Picking Their Brains: Michelle, The Barenaked Critic

Hi everyone!

I’m finally – at last – getting this feature of the blog up and going! I thought I was going to get everything rolled out back in October, but life happens (Tabby became my priority for a while), and NaNoWriMo happened, and then suddenly it was Christmas, then 2014.

Picking Their Brains is a feature I decided on because sometimes I like to… interrogate people. Or to see what they have to say about something. It’s fascinating to see what’s going on in someone else’s head. 

This feature will show up approximately once a month. Sometimes every two months, depending.

So first up, we have my friend (and co-municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo) Michelle! She was very gracious and helped me out with this over the past couple of days. I had one person lined up, but we ended up needing to wait to post it, but I didn’t want to put off Picking Their Brains any longer.

Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for letting me throw this at you at the last minute! First things first… we have enough common interests that I’ve had no problem coming up with questions to ask you, just a hard time knowing which question to ask first. Most of all, I think we share a love for a good fantasy story. So, have you read any fantasy lately that makes you want to gush?

I actually haven’t read a whole lot of fantasy lately! (I don’t think a frankly unwise amount of Teen Wolf fanfic counts.) The most recent one would probably be Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett, and that’s just because I love the Discworld series with all my nerdy little heart. It’s hilarious, but they’re so much more than just comedy. If you’re a fantasy fan and you haven’t read Discworld, you need to. NEED TO.

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Well, I guess I’m one of those ‘need to’ people…

What authors do you find yourself reading over and over again?

Courtney Milan, Gail Carriger, Terry Pratchett, Loretta Chase, and Brandon Sanderson. I also have a feeling John Scalzi will be added to that list shortly, as well as Robin Lafevers, because I love what she’s doing with the His Fair Assassin series.

The His Fair Assassin series is quite wonderful! I can’t wait for the next book…

Are there any particular authors who have influenced your writing over the years?

Oh man. Is “all of them” a copout answer? I think I’ve learned something from nearly every book I’ve read, and I’d like to think all of those lessons have gone toward making me the writer I am today. And God willing, that trend will continue. 🙂

I personally think it’s a sign of a good learner if you can learn from anything!

What do you love and hate most about your own writing?

I’m never pleased with my descriptions of anything, especially clothes and people. Even after multiple revisions, they’re usually the part that I’m still working on making better.

On the other hand, I love the friendships I write. It seems the most positive feedback I’ve gotten has been on the relationships between characters who have been best friends for years. And nine times out of ten, those are my favorite scenes to write.  

Well, I personally don’t seem to have a problem with descriptions of clothing, but I do struggle with other descriptions, so I very much understand that frustration. Friendships are very fun to write, though!

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What writing craft books have helped you the most?

Scene & Structureby Jack Bickham. It’s a more in-depth view of a concept I learned while in college, and it really, really helped me solidify the structure of my own stories. Anybody who’s talked to me for more than five minutes about writing has probably heard me sing this book’s praises.

If there was one thing you could go back and change about your writing experiences, what would it be?

The very first OWFI contest I ever entered, my novel was disqualified because I had forgotten to put page numbers on it. (Which, in case you were wondering, was not actually specified in the rules.) If I could, I’d go back and put the damn page numbers on my submission.

Then again, the ladies I was staying with read my submission that night and gave me a ton of good feedback, which I scribbled down and later incorporated into the story. So even if I didn’t get judged, I still got the critique I’d been looking forward to.

It is good you got the feedback you’d been hoping for in the first place! Hopefully this will be your year to shine in the OWFI contests, too.

Thank you so much for working this in so quickly!

If anyone has questions for Michelle, please leave a comment!

Michelle is a writer and web developer whose previous jobs include movie critic and radio show co-host. She is also one of two municipal liaisons for the Tulsa region for National Novel Writing Month. You can find her hanging out on Twitter (@MichellePierce) or over at her blog, The Barenaked Critic.

Photo courtesy of Ars Electronica.
Photo courtesy of Ars Electronica.

Are you interested in being featured on Picking Their Brains? I’m currently seeking guest posts on topics on everything from writing to publishing to urban farming and crafting. Just send me a message if you’ve got a topic in mind!

5 thoughts on “Picking Their Brains: Michelle, The Barenaked Critic

  1. Great interview! I have a tough time with descriptions too, and I think it’s great to learn from everything that we’ve read. Discworld is definitely a need to read series – even if I haven’t read all of them, I’ve enjoyed the ones I have read.

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