Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Writing for Two....Anna Michaels

The authors on this blog have been asked to reveal what it’s like to live with a writer. Since my dogs don’t write and don’t speak in a language I can decipher (except for the wagging tail), I’ve decided to tell you what it’s like to write for two. 

Please bear in mind that I speak only for myself. 

Actually, I speak for Peggy Webb, too, since she and I are one and the same. Anna Michaels is the pen name I chose after my muse went wild and dragged me into uncharted territory.

For more than twenty years I enjoyed the simplicity of being one person who wrote romance and women’s fiction. As Peggy, I romped around with heroes of every type (alas, only the fictional kind), usually while flexing my comedic muscles. Though I have written dramatic romance women’s fiction, I generally didn’t silence my comic muse.  Early on, readers dubbed me the “Queen of Comedy,” and many years later, Romantic Times honored my contributions to romantic comedy with a Pioneer Award.

Meanwhile, my muse picked up a brass lamp and knocked somebody in the head.

Wait a minute!  I don’t write mystery.

Oh, but you will.

I compromised with my muse about the mystery thing by throwing in a basset hound who thinks he’s the reincarnated Elvis. That brought me back to familiar territory - comedy.  I discovered I could segue from romance to mystery with hardly a blink.  While I wrote, I listened to the same background music – blues – drank the same green tea chai and sat in the same chair, a little blue swivel thing I’d had since the early days of my career. I was still Peggy.

And then I dreamed Pony Jones.  You’ve heard me tell this story. You’ve probably seen my blog posts about her.  She’s my favorite narrator in The Tender Mercy of Roses.

Pony was unlike any character I’d ever created; her story was unlike any I’d ever told.  When I started putting her story on paper, the words flowed from a different creative stream. The story forced me to dig deeper that I ever had. 

Blues didn’t work for Pony. I had to listen to Native American flutes. And green tea chai got bumped in favor of Mayan chocolate made from scratch, just a touch of cinnamon and red pepper. Even my chair no longer fit. (We won’t talk about weight.) When I wrote Pony’s story I had to get a beautiful black leather office chair that makes me feel as if I’m cushioned in clouds.

Unexpectedly, I had become Someone Else.  Someone young and skinny, I thought. Someone tall and beautiful.  Her name would be Anna, a name that has been in my family for years in several variations, a warm, approachable woman I’d like to know.  And her last name would be Michaels, a name that put me smack in the middle of the alphabet and (I hope) in the center of bookshelves, a name that brings back memories so astonishing I smile everything I think of them.

Writing for two is not easy. I maintain two distinctive writing styles, meet two deadlines, keep up with two websites, two Facebook pages, two of everything!

But the lovely part is that I’ve given my muse wings. Nothing is impossible. If she dreams it, there are two people waiting to write it - Peggy Webb and Anna Michaels, who turned out not to be Somebody Else, after all.

Anna Michaels is having a wonderful time seeing long-time fans and meeting new ones as she travels Mississippi and neighboring states to sign copies of The Tender Mercy of Roses.  Anna will sign this Saturday, June 4th, at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville. The book is available in hardcover from Simon & Schuster as well as e-format. She invites you to visit her at http://www.annamichaels.net/ and on her FACEBOOK fanpage.        


Sarah Tokeley said...

One of the nicest posts I've read about pen names in a long time :)

Anna Michaels said...

Thank you so much, Sarah!

Man Martin said...

It's interesting how we need different ambiance for different books - background music, even furniture. Can't wait to read the new book.

Frederica said...

Oh my god, there's so much useful material in this post!