Today I want to welcome fellow Wisconsin author, Michele Olson. I asked her to do an author interview with me and she graciously agreed. Michele and I met through a friend of mine and a family member of hers. I enjoyed reading her book, Being Ethel (In a World That Loves Lucy), very much. After Michele’s interview I share my book review.
What inspired you to write Being Ethel (In a world that loves Lucy)?
I think I have a different taste when it comes to books, and I wanted to write something that was unique but meaningful. Using all the things I love in real life, even though the story is fictional, made it fun to write. I am a big I Love Lucy fan, a fan of Old Hollywood, and a fan of Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel. I combined all those quirky things, even the fact the story starts out in San Francisco, (I love that city) into a story.
I’m guessing you enjoy watching I Love Lucy.
Are you Ethel or Lucy? Why?
I’m a big collector and huge I Love Lucy fan! There is a point made in my book, which I think is true. We all want to be Lucy, and perceive ourselves that way, however, we are all probably closer to Ethel. The question the book explores through fiction is: Is it okay to be Ethel? Why do we want to be the front and center person? Do we miss out because we are focusing on being the main character?
Have you always wanted to author books? When did writing creatively first begin in your life?
It was a far-off dream ever since I went to the library as a kid and poured over each new Nancy Drew book. I loved that series. I started working right out of high school as a writer for WISN TV in Milwaukee and went into a radio/TV/Marketing/Copy writing career that I am still doing 46 years later! Writing a book was a dream, but when you write for a living professionally, it’s not easy to do that at the end of an 8-hour day already filled with writing. I also didn’t know if I could do it, but as time went on, I became more and more interested to find out. In 2016 and 2017 I started exploring courses online and learning more about it. I ended up taking a class with the author of the hugely successful Left Behind Series, Jerry Jenkins. He said that if we finished our novel by November 2018, we would be invited to meet him and our fellow classmates in Nashville. That deadline is what really propelled me to work hard on Being Ethel. I worked on in for three years but got serious in 2017. We had a great meet up, I met him, and we stay in touch through a Facebook page for that class. My fellow authors have been a great encouragement and help in this writing journey.
What do you love most about the setting: Mackinac Island?
My husband and I have been going to the island for over 35 years and stayed at the Grand for over 15 years. It is one of my favorite places on earth. Through all those years, I have come to know it well. What I loved about making it the setting of the book is the feeling that I was there when I was writing. I remember in years past going to the bookstore on the island and buying every book I could that had a story set there, so I could take it home and feel like I was still connected. It’s a huge joy to be able to provide that for someone else now as an eBook, paperback, or audiobook.
How did your faith story influence Piper’s, your main character?
I made the decision that if I was going to put the time into writing fiction, it had to have a purpose beyond entertainment. That purpose is to also impart and open the reader up to the greatest story ever told through my character’s story viewpoint. Piper had a lot happen in her young life, and she continued to struggle. It’s her friendship with a quirky I Love Lucy loving nun that opens the door to the answers she needs. The peace and faith I have in Jesus, I want my characters to find. They aren’t afraid to ask some hard questions about faith, just like the readers have experienced.
How has your past experience in radio, marketing, and advertising helped you on this current journey of being a self-published author? What marketing tips would you give other authors?
As an indie published author, meaning there is not a traditional publishing house helping with any of the steps, there is so much to do! I think most people would agree that writing the book is the easiest part. What comes after can be overwhelming. As far as tips, it’s like any other product. You are telling as many people as you can in as many different venues as possible. I’m always reaching out, and even if I don’t see any immediate rewards, I keep going. I do think it was easier for me to produce an audiobook because of my background as a pro voice person. I’m used to working with professional studios and I have a small studio in my home office. This world however is a bit different than what I’m used to so I’m always learning.
What lessons have you learned on the self-publishing path?
It’s a business first and foremost. If a new author doesn’t market and reach out, the book will probably go nowhere beyond an immediate circle of people. It’s very time consuming and as someone who still works in a normal job on top of this, it’s not easy. However, it’s something you can keep at and the learning never stops.
You are working on a series of books. Can you give us a brief description of what the second and third book in the Mackinac Island will be about?
Yes, I hope to have the second out by the end of 2020. It’s Being Dorothy (In a world longing for home). The first chapter is in the back of Being Ethel (In a world that loves Lucy). Being Ethel takes place in 1979, Being Dorothy will be 1980, and the characters from the first book become secondary characters in the next book. There are going to be some cats introduced in the second book, and until Sept. 1st, I’m giving people the chance to name the cats. I’m looking for names that relate the story, and names that Piper Penn would pick. The guidelines to name the cats is at my website: www.LakeGirlPublishing.com/blog. The third book takes place in 1981 Being Alice (In a world lost in the looking glass), and still on Mackinac Island. Each story can stand on it’s own, but if you read them in order, you’ll appreciate more depth of the characters from the book before.
Tell us about your birthday book, Five Easy Steps to a Happy Birthday.
This is a nonfiction gift book, something you could give instead of a card, that assures no adult ever has to have a ho-hum birthday ever again. If anyone follows these five tips, they will always have a happy birthday on their terms. It’s written with humor, but the tips are real. I highly recommend it for anyone to have a happy birthday, and as a gift. Also, because it’s about being prepared for your birthday, you don’t have to wait for your birthday to get it.
My books are available everywhere including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also ask your favorite bookstore to order it in, or ask your library to get a copy.
I love to connect with readers, so I invite everyone to check out my website for more of my story, to see some of my artwork, to hear my audio demos, and listen to the first chapter of Being Ethel (In a world that loves Lucy). www.lakegirlpublishing.com
Connect with Michele via:
Being Ethel (In a World That Loves Lucy) brought back many pleasant memories of Mackinac Island. I toured the island several times as a youngster with my grandma. We took a horse-drawn ride around the island, ate at the fancy Grand Hotel, and shopped in the cute tourist shops.
Olson creates a lovable and relatable character in Piper, a young woman who has experienced plenty of heartache. Piper comes to the island to claim a tourist shop and property which were left to her by a relative who died. She works as an extra on the set of the movie Somewhere in Time. There she meets Cameron, who becomes a friend and then soon something more.
A nun on the island befriends Piper. Together they talk about life and its hardships and deep questions of faith while watching the TV show, I Love Lucy. Piper sympathizes with and sees herself more as Ethel rather than Lucy, feeling like she’s always played second fiddle in life, but Piper’s nun friend and Cameron see something more in her. However, amidst an arson and theft, suspicions run high, and Piper is not even sure she can trust Cameron.
I found this book an easy, cozy read with a little romance and mystery.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for plot, characters, and storyline
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ a more active voice in sentence structure would have added a richer depth to the book
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for a clean read with meaning
I look forward to more books by Olson in the Mackinac Island Story series.
Thanks for reading!
Do you have a book that’s written by an author from your state of residence that you enjoyed reading? If so, leave a comment and let me know!
Happy reading! J