Michelle Lowery Combs is an award-winning writer and book blogger living in rural Alabama with her husband, one cat, and too many children to count. She spends her spare time commanding armies of basketball and soccer munchkins for the Parks & Recreation departments of two cities. When not in the presence of throngs of toddlers, tweens and teens, Michelle can be found neglecting her roots and dreaming up the next best seller. She is a member of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave, Jacksonville State University’s Writers’ Club and her local Aspiring Authors group.
If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?
The future! The past hasn’t always been kind to women. I’d like to travel forward to the day when one of us is Boss of the World!
If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
Jesus. I’m curious to know if He really said all the things people attribute to Him or if the world has bungled His message to us over the centuries.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve had a few people tell me that they’ve loved Heir to the Lamp so much that they read it in one sitting. That blows me away! I’m incredibly touched to hear that the story was so captivating for them that at no time during the reading experience did they put the book down and walk away. You can lose readers for good when that happens.
If you could jump into a book and live in that world, which would it be?
The world of Harry Potter for sure! I’m always a little sad when I check my mailbox and haven’t received a letter from Hogwarts asking…no, begging…me to attend the famous school of witchcraft and wizardry.
What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. It’s a coming-of-age story about a boy named Will Tweedy set in Cold Sassy, Georgia in the early 1900’s. Will’s grandpa and town leader marries a much younger woman just three weeks after the death of Will’s beloved grandmother. Scandal ensues. It’s equal parts humor and heartbreak and taught me a lot about love, faith and the inevitability of change.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Find a way to connect with other writers! Joining a local writers’ group was the best thing I did to keep me motivated on my journey to publication.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Mobile, Alabama. Birthplace of Mardi Gras! It’s a beautiful, historic town with thriving art and literary communities.
If you were a super hero what would your kryptonite be?
Carbs. I CAN’T quit them. “What, there’s a bad guy that needs apprehending? Can it wait until I’ve finished this pasta and bread set out to thwart me from his capture?”
You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy?
A bigger house! With five kids still at home we could always use more space.
What is your guilty pleasure?
HBO’s Trueblood: a soap opera featuring vampires, werewolves, shifters, & faeries with gratuitous nudity. I have to wait until all the kids are asleep or away from home to watch it.
How did you go about publishing your book?
After finishing the first draft of Heir to the Lamp I was so excited to have what I thought was a “finished manuscript” that I immediately began querying literary agents. This was a mistake. The version of the book that finally landed me a publisher—after three years of editing and revisions and extensive market research—is a far cry from that first effort. Two of the main reasons writers’ are rejected is that they query too soon or query agencies or publishers that aren’t a good fit for their project.
It’s important to write, rewrite, rewrite again and know your market.
What’s your biggest challenge as a writer? How did you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?
Like many other writers, the biggest challenge I face as a writer is finding the time to write. An aspiring author should write regularly—if not daily than as often as possible. That can be quite a challenge when you have a family, job and household to juggle.
I have been very, very fortunate in that I have a husband and extended family that are so completely supportive of my writing. My mother or aunt will call me sometimes at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and ask, “What are you doing…and why aren’t you writing?” Then one of them will offer to take my kids to a park or something for a couple of hours while I get down a few pages and my husband takes care of some of our weekend chores. That kind of support system is what enabled me to finish Heir to the Lamp.
If you were sick/stuck in bed, what comfort food would you want and what author would you want to read?
Chicken noodle soup and Neil Gaiman. Should Mr. Gaiman be willing to spoon feed me the soup and actually read to me from any of his works, I would happily be bedridden until the end of my days. He has the BEST voice and I highly recommend listening to any of his self-narrated audiobooks.
Favorite/most influential teacher
Heir to the Lamp is dedicated in part to my favorite high school teacher Mrs. Melanie Houston. Melanie taught English and sponsored the school yearbook and newspaper staffs. She cared for her students and invested in them in a way that I’d never experienced before or since. Our successes meant as much to her as the triumphs of her own beloved children. Because of Mrs. Houston, I never felt limited because of parents who struggled financially. I never felt “less than” in any way as a student because she made me believe in myself and my abilities.
Tragically, Melanie Houston died of breast cancer a few short years after my high school graduation and the world lost one of the best educators to ever live. I hope the book would have made her proud.
What drew you to writing this genre?
I became an avid reader as a teen. My attitudes, fears and aspirations of that time in my life have heavily influenced my taste in reading as much as my writing.
Above all, I like telling stories from the perspective of a child. YA fantasy in particular, where characters in new and unknown worlds make great discoveries, wield magic, battle dragons, face their deepest fears and emerge victorious! It’s a break from the drudgery that can be a grownup’s life.
Do you write as you go or do you have the book all planned out from page 1?
I’m definitely a “pantster”. While I generally have a firm idea about the beginning of a story and a few plot points, I don’t always know how I’ll bridge them over the course of the novel, what my final conflict will be, or how the resolution will play out. While I take a lot of pleasure in discovering a story this way, I must admit that having an outline or doing some preplanning is probably the more efficient way to go. I did a lot of revising of Heir to the Lamp to correct some plot issues that an outline could have prevented.
How do you come up with the characters names/personalities?
The Genie Chronicles series is heavily influenced by my family; we are as eclectic as Ginn’s family. I have three biological children, two step-children, and maintain a close relationship with a now adult cousin that I informally adopted when he was a teen. Each of these young people are represented as characters in the books and much of the banter, teasing and torment of one another that happens in the books can be witnessed on any given day around our house.
Similarly, Daddy’s Girl, another manuscript I’m working to complete, is largely based on my mother and her siblings, growing up in 1960’s Alabama in the years after their father’s sudden death.
The Monster Blood Tattoo series by New Zealand author and illustrator DM Cornish was released for the US market as The Foundling Trilogy. Cornish is a master at world building! These YA novels are some of my absolute favorite.
Describe your book in 5 words.
Teen discovers she’s a genie.
Are you for or against books being made into movies?
For! Especially when it comes to Young Adult books. The success of the Harry Potter film franchise successfully paved the way for other great YA books to be made into movies: The Chronicles of Narnia and Twilight films in past years and more recently The Hunger Games and Mortal Instruments. It seems that more and more movie makers are turning to current YA best-sellers for their next projects, and I, for one, believe films based on such works make for great entertainment.
Where is your favorite spot to write?
With so many kids, the one place I’m alone is the bath tub, and then only sometimes. While I do consider soaking to be another great hobby of mine, the tub isn’t the most conducive place to combine my two favorite pastimes.
I write wherever and whenever I can. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sprung from the shower to jot down a note on a legal pad I’ve taken to keeping nearby. I talk to my characters in my minivan on the way to my office and have piles of old business cards with snipits of dialogue on them in the glove box and cup holders.
When I’m under a deadline and have reinforcements, I like to write at my local bookstore or coffee shop. Nothing feeds my muse better than the sound of running water unless it’s the smells of brewing coffee and new books.
TV or Movies? Movies
Hot or Cold? Cold
Black or White? Black
Night owl, or early bird? Early Bird
Print or Ebook? Print
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate
Regular or Diet? Regular
Coke or Pepsi? Coke
Horror or Romance? Romance
Action or Drama? Drama
Pizza or Pasta? Pizza
Skittles or M&Ms? M&Ms
Sweet or Salty? Salty
Summer or Winter? Winter
City or Country? Country
Harry Potter or Twilight? Harry Potter
Gum or Breath Mints? Gum
Spontaneity or Planning Ahead? Spontaneity
PC or Mac? PC
Beach or Pool? Pool
Shoes or Sandals? Sandals
Cats or Dogs? Cats
Apples or Oranges? Oranges
Cause or Effect? Cause
Heads or Tails? Tails
Facebook or Twitter? Facebook
Truth or Dare? Truth
Text or Talk? Text
Introvert or Extrovert? Introvert
Favorite Books JK Rowling’s Harry Potter & the Order of the Pheonix, Beth Hoffman’s Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Jacqueline Guidry’s The Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town, DM Cornish’s Factotum, & Veronica Roth’s Divergent
Books You Are Dying to Read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, Allegiant by Veronica Roth, Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, The Supremes at Earl’s All You Can Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore, & The Wells Bequest by Polly Shullman
Heir to the Lamp
A family secret, a mysterious lamp, a dangerous Order with the mad desire to possess both. Ginn thinks she knows all there is to know about how she became adopted by parents whose number one priority is to embarrass her with public displays of affection, but that changes when a single wish starts a never-ending parade of weirdness marching through her door the day she turns thirteen.
Gifted with a mysterious lamp and the missing pieces from her adoption story, Ginn tries to discover who…or what…she really is. That should be strange enough, but to top it off Ginn’s being hunted by the Order of the Grimoire, a secret society who’ll stop at nothing to harness the power of a real genie. Ginn struggles to stay one step ahead of the Grimms with the help of Rashmere, Guardian of the lamp and the most loyal friend a girl never knew she had. The Grimms are being helped, too — but by whom? As much as she doesn’t want to, Ginn’s beginning to question the motives of her long-time crush Caleb Scott and his connection to her newest, most dangerous enemy.
1 ebook of Heir to the Lamp