What is your book’s genre or category and what draws you to the genre?
It’s a psychological thriller/mystery/suspense novel, plus I always throw in a strong romantic element into my novels as well as a touch of the supernatural. What I really love exploring is our view of reality — all of us would say we know what “reality” is … but do we? Is our perception accurate? Or are we in denial? (Or maybe the truth is somewhere in-between.) And I also love exploring our shadows or “dark side” — which is what a lot of mysteries/suspense are exploring.
Can you describe the story in one or two sentences for our readers?
As a child, Kit’s twin sister Cat disappeared, never to be heard from again. Until one dark, twisted Halloween night. But is it really Cat? Or is it someone else playing a sinister and deadly game?
Tell us the story behind the story. What influenced you to write it and how long did it take you?
The two major images in the opening the chapter is actually what inspired me. I actually had that dream of a church as a child (although in my dream it didn’t end the same way) and the image of Cat in a wagon being pulled by her father — I was walking one day and passed a father pulling his daughter in a wagon. And there was something so determined in the way the man was walking that I remember thinking “gee, could I just pluck her out of the wagon and would he even know?” Then I started playing with that idea — what would happen if someone DID do something like that? And at some point my church dream collided with that idea and the story was born.
Once I started writing The Stolen Twin, I finished it in 9 months — but I also wrote it ten years ago. I was working as a freelance copywriter at the time (now I own a copywriting and marketing company) and I had gotten some bad advice when I first started as a freelancer. She was a retired freelance writer who was meeting with me under the guise of “helping” me with my freelance business. In truth, she had come to the meeting determined to talk me out of becoming a freelance writer altogether. She spent a big chunk of time trying to talk me into getting my job back (which wasn’t an option). After an hour of her telling me what a tough life this was and how I was making a mistake by not having a job, she finally gave me a few tips (none of them very useful). As we were leaving, I said “one of the reasons why I’m so excited about the idea of freelancing is then I’ll have time to work on my novels.” She got a look of horror on her face and said “NEVER tell anyone you write fiction. No one will ever take you seriously as a freelancer.” Now, she basically was 100% wrong on everything she told me, so why on earth this last piece of advice stuck I don’t know. But, I’ve worked through it (part of why I finally DID work through it is my mother died this summer, and I decided I wasn’t going to die with my books inside me). And yes, I can now honestly say I haven’t noticed anyone taking me less seriously now that I’m a published novelist than they did before I published my novel.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
My main character Kit is sick — you find out pretty early in the book what her illness is, but I won’t give it away here. What a lot of my readers have told me is how drawn they are to her — she’s sick and while she does know it, she’s also fighting a certain amount of denial around her illness. I think many of us have similar issues that are holding us back and we’re in denial about.
Is there a part of you in any of the characters?
I think there’s a part of me in all my characters — the good and the bad.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I taught myself to read at 3 years old because I wanted to write stories so badly. Being a writer has pretty much been a driving force my entire life.
How do you find the time to write?
This is something I struggled with for years. I wanted to find great big blocks of empty time every day, and when that didn’t happen, I would beat myself up. However, in the past 6 months or so, I’ve tried a new technique. I write in 15-minute blocks. At first I was highly skeptical of this process — how could I get ANYTHING done in 15 minutes? But, I was willing to try something new — after all my great big empty blocks of time, while worked, didn’t work as well as I liked (along with being awfully painful with all the beating up of myself I did). So I tried it. And lo and behold, it actually DOES work. So, yes, I prefer to write longer but even on my busy days I can say to myself “all I need to do is 15 minutes on my book” and just that small amount of time is propelling me forward AND giving me a sense of satisfaction.
What are you working on right now?
My second novel Mirror Image is coming out May, 2016, plus I’m writing another one called The Witch’s House (although the title may change, I tend to not find the real title until I’ve written a chunk of it) and it’s a combination of a murder mystery in a haunted house.
How can readers find you online?
Excerpt from The Stolen Twin
My life has been dominated by two dreams.
In the first, I see my twin sister Cat at seven, the last time I ever saw her. She is all pink and golden – hair hanging in yellow ringlets, dancing blue eyes, rosy cheeks. She is beautiful, my sister. Light, sweet, charming. My opposite.
My father is pulling her as she sits in a little red wagon, laughing and waving. They’re in a wild, grassy field. Birds are twittering, crickets chirping. A butterfly flits by. Gently swaying grasses and colorful wildflowers brush against her, stroking her soft skin, loving her. She laughs and caresses their long, flowing stems.
But there is more in this field than plants, insects and birds. Fairies live here too – although they usually hide when people walk by with their heavy crushing footsteps, unnatural smells and callous voices. My father, plowing through with bent back and plodding footsteps, sends them cringing and scurrying away as well.
But then they hear the tinkling sound of my sister’s laughter.
Peeking from behind brown-eyed Susan’s and pebbles, they see Cat in the wagon, clutching a dandelion in her fist, rubbing the yellow petals against her face. She astonishes them, seduces them, hypnotizes them. They’ve never seen anything like her before. Gradually, they creep out and move closer. Cat virtually sparkles in the sunlight, bright and shining. As she catches sight of the fairies, she laughs and blows them kisses.
The fairies, now completely under her spell, swarm over to her, nuzzling her face, soft arms, slender neck. She smiles, touching them back – fingers grazing over delicate wings not much more substantial than a cobweb.
More fairies emerge as my father guides her deeper into the field. The grasses become thicker, taller. The fairies cling to the blades, reaching their tiny hands out to caress Cat as she drifts by.
Finally, the queen herself comes forward, tall and majestic. She wears a dress made from white tulips and daffodils, sparkling with dewdrops. Her long, silky, golden hair is entwined with white daisies. Large green eyes peer out from under her mass of hair. Her face is cold, all sharp angles and pale skin, but beautiful.
“This is the one,” the queen says, her voice like breaking glass.
Cat looks up, fairies tangled in her hair. She blinks as her gaze meets that of the queen’s. They stare at each other, each mesmerized by the other. Then, slowly, the queen reaches down and gathers my sister into her arms. The fairies dart out of the way, hovering above them like a cloud of gnats. The queen turns, Cat cuddled in her arms, and they disappear, vanishing into the thick grass.
My father pulls the wagon a few seconds longer before realizing something is wrong. Seeing Cat missing, he drops to the ground and begins searching fruitlessly through the grass. “Cat,” he yells over and over. “Cat, come back. Come back!”
Nothing answers him, not even a chirp from a bird. He cries her name over and over, begging her to come back, while the fairies croon over their newest prize.
My second dream is completely opposite – much like the difference between Cat and me. It begins with me and my parents in the car. We’re going to Milwaukee to visit my grandparents, but suddenly my parents take a detour. We drive down an old country road filled with potholes and thirsty cracks. My chest begins to take on a familiar heaviness.
We’re at a church, a white country church with a tall steeple and an elaborate stained glass etching of Mary and Jesus in the manger. A bell rings, deep and melodious. I’m having trouble breathing.
We walk to the graveyard behind the church, my parents in front of me, talking quietly, ignoring me (as usual). The bell continues to ring, the sound growing louder, echoing in the stillness. I stumble, trying desperately to breathe, to draw air through lungs now shrunken into a tight ball of twine. I need my inhaler, but don’t know where it is.
My parents continue to ignore me. I gasp and start to fall, but now I’m floating, floating, toward the graveyard. All I can hear is the tolling of the bell. I can’t breathe at all. My lungs burn, a bright fireball in my chest. This is it, I realize. This is the end. This is where I die.
I wake then, gasping and reaching for my inhaler. As uncomfortable as it is, I prefer it to the hot tears and heavy sick feeling that follows the fairy dream. Cat is the chosen one. I’m the disappointment.
These were the dreams that dominated my life. If I had other ones, I never remembered them. Only these two. I never told a soul about my dreams – they were my penance, my burden, my personal hell.
Until the day Cat came back, turning my life into something worse than any nightmare I ever could have imagined.
Buy The Stolen Twin and have a look at Michele Pariza Wacek”s other books here.