Once, pinterest paired me with Laura Frantz as my author twin, a truly sweet woman whom I feel I don’t visit her page often enough (Hey Laura!). In some ways, I can understand why I was paired with Laura, as some of our writing principles are the same. But if I had another twin, it would be Michelle. Her work is one of the best I’v ever encountered. We are alike not only in writing, but in heart.
I’m delighted to have Michelle visit TBAP again! It wasn’t so long ago that she stopped by during the tour of her wonderful book, Jane, which was an amazing read (You can catch up on my review of Jane here). In her last visit, Michelle told us how she became a rock star! Eh …ahem. Sorry! I mean to say “a bestselling author” (but don’t the two mean the same thing?). Whatever!
Anyway, today, I’m going to introduce you to Michelle, so you, too, can know her better. I assure you, she’s quite charming! So fellas, follow our chat below!
Miranda: Hello Michelle! It’s an honor to have you visit TBAP again! Please tell us a bit about yourself, besides what we already know.
Michelle: Hi Miranda! Thank you so much for having me back 🙂 I can’t recall what you already know about me but I’m an author who recently graduated from college and am at the tail end of a transition period (on my way to grad school). I’ve written and published four bestselling novels and am currently working on my fifth one. I write books but I’m also a filmmaker and look forward to honing that craft more.
Miranda: When did you become a Christian? Is there a story behind that?
Michelle: I became a Christian when a teenager. I first learned – truly learned – what it meant to be saved when a complete stranger wordlessly handed me a Jesus tract on a subway in NYC. I was there for modeling and left with the saving knowledge of the gospel. I accepted Christ initially as “fire insurance” but two years later, I found myself getting drawn closer and closer to him. When I read a “random” book my mother got for me from the library (which turned out to be a Christian romance – one I refused to read for three years), I finally got serious and decided to give my whole life to Jesus, not just my soul for salvation.
Miranda: Wow. A simple but amazing story. This is why I do interviews – so people can know that stuff like this still happens, and be inspired by it.
When did you decide you’ll write for God? What led you to this decision?
Michelle: I decided when I was 18 that any vocation I chose had to be for the glory of God and building His Kingdom. If it wasn’t for Him, what was the point? I initially wanted to be an actress and was going to NYU to train in their prestigious program but the Lord made it clear that, that wasn’t where He wanted me to serve and honor Him. So I left, transferred to a small Christian university in Southern California, where He revealed to me around my senior year that in addition to filmmaking, He wanted me to continue writing and releasing stories.
Miranda: Truly remarkable. And brave – I mean, allowing your dream to give way to God’s purpose. Truly inspiring.
Your work can be said to be a cross between Christian and secular. That’s peculiar—why write this way?
Michelle: It was never my goal to be a “Christian Fiction author” and I don’t consider myself one. I’m a Christian and I’m a writer so my faith is inevitably reflected in my writing. That said, I value quality fiction and realistic storytelling so my stories don’t fit the mold of Christian Fiction, much of which I don’t enjoy. I love it when Christians enjoy my work but I write to reach out to the lost. One of the greatest compliments I receive in reviews and letters are from people who were not believers who read, appreciated, and were moved by the work because it was so different from the Christian fiction they refuse to read. Several women have contacted me, telling me they’ve given their lives back to Christ as a result of reading my book, which they didn’t realize would feature Christ but did in a way they couldn’t ignore or reject. I write to reach the lost and I write to glorify God with decent storytelling (something I believe is sorely lacking in modern Christian fiction) – that is why I write the way I write.
Miranda: Ah! An author after my own heart! I write with the same principle in mind.
What’s the underlying principle that guides your writing? How would you describe your writing?
Michelle: God placed it on my heart to write Christian content but release it to a secular audience. Finding that balance and honing that style could only come from Him. I honestly pray before, during, and after writing a book; when editing, and when taking feedback from beta readers. The Lord has had me go back and remove certain scenes, words, etc that would dishonor Him or take away from the story. At times, He’s had me go back in and insert things I didn’t the first time around. The principle that guides my writing is to honor the Lord with my work; keeping it above reproach and making it excellent. I don’t want my work to be a stumbling block to others and I don’t want it to be so bland, predictable and trite that it’s unpalatable either. I find it almost offensive to write shoddy work and think it will pass as excellent just because you stamp “Jesus” on it. He deserves the best in all our work; storytellers should give Him that and allow Him to handle the rest.
Miranda: My goodness! It’s like you read my mind, and then wrote it out. Super!
As a screenwriter, what do you hope to achieve with your stories?
Michelle: The same thing I hope to achieve as an author: spread the gospel through the power of storytelling. Filmmaking is just another vehicle with which to do that.
Miranda: Michelle, you tackle topics/themes that other writers shy away from. What’s the philosophy behind choosing your topics?
Michelle: I write the stories God puts on my heart to write. If it “catches” me, I’m going to do it. And as I develop the story, I find myself noticing the themes that come up. For example, with Type N, it really was a simple thrilling story about an extraordinary circumstance but became a commentary on politics, individual freedom, forgiveness, and integrity. I didn’t know all of that would come out as I wrote, but it did. Writing can be very cathartic and in some ways helps me further shape and recognize what I do and do not stand for. Sometimes if I’m struggling with an issue in society or a personal trial, I’ll use it and share that vulnerability in my writing because…I don’t know, that’s what writers and musicians, and artists do 🙂
Miranda: Cat’s got my tongue in this one, Michelle. I mean, what else can I say to you right now? I believe I’ve said it all.
Would you be so kind to mention your works/accomplishments—books and film included—for the sake of the readers? Thank you!
Michelle: Sure. I’m the author of Type N, Taking Names, Remember Me, and Jane – all four are bestselling novels; the first two are a part of a medical thriller trilogy (to be completed this winter) and the other two are standalone romances. I’ve also written and directed two short films: Writer’s Block and An Apology – both can be seen on my website: www.mnomedia.com.
Miranda: Well done, Michelle! Looking forward to following your work!
What word of advice would you give to someone who wants to become a successful author?
Michelle: Focus on the craft of storytelling first. If you write excellently, your readership will grow. I think I mentioned this in an article I wrote here. I equate writing books to building a house: the quality of the story is the foundation, the production and quality of the book (formatting, cover, etc) are the walls and marketing it is like the roof. Marketing is important (I use goodreads, have readers who faithfully share the book on forums); but if you don’t have something worth reading, all the marketing in the world won’t work. Start with telling the best story possible, pray to the Lord for guidance, and obey His lead.
Miranda: Amen to that.
What word of advice would you give to anyone venturing into the screen-writing business?
Michelle: I don’t have much advice because I’m still new in this area. Invest in a good book on the business of screen-writing. Learn how to write a screenplay. The format and style of screen-writing is extremely different than novel writing. I highly recommend The Hollywood Standard as the go-to book on writing a screenplay properly. I also use Final Draft software to get all of the proper indentations. If you’re going to be a screenwriter, prepare to persevere. It is not a business for the faint of heart.
Miranda: I agree with you. I’ve been a book blogger longer than I’ve been an entertainment blogger, and I can tell you that the rules that apply are NOT the same. Truly, entertainment done right is NOT for the faint of heart.
THIS or THAT (The fun Questions!)
Coffee, Tea or Mocha? Mocha – I LOVE a good mocha. To me, a good one is 95% chocolate, 5% coffee 🙂
Heels or Flats? Heels – though, I admit I wear flats more often these days. Hey! Me, too!
Boots or Sandals? Boots – I love Fall specifically so I can wear my cute boots!
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate
Ice cream or Shakes? Ice cream – only if it’s butter pecan 🙂
Juice or Smoothie? Smoothie – I’m a smoothie nut! Me? Juice baby!
Rain or Snow? It depends on if I have to be out and about. Snow to watch, rain to be in. Nice.
Spring or Fall? Spring for my mood, Fall for my wardrobe 🙂 LOVE the way you think!
Summer or Winter? Summer
Cooking or Cleaning? Cooking
Breakfast or Dinner? Breakfast for dinner 🙂 Cute!
Movies or Books? Oh, you can’t ask me that!! How about both? Haha! I know the feeling!
Dresses or Pants? Pants
Gym or Outdoor? Gym – it took me a while but I work out best in the gym.
Thank you, Michelle, for visiting today! 🙂 Thanks for having me, Miranda! Blessings to you!
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About Michelle Onuorah
Michelle Onuorah is the award-winning author of Type N, Double Identity, and Wanna Be on Top? Originally from Maryland, Michelle grew up with a love of storytelling. She wrote down some of her stories in a notebook and continued to write for fun. At the tender age of thirteen, she wrote her first book, Double Identity, and got it published the next year. Her debut novel Type N recently hit the Bestseller List on Amazon. Her follow up novel is the much-loved, critically acclaimed romance, Remember Me, which remained a bestseller for two months straight in the summer of 2014. A graduate of Biola University, Michelle continues to write and publish under her company, MNO Media. You can learn more about her at www.mnomedia.com, like her page here and follow her work here.