyland on Christmas morning; there were so many compelling workshops and events available that I didn’t know what to try first. My favourite classes would have to be Lori Wilde and Kat Duncan’s year-long writing workshops. Their classes are beyond amazing and if you get the opportunity I highly recommend them. Editpalooza, Summer Symposium and Bootcamps are excellent for connecting with other like minded writers, while holding each other accountable for completing a target word count in a fun and competitive atmosphere. I also loved Kris Tualla’s Create A Book-Trailer class and the workshops that focus on personal writing goals like the classes offered by Deborah Riley-Magnus. As a certified workshop-junkie I’d have to say there are so many wonderful events classes and opportunities to take part in, its impossible list them all!
Is there an aspect of writing that comes easy for you, and what do you find the most difficult (ie: plot, character, dialog, etc)? 
I often hear full conversations in my head, so writing dialog is relatively easy for me. (It’s funny how you can make a statement like that in the company of writers and not freak them out.) But fleshing out those character’s strengths, weaknesses and motivation is sometimes a little more challenging.
What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given about writing and what would you like to pass on to other writers?
My advice to new writers is the same advice I live by: Start. And then don’t stop. It sounds simple and yet it’s profound. So many people talk about wanting to write a book, but unless you actually start you can never finish. As the queen of procrastination, I was guilty of this myself for a long time. Eventually you have to just do it. Don’t worry about whether it’s any good, just start. Keep going until you get to where you want to go. Then celebrate, decide where you’d like to go next, and keep going. Write what you love, relax and remember to enjoy the journey. And to quote something NY Times bestselling author Lori Wilde once told me: “You can do this.”
Now for the hot seat question! Tell us, if you dare, what is the wildest or funniest thing you have ever done (that you can share!) and what did you learn from it?
I never could turn down a dare, so here it goes. I like to mix business with pleasure, so when a friend and I spent a week in the big apple, and we decided to make our New York experience as exciting as possible. We’d already completed our meetings with bigwig execs, and on an impulse, I looked up the address of a publishing house who had requested to read my manuscript. Our intention was to walk through the lobby, soak up the “atmosphere” and then hit 5th Avenue for some shopping. Well, security generously asked if they could help us, and to my absolute horror my business-savvy friend very calmly gave him the editor’s name and asked if this was where the publishing house had their offices. Almost immediately, there was a flurry of activity which included security asking for our ID and taking our photos, while a second guard was on the phone to the editor, notifying her I was here to see her. I attempted to explain that we didn’t actually have an appointment and that we were just visiting from Canada— and then I literally held my breath, waiting for the moment security escorted us out of the building, and perhaps even back across the border. But to my surprise, everyone was extremely welcoming, and we were invited up to their offices. The editors we met with were lovely, and graciously offered us a stack of books to take on our return flight. It was an amazing afternoon and we achieved our goal… it was in fact an exciting trip. I guess fortune really does favor the bold.  Plus I found the most amazing pair of shoes, so how does it get wilder than that?! 😉
I’m very excited that Fire and Ice will be published by Astraea Press this summer! Stay turned for an official release date and sneak peeks at the cover! Feel free to connect with me, I love meeting new friends!
Thank you so much for joining us this week! If you’d like to learn more, you can connect with Michele on her Facebook page,  her website, and on Twitter
Adventure wasn’t something Lorelei Alundra was interested in. Gifted with two other-worldly talents for singing and healing, she’s always shied away from her gifts and the spotlight, preferring quiet anonymity, over attention and fame. But when she meets the enigmatic Adrius, with his dark and dangerous mystique and eyes that could see into her soul, her uneventful life becomes irrevocably altered.
Adrius turns up in every one of her classes and knows more about her than any newcomer should. Including the condition of her mother who is suffering from a mysterious illness. Accepting his offer to help leads her into a terrifying and thrilling world, where Elves are even hotter than Legolas, and Faeries…. are nothing like Tinkerbell. The two magical beings are fire and ice opposites. One Lorelei can’t help falling for, and the other she’s compelled to be with.
Now she’s trapped, expected to prevent a war between witches and faeries, or forfeit her mother’s life. Nothing is what it seems. Not her family. Not the Fey. Not even Adrius, whose feelings for her balance precariously between desire and danger. Despite her better judgment, she can’t say away from him. 
As secrets unravel and unsettling truths are revealed, Lorelei must fight to save much more than her mother’s life. One mistake could put the fate of his world, and her soul in jeopardy. 
But hey, no pressure… right.
A dreamer at heart, Michele has always lived with one foot in this reality and one foot in another, one of her own imagining. So it follows that she would grow up to write about and sculpt the characters from those enchanting imaginative worlds she knows and loves so well.  A fan of everything romantic, her young adult novels are populated with teen witches and vampires and faeries, oh my. As if writing both fiction and non-fiction books and designing polymer clay sculptures for toy and collectible companies weren’t compelling enough, she also volunteers for Savvy Authors site as moderator for the Savvy Yahoo group. Let’s not get started on her workshop addiction…