Michelle, when did you decide to become a writer?
I think I was 8, and I held onto that dream until I was a teenager, at which point I decided it was silly because writers never make any money. So I went to university, did two degrees and decided I still wanted to be a writer, but since the idea scared the pants off me, I decided to first do something that scared me even more, just to prove to myself that I could do scary things: I pedaled 6000-km across Canada, which gave me lots to write about. I started freelance writing and eventually did what I always wanted to do: I began writing for children.
Where do you get your story ideas from?
Many of my story ideas come from questions. My chapter book After Peaches began because I wondered what it would be like to be a migrant laborer coming to Canada to pick fruit. My novel Out of the Box arose from trying to imagine a quirky, fiercely-protective aunt into my own childhood. Not a Chance sprung up as I wrestled with cultural questions while spending a summer in the Dominican Republic. My ideas for nonfiction books arise from things I’m passionate about – bicycles, water, and the environment. I love being able to seek out cool facts and share them with my readers.
Do you have a writing routine or ritual?
In the winter, I write at the kitchen table. The rest of the year, I’m at my desk in our enclosed balcony, usually surrounded by seedlings of some vegetable or other that I’ll eventually plant in our garden. Having chocolate on hand is key, and turning off the Internet also helps!
What do you look for in a good story?
I want to be able to jump into a character’s experiences and live them as if they were my own. I want authors to boldly hurl obstacles into the paths of their characters and then reveal how the human spirit can triumph over just about anything. I want to learn something about another time, place or point of view, and I want to finish the story breathless, dazed, and satisfied. (Other than that, I don’t want much.)
Have you had an odd job in the past? What was it?
My oddest job was being a simulated patient for medical students to practice their bedside manner. I got to “be” all kinds of people. Sometimes I was pregnant. Often I had diseases that were embarrassing to talk about. Once my character had a head injury and so I had to be incredibly grumpy. It was great fun!
What one place in the world would you love to travel to? Why?
Oof! Only one? My ideal travel destination changes with incredible frequency – there are so many places I want to visit! Today, I’d love to go to Iceland to cook an egg in a geothermal stream at Hveragerdi’s geothermal park. Yesterday, I wanted to go to Cuba, to cycle and talk to people about life in their country. Who knows where I’ll want to go tomorrow?
Favourite board game: go!
It used to be Monopoly, and I was both a terrible loser and a terrible winner. (I would gloat for hours about having hoarded way more money than anyone else. You’ll all be happy to know that there’s no danger of this happening in real life.) These days, my family and I love playing memory cards, and I try not to gloat when I win.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Read all sorts of different books, even if you don’t think you’ll like them. Figure out what you like and why. Write as much as you can. Find a mentor or someone you can bounce ideas off. Accept constructive criticism, and keep writing. No matter what, keep writing.
Michelle Mulder is the author of several books for children. These days, when she’s not writing or going on adventures, she enjoys reading, swimming, baking, hiking, and pedaling her bicycle around Victoria, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and daughter. For more information about Michelle and her books, please visit her website www.michellemulder.com