Sept. 14, 2022

Finding solace in romance with Michelle Major

Finding solace in romance with Michelle Major
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Michelle Major wrote 40 books in 10 years. Forty books! Ten years! We dig into a lot of stuff in this episode, including how she was 30 when she read her first romance and she turned to the genre as a form of solace for a super stressful day job, why we both think the romance community is the best community, and how we love writing the sidekick characters! And we both nerd out over The Boys. This was one of my favorite interviews to record – listen to the end because we’re talking about throbbing c*cks! Plus I read steamy snippers from her book Wedding Season. Hawt, as the kids say.

Connect with Michelle online:

This episode is brought to you by The Groomsday Prophecy, my next release! This gender-swapped Runaway Bride kicks off a new small-town series. Coming out on October 6, the book is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be in KU!


Elle 0:00
Michelle Major is the USA Today best selling author of over 40, four-zero, sexy and sweet contemporary romances. She loves second chances. The second chance love stories, smart heroines and strong heroes, a Midwestern or at heart. She's made the Rocky Mountains her home for nearly half her life and is thrilled to share her books with readers. Welcome, Michelle to steam sands, thank you so much for being here.

Michelle 0:27
Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk to you today.

Elle 0:31
So 40 books?

Michelle 0:33
Yes, I think actually. I'm drawing close to 50. Now at this point, so I love it. I feel very honored to do this as a career.

Elle 0:47
How long have you been writing?

Michelle 0:50
My first book was published in 2013.

Elle 0:56
Okay, so this is like 50 books in the past? God were like, 10, nine years.

Michelle 1:01
Yeah. So I always had this goal for myself to hit 50 published books in 10 years, so I feel I'm on track to do that. Oh, oh,

Elle 1:13
well done. So how many books does that work out to a year for you?

Michelle 1:18
Um, you know, between the i Right now I am writing both smaller category line books and the bigger single title books. Okay, so between those between the two lines, that works out to about six or seven books a year?

Elle 1:36
Oh, that's a lot.

Michelle 1:38
It feels when I say it. It feels like a lot. When I'm sort of in the minutia of of writing it. It just feels like what I do. So

Elle 1:49
I'm kind of curious, do you write like, do you have like several titles going at once? Or are you like one book one book one book?

Michelle 1:57
I am in the in the writing phase in the drafting? I am. I really do best if I can concentrate on one book, but I'm always editing a different book at the same time. So typically, you know, I'll do my writing in the morning or, or I'll do my editing in the morning if the words aren't coming well, but i i Time block and chunk how I do

Elle 2:23
it. Okay, that seems like a smart. Yeah, the smartest way to do it. During the pandemic, I was sort of able to do that, where I would do my writing in the morning, and then I would work on editing in the afternoon. But like now that you know, stuff is sort of back to normal and my jobs are all coming back. It's I'm like, yeah,

Unknown Speaker 2:39

Michelle 2:40
balance. I think we've all gotten out of the habit of having the real world be part of our lives. And it's exciting to have it back. But it's also an adjustment.

Elle 2:53
Yeah, no, I like the pandemic. I'm one of the few weirdos that was like, can't bring it back. Bring it back.

Michelle 3:01
Yeah, for those of us who like just being alone in our houses, it was it was sort of a comfy time. It really was it

Elle 3:08
was like this is the best thing ever. All right, so you said you love Second Chance love stories. The second chance is your jam. I want to sort of ask you why do you love them?

Michelle 3:20
You know, I love second chance because writing contemporary romance and street contemporary without a bit of thriller, no historical, the emotion is the emotion is really my jam. And so I feel like you can set up characters so fast and get the reader hooked in so quickly with the second chance because they have this built in history. And more often than not, there was a falling out or a broken heart or something has happened to set up the conflict and I just love being able to dive right into that. Yeah,

Elle 4:05
and then you don't get that sort of like I mean, do you struggle with Insta love? Do you live with that?

Michelle 4:11
I do you struggle a little bit with Insta love I think that it has to be done very carefully. And I think even when I'm as a reader I feel like there are things I like to do as a writer and then you know, I write contemporary which I love historical romance is my is my candy to read. But yeah Insta love it has to be done I think very carefully for it to feel authentic.

Elle 4:44
Yeah, because you know when you're doing like a second chance or you're doing a friends to lovers or even an enemies to lovers, there's a history there between the characters that you can mine, that that they can have those sorts of feelings but when you're planting to strangers together, and you need that sort of spark to happen. And then you and that's where you have that instant. Like, that's tricky. That's really tricky.

Michelle 5:08
Right? I think it's tricky too. And I think, I think we'll get into talking about more of the steamy stuff. But when you're writing intimate scenes, it's tricky there too, because I am a big fan of sex for the act of physical pleasure. But when you're writing romance, they're also to me in those the best sex scenes are when they're connecting on kind of that soul deep essence level. And so that has to the physical chemistry has to be as believable as the emotional connection.

Elle 5:46
Yeah, exactly. And it's funny, because we're going to talk about that, but I see that in the scene that you that you sent up to me, and I sort of flagged it, and it was sort of about, okay, I'm not gonna talk, I'm gonna save it. I'm gonna save it, I'm gonna say. But it does have to do with like, how you proceed, how you wrote it, and what you left out. I'm gonna just, I'm just gonna, like, leave it there, what you left out, and how that worked. that not a lot of that. I see. A lot of writers are not leaving it out. And I think that it's often to the detriment of the story. Okay, so there's a little, oh my gosh, like little cliffy there, nIESR, you'll have to listen to this whole interview. So okay, so you got your start in 2013, with your first published book, were you writing before that? What were How did you come to this?

Michelle 6:39
You know, I was writing I was I was dabbling in writing. I had a full time job. And I had two little kids. And it was, it was very naive of me to think, because I transition to working from home and I thought, oh, I'll just do this writing thing when my children nap and sleep, which is what babies do, but not on any sort of schedule, I came to find out. So it took me it, it took a few years, which I'm grateful for now. Because I really spent some time learning the craft and going to classes and kind of figuring out what what I didn't know, before I started really pursuing it. Seriously. You know,

Elle 7:31
it's funny, I wanted to be a writer when I was, you know, in college, and I went to school for it. And then, you know, it was like, the real world happened. And I was like, Oh, you gotta go get a job, you know, and, and I kind of ended up being sort of like writer adjacent in my career and sort of felt like, oh, well, I guess that's going to be enough for whatever reason, but I also feel like that was probably a blessing. I don't think I could have written what I write. Now, I don't think I would have written what I write now when I was in my 20s. And I think that would have been a big mistake.

Michelle 8:02
Right? Yes. And I had a very similar journey to that. Well, when I was when I was going off to college and wanted to be an English major, my dad, bless his heart said, that's great. But you can't be an English major, because you can't make a living at that. So I was a journalism major, which seemed like the next best thing. Then I got out into the real world. And it just wasn't the kind of writing I wanted to do. But it wasn't until I was almost 30 that I even read a romance novel and I just one up, you know, which I think is very different than a lot of people, you know, who sort of stole their grandmother's harlequins back in the day, I was, I was late to the genre. And but as soon as I did, I was like, Oh, my gosh, these are the stories in my head. I could do this. This is I have found my people. No, it was a really special special discovery.

Elle 9:10
Now how Why do you think that you because they were the stories in your head, so why didn't you find the genre earlier? I'm curious.

Michelle 9:18
I think because I had, you know, no one around me was reading romance. I think a lot of people who come to it early, you know, it is passed down from a mom or grandmother and aunt, nobody around me was reading, romance. And I was raised. Just honestly to sort of, you know, shrug off the genre, like a lot of people do and focus on you know, big literary books or the heavy Oprah books and I read a lot across a lot of different areas. But But yes, the story is in my head. And when I go back to the things, the stories that I loved as a kid like Anne of Green Gables, and it was Anne and Gilbert. That's what I loved was their chemistry and dynamic. And Jo, and Laurie and all of the couples of my childhood, I think, gosh, there were so many clues that I should have picked up on.

Elle 10:23
Yeah, yeah, it's really funny, I think. And that's where I think like, in my 20s, I would have tried to write the great American novel, like all caps, right, like, because that's what I thought I was supposed to do, or that's what I was told I was supposed to do. If I'm going to write it needs to be, you know, meaningful roading. And the thing is, like, a for me, like writing a romance novel isn't meaningful. You know, it's meaningful writing, you know,

Michelle 10:48
it is meaningful. And I think of the times, you know, I have very clear memories of, you know, of times in my life that were really difficult. And these sort of uplifting romance stories. Were a solace to me as a reader, and I think as writers if that's what we are giving to the world and to our readers. That is amazing. So yeah, I, I, you know, now I don't really care what people think about what I write because I love it. And my fans love it. And I adore being part of this community.

Elle 11:33
Absolutely. And the readers are like the best. Yeah, I think my I like I love my readers, I think romance readers are the absolute best people in the world.

Michelle 11:42
The best. And,

Elle 11:44
you know, it's sort of, you know, I, there's just a, I don't know, like, just there's like, genuineness in the community, I think and there's, you know, a genuine kindness and a sort of understanding that. I don't know, it's kind of like uplifting, I suppose. I mean, not to say like, I mean, there are always parts that aren't so pretty. But there is like a general sense of like a rising tide, right. And we're gonna, like lift everybody up amongst the authors and amongst the fans and the readers. And, like, it's just a really great community to be a part of,

Michelle 12:13
I agree. And I think we have this, we have this thing in common. Now, whether it's through the books, or like the Bridgerton series getting made into the Netflix show, you know, the romance community has a wonderful uplifting foundation in common. So I agree with you. I hope that you know, we, the tide, we lift everyone up.

Elle 12:43
Yeah. So I'm curious, since you were 30. When you read your first romance, what book was,

Michelle 12:48
so I don't remember the exact it was a Joanna Lindsey,

Elle 12:53
it was a Joanna Lindsey. Yes, it was, I

Michelle 12:56
got it in the Denver Airport. I was having to fly i It was during bubble, and I was in HR and I was laying off people around the country. I develop this horrible fear of flying. So I just picked up this book randomly. And the flight was no problem. And then I began and then after that, it was actually Julia Quinn. It was an offer from a gentleman it was Benedict story that that was the second book I picked up. And from there, I was just completely hooked.

Elle 13:36
Oh, wow. Okay, so you were I kind of love this because I'm not a great flier. And so you develop the fear of flying with it from like, stress of the job.

Michelle 13:45
It was stressful. I think it was stressed at the job. One it if you're flying west out of Denver, there's almost always turbulence as you go out and come in over the mountains. But yeah, so I was traveling to San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Portland. And I was laying people off every week. And it was it was a horrible, horrible ending to that part of my career. So yeah, I got really stressed out about flying and I'm, I'm better now, I think, but it lasted for a while.

Elle 14:24
Wow, that reminds me of that. George Clooney movie. Did you see that one he has up in the air in the air. Yeah. Where he's like flying. He like flies everywhere to just lay people off.

Michelle 14:33
Yes, it was very much like that.

Elle 14:36
Oh, man, and that's wild. And so you sort of ended up finding solace in these books?

Michelle 14:42
I did. I did. And I was I was actually getting married at the time. I was planning a wedding and yeah, it just from there. I started reading everything I could get my hands on and initially when I thought about being a writer, I I wanted to write historical romance because that was what I had started reading. And I, I loved that I and I still do love that genre. It has a lot of detail and research. And I found that that wasn't, it wasn't exactly the best for my voice or for my ability to care about the details of what a woman is wearing, although I love reading those details. And then at some point, I picked up one of the Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Chicago stars books. And I was like, oh, okay, this is this is me. So

Elle 15:44
I'm kind of curious how you did make that transition from romance reader to romance writer, like, at what point were you sort of like, okay, I'm going to write this book, I'm going to write a book.

Michelle 15:54
Well, so I was, I was laying people off, and my company was going bankrupt. So I knew that my job was ending. And, and so I was transitioning into a consulting role for someone. And really, as soon as I just immersed myself in the genre, more stories started popping up in my head. And you know, I'm sure you get the question, I get the question a lot. You know, how do you think of ideas? How do you you know, and I get my ideas from everywhere, you know, a conversation, something I overhear a little snippet of the news. But I feel like, this is how my brain works. I don't do a lot of things naturally well, but my brain works that if somebody tells me a detail, I can turn it at, you know, I'm a storyteller at heart. So, it, it seemed like a natural progression once I found romance and loved it so much that, you know, I always loved writing growing up, and this is, you know, felt very real.

Elle 17:07
Yeah, okay, I get that because I, you know, for for me, like I've started, like changing stories. So I'd watch a movie or TV show or read a book. And I would completely change that story in my head. So I would just finish it, and I would go, you know, what should have happened? And then I like kind of rewrite the story. And then eventually, eventually, I was like, Well, this is stupid. Why don't you write your own damn story? You have the skill, you know, you just need to sit down and do it. And so I did.

Michelle 17:40
I love it.

Elle 17:42
I still do it though. I'll still like be like, Oh my god, they should have done this. Like a Monday morning quarterback everybody else's stuff. Which I'm not you know, I don't I really don't recommend. But I'm like, Oh, I wish that's what happened in the stat and or side characters, you know, go off and make up little stories for side characters.

Michelle 18:01
Yes, yes. Secondary characters are the best. I

Elle 18:04
love sidekicks. They're my favorite. Me too. When I started writing, I start actually started. Well, I started reading novels. I was reading an urban fantasy, urban fantasy genre, and not romance. And I just did a transition and so but urban fantasy was like my favorite. I got to write some great sidekicks. There's not as much room for sidekicks and romance as I'd like. But you always need that sort of like team of supernatural fighters for for urban fantasy usually need like a little team. And and and so you got a lot of really great sidekicks.

Michelle 18:37
That is, that is so fun. I will tell you I am a huge movie fan of any thing. Superhero or in anybody's universe. So and I love all the side characters that they they add. Are you do you watch the boys? I was just getting the trailer for season three. I can't wait for that show to come back. It is so good. Yes. And that's one where it feels like everybody is just so well off the rails and rich and nuanced in what's gonna happen next. I love it.

Elle 19:21
Oh my god, it I had I went into that show thinking it was going to suck too. I don't know about you. But I had such low expectations for that show. Which I know it was by Eric crypkey, who created supernatural another show I absolutely loved. And but he did what was he did a show in between that he left supernatural for he left show of showrunning supernatural to do this show that was also on the same network. And I can't remember what it was, but it was kind of god awful. And so I was like, Oh, he's he's probably one of those people that don't have like the one good show in em, right. And then he did the boys and I was like, oh, it's probably gonna suck. It is perfect.

Michelle 19:59
Yeah, and I I think it's, you know, I had the same thing when I first you know, saw it and home lander and I was like, Okay, what, what exactly is this? And is this just going to be too much of a caricature or cheesy that they've turned this all on its head but gosh, it's amazing

Elle 20:19
it is I cannot wait for it to come back. It's like, it's like, I know it's coming soon too. So I'm getting really excited about Would you ever write a superhero romance or like an urban fantasy, like paranormal or something like that?

Michelle 20:35
I feel like I, I would, I would. I just haven't had I haven't had the idea yet. So but, but I would love to explore that and really build build a world from there.

Elle 20:51
Yeah. I want to sort of go back to tropes for a second because I'm so for your book, The Wedding Season, which just came out and I've got this that's the steamy scene. I really love the setup. So you've got your two characters. Mariela is our main character and she is bridal designer. And she has I'm sorry, I'm blowing this maybe you should explain.

Michelle 21:22
Mariela was a very famous sort of Vera Wang ish, their level of bridal dress designer. And then, but you know, she was kind of a mess in her personal life and then discover that her fiance was having an affair with one of her brides who happened to be a famous Hollywood actress. And she went in and kind of had this moment where she broke up the wedding of her client, to this man, Alex Ralston, who ends up being the hero of this story. And it was it was a bad as a low point for her. It went viral, she torpedoed her career. And so now she's come to this small town of Magnolia, North Carolina. She opened a Resale Boutique, she's been convinced to help work on an in and she's slowly rebuilding her life on her terms. And then the man Alex, who, you know, is the reminder of everything she did wrong in her past. moves to town.

Elle 22:37
I love it. So this is kind of second chance, but not really.

Michelle 22:41
Yeah, little bit of second chance, some enemies to lovers. And it ends up just because of how I wrote Mariela being a reverse grump and sunshine, where she is very, very prickly. And, you know, Alex, I really, because she was so and I had set her up in previous books as so sort of combative, and had this really hard show that I just felt like I wanted to give her somebody who the readers knew from the start was a really good guy like she needed that took her out of of her sort of self imposed exile. Have you

Elle 23:29
written a reverse grumpy because I wrote a reverse grumpy and I think I got dinged a little bit for it.

Michelle 23:37
I think this is my first one. I mean, I've certainly I have a tendency to write snarky heroines just because that's maybe they take out after me a little bit. But yeah, I think this is my first. My first one.

Elle 23:52
Okay. And I'm just kind of curious has have the reader has been good, okay with that, because I know, like, it's hard to find a balance between like that grumpy and just being an asshole. Right. Like, and I think that some of I don't know that I maybe I maybe I like missed the mark a little bit with some of the reader responses, although I kind of love it that she's a bit of an asshole because that's like, in her background. And that's the point, you know, as a bit that she that's what she needs to do that third defense mechanism, you know,

Michelle 24:22
yes. So I so far the readers know, longtime readers that this series, this is the this is the third book in the Carolina Girl series. So I think they were introduced to marry Allah and so they knew what to expect. I feel like I have had a great response to her. But I did put some, she also has, you know, a daughter, she didn't really know about who comes comes in. So I and I gave her I gave her a fish that she really adores. Named milk. Lee and so I did, I was pretty conscious of purposely putting some things in to show her softer side, even if it was just with, you know, the goldfish She adores, right?

Elle 25:15
I love it, you just a goldfish, that's awesome. Some people use dogs or whatever, and you're like, No goldfish.

Michelle 25:24
And again, for her, at that point, a dog was too much, even if a cat was too much, she could pretty much handle the emotional connection with a fish that tells you something about her.

Elle 25:41
That is so fantastic. What can we learn about the characters based on their choice of pets? And it's so true. That's sort of like bringing up a question for me, how do you do deep character work? Because it

Michelle 25:53
seems like you do? I do. I do. And that is, most of my books start with a character even, you know, as I'm planning a series, they start with the characters. And then sometimes it's the hero, sometimes it's the heroine. But from there, it's very much a deep dive into, okay, what happened to them? What is their journey going to be and who is the perfect person to push their buttons, but also get them to this next level where they deserve a happily ever after? So?

Elle 26:31
Oh, I kinda, I like that. So you don't necessarily have like, let's say, your heroine comes to mind first, and you're writing all of this, you don't actually have a heroin mind for them. They come up kind of after, like, after you've done the deep character work on her sometimes.

Michelle 26:43
Yeah. Now, you know, I think as you get further along in the series, as you've set things up, right, you know, I have had books where, you know, I go, Gosh, that okay, if I had to do it over again, I would not have paired these to make this work. But, yeah,

Elle 27:05
so you do have regrets?

Michelle 27:08
Yeah, sometimes when, like, wow, I made this more of a challenge than it needed to be.

Elle 27:15
I love it when I do that. I sort of only I mean, do you have a full series arc and a whole series plan? Or are you panting that a little bit I know, I pants my series, like a lunatic.

Michelle 27:28
I typically, my mind works in threes. So I typically do at least three books where I kind of have an idea where I'm going. And then as I start writing, you know, as characters either come up, or I think, oh, I need to, you know, Hero bait this a little bit, then I develop it. From there. God, I have a tendency to, to pants, the external plot where I know, there very loosely, but then it's typically about a third or three quarters of the way through the book where I'm like, Oh, now I see where this is going.

Elle 28:14
Yeah, yeah, I don't think. But yeah, it's not my favorite. It's not the best, but I'm the same way. And if I do sit down and plot something out, you know, book out, I actually just ended up like, chucking the plot halfway through anyway. So you know, so I do that I sort of do that deep character work. And then I, and then I just start writing. And I started and again, I have like, a general idea. I probably have, like, start here, go here. And here. general idea. So I mean, when I say general, Super General, and then I just start writing. And I don't know, I don't know, it's not it's not, I don't think it's the most efficient way. But it's what is

Michelle 28:53
that but again, for me, I'm the same way where it it does tend to unlock my creativity of, okay, now something comes in and I can follow that a little bit, you know, as a plot point, or an emotional beat. And that's the part that I think, you know, when you've written for a while or a lot of books, that's the part to me that keeps it fresh.

Elle 29:21
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Or maybe

Michelle 29:25
that's just me rationalizing it in my head.

Elle 29:30
This is why I do it. This is why it works. Meanwhile, I mean, I will say this, like I have so many deleted scenes that I can share with my email list. Like I'm like, Oh, you want another student you want another deleted scene here? I got another four. That's awesome. Because I just have so many of them because you know Yeah, yeah, I don't plot these suckers out. So when so do you have a mix of Do you write all open door do you have like a mix of sweet or close? The door plus,

Michelle 30:01
I think I have a mix. And I feel like I did a series several years ago for Montlake a four book series and I feel like that was that was a little steamier more open door more, you know, more of the physicality of the of the steamy scenes. And I think, you know, I also have a tendency to let my characters kind of dictate that for me a little bit. So

Elle 30:39
cool. Oh, you know, before we get into like, really the intimate bits I almost forgot to ask you about this. I, you know, was was researching and saw your piece on Writer's Digest for writing enemies to lovers, which we have and wedding season. Sort of, and you had said it was your favorite trope. And so, um, and I love that in your piece. Enemies does not mean toxic. Like that was sort of like a big pull away. And I was like, yes. Okay. And I do think that there is a tendency towards toxic sometimes and, uh, particularly, you know, like the super, super, super dark romances.

Michelle 31:19
Yes, or, you know, super, super Alpha. You know, and, and, again, I think this is where, you know, the romance genre, I mean, things evolve and, and reader sensibilities evolve. But, to me, part of romance, even if they are enemies, there is an inherent level of, you know, I don't want to say, I don't mean honor, in that, you know, I'll have my hero and my heroines do really stupid, you know, really mess up in bad ways. But I don't find anything sexy about toxic relationships. I mean, I've, you know, I've been in them, and they are not, it is not what I want to put out there. And I think, you know, again, I think that's, that's what makes enemies to lovers, for me really special is when you can do that, that conflict in the butting heads, and I love banter. And I love when a hero and heroine are really challenging each other at a lot of different levels. But as a reader, you're getting these little bread crumbs of, you know, respect and true, you know, honor and that's what makes it believable when it turns and they end up together.

Elle 33:04
Right. And that's the word I was going to toss out there is respect. I think that even though they are enemies, you know, and I'm putting I'm putting quotes can't see it, but I'm putting it like little air quotes around that even though they're enemies. There is a level of respect between the two characters that I think we're that keeps it from moving into abuse, right, like the characters have to respect each other, lest you end up in a relationship that is that is toxic, and it is no more the banter and the push and pull that you sort of enjoy with it. You know, that that, to me is the part that I enjoy with enemies to romance is that they just kind of push each other's buttons a little bit. Like they poke they poke, they poke each other, but nobody actually punches.

Michelle 33:51
Yes, that's a great way to put it. Yeah. Yeah. And

Elle 33:55
I'm curious, like, how do you know when you've crossed the line? I guess the respect you don't the something feels like oh, that that doesn't feel respectful, right. I mean,

Michelle 34:07
I think when it goes from, you know, to me, again, a lot of these characters and Mariela is a great example of that, you know, so much of her, like anger and her poking. And her prickliness Is that self defense mechanism. So to me, that's why it's really important to understand the characters and they're bad story. Now, you don't have to, you know, do the info dump. But as a writer, if we know these people, and their motivation is true. She doesn't necessarily want to hurt him. She's just lashing out which we all do, you know, because we're hurting ourselves. So I think it's important to reveal where it comes from, and you know, they're not purposely They being cruel, they're, you know, they have a lot to

Elle 35:05
learn. Yeah, it's sort of like for, for my reverse grumpy, like, for her, it was really, it was protection, it was self preservation, and it had nothing to do with the hero. You know, her responses had really nothing to do with him, it was all about self preservation for her and her kid, you know, and so that, and I think that that's where I think, you know, she, she wasn't being nasty to be, you know, just for the sake of being nasty, or because she could wait.

Michelle 35:34
And I And again, I think that's where then the glimpses of, you know, even a super, broody, alpha hero, him doing something very, you know, sweet and kind. And even that tiny thing, it means so much more when you set it up that way. But to me, there are things you know that that feel cruel or hurtful or abusive that either physically or emotionally, I can't get over as a reader. So I wouldn't put that in as a writer.

Elle 36:11
Right, exactly. And I think that, you know, another thing that you sort of talked about, and I think that it in the article, and I think really lends itself to conversations about intimacy between the characters is you're talking about trust and vulnerability, and, and your characters need to trust each other, even if they're like, guarding right, like they're guarding each other somehow, like, the characters need to trust each other to be vulnerable to go into an intimate scene, right?

Michelle 36:42
Yes, for me, they do. Yeah. 100 percent and whether the scene ends up really steamy or closed door, I think there is what makes a sex scene special in a romance to me is that they are connecting at that level of essence. And so even if, you know, they're enemies, lovers, or they're competing for some goal, you know, you have this sort of really encapsulated special moment where they're, you know, the, the mask is down and they're seeing each other in a, in a true way. And that, I think, is really hot.

Elle 37:25
Yeah, it really is. Okay, let's dig into this. I think this is a good good segue into the steamy moment, because I think that you've got some, we've touched a lot on a lot that's like, sort of like in this little scene, you know, which I think is super cool. So can you set set this up for us? Where are we in the story?

Michelle 37:45
So we are you know, so she again, and I, you know, not to do a spoiler alert, but it happens very quickly that Marissa Ella's finds that she has a daughter who she gave up for adoption, comes back to find her and sort of is in this town working for Alex. So you know, that was that that's another big plot element. But he really helps her and Heather, her daughter connect. So in this scene, they, you know, something has happened with the girl that has really shaken them both and they were together. So they are at her house, I think which, you know, just sort of the setup of the scene. It seems like a really small point. But it was important to me to put them there because she has to invite Him in not just to her house in her bedroom, but like it has to be her kind of being vulnerable.

Elle 39:10
Okay, all right. Okay. So, I was this was like the tiniest, tiniest snippet, which is like the first couple of lines that I absolutely like loved. Mariela returned from the shower 15 minutes later, and let out an appreciative gasp at her newly cleaned kitchen to do housework to the next time I decided to get married. I'm choosing you as my groom. Okay, I totally started laughing at this because I'm like, you know, first of all, you say something that just like pops out of your mouth and you're like, oh, shit, like that sort of like the regret where I'm like, oh my god, I should have never said that, like, absolutely loved that part. And I loved that. Like he cleaned I did. That she was like, oh my god, I think I'm in love with you. Tick tock post because I'm terrible at tick tock, but I have like Jason Momoa coming out of like the water and he's looking all sexy and it's like, what people think sexy is and then I have like a picture of my husband vacuuming. And I'm like, what really is

Michelle 40:18
the first sex scene that I've written that is started in the kitchen or potentially with a man unloading the dishwasher, because it's an I think somebody gave me a book a few years ago, where it was like, men doing housework. And it was all of those kind of kind of scenes. But I do think, you know, for a woman and for somebody who's really independent and used to taking care of herself, just that, that bit that he did it without being asked, that meant something to her, you know, so, again, I think sex resect sake is great. But in the context of a romance novel, where you are building this connection between them, it, it has to hit on a lot of levels for me.

Elle 41:14
And to me, the signified like when I read that immediately signified partnership, yes. Like that, like that was like, okay, like, this is like he is behaving like there's going to be a partnership here, there's going to be an even sort of like, they're coming together on this sort of like common ground and he's not going to be like the person that's like, I don't I don't wash the toilets. I don't, you know, like, you got you've already you're already sort of setting up this like, oh, partnership. Okay. All right. Yeah. So you're already kind of like getting invested, or at least I was invested in this relationship working out simply on that. Like, what three lines? Yes. Okay, okay. I promise it gets sexier. I mean, we're. Okay, another little thing. Also, just another like sentence that jumped out at May. She tried not to think about how it would feel to watch him fall in love with someone else now that they had this strange and wonderful friendship thing going on. They really liked that. Was this turning point?

Michelle 42:21
Um, I think it was it becomes a turning point. Sort of an unwilling turning point. Yes. I mean, I think she is a reluctant you know, she is somebody who comes to love reluctantly, so but yes, for sure.

Elle 42:39
Okay, all right. Okay, now we're gonna get into the bits. Okay. She took his hand and tugged on it. When he turned back she leaned in and kissed down. She tried not to put all the needs she felt and take a test. To have it be more of an open ended question. Is this the first time they kissed by the way I hate to interrupt but

Michelle 42:57
it is not. It is one. Yes. So one

Elle 43:01
other time to have it be more of an open question. He could he could choose to move forward. But if he backed away, she would respect his decision. She wasn't going to throw herself at somebody who didn't want her. To her great delight. He threaded his big hands through her hair and angled her head so that he had better access to her mouth. His tongue melded with hers, and he pulled her close as he continued to deepen the connection until their bodies were pressed together. She pulled his shirt up and over his head, feeling that she might explode if she couldn't get her hands on his skin. He let out a ragged moan when she drew her fingernails over the hard plans of his shoulders, as if he craved the feel of her skin with the same driving desire. He reached onto her shirt and spread his hands over her back when his teeth nipped at her ear lobe needs spiraled through her with the force of a tornado. It threatened to undo the protective layer she had fashioned into the foundation of her life, ripping through the segments like they were nothing more than a stack of children's blocks. Bedroom, she whispered shocked when the word came out on a needy pant. He led out a knowing chuckle when she all but sprinted down the hall, telling him along in her wake. Where's the fire? He asked. She glared at him over her shoulder but didn't stop moving. I'm not giving you the satisfaction of the Inma pants answer. As they entered the bedroom he stopped and spun her to face him. I want you Mariela. His hair was masked, his muscle chest rising and falling and unsteady breaths. And his gaze a little wild as he studied her. Dito she said in cringed. She sounded like a fool. She reached between them and cupped his erection through his through his jeans. I get that in a big way. Emphasis on big. Mariela, he gently pulled her hand away from him and linked their finger their fingers together. I want to be with you. Okay, so I assumed this long I think that that single sentence like yeah, like the lead up was amazing. And then that single sentence, I guess, like, just swept like that they just it just kind of swept me away. Oh, I'm so glad Yeah cuz you had the build the build the build and things are getting you know things are sort of progressing between them you know where this is headed. And then that one that one pause on his part it like really did just like sweep me away it was really cool.

Michelle 45:32
Thank you Well, and I I think this is where no and not that Alex is all sunshiny but I think this is where the reverse sunshine comes in where it would have been easier for Mariela if it was just sex, you know, and, and I really, you know, in writing this, I, I wanted to make sure she knew from him that it was, you know, it, it meant something so, and

Elle 46:08
it's so clear that even though like, she would be okay, if it was just sex, I don't think she would be okay. If it was just sex. Do you know, like, I think she would be okay. If you know, there's a sort of like, because she's, she's being so casual. And so like, Oh, if it doesn't work out, it's not that big of a deal. But under the undercurrent of that, to me was that she might be kind of crashed.

Michelle 46:31
Yes. Well, and because if it's not just sex, that means her emotions are involved in it, too. And that's the part that is scariest for her.

Elle 46:46
Yeah. Yeah. This is why like, I love, like, just looking at these intimate scenes, because it really does tell you so much about a character, like I haven't read the book, right. I haven't read the whole book. And but just reading the scenes and sort of seeing the interaction between the characters, like, I already know so much about them. And I think that there's so much that you can learn and see and experience with the characters through these intimate moments that you that, you know, that are that are important, obviously, to the story. But just also, you know, just speak to me as a reader.

Michelle 47:22
Right? Well, I'm glad and I think I don't know how it is for you or for other the the sex scenes, you know, again, whether and I think mine are pretty mild on the steamy level, but they take a long time to craft and to write and to figure out, you know, how this is going to work? Because I do expect them and I want the scenes to do more than just, you know, be the the sex part that you expect in a romance novel, I want them to hit on those on those different levels. And for the, for the characters and for the readers. Yeah, absolutely. I

Elle 48:06
mean, I know I slow down so much when I'm, you know, like, I can write it a good clip, and all of a sudden, I'm at that intimate moment, and I'm like, you know, 100 words an hour, like, it just, it just slows me down so much. And it kind of makes me nuts. And for a while I was just like, well, you don't have the skill to be able to write this. And that's why you're slowing down. So I'm kind of relieved to hear you say that you do the same thing.

Michelle 48:30
Well, and I do a thing that I again, I do not recommend and I have sort of trained myself out of, but because I do fast draft so I write very, you know, very quickly to, to and I don't go back and edit as I'm writing the first draft. So if I know something's going to slow me down, like a sec scene, I write, you know, I get to a certain point and then right, insert sucks. And then I finish and I'm going back and editing and I'm on deadline and I get to that and Mike

Elle 49:11
and now you're like oh shit, it's gonna take me five hours to write.

Michelle 49:15
You know, it's a whether you take it five hours during the draft or five hours during the editing process, it doesn't really change. So

Elle 49:24
yeah, I've done that I've gotten sometimes I've just gotten so frustrated. I've been like insert a taxi in here. But I do think that like my student, my intimate scenes, like I kind of like they propel my characters to the next thing. So it's like so sometimes it's hard to just sort of go Okay, put a put and put a scene in here, you know, because I need them to finish so that they can sort of like move on to the next thing, you know, to kind of advance and that's where I think um, because I've read a lot of steamy, like steamy, steamy, steamy books where there's like, God, I don't know. 1015 Sounds like there's a lot of sex in the book. Like, there's a lot. And I often wonder, like, maybe maybe I have two, three, if you're lucky. And my books, I don't have a lot of sex scenes.

Michelle 50:12
And I have a tendency I typically do, too, you know, open door semi open door, and then maybe one, you know, one more more closed door. Yeah, I'll

Elle 50:27
do a fade to black, or I'll do but yeah, but like, I don't, I don't write a lot. And I think it's because I always do want that intimate moment to propel the characters forward in some way. And so I feel like just constantly having like, if they're always having sex, as fun as that might be, where are we going with this? You know? And how are we and how are they moving forward? And I find like, I skipped over those scenes in the in books that have a lot of fun. I just ended up just kind of skipping right over them. Because I'm like, Okay, there's, I just want I want to get to more of the story because I'm more invested in the characters, I think, than the act of sex. And this is from somebody that writes steam.

Michelle 51:10
Right? Yeah. No, I totally. Yeah, I totally see that. And like I said, I read a lot of historical romance and it is can be very steamy. And I, you know, think there are people who do it really well. But yes, I have a tendency to at some point in the book. Start reading quickly in those.

Elle 51:36
Yeah, yeah, cuz Yeah, cuz sometimes I just want to get to like, Okay, what's going to happen to them? Yeah, okay. They've already had sex four times. Now. I don't want to know what's going to happen to them. Right. All right, now we're getting to the steamy bits like the real steamy bits. They made it to the bad and he curled his fingers in the waistband of her cotton pants. The air felt cool on her fiery skin as he pulled them down her legs. He towed off his shoes and stripped out of his jeans with practice deficiency to join her. The first man she'd allowed into her bed since her broken engagement. The only man she could imagine wanting there. He pulled a condom pack pocket from his wallet, so she expected things to move fast from there. But once again, Alex did the unexpected. He gave her a long deep kiss then trailed his mouth down her body as if he wanted to memorize every inch of her by taste and feel. When he stopped at the apex of her thighs. She thought about protesting. This was too much too intimate, too vulnerable for her. But you couldn't find her voice or the real desire to make him stop. In fact, she heard the word yes escape her lips. The answer to a question she wasn't even sure he'd asked out loud. The encouragement seemed to be exactly what he wanted. And he limped along her center spark shooting through her as he teased and coaxed her with his tongue and teeth. Oh, he knew his way around a woman's body. Or maybe it was just her reaction to him. He hugged her name and she stood her hands in his hair, her back arched as he drove her out of her mind with pleasure. She lost herself to it shocked when the explosion pulse threw her far more quickly and with more intensity than she could have imagined. She hadn't ever imagined feeling the shuttering bliss Alex gave her. When he moved back up her body, she reached out and grabbed the condom had tossed onto the bed next to them, because as amazing as her release had been, she still wanted more. Rolling the condom over his hotline that she nudged him between her legs, reveling in the heat. She felt rolling off him and waves Tell me again you want this he said his voice hoarse with need more than I want my next breath, she answered. She cradled his face between her hands. I want you Alex dito, he told her, then a Rip Van gripped her hips and plunged into her, filling her in a way that felt so right. They set the rhythm together steady as they moved as one emotion shimmer threw her like hummingbird wings, delicate in a way that could terrify her as she left them. So she concentrated on the sensation of their joining the way he whispered her name like a prayer and the passion that flame between them. She wasn't inexperienced, but this felt new and precious. Her eyes drifted closed as the release washed through her not as sharp or surprising as the first time it was like being bathed in golden light, and she cried out Alex's name then heard his answer and grown as he found his own climax. Oh my god, that was so amazing.

Michelle 54:31
It's weird to hear

Elle 54:37
I know I know. I'm sorry. I ages

Michelle 54:42
you know, because I'm i This book came out last month but I am several books I had now so I love revisiting. Oh, God, your connection.

Elle 54:54
Good. I know and it's it's funny because I mean ages ago I did a podcast interview where they I they made me read my own book. And I was like, and I love the I mean, it's hard to talk about these things without sort of like examples, right? And like, what are you that you know, and, and so that and I was like, well, I could have the author's Yeah. And then I'm like, oh, that's mean. That's so mean. So it's

Michelle 55:16
a huge, beautiful reading that you should be a narrator as well as a writer and all the other things you do. Oh,

Elle 55:24
thank you. I mean, you know, if it lets me quit my day jobs will definitely consider it. I need a better I need like a better studio, like my studio is my office. I don't have anything blocked off because I'm just like, I don't have room for that. But yeah, it's something that I've thought about, but I don't know if I'd be any good at it. But thank you, thank you. Okay, so I love that this is open door without being so graphic. And this is what I was teasing before and like the sort of like, the stuff you left out is like really that sort of like throbbing cock and like, you know, my pussy. Like, you know those things, which I do I do those so like, no shame, right?

Michelle 56:01
No shame. And I read those I know, I you know, and I enjoy those scenes as well.

Elle 56:06
So so but I really like love that you had this like equilibrium of it being just sexy enough so that it's open door. And we're what we're watching them were voyeurs, right, they're having their moment, but it's not as sort of like graphic as, as some people, myself included, right. And so I'm kind of like curious how you balance the just sucks enough? Have you written you? I think Montt like you said you wrote something that was more,

Michelle 56:35
you have written steamier. I, I just, and again, I don't think it was, it was, it's been a purposeful evolution, for me. And, again, I read a lot of really sexy books. And, and I, and I like that. It just, I guess, with everything I'm I'm, you know, trying to communicate or, you know, this is the level that works, that feels authentic to their story. And, you know, because I do, I mean, obviously, which I hope it is for most writers, you know, consent is a big deal for me, but, you know, I hope it is clear, you know, she's consenting to more than just the physical act. I mean, she's consenting to letting him in. And as you mentioned before, that being a turning point scene, that's the real turning point for her. It's not just the having sex, it's that she, you know, or that it's the first time she's had sex since her engagement, it's that she is letting this man in and, and I know, he understands that too, and that I think he may be gets it even more than she does, because she's still trying to deny it after it happens. It meant what it did. And, you know, it's

Elle 58:14
sort of, it's, it's really funny to sort of, like read this and be like, I don't, you know, I don't miss the graphic, Nate, like the graphic sex, like, I don't miss it, because I understand what's happening between them on like, the other because you you're really doing like that their feelings are so powerful. And you're, and you're able to write that and I think that's where I have, like, you know, quote, unquote, fail. When I'm writing romance is sometimes I don't quite trust that the emotions are enough to drive the narrative. You know, and I think that's a hard thing to trust as a writer

Michelle 58:53
thing to trust. And if you, you know, I mean, I think there is something really powerful to it again, especially the first one, if it is a very erotic and very hot scene, you know, there, there's something that can happen within the physical bits where you get that as well. So I don't think there's a wrong way to communicate. You know, what's, what's happening?

Elle 59:27
Yeah, no, absolutely. They're, absolutely not. But I do think that that's, I think that's why sort of like people are, I don't know, you know, like some writers, some people are like, Romans, it must be so easy to write that, you know, and it's just like, actually, no, it's not. It's really fucking hard.

Michelle 59:41
Really hard. And I think it's hard at any steam level. I mean, I know writers who write completely closed door, but so there's that. There's that pink song, the glitter in the air and the one line in there is the breath before the kiss. Oh, it's so powerful, right? So I think, you know, there are writers who do an amazing job really hot and you totally get what they're doing. And then there are writers who, it's completely closed door, but you still get that chemistry and that you know what that means. I almost

Elle 1:00:23
feel like close door is harder sometimes because you do have to get a lot across. And you don't have the ability of using that sort of the sort of physicality to sort of draw out the the emotions like you just have to draw out the the emotions,

Michelle 1:00:41
right? Yeah, yeah, I can see that. I mean, that's why again, when it's well done, it is you know, I just any book that is well done is a pleasure to read.

Elle 1:00:52
Yeah, absolutely. No matter what, the steam level. Better what? So where can people find you on the internet? So do you Hey, are you on? Like, what social media are you on?

Michelle 1:01:08
So mostly, I am on Instagram and then some Facebook? I don't do as much Twitter just because it it is well yes, it is. Yeah, I don't love to go on there because I get tended to get sucked down a pretty negative rabbit hole when I when I do so Instagram. And I am at Michelle, major author and on Facebook. It's Michelle major books. So

Elle 1:01:38
and I will link to those in. In the show notes. Have you done Tik Tok yet?

Michelle 1:01:44
I do have a tick tock account. I haven't done a lot with it. It is it is on my list. But I think what has held me back is my 17 year old daughter tells me how embarrassing it is for me to do that. So

Elle 1:02:00
yeah, I have an 18 year old and she doesn't care. But she's definitely not going to be following me. I'm terrified. I'm there and I do some things. But I don't know the whole thing is so terrifying.

Michelle 1:02:10
Yes, yeah. And I feel like you know, it is again, to do something like tick tock really well. I do take think takes some time and some effort. And right now I have been on kind of back to back to back deadlines. I had three books to turn in sort of in a row. And that will be ending at the end of the month. And so my plan is this summer to sort of find my tic tac feet.

Elle 1:02:41
Okay, all right, well, come find me on tick tock so we can we can cheer each other on. Because I'm trying to, I keep telling myself and I have these little spurts where I'll sit down and come up with ideas. And maybe I'll record something. So I've got a few tick tock sitting in draft, but I'm too chickenshit to let them go.

Michelle 1:03:00
Like, is it is a lot to put out there. It really

Elle 1:03:04
is. And then also like, oh, well, you need to do it three times a day. I'm like, who's got

Michelle 1:03:09
time? Right? Even if you can, I mean, I know people who are really good, like batching. And just, you know, so I follow a podcaster. I'm super into the law of attraction and sort of the universal stuff. And so I follow this podcaster out of England. And what she has talked about is she tries to remind herself that she's getting on social media, when she's doing it for her business to create content not to consume it and I have a tendency to

Elle 1:03:50
Yeah, well, it's hard not because there are some really great authors out there doing really fun tic TOCs. And you know, and there's some like I'm like totally obsessed with like, the teachers on tick tock are hilarious and gay talk is my jam. Like, I love what it's like, there's just so much fun stuff on there. And then and then and then, you know, two hours later, I'm like ocean

Michelle 1:04:13
and the beauty stuff in the hacks in the I mean, there it's it is it's an amazing world out

Elle 1:04:21
there. Yeah, it is an amazing world and and we're supposed to put up with and that's the other thing too is like, I'm like I will never be like this good. So why bother? Yes. Like my shits gonna suck. So why bother? But I know that I'm supposed to be there when I should be there, but I'll be there eventually. Maybe you do.

Michelle 1:04:41
I'll be there with you.

Elle 1:04:43
I'll be there in spirit together. Michelle, thank you so much for being here. It's been really great to have you.

Michelle 1:04:51
Thank you. This has been a wonderful conversation. I appreciate it.

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