Michelle Hand is a first-time independent author from Phoenix, Arizona. She has been writing fiction stories for years, and has finally found the time to sit down and pen a full-length book. Her masterpiece is a three-part novel called Cult, and it is about a girl fighting the oppressive system of a religion she grew up in. It became available for sale November 1, 2013, so go ahead and download your copy now! You won't be disappointed. Join the hundreds of savvy indie-book readers discovering this great, up-and-coming author. For more information about Michelle, check out her interview here on the Smashwords page, her website, or find her on Facebook. If you'd like to be the first to know about future projects (with free SNEAK PEEKS!), join the fan circle at http://widget-platform.fanbridge.com/widget/render/15882.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My childhood was probably the most chaotic time of my life. My family moved to Arizona when I was six, and for six more years after that my brother and I were in and out of school and moving all the time. Some of my favorite childhood memories are getting into trouble exploring dirt lots and model homes while my parents were house shopping. I started writing stories when I was seven as a way to express myself in the midst of that. I never showed my stories to anyone though, unless they were an assignment for school. I remember once a friend of mine discovered a story I had written, and even though she loved it, I was horrified. I thought my stories were like this secret part of me that no one else needed to see. That really only changed last year. I still get that way when I get a critical review from someone I don't know well!
What's the story behind your latest book?
I didn't even know there was a back story until I got a little ways into the writing process. Then I realized that the feelings of my main character, Kati, very closely resembled my own at times. While the events of the story are pure fiction - I have never been in an arranged marriage or (intentionally) subverted a religious hierarchy from within - I can relate to my character deeply. I am a Christian, and my faith is actually one of the things I hold the most dear in life. But as many who have spent time in and around the Christian church can testify, being part of a religious community is difficult, especially if you've got a little bit of rebel inside of you. I've always had kind of a love-hate relationship with the church, ever since childhood; but the two most informative events of my life pertaining to this book happened to me as an adult.
When I was eighteen, I got an itch to see the world and maybe do some good (and admittedly to get away from a recent heartbreak). I had a connection to a missionary team in the far-far-away land of Kyrgyzstan, so I hopped on a plane and spent two years there. I loved and hated it, but by age twenty, I had gotten kicked off the team. I was said to be good at working with orphans and stuff, but apparently telling your team leader/pastor you think he needs to apologize to some people and quit being mean doesn't put you on the fast track to the all-star team.
Then two years later, I was in college back in Arizona and going to this church near my parents' house. I met this amazing guy there, within like three seconds we were completely in love. He was a rapper - cool, right? - and his deep lyrics cut straight to my writer's heart. I thought my new friends at this church would be as excited to get to know him as I was. I was even trying to talk the pastor, who seemed to have a soft spot for me, into letting my guy do a rap show for all of us sometime. Then something strange happened: my church friends didn't like my boyfriend. They started telling me he was a "different kind of Christian" because he rapped and that he was too quiet. Nobody would talk to him. As it became apparent that I wasn't going to break up with my rapper-love, eventually nobody would talk to me, either. I was shunned. Trying to take the high road, we had a couple of sit-down talks with the people who had once meant the most to me. But despite brave efforts, within four months we had no choice but leave. There was no room for us there any longer. So we picked up our broken hearts and got married in the church I grew up in. It was no loss, as it turned out, because the pastor of that church (the one that shunned us) took all of two years to alienate most of the people we'd known there. He had a special liking for calling people out in the middle of the service just to make them feel like dirt.
Luckily, I've come out of these experiences a little less vengeful than Kati did. I just write about them instead.
By Michelle Hand
Published: November 1, 2013.
(5.00 from 3 reviews)
The story is set in a rural area of northern Arizona, where twelve religious leaders are tyrannizing a town full of unwitting spiritual underlings. One teenage girl named Kati Selleck rises up in the midst of it all and refuses to be subjugated. Readers follow her ups and downs as she does her best to survive this evil system and somehow ensure the safety of her mother and six younger siblings.
Not my typical genre, but any time I thought of putting it down, the author convinced me all over again. It started a little slow-paced, but you do get drawn into the character and it works. I found the struggle that Allison had with her parents very believable.
As I was reading, I thought maybe this could be better as two separate stories - the love story in the first half, and the continuation of the characters' life events in the second half - but I realize after reading it all that the love story wasn't the point. The relationship between Allison and Elsee was.
This was a great read!