Jen: Today we welcome Michele Zurlo to Romancing the Book. Michele, will you share a short bio with us?
Michele: I’m a wife, mother, teacher, and when I have spare time, a writer. My life isn’t half as interesting as my characters’ lives are. My childhood dreams tended to stretch no further than the next book in my to-be-read pile, and I aspired to be a librarian so I could read all day.
Once I started writing, steamy, sensual stories poured from my fingertips, and now I’m addicted. I hope you enjoy reading these tales as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Michele: Well, let’s start with the blurb for Re/Paired.
Keith Rossetti grew up the hard way–fleeing from his older sister’s fists and finding addiction at a young age. It’s a miracle he was able to make it into the FBI, and he fiercely guards his relationships with a handful of close friends.
When Katrina Legato’s brother brought home his Marine buddy all those years ago, she fell head-over-heels in love. Ten years have elapsed, and she hasn’t forgotten that toe-curling kiss he gave her for her eighteenth birthday. She knows he’s a demanding Dom who doesn’t respect his submissives or keep them for long, but if that’s all she can have of him, then she’ll take it.
When refusing Kat sends her to another Dom, Keith rethinks his decision. He plans to show her exactly why he’s not a suitable life partner for anybody. But Kat, one of the only women he’s allowed into his heart, isn’t what he expected. She’s no pushover. She demands more from him than anybody ever has, and he finds himself wanting to be the man she thinks he is.
As she repairs his damaged soul, a stalker targets her. Is it just a coincidence that his mother pops back up in his life and his sister is suddenly calling his office?
Origin: I came up with the core idea for this series right after I wrote Letting Go. I kept having false starts and abandoning the drafts. Eventually, the right inspiration struck, I changed the majority of the story (only the opening scene in Re/Bound and the character’s names stayed the same,) and the series was born. The idea for Re/Paired came to me as I was writing Re/Bound. Keith jumped out at me (and at more than a few readers) as someone who needed his own story. At the same time, I thought Katrina would make a sweet submissive. Who better for someone who has seen all the ugly life has to offer than someone who finds the good in everybody?
Jen: At what age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Michele: Like most writers, I started at a young age. People told me writers didn’t make much money, so I became a teacher. I love my job and don’t regret that path for a moment. About six or seven years ago, one of my students won a huge essay contest when MLB commemorated the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier. His big win netted me a laptop (him too) and a visit from Jackie’s daughter, Sharon. Sharon and I spent some time talking. I told her that I wished I could write a book. She furrowed her brow at me and asked why I thought I couldn’t. So I wrote Tomorrow Cries, which I published under another name. Then I wrote Letting Go, which ended up being fairly successful, and things progressed from there.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Michele: I choose 3-5 key words and repeat them until I memorize them. Later, the words will trigger my recall of the idea. It’s how I make my OCD work for me.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Michele: The most challenging aspect of writing is simply finding the time. I work two jobs and parent two wonderful kids who are very active in sports. Most of my writing is done in the wee hours of the morning. My old dog likes to get up between 4 and 5. I can’t go back to sleep once I’m up, so I spend the extra time before I have to get ready for my day job writing. I pick up another half hour in the evenings when my kids are reading before bed. In the summers, I get a lot more time to work while my kids play.
The easiest part of writing is the first 20K of a new novel. It usually just pours out of me. Then I’ll stare at the screen and think, “What now?” That’s when I have to figure out the major conflict and all that plot-related stuff before I can continue.
The most rewarding part of writing is when I get a letter from a reader who enjoyed the story or who loved the characters. I spend a lot of time with those characters, and they each contain little pieces of me.
Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Michele: I have a B.A. in English and a M.A. in literacy. I’ve read classics from every culture and from every time period. Classically, I think I learned a lot from Shakespeare. I teach A Midsummer Night’s Dream every year to my 8th graders because I like it so much, and it’s just a fun play. The Bard definitely knew his way around characters and plot, and he had a wicked sense of humor. I like that his heroines were strong, everybody made mistakes, and the endings were happy (unless it was a tragedy; then it was just fitting.)
Of course, I also learned history by reading romance novels–mostly Johanna Lindsey. I discovered her in 7th grade when my aunt gave me some books to read. I don’t think she cleared it with my mom first, but now J.L. is one of my mom’s favorite authors as well. I think their influence on my writing is pretty equal. My first erotic romance, Letting Go, was based on a premise taken directly from a J.L. novel, though I did turn that whole “forced marriage” idea on its ear.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Michele: Free time? What’s that?
Jen: What’s next for you?
Michele: I’m working on several things right now. I don’t do serious writing until June, when school is out. At that time, I’ll focus on finishing one of my projects. One is Re/Imagined, which would be the third in the Doms of the FBI series. I’m also working on Awakenings #6 and a mainstream-ish love story about an OCD hand-washer/compulsive liar and the lead singer of a rock band. I do love an OCD heroine.