Michelle Griep’s newest historical romance is a Dickens Christmas story called 12 Days at Bleakly Manor. Since A Christmas Carol is a regular part of the season in my home, I was eager to have a chat with Michelle and learn more.
Janet: Welcome, Michelle, and thanks for taking time to join us. Where’s home for you?
Michelle: The frozen tundra . . . er . . . I mean Minneapolis, Minnesota. I live in da ‘hood.
Janet: Most of your stories are historical… which time periods and locations most interest you? And what drew you to Dickensian England for a Christmas tale?
Michelle: I adore history and have a special affinity for England. Yep, I’d move there in a flash if I could. While I love the medieval period, you know, all those big beefy knights, I prefer to write during the 1800’s. As for locations, anywhere in England, really. Cities. Countryside. Doesn’t matter.
And if one is going to pen a Christmas tale, what better time than during the years of Charles Dickens?!
Janet: Definitely! Tell us a bit about 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.
Michelle: This story is a mix of Dickens’ Bleak House and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Both are favorites of mine.
Basically I tossed bunch of quirky characters into a house in the middle of nowhere, gave them limited resources, and sat back to watch and see how they interacted. I figured if I was entertained, readers would be too.
And of course there are a few bruised hearts that need to be healed by the end of the tale.
Janet: Sounds intriguing! Do you have a favourite character? And what was the most fun part to write?
Michelle: Wow. That’s like asking me which one of my kids do I love best? That’s a tough one! Surprisingly, though, I had an affinity for Mr. Tallgrass. He just says whatever he darn well pleases.
The most fun character to write was Miss Scurry. Her pet mice are just so freakishly funny.
Janet: Pet mice… oh! What do you want readers to take away when they’re done?
Michelle: When someone hurts us deeply, it may not be intended as hurt as all. It’s always best to reserve judgement until you’ve had a chance to talk to that person.
Janet: That would solve a lot of problems, wouldn’t it? This is “Once Upon A Dickens Christmas Book 1” – can you give us a hint of what’s coming next?
Michelle: You bet. Book II comes out in September 2018. Here’s a blurb:
Innkeeper’s daughter MINA SCOTT will do anything to escape the drudgery of her life. She saves every penny to attend a finishing school, dreaming of the day she’ll become a real lady—and catch the eye of WILLIAM BARLOW, a frequent guest at the inn.
William is a gentleman’s son, a charming rogue but penniless. However, his bachelor uncle will soon name an heir—either him or his puritanical cousin. In an effort to secure the inheritance, William gives his uncle the impression he’s married, which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit.
William asks Mina to be his pretend bride, only until his uncle names an heir on Christmas Day. Mina is flattered and frustrated by the offer, for she wants a true relationship with William. Yet, she agrees. . .then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Deceiving the old man breaks both their hearts. When the truth is finally discovered, more than just money is lost.
Can two hearts survive such a deception?
Janet: Ouch! I hope you find a way to bring a happy ending! Any interesting research tidbits from Dickensian times?
Michelle: One of my favorite tales about Dickens is that he used to walk the streets in the wee hours of the night just to be amongst the people of London, those who were down and out. I walked some of those same streets last time I skipped across the pond, and it was easy to imagine him there, strolling about with his top hat and cane.
Janet: I see you’ve also co-authored a cozy mystery, Out of the Frying Pan. What was it like, working with a partner… and in a different genre?
Michelle: Working with my co-author was seriously the time of my life! Kelly Klepfer is a talented author in her own right. She came up with the plot and the characters, and then would simply tell me what scene to write.
Changing genres was a bit tricky for me. I’d never done a contemporary. Now and then she’d have to change the vernacular of one of my words.
Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Michelle: Just four little words: FINISH WHAT YOU START! So many newbies get mired down in working and reworking part of a manuscript that they never finish it. Just finish the dang thing…then go back and edit.
Janet: Those are four wise words! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?
Michelle: Easy peasy . . . my all-time favorite verse that I keep tucked in a virtual back pocket is Nahum 1:7. “The Lord is good; a stronghold in the day of trouble. And he knows those who trust in him.”
Janet: Thank you. That’s powerful, and I can’t believe I’ve missed it all these years. Now, to the less serious: Coffee or tea? And are you a morning person or a night owl?
Michelle: Love coffee, but unfortunately it must now be decaf. And I’m neither an owl or a morning person.
Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?
Michelle: Love to read. Love to travel. Love to take my dog Miss Ada Clare (named after a Dickens Bleak House character, of course) on walks by the creek.
Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.
Michelle: Minneapolis is awful in the winter, but in the summer, wow. Lakes galore with tons of walking and biking paths.
Janet: Thanks for taking time to chat today, Michelle, and all the best with your new book. 12 Days at Bleakly Manor sounds like a good read.
When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.
Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.
Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.
For more about the author, visit michellegriep.com.