This month, All The Kissing welcomes Michelle Hazen, author of the Sex, Love, and Rock & Roll series. You may also recognize Michelle from her contributions to the All The Kissing blog. We’re delighted to have her here. You can find Michelle on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and of course on michellehazenbooks.com. Read on to learn more about Michelle, her books, what inspired her most to write them—and a few hints about what’s to come…
Introducing Michelle Hazen
Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem. Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back.
She has written most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.
She’s currently addicted to The Walking Dead, hiking, and Tillamook cheese.
Michelle is represented by Naomi Davis of BookEnds Literary.
Hi Michelle, thank you for taking the time to join us today at All The Kissing. Let’s start at the beginning with your Sex, Love, and Rock & Roll series: why rock stars?
You know, back in high school, the group that I envied the most wasn’t the jocks or the cheerleaders. It was the drama kids. They had this kind of cool, backstage, tight-knit friendship full of inside jokes and bonding from the shared ups and downs of performing. Musicians have exactly the same thing, but being in a band lends itself to even closer relationships. Plus, there’s sort of a magic in making music together, in creating a shared experience from the sounds of each of their different instruments…which is a great metaphor for friendship.
So, why rock stars? Because I love the dynamic of their friendships, their lifestyle, and the creative rush of making and performing music. I wanted to be a fly on the wall to the reality of their lives backstage, and I think my books very much reflect that.
Titles can be the bane of a writer’s existence. Everyone knows that naming bands is even harder than coming up with decent book titles. Where did the name “The Red Letters” come from?
I can’t name bands to save my life, and I asked for help on Facebook. It turned out my friends were even worse than I was. The suggestions were… well, let’s censor them here for the good of everyone’s eyes. My songwriter friend swooped to my rescue and named the band (and fixed the song I wrote for Book 1, god bless her).
Thank heavens for friends like that! You’ve got a great trio of friends in your series with Jera, Danny, and Jax. In the course of the books you explain Jera’s name (an acronym for Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, and Art Garfunkel). I know there’s a story behind the way you picked her name…
I’m one of those weird people whose characters won’t come to life until they have the right name. And I could NOT find Jera’s name. My CP, Katie, was helping me, and as soon as she texted “Jera” I knew that was it. And as soon as I knew her name, I knew it was an acronym and which musicians’ names it stood for. Whole process took about 0.75 seconds.
That’s fantastic. When a concept clicks, it clicks. Like the overall concept for your series: each of your musician characters has something that could be seen as a unique twist on sexuality. Was that something you had planned about these characters from the start, or did that evolve organically as you wrote?
The series concept was that each character would have troubles in their sex life that mirrored the struggles in their music careers. For Jera, that came about totally naturally. For the others, planning which sexual problems would also affect their music career was…um, let’s call it challenging so that I don’t slip and use any four-letter words.
But in the end, it really worked because when you have issues in your life, they affect every facet of you, from your relationships to your work. But it was fun because the band members all have very different approaches to fame, and VERY different tastes in the bedroom.
Is there one overarching message you mean for this series to convey? If so, what is it?
Whoever you are, whatever your quirks or flaws, there’s someone out there that’s a perfect match for exactly that.
That’s a lovely message. We understand you’ve got another work in the series coming out next month (“Christmas With the Band”). Can you tell us about it?
This is a short-novella-length Christmas story, and also an epilogue to the whole series, to tie up the few loose ends left at the end of Jax’s book (INSATIABLE). The whole band gets together at Jera’s family’s house for Christmas and so it’s like a 3-way blended family with all the problems you’d expect! I think this will strike home with many readers because holidays with family can be frustrating and infuriating, and then also you can have such wonderful moments of love and acceptance and bonding.
Of course, because it’s me, there’s also a house fire, people climbing around on roofs, and a few Christmas pranks. It’s a really cute, fun story and is designed to leave you smiling.
I can’t wait to read it! Additionally, we know you have some exciting news—you’ve just signed a two-book deal with Berkley Books. Congratulations! What can you share about the new series?
I absolutely can’t wait to share UNBREAK ME with the world! The first book is a love story between two horse trainers (one from Montana, one from New Orleans). The heroine is very withdrawn from men after the trauma of being kidnapped in college, and suffers debilitating panic attacks. The hero is a terrifically charming, very fun-loving person and they become friends when he finds out that she’s living on frozen dinners and volunteers to give her cooking lessons. It’s a hurt/comfort story that deals with painful issues with a lot of laughs along the way, and takes place half on her ranch in Montana and half in his home in New Orleans.
And yes, I basically wrote it so I could have two of my favorite things (horses & New Orleans) in the same book. I didn’t manage to work in my third favorite thing (man buns) but hey, there’s always Book 2.
New Orleans, Montana—you travel a lot. In what ways does your traveling serve to inspire your writing? In what ways does travel make writing more difficult?
Electricity is harder to come by than you’d think, and bad internet is the curse of my entire existence. The entire world is plagued by internet just good enough to make you think it’s going to work and not good enough to, you know, actually WORK. But I love traveling because it never allows me to settle into one version of myself. It constantly challenges my flexibility and my values and my commitment to writing.
UNBREAK ME directly came out of my travels. The city of New Orleans breathed life into that book idea because I absolutely love the layers of history and human lives in that city, and I absolutely hate the injustice and very human-caused suffering that took place after Hurricane Katrina.
What are your favorite reads so far this year? How about of all time?
Oh my goodness, favorite book this year is The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. It’s a gender-swapped Pretty Woman and I can’t stop talking about it, to the point that it’s getting embarrassing. But every single scene of that book left me grinning dopily and sort of melting around the edges of my heart. If you would like to feel better, about really anything, go read that book right now.
Favorite books of all time: I’m an enormous Laini Taylor fan. She writes with this lyrical, effortless style that makes everything in the world seem a little prettier than the last time you looked at it. And then she creates these epic, sweeping stories of love and war that drag you face to face with all the hopeful highs and merciless lows that humans are capable of. It’s wrenching, it’s honest, and it’s absolute mastery of the craft of writing. Laini Taylor makes me understand why some books are good, and some books are classics.
If you couldn’t write romance, what would you write instead?
YA. I have a YA manuscript that I’m revising, and another idea coming right up, so it’s possible this will soon be a reality not just a theory. I really love the flexibility and bravery of the YA genre, how it really “goes there” in so many different ways. I want to go there, too.
In your article on All The Kissing earlier this month you mentioned caffeine as a way to kickstart the writing brain. Do you have a favorite coffee drink? And does it really help you write?
Oh my gosh, I’m so much wittier in the morning, right after coffee. It’s sad. All the funniest parts of my rocker series were written at the peak of my morning coffee buzz. A plain latte is great for me if I’m feeling extravagant. But cold brew out of a jar on the tailgate also works in a pinch.
As writers, we all hope to find core groups with whom our books resonate. Who would be the ideal reader for your books?
People who love stories about every kind of love—friendship, romantic, paternal, etc. All my books end up centering around found families.
That’s a great core story to have. Now the opposite–what audience might not be quite right for your books?
Vulnerability is at the heart of most of my characters, because that’s what I find interesting. So I think people who mostly like confident characters who never question themselves…that audience might not be a great fit for my books.
To wrap things up, do you have any words of advice or inspiration for our readers?
I love how All The Kissing brings romance writers together! I encourage all of you to also check out the Twitter account @rwchat (Romance Writer’s Chat) as well. They hold a Twitter chat on the hashtag #rwchat every Sunday at 4pm PST, posting romance-related questions for authors to talk about. It’s a great way to meet other romance authors, share your wisdom, and learn from others about things you’re curious about. I’ve also found some really great book recs that way!
Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to chat with us today! We wish you the best of luck with all your writing endeavors.
Be sure to preorder your copy of Christmas With The Band here:
Feature image provided by the author.