Interview: Michelle Richmond – multi-award-winning & New York Times best-selling author – VIDEO

Michelle Richmond in Conversation

Many readers of MyFrenchLife Magazine long to live in Paris and/or to become a best-selling author. Meet Michelle Richmond. She has been fortunate and talented enough to experience both. In conversation with Michelle recently we explored her life in Paris for around two years prior to and the early part of the Pandemic, how she goes about her writing, highlights of her writing career, and the learning from her experiences and tips to aspiring writers.

I became acquainted with Michelle via Substack where she has three sites, and she agreed to join me in a conversation, as I knew the MyFrenchLife Magazine readers would be interested in her story.

Michelle Richmond is a multi-award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of literary suspense novels and essay collections. She is renowned for her craft of writing thrilling narratives centered around ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

Her talent for creating gripping suspense and richly developed characters takes us, the reader, into all the depths of human emotions and unforeseen complexities in her works, some of which are:
The Year of Fog‘, ‘The Wonder Test‘, and ‘The Marriage Pact‘. ‘No One You Know, ‘Dream of the Blue Room‘, ‘Golden State, and the award-winning ‘Girl in the Fall-Away Dress‘.

(This video is 33 minutes duration. If you don’t have time to watch it in one sitting I’ve provided time milestones to enable you to dive in and out more easily.)

The young Michelle Richmond

I said that I was keen to get to know the young Michelle, to which she responded:

I grew up in what we call in the US, the deep-south in Alabama and on the Gulf Coast. And I did not grow in a up in a literary family. It was a very working-class family. We didn’t have a ton of books around, but we used to visit my grandparents in rural Mississippi. And they had all these Readers Digest condensed books, and they would always let me take them home.

I grew up in an evangelical church, so the sound of and rhythm of language was ingrained in my brain very early from like those church days.

And also, being from a southern family, there were lots of stories around the dinner table… I didn’t know any writers or anything like that. Storytelling was always a big part of just daily life. And of course, my mother read to me when I was little, and I had books that really stuck with me and were dear to my heart.

I remember one of the most precious books to me was called Old Hasdrubal and the Pirates by Berthe Amoss and it was set in Louisiana. The language was just so rich and strange and magical. That’s the first book that really got into my mind. It made me think about the way language works, to sort of cast a spell.

I think I knew from the time I was probably 10 years old that I was going to be a writer.

What attracts Michelle’s readers?

In her view, Michelle tells us what readers find attractive about her work. (04:10)

My books are across genres, they tend to be a sort of literary suspense. Not always… one of my early books called The Year of the Fog was the first time I really did a mystery, but it’s a literary mystery. I’m always interested in sort of the intellectual situation as, as much as I am in the premise that sets you going on the book.

I think sometimes people might enjoy that aspect. I often try to weave a lot of things into one book. And it’s not necessarily that I set out to do that, it’s just kind of how it works out. I’ll have all these disparate elements that sort of come together in one book. And I think maybe people respond to that. I don’t know. But that’s kind of how I enjoy writing.

How does Michelle approach character development & plot structure?

I was curious about Michelle’s methods and techniques for character development. You’ll find out how she goes about this at (05:49) of the video of our conversation.

I find myself intrigued by plot structure and development. I can’t imagine how one manages complex plots such as in many of Michelle’s books. She’s definitely a ‘pantser’ as opposed to a ‘plotter‘, whereas the Harry Potter author, JK Rowling is very much a ‘plotter’. (If these terms are new to you you’ll find a good explanation here.) Michelle generously shared how she approaches plot development. Fascinating!

Let’s go to France now

Then we moved on to chatting about France. (13:03) Michelle was well prepared as she’d brought a glass of rosé for this part of the conversation. Her answer really paints a picture of what it was like living in Paris then, I could really feel the various emotions as she spoke. Don’t miss it.

Influential memories

At (20:06) I asked Michelle if there were any stand-out memories or experiences, of living in Paris, that had influenced her in terms of her personal life or writing, to which she said:

It definitely affected my writing. I came to absolutely adore my walks around deserted Paris. Yeah. And one of the most special things about it was, I mean, it was a scary time to be there, but I remember going on these walks, everything is closed, but within my one kilometre, there were galleries. So, I walked by galleries with small art galleries and you could still look in and there was art in the windows. But it was this very special experience of Paris to be walking down a completely deserted avenue – running down the middle of the road – not a person in sight with the Arc de Triumph in front of you. I mean, it was really amazing.

Current projects – Next books

I was looking forward to Michelle sharing a little about the projects she’s working on at the moment. She told us about a novel based in Paris that she’s still writing. Its a sequel to ‘The Wonder Test‘ – you can learn a lot about the storyline from (21:11)… Michelle continued:

I work kind of in a weird way where I work on a lot of things at once and I don’t always focus my time where I should.

And the book that has been really dear to my heart ever since leaving Paris that I’m still working on is a collection of essays about living in Paris. And I’m working on that at the same time.

So I would say that has our life in Paris influenced that book even more than the novel set in Paris. Like it is emotionally dear to me, that book. I’m working on that one and I’ve mostly finished it.

Rewarding aspects of Michelle’s life as an author

Our conversation progressed to talk about Michelle’s life as an author.  Michelle shared many superb highlights of her professional career that you’ll need to listen to it yourself to fully appreciate. (25:29) Some of the most rewarding aspects of her writing career, the joyful, delightful, and amazing…

The highlights that are particularly relevant to this audience are:

  • working with her French publisher and being involved in the selection of gorgeous artwork for her novels
  • working with Sophie Aslanides who translated some of her books into the French language
  • an outstanding highlight has been how French readers have responded to her work, specifically L’année Brouillard

I thought the reception of L’année Brouillard by France was truly one of the most special moments in my publishing lifeThat still means so much to me. And then the other big highlight, I think, I just felt like they got it like my French readers really got it. Got it! And that was so special

Advice for aspiring writers

In closing Michelle shared her advice for aspiring writers, especially in the context of challenges she’d faced, and still does, sometimes. (30:23) Common sense but sage advice to make a note of.

What a delight to talk with Michelle, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy watching the complete interview. It was fascinating to prepare and a fun conversation. So… dear readers and MyFrenchLife members we have two new books from Michelle Richmond to look forward to, a novel, and a Collection of essays, both based in Paris! So, watch this space.

Can you relate to Michelle’s life in Paris or her life as an author? Do you have any questions for her? Please show your gratitude to Michelle for this generous interview in the comments below.

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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