Michelle lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband. She says she’s an import from South Africa and they moved to Canada because her husband got a calling to work in a church.
As a high school teacher, her first books were for teens. They were written to help teens see how their decisions can affect their lives and that they are not alone in what they go through.
She has now written her first adult Christian romance called Her Sanctuary, His Heart, which is based a bit on her own life and the struggles she and her husband experienced with losing a child.
and one of her favorite authors:
We do talk some spoilers in the old Star Wars canon.
All right, well, Michelle, welcome to the podcast. Good to talk to you. How are you doing today? I’m doing very well. Thanks. And yourself? Oh, really good. That’s warm today. So it’s a good day. It is absolutely. We are cooking here in Ontario. That is for sure. Nice. Uh, speaking of Ontario, uh, before we get started talking about your book.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, some of the things you like to do outside of writing. Oh, okay. Um, well, uh, I’m a recent import from South Africa to Canada. Uh, my husband and I moved to Canada two and a half years ago after he received a call to come and work in a church in Canada.
Um, so yeah, we’re, we’re still kind of working out how life works in Canada from being in South Africa our entire lives. The change has been very interesting, especially when it comes to the winter. There’s no snow like this in South Africa. . Yeah, our first winter here was probably one of the worst ones Ontario has had in the last 10 years.
We had terrible, we had terrible ice storms and we had a massive, I don’t know, storm that came outta buffalo or something like that. So yeah, we had to dig ourselves out of our house and learn how to drive in the ice rain, so it was very interesting for sure. Oh yeah. Were you born in South Africa or did you move there at some point?
No. Born and bred in South Africa. Was there for the first 30 odd years of my life. And then, uh, as I said, two and a half years ago, we moved to Canada. My husband is also a native South African. And, uh, yeah, we were there the whole, our whole lives and never thought we’d actually leave. Nice. Well, that’s interesting, uh, that you move.
So. Did any of the move or moving the new country, did any of that influence any of your writing? I think it did in a lot of ways, these, especially some of the language that was used in the book. Um, because so many things in America and Canada are different, um. Like one example, like there’s the hood of the car in South Africa.
We call it a bonnet, uh, or there’s the trunk, we call it a boot. So there’s been a lot of language that I’ve had to relearn, uh, to be able to speak understandably to Canadian and American people. So, yes, it’s been, uh, that’s specifically and also, uh, the school year is different. The months obviously are different in South Africa.
Now it’s winter, uh, in Canada, it’s summer. So we’ve had a lot of adjusting to do. Wow. That’s interesting. I have never moved that far. I’ve just moved cross country. Oh yeah. Not between countries and between oceans. Oh yeah. It was a long, I think it was a, we were in the, in the air for 28 hours. Yeah. Wow.
Okay. Um, what are some of the things you like to do besides writing? Well, I read and I run pretty much that’s it and teach obviously when I’m at work. But, um, yeah, I like to read. I like to run. Um, I probably run about three times a week and read probably about five or six books a week. Um, I’m a very avid reader.
I, yeah, I love to read and generally speaking. I like to read, uh, Christian fiction, clean fiction for sure. But my taste varied. Obviously, as you can see, I like Star Wars books, too. Well, those are usually clean, though. I mean… Yes, they are. Absolutely. That’s what makes them worth reading. Right. I’ve read much other sci fi that gets harder, grittier, you know, Star Wars at least keeps to, you know, kids can read it, which is good.
Clean standards, yeah. Plus it’s not too difficult science stuff for my brain, so that’s all good. Yeah, I read a, I read a book, uh, when was it on Thursday and this morning my boss sent me an article about artificial life forms and in the book they were talking about artificial life forms and I just thought, Oh my word, you know, this is like watching sci fi come to life.
Right. Yeah. There’s a lot of books out that they’re like that now. I mean, go back and look, watch the old Star Trek TV show. How many things do we have, you know? Absolutely. It’s quite frightening when you think about it. It can be, yeah. Maybe it’s just because we’re getting old, but that’s a whole other conversation.
Yeah, absolutely. I noticed, Michelle, that your current book is Her Sanctuary, His Heart, which looks like an adult romance, if I’m correct. But it looks like you wrote some teen books before that. Is that correct? Yes, uh, my teen books, uh, the teen books are written, I’m a high school teacher. Those books were written from the experience of watching the high school kids kind of fumble through life and needing some kind of platform, some kind of certainty or some kind of Well, I hesitate to say boundary, but something that they can say, this is what I believe in, this is what I can place as a platform in my life.
And from teaching so many high school kids and having discussions with them and knowing that the, the kind of instruction that they’re given in today’s society, there’s no absolutes. There’s, there’s no, there’s no right or wrong. There’s no, this is this, and that is that. And so from those kinds of things, it was with the heart to just kind of, Help them see how their behavior can impact their future lives, how their Decisions that they make as teenagers will carry them for the rest of their lives And, uh, to kind of put them in a, uh, situation where they can see themselves and think, okay, if I make a choice like this, this could be the possible outcome that I might find myself in or worse.
And to kind of give them the, prepare them for what they might face. That’s the kind of heart that the book was, those books were written under to kind of give them, uh, uh, a way to make a A decision that they could live with for the rest of their lives and obviously a godly decision. So why did you decide to go from that to a more adult romance type book?
About, uh, how old is my, my youngest son? My youngest son is seven now. Uh, about eight years ago, my husband and I lost a daughter. Um, she was still born at 38 weeks. The, the kind of stress that we went through during that time could have ended our marriage. And at that time I heard of a few other cases where that kind of loss had actually ended a marriage.
And I thought to myself, I wanted to share my story. With someone who had been through the, but share a story of hope. Now, obviously my husband and I never got divorced, but the kind of impact that that loss has on a life. If we didn’t have God, we probably would have followed that route. And the kind of, uh, the characters, Braylon and Drake are so much based on my husband and I, Drake is a musician and Braylon is a school teacher and the kind of journey that they both take within themselves.
Uh, getting back together, finding their faith again, specifically Braylon because of how the loss of her daughter impacted her faith and impacted the kind of person that she was and being able to trust her husband again after this, uh, unbearable loss had kind of broken their marriage. And that was the heart that this book is written from.
And so although it’s a fiction story, it’s based kind of on our own journey. Of how we dealt with the loss of our daughter. Wow, that, I mean, that’s a lot. Definitely my condolences. I don’t know how I would have been able to handle something like that. In a way, the book was your therapy. To help get through that time very much.
It was written a quite a few years afterwards where I had kind of, I had kind of muddled my way through it. I’m as a reader, the first place you go when you, well, for me, the first place you go when you suffer some kind of life altering experience is to go look in a book. If someone has experienced what you’ve experienced, someone has gone through your journey, someone can kind of just understand where you’re at because I don’t think, uh, A mother who has not lost a child can understand the unbearable loss of losing a child.
And in that way, my, my family circle and my friendship circle, nobody I knew close to me had experienced that. And so for me, it was… It was, I wanted to, yes, I had gone through my process and had so much grace from the, from the family of God that we were in at that time, that I wanted to share that kind of experience and my mumbling and fumbling and how God brought us out of it to someone, but I wanted to do it in a fictional manner so that it would kind of be something that the reader could identify with, yes.
Uh, what type of feedback have you gotten from people who have been reading? The book hasn’t been released yet, so I’m not, I’m not really sure. So, um, yeah, there’s been a, a few people that have been interested. I’m still working with my publisher by giveaways and things like that. Um, so as yet, I’m not sure I was told when I was writing the book that it would be needed.
So I’m hoping that it will speak, even if it speaks to one life, that it does speak to someone. Definitely agree. I mean, again, I don’t know how I would have gotten through anything like that. I hope the book does well and does help others. Uh, that’s the power. Sometimes people don’t realize it. I know this is not anywhere near as big, but I know some people, I saw a comment, someone made said, how can you guys talk about writing fiction right now?
We’re going through a pandemic. People are losing jobs. Businesses are closing. I’m like, actually, that’s more time than ever needed to have fiction in people’s lives. They need that escape. You can’t live stress all the time. It will, it will tear you down. I can definitely see how in that type of situation.
If there’s someone that can find your book, how it could help them, you, you might save other marriages, uh, by giving a release. And it’s my hope that the, the, the, the kind of the message, the, the, the, the, the Christian message in the book, even if the people are not Christian. To be able to see that even something like that can be reconciled, it can be something that you can work past what we hear in a lot of cases we’ve spoken to obviously many people in the past years since the loss of our daughter about how they coped.
And I remember, um. The day after we lost her, a lady came to us and she said, uh, you are brain damaged. Once you’ve lost a child, the trauma of experiencing the loss of a child actually makes damages a part of your brain. And I thought that was very interesting that someone would say something like that, but I would have to.
Say that, although I, I don’t think it brain damaged me, but there are so many things that that tragedy has impacted in our lives. I mean, you, you struggle with PTSD, even though everybody says PTSD is linked to soldiers. It’s not just, it’s linked to loss and it’s linked to trauma and even something like losing your child.
It is linked to that. And for people to know that there is hope, there is healing, that like a lot of women that I spoke to have never moved past the loss of a child. It has continued to affect them and you never really get over the loss of a child, but you can move on. You can move forward with life. You can have hope.
And that’s, that’s the kind of message that I hope. Well, we’ll speak to someone who has lost a child and does read the book, and I think that’s important. And I agree with you. That’s I think that’s partly why they changed it from shell shock to P. S. P. T. S. D. because they discovered the same type of thing in many other circumstances.
I know my great grandmother when she lost her husband, my great grandfather, she lived like 25 more years. Essentially her life stopped and he died and she didn’t get beyond that. It is difficult. And again, I think fiction is one way to help heal that people get that and see others going through it. It’s in a low stress environment and it’s hopefully entertainment.
Yeah. That entertainment, the value of entertainment, you know, they, they say the healing factor or the healing powers of laughter and things, you know. Uh, fiction just does that to you also. Well, even for myself, it’s not so much that I read, uh, self help books of how to move past the loss of a child. Even myself, I read fiction books and the books I read at that time were of mothers who had lost children, whether they were fictional or factual stories.
It’s kind of having the ability to identify with their character, to identify with their character’s experience and. See how that character dealt with it and what the outcome was of that character’s experience. The power of fiction, for sure. I think in, uh, I think there have been fiction books, particularly in the Christian field, that have spoken to me in ways that a self help book never could.
Your, your teen books, those have been out for a while. What type of feedback have you gotten on those? Have the kids at your school read them and did they know it’s you and, well, uh, when I originally released them, I wasn’t teaching high school as yet. Okay. Um, the kind of, the kind of feedback I’ve had on the books has been very positive.
I got a, a review from a lady in Switzerland and she actually emailed me and she said to me, I’m so glad that you have written this book and. You know, I hoped it would have an impact, but the fact that this lady, she was an, an older lady and she emailed me about the book and I said to her, well, what was it about the book that, that particularly spoke to you?
She said, I’m so glad that you put the choices that teenagers make. In a way that it is a choice that they made. It’s not a circumstance that they find themselves in. And this particular book was based on a teen pregnancy and a decision that a teenager had to make whether to have an abortion or whether to give her child up for adoption.
And she said to me, I’m so glad the way you stated it, that Everything that comes within a sexual nature for a teenager is a choice that will have a further impact on their lives, irrespective of what happens. And she said to me, in Sweden there is, there’s no, uh, there is sexual education. But the children have a choice whether to take it or not, and she said her friend’s daughter refuses to have it.
She refuses to think that those choices that she makes as a girl could possibly affect her life and further impact her. And she said, In your book, I’m hoping that she reads it and it opens the way for us to be able to talk to her about the impact that her behavior could have on her future. So I was, I was very pleased that the book at least had given Uh, the message of that, that it, it had, um, had an opening, had an effect on someone.
I also had another lady that said that it was, that it, it was important, uh, for the parents to have, because the character in the book, her mother is very absent. And it’s very important for the parents to be involved in a teenager’s life, particularly in those times when they’re going through high school and they’ve got all these changes going on and all these major decisions that they have to make that the parent be there with the child to make them not just kind of think, Okay, you’re 14 years old.
Now you’re 15 years old. Now you can kind of think for yourself. I’m going to give you Okay. A little bit too much leeway, perhaps, and you kind of like got to figure it out and the importance of having a godly parental influence in your life at that time and what impact it could have had for this school, particularly in the book, how it could have changed her decision or how it could have made her Have a better decision or, and also in the book, it talks, uh, one of the counselors that speaks to the girl says to her, okay, what is the choice you’re going to make and explains to her the choices because what a lot of, uh, and this is such a controversial subject, the subject of abortion, but what a lot of girls are hearing it’s, it’s free choice, it’s my body, it’s this, that, the next thing where it’s not, it’s an, it’s an impact on your soul.
Yeah. When you give up a child, when you allow yourself to go through an abortion, it’s, it’s a decision that you’re going to think on and keep on ringing to for the rest of your life. It’s just, it’s the importance of having that information. And making a decision based on all the information, not just what the world is feeding you and saying pro choice, pro this, pro that.
I think kids nowadays have a difficult time because they’re so sucked into, uh, the online living. And they see so many, you know, people posting things, writing things, just extreme or to get noticed. And Uh, to, to be mean or be trolls or, you know, and I think it’s much more confusing because they’re bombarded with many more messages than we got, uh, any of that.
Yeah, I agree. Let me ask you this, Michelle, you have your teen books and you have your newer, uh, book coming out. What did you consider the new book, a romance or what would you consider it? I would consider it a romance per se, but it’s not, it’s not what you would call a traditional romance. I think it’s kind of a husband and wife rediscovering their love for each other through a set of circumstances that broke them up to begin with.
Um, Actually, I think is a great romance story. I don’t think there’s enough of those. You should do more in a series like that. Yeah. Well, there’s a few more coming. Uh, they’re, they’re not of the same series. They’re of a different series, but they, they deal with equally controversial subjects and difficult ones.
Um, but those are, I think a few years in coming still the publisher has them now. I think it also, um, why I say it’s not a traditional romance is because it basically the husband and wife, uh, get back together and they decide to re. Mary, and the book is also a message in there on the sanctity of Mary marriage and that marriage is not just a decision taken lightly that marriage in the eyes of God is forever.
And that is also a message that is within the book. There’s, there’s, there’s a lot of things that kind of go in that the husband deals with and the wife deals with and as they come together, all the decisions that they’ve made while they’ve been apart. Have an impact on them as they go through the book and eventually find their way back to each other and find their way back to God.
So, yes, it is a romance, but it’s not just a romance. You can put it like that for each of your books. Would you prefer them to be turned into a movie or a TV series? Wow. If I could say that I would rather go for the teen ones and I would say if it could be made into a, probably a movie for children, a movie for teens, I just, it’s just my heart that kids, that kids live regret free lives that they, they have all the information that they need before they make a decision.
Often when you speak to teenagers, they’ve just. I remember once I was sitting in a classroom, and I had this big hulking, he must have been six foot two, he was enormous, a child in my class, sixteen years old, and he was sitting there broken in front of me, his uh, his girlfriend had had a miscarriage. And while they should not have been doing those things at that age, just watching this big hulking teen in front of me sobbing his eyes out and saying, Ma’am, what am I going to do?
What am I going to do? From that heart, all my books are written. I remember that child every time I sit down to write, just for them to be able to not regret. To live good lives, godly lives, to not have that pain of regret that that child had, that you mentioned, um, some other series books coming out. What are, what other plans can you share with us about what’s coming?
My second book, um, when the stars align has gone through a major change over it’s with the publisher at the moment. So it’s getting a reedit and a rewrite. The story essentially will be the same. Um, but I’m hoping that that will be released, uh, next year. Um, it, it needed a bit of help, but the story is very good, but, you know, being a, an indie writer and just kind of not having as much information as I do now about publishing, um, there was some work that needed to be done on that book, even though the message was there.
Um, in the future, there are two other series that, uh, one of them is based on a soldier that comes back to, back to his hometown after being in captivity and suffering tremendously from PTSD. And then another book, uh, that will probably be released in the year following deals with a girl who comes out of an abusive relationship and how she finds her worth again.
Man, you just don’t like go for the little topics, you just bam, go for the big stuff, don’t ya? You know, being a, uh, being in a pastoral field, uh, as I said at the beginning, my husband’s a pastor, we have, uh, we’ve been in the ministry probably about 10 years now, and just, we’ve seen all of this, that what I’m writing is nothing that we haven’t counseled or spoken to or helped through or, uh, it’s just all of these These topics need to be addressed, and they, they, they are addressed out there, but they’re addressed in a secular fashion.
And for me, I think I wanted to be able to put those topics out there, but put them within the power of God. Put them with an understanding that the greatest healer of all is God. Yes, you can go for Psychotherapy, you can take medication, you can do meditation, you can, you know, there’s so many ways of healing that are out there, but the only true healer, the way to be healed from within, from within your soul, is God.
And it’s, the books are written with that message, that The healing comes from within, comes from God. It doesn’t come from anything outward that you can do if you want true healing. Okay. So let’s switch gears just a second. What are some of your favorite books and authors that you like to read? Well, I was looking at the questions and I thought, wow, that’s a hard one.
I’m As I said, I enjoy Star Wars books, but among my favorite writers, obviously, I like Suspense Romance, so Irene Hannan is one of my huge favorites. Uh, I like Becky Wade, uh, Denise Hunter, she also deals with quite a few difficult subjects, uh, in her books. And I find, um, the inspiration also from her books, from the way that she’s kind of targeted those difficult topics.
Wow. Uh, D Henderson, also a huge fan of her. She’s also writes romantic suspense. Uh, Lynette Eason is also one of my huge favorites. Um, I recently read a book by Colleen Cobalt was the first one I’d ever read. Also brilliant. Uh, Terry Blackstock, I read her new aftermath book yesterday, and that was just, wow, amazing, amazing, amazing books.
Um, Lynn Blackburn. I think it’s Blackburn, Lynn H. Blackburn. Yeah, hers too. Most of them are, as you can hear, romantic suspense. I’m a huge fan of those books. And it doesn’t sound like that was too hard of a question for you. You said you read a lot, yeah. I read fantasy too. I’m also a huge Robert Jordan fan, huge Brandon Sanderson fan.
Yeah, pretty much. So what’s your favorite Star Wars books? My favorite Star Wars book. Wow. That is a hard one of the recent one of the most recent stuff. I’ve really enjoyed the high Republic of the most recent right there, but I’ve really enjoyed that and my favorite book, actually, strangely enough was a new hope.
I know it was one of the movies and everything, but honestly, the, just what I really enjoyed about the books. You know, particularly A New Hope was just the, the kind of the in depth information into the characters, kind of to look inside their heads. In the movie, you see so much of them, but you don’t really see inside them, what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, how they’re, you know, and I find that in the books, just.
Kind of like opened the whole world to me, particularly also if you look at the story of Anakin and Padme in the later books, it just kind of gives you that much more understanding into the character, how the character is experiencing. So the, the, the normal Star Wars books have been a, a big, a big, uh, yeah, I’ve really enjoyed those.
I enjoyed reading the Truce of Bakura. Uh, which happens shortly after the, the, um, the return of the Jedi. I really enjoyed that story too. Uh, courtship for Princess Leia. That was also a huge one that I enjoyed. So yeah, a lot of up and downs that I’ve enjoyed over the years. I, I do remember liking the Timothy Zahn, uh, trilogy.
Um, air to the empire trilogy. And then I did like the whole big, long invasion cycle, but I mean, that’s the old cannon, they don’t talk about that anymore, but I thought. Some of the stuff in those books that Jason discovered about the force, uh, kind of went back to what Dooku and Obi Wan and, uh, Liam Neeson’s character, that they kind of were, you know, a little bit on the fringe of at the time.
So I liked those parts. There’s a scene in Vector Prime, uh, the first one of that series, where Han is racing, Han and Chewie are racing through an asteroid field, uh, it’s a race contest that Calrissian set up, and Jaina’s like the number one pilot, and everybody’s watching them, and they’re going through this, and everybody’s like, oh my god, they’re so good, and they’re amazing, and you know, all that, and then they’re in the cockpit, and they’re screaming at each other because nothing’s working, and Chewie’s in the way.
You I literally laughed out loud because it was so well written and I threw it in my head. Yeah, that’s what I really enjoyed about those books and that author. It was just you, you could see everything. Everything was the right in your face. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And then in that same series, that’s the one where Chewie died saving that Anakin Skywalker, the, the boy, the son, uh, I didn’t think I read that one.
on a moon that was blowing up. Oh, wow, that’s it. Oh, this is in your basement. Yeah. Because Han and Leia had Jason and Jaina, and then they had a younger Skan, Anak, and he was super powerful in the force, so they were on whatever, when the invasion was happening, there was a moon that was literally blowing up, and they were trying to get the Falcon off.
And Chewie literally threw the boy into the cockpit and then it, like, crumbled around him. Oh, my word. Oh, my God. It was devastating. Especially because my kids and I met Peter Mayhew. We met him. I had some conference and talk to him and his wife for minutes. And then I read this, uh, you know, I asked him, I said, do you know, they killed your character says, yeah, people tell me that all the time.
Well, that’s amazing. I’m jealous. I mean, sitting down, he was as tall as my kids. Oh, my word. Yeah. I can’t imagine. Yeah. So, uh, now that you’ve moved. Uh, there, have you discovered any cool little bookstores where you live? Uh, where, where did you say up in Canada you live? Uh, I live in Grassy, Ontario. It’s a tiny town, yeah, on the hill above Grimsby.
Uh, cool little books. There’s not really any bookstores close to us. We go, uh, yeah, there’s, there’s an Indigo about half an hour’s drive from us. And there’s the other Christian bookstore, which is an hour’s drive from us. But in our time, no, we’ve just, but in Canada turns a half hour. I mean, that’s like 10 minutes for normal people, right?
Yes, it is. Yeah. Nothing’s close in Canada. I live in a small town and it’s a 10 mile drive to get to the grocery store. So I do. Okay. Yes. So you fully understand that. Yeah. We live 15 to 20 minutes from anything. Yeah. We have had one stoplight forever. We don’t even have a post office. So Oh yeah. You even have that.
Congratulations. We just have, we have two stoplights, a stop streets. And farms pretty much morning news and traffic, you know, hold on, let me stick my head out the window. No, I don’t see any cars in traffic. Okay. Michelle to wind up the first half of the interview talking about your books, tell people why they should go out and get your book.
I think we’ve actually covered that quite well, but is there anything else if you were just going to on an elevator telling somebody here’s why you should get my book? What would you tell them? Well, honestly, I think, I think it’s, the story doesn’t just speak of, um, of loss in that particular, I mean, there’s no one on this earth who hasn’t suffered some kind of loss in some way.
And I think that probably would be the reason that I would tell someone that the book would be for them. Uh, to find hope after that loss, I think that the story is, uh, one that most people can identify with. It’s a very human story. The characters are very human. They they’re normal. They’re not perfect.
They make mistakes. And I think for that reason, it would be. I, I would tell someone to buy my book, if you could put it that way. Yeah. Okay. That’s a good sales pitch. I like that. All right. Uh, well, thank you for coming on and talking to us and telling us about your book. Uh, we’re going to have another second half here in a second.
Um, so, uh, Michelle, thank you very much for being on. Thank you. Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. Thank you for listening to discovered words. Smith’s come back next week and listen to another author, discuss the road they’ve traveled and maybe sometime in the near future, it might be you.