Five Minutes with Judith Michael #LoveAusAuthors

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For author Judith Michael, writing is total immersion, especially if the genre is exciting. Of all the books she’s read and loved, it’s the speculative elements that are the most compelling to her. She loves the truly magical.

‘The ‘what ifs’ and the ‘just supposings’… the way the brain ignites with unforeseen ideas. I don’t think I would have survived a fraught childhood without imagination.’

One of Judith’s favourite quotes about this comes from Meena Shamaly, presenter of the Game Show on ABC Classic radio, ‘When you can dispense with the confines of normality, the results can be truly magical.’

Judith believes good speculative fiction, whatever its format, and no matter how far it roams from Planet Earth, will always reflect the issues that haunt our world, and from intriguing angles. She enjoys the challenge and the excitement of creating a character who travels through such a world.

‘The seer is making her first appearance in GriffinSinger (Vol 2) of my trilogy. My hands hover over the keyboard; I haven’t seen her face yet. My fingers move as she turns. I am stunned. She looks ill and I think she is dying.’

Like many writers, Judith says that human beings create stories to make sense of our world, and give meaning to our lives.

‘Isn’t this why the ancients created myths and legends? It’s the nearest we come to playing God, though my characters have their own opinions on that. The likeable protagonist, who first appeared in Songbird (Vol 1) soon made it clear she was in my story to be shitty and irritating if that’s how she felt.’

Judith thrives on the commitment of long works because they give her the chance to develop themes and places, and to live with the characters.

Five Things About Judith

  1. New Zealand is where I spent the first half of my life. It is a truly beautiful land, where grass is a green carpet that hangs over the edge of river banks, and where sheep are cuddly white. It’s a land full of inventive, artistic people. Now, I am straddled, one foot happily in Melbourne and the other wistfully in NZ.
  2. As a very young child I fell in love with classical music and yearned to be a ballerina. In the school’s playground shelter I wore out the toes of all my shoes, creating visual stories. Movement is language.
  3. I danced my way through much of my life: ballet, jazz, creative, belly, and some ballroom. In Spain I learned flamenco from Luisa Maravilla, and Enrique el Coho: an immersive experience. Beautiful movement still speaks to me. Nowadays, my contribution to that language is the moving meditation of Tai Chi, even won gold in the local Wushu veteran category. I also help out as an instructor. Tai Chi is easy on the eye – challenging to do.
  4. Living in England then Spain, and roaming through France, fed my imagination. I adored walking with ghosts in castle ruins. I shared their view from ancient windows, and I haunted their worn-down staircases.
  5. Sometimes there’s a person in our life who stands out like a beacon. During my teens, an English teacher asked me to read a poem aloud to the class. As a rather silent student, I was surprised to find myself reading with the passion the words implied. As I resumed my seat, I glanced up to see her usually severe face transformed. She knew I had made a life-long connection between the poet’s language and emotion.

Five Things About Judith’s Work

  1. My writing career began when I entered my first short story in a competition and then fell apart when I didn’t even get a commended. Of the short stories I wrote, only about four made it to ‘The End’. The Zig Zag Path was commended in a competition, and after re-working the narrative a few years later, it was awarded a first. The Exile gained a highly commended in a competition where there was a first, but no second or third. I was happy with that result. Both stories have been published online and in print.
  2. To test my ability and commitment, I added my own protagonist and premise to the fantasy world of a book I’d read – solely for the purpose of having a go at writing a long story, though I seriously doubted I’d get beyond the first half dozen pages. Sixteen months later, I destroyed the completed work, created the world of Dar Orien and began to write Songbird. I kept only my protagonist, Irenya O’Neil, and my premise of a woman from our time and place lost in another dimension. The novel became GriffinSong Trilogy.
  3. I doubt the trilogy would have made it to publication without the help and guidance of a writing group. I have belonged to a number, some of which never really got off the ground. One did, for twenty years, with five dedicated women who share a long friendship, and the desire to be even better writers. We still have fun over food and wine. Together and individually we have won awards and been published. Giving and receiving feedback is good for my soul; likewise, attendance at countless workshops, and the time spent studying for a Professional Writing and Editing Diploma.
  4. For some years, I wrote only for myself. The word ‘publication’ crept into my consciousness one syllable at a time. I consider myself fortunate and honoured to have my trilogy accepted for publication by Odyssey Books. I have three projects waiting for my attention.
  5. My triolgy is called the GriffinSong Trilogy. It is a portal fantasy which is definitely for adults.

Five Things That Keep Judith Writing

  1. Music, mostly classical. Monteverdi to Carl Jenkins and every composer in between. During the writing of Songbird it was the haunting, other-world music of Loreena McKennitt and Enya that unfailingly got me in the mood. Music is still my constant muse. Just as some folk find a few glasses of wine sets them aglow, the music I can’t live without does it for me.
  2. Following my dreams is about writing, writing, writing. Frankly, I wouldn’t know what else to do! As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be writing, and it begins with getting words on paper – or on screen.
  3. Thanks to Covid19, the world has existed in a liminal threshold since March 2020, and we are still awaiting transformation. Protagonists are on thresholds too, not knowing what’s next or what their future will look like. Suffering the liminal transition can be painful and exhausting, and the only way is forward. The liminal state does not allow a return to where you were; that particular place and moment is gone, which is valuable stuff for plot development. If I want to find the ‘grit’ in a story, I look for liminal thresholds.
  4. Like all authors, I am encouraged when readers devour my work and re-read it. When I reluctantly reach the end of a great story, I want the final page to leave a crevice in the narrative, one that I can slip into, create a final scene of my own. I want readers to continue the GriffinSong story when they’ve turned the last page of Fleetwalker – even if it’s just for an hour or two.
  5. Marketing/profile-building is something serious authors need to do, tasks that can be extremely challenging. I’m not good at it – so I pay a publicist to help. Then there’s the constant struggle with technology. I’m not good at that either, though it’s exciting when I get something to work. So I pay for help there too. I laugh, loudly, when people say, ‘Oh, you’re published, so you’re raking it in.’ I wonder what it’s like to be J K Rowling?

In the future, Judith hopes to write a sequel and says she is still there, caught in that final scene with the video still running. What will Dar Orien look like? What will be the nature of the realm’s survival? Or perhaps even a prequel.

‘I’m curious to explore what Dar Orien was like before the Rauballi invaders threw the realm into a crucible. The point-of-view would no longer be that of an alien who just wants to go home. I’d look for a local – maybe the herbalist. She’s caring; she also has a sharp wit and a quick tongue. A prequel would be the perfect opportunity to develop a more detailed world.’

In the future, Judith says she needs to improve her grasp of technology. And what’s the one place she would love to visit? The Scottish Highlands, and if that were to fail there’s a long list of other places that could qualify. As for Planet Earth, she wishes humankind would value our sentient nature, from the most ancient tree to a single pebble on the seabed. Finally, she says, show me a writer who doesn’t occasionally have the dream of a film contract.

You can find out more about Judith and her books at her website and follow her on Facebook

Helen


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