Sunday, 15 January 2012

Author Interview & Giveaway - Michelle Isenhoff

I am very excited to be able to interview Michelle Isenhoff on my blog today.  She is the author of The Quill Pen, a beautifully written middle grade fantasy adventure novel that I loved (read review here).  She has also generously offered 2 ecopies of her book as a giveaway.  See below for details on how to enter.

Here is the summary of The Quill Pen from Goodreads:
If you owned a pen that wrote the future, would you use it? What if the consequences spread like ripples in a pond? What if they raged out of control? What if the pen demanded blood?

Thirteen-year-old Micah has found such a pen. One that’s ensnared him in a curse dating back generations. One that’s devastated two families and now threatens his whole New England village. But how can Micah destroy the pen when it offers him his only chance at the future he dreams of?

And, now for the interview:
Your writing is absolutely beautiful!! I feel like you must write poetry as well. Can you tell us about how you write and edit?
Thank you. Actually, my college professor, the one who first nudged me toward publishing, told me a poet I was not! I’ve learned a lot about imagery since those days.

I’m a very slow writer. I rewrite and rewrite before I even finish my first draft, becoming focused on details long before I should be. It’s sort of like applying a coat of paint before the drywall is plastered. Sometimes I have to remind myself to just make a note in the text and move one. Those places can be smoothed out and touched up later.

That sanding down stage is probably my favorite, when the hardest work of building is done. Then every revision makes the story more seamless. Pretty soon you have a beautifully-refined story ready for those final details.

The Quill Pen is a fun adventure story for middle school kids. Do you always put adventure in your books?

Definitely! A little risk, a little excitement, that‘s what makes a story fun. I like to read books that take me on a journey, that lead me into a bit of danger, that remove me from my everyday world. Likewise, I’ll always include that element of adventure in the stories I write.

Who or what encouraged (or still encourages) you in your writing?

As I mentioned, I had one college professor who strongly pushed me toward publishing. She taught me to submit stories to editors. In fact, she made it a requirement! Because of her, I began to see writing as a possible career, not just a hobby.

Of course my parents and family and several friends have encouraged my attempts along the way, but nowadays, my greatest source of encouragement is when a kid gets a copy of one of my books in his hands and tells me, “I loved it!” To see a child think and learn and interact with one of my creations – and enjoy it! – that’s very rewarding.

What challenges have you faced in your writing and how did you overcome them?

Rejection is tough, but I’d have to say the single most challenging thing I’ve faced is my children. I’m a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom. My choice to invest so much in my family leaves little time or energy to write. For years, my only free time fell between 8pm-12am. Only this year has that begun to change. But these years are fleeting, and I don’t regret my choice.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Homeschool takes a lot of my time. I’m also very active at church. But when church programs and school are done for the summer, I love to garden, camp, bike, swim and rollerblade. In fact, I don’t write in the summer. I save it for the long, cold nights of winter and only do light editing when the weather turns warm. Instead, I bring a book with me everywhere. Last summer I read well over one hundred children’s books, which are trickling onto my book review blog all winter. So I’ve kind of found this seasonal balance to my activities. I do enjoy playing the piano all year long – mostly for church, of course! :)

How do you incorporate writing into your everyday life? How do you fuel your writing?

I’m very compelled to write. There’s something in my DNA that demands it. But because I operate in this seasonal mode, I get almost obsessive in my effort to wrestle a story onto paper before summer changes my schedule. If I obsess myself into exhaustion, I just take a break and work on something else for a while, like writing music or reading a book. I rejuice pretty quickly.

In the summer, I keep in practice by writing book reviews several times a week. And my blog gives me the opportunity for light, change-of-pace articles all year long.

Is there one passage in your book that you feel gets to the heart of your book? If so, can you share it?

Yes, I think the following scene captures the overarching theme beautifully:

Plucking a piece of snake grass from the muddy bank, Micah pulled it apart in sections, eying the older man curiously. “Sanjay, do you ever wish you could write the future?”

Sanjay looked up from his pole with a start. “What’s that?”

“You know, so you could make whatever you wanted to happen come true?”

Sanjay appeared thoughtful. “That would be nice, wouldn’t it? I could banish poverty and disease and indulge myself with any pleasure I dreamed up. Supernatural power at my fingertips.”

Micah nodded, “You’d never have to worry about anything again.”

Surprisingly, Sanjay shook his head, a little smile dangling cautiously at his lips. “It sounds wonderful, son, but I don’t believe any of us would be equal to such a task.”

“What do you mean?”

“Micah, none of us is alone. Our lives touch others all across the globe.”

“So? What does that have to do with anything?”

“Don’t you see? Our actions and choices affect more people than just ourselves.”

At Micah’s blank look, Sanjay’s forehead wrinkled in thought. “Look at that lake, son,” he said pointing. “That lake is like our world. Each one of us, each life, is a drop of water, and together we fill up a whole ocean. If even one tiny drop becomes disturbed, it bumps into others, and soon the whole thing moves, like ripples in a pond.

“If I were to start tampering with my future, meddling where I didn’t belong, I would have no way of foreseeing what my interference might do to the drops all around me, and the ones all around those. Pretty soon, I might have the whole ocean rocking in a storm that raged out of control.”

To emphasize his words, Sanjay picked up a heavy rock and chucked it far out into the lake. It landed with a ker-thunk and spread a circle of waves that shivered the cattails growing along the shore.

Sanjay watched them bob with the water’s motion. “No, Micah, I don’t think I would want to take chances with something I didn’t understand.”

What new projects are you working on or are excited about right now?

I have two books I’d like to publish this year. The first one is the third book of my Divided Decade Trilogy, which features Michigan in the Civil War. It’s called Beneath the Slashings, and takes place in a lumber camp just after the war ends. It’s a wrap-it-up type of book, both for the series and for the war. Within, my heroine does find adventure in the northern wilderness, but the overriding theme is of finding joy again after so much wreckage. I have a complete outline, and I’m about two-thirds of the way through my rough draft. I hope to have it finished by summer, but that’s a pretty tall order. We’ll see.

The second book I’d like to publish is finished and actually made a short debut as en ebook this past year. But I still had the unsettling feeling that it wasn’t done yet, so I pulled it after only a few weeks. It’s a fantasy entitled Song of the Mountain and takes place in ancient China. It will probably be my summer project. I think it just needs a light sanding and a few more coats of paint. :)

Thank you so much for being on my blog and answering my questions.  Remember, if you would like to win an ecopy of The Quill Pen, enter by leaving a comment below with your email address.  The last day to enter is Jan 22 and the winner will be announced on Jan 23.  Open internationally.  There will be 2 winners and they will have 2 days to respond to my email or new winners will be chosen.

How to find Michelle Isenhoff:
Barnes & Noble


  1. Thanks, Coreena, for featuring The Quill Pen on your blog. Of all my books, it's my favorite. I do want to let your readers know that my website domain name is experiencing "technical difficulties." I can temporarily be found at


    1. No problem, Michelle. It is a pleasure to have you here!!!

  2. Hiya, great blog! And this is a wonderful review!

    Jessica from Booked Up!
    :) :)

  3. The extract is lovely, sounds a beautiful book, would love to win it for my sons to read!

    kelly.koya @ (remove spaces)

  4. What a great preview ♥

  5. Wow my daughter would love this keeping my fingers crossed for her x thank you

  6. i would love to win

  7. Wow cant wait to read :)

  8. Sounds a great book and would love to win for my grand daughter who always has her nose in a book and we struggle to keep her well supplied with new material.

  9. Looks like an excellent book..would love to win this.

  10. tribb99(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk

  11. I would love to win this ruth(at)eml(dot)cc

  12. It looks really interesting.

  13. I love reading and cant sleep unless I have read a few pages of a good book. Im getting a bit bored now with so many similar stories but this sounds really interesting, would love to win x

  14. Great book

  15. Brilliant;

  16. I'd love to win this!

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Love to win this book :) looks fab

  19. Would love to win this book sounds a great read.

  20. Really lovely review. Would be great to win.

  21. Wow, what an interesting sounding book!

  22. This looks amazing, I would love to read it :)


  23. I would love to win one

  24. Yes please add me to your draw.

  25. Fluffy Jedi Kitty22 January 2012 at 11:35

    Such a bookworm, would love to win!

  26. would love to win!


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