What was your inspiration to start (and keep) writing?
The first thing I remember writing (I was eight or nine) was a parody of The Night before Christmas based on Thanksgiving with my relatives. I gave a neatly printed, illustrated copy to my father’s cousin Muriel, who was the host of our holiday dinner. There’s nothing like a ton of praise from relatives to encourage a youngster to continue an activity. Mrs. Adams, my English teacher in middle school, was a major influencer who helped me develop both creative content and the habit of writing daily.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write in and how it found you?
A friend dubbed my genre “revisionist chick lit.” I love the wine-soaked sarcasm of old-school chick lit. In Ellen the Harpist, I combine some of the frothy fun I enjoy reading in other novels with the realism of life as a modern woman. For instance, it was important to me that my protagonist showed both talent and passion for her job, something I have sensed was out of balance in some of the existing titles in the genre. Ellen’s career is the source of her strength and independence.
A part of me cringes at the use of gender identity in the names of genres like chick lit and women’s fiction, especially since there aren’t male equivalents. So many elements of the so-called women’s genres appear in most books and appeal to readers of any gender.
Is there any author whom you admire and read every book they publish? Who and why?
I have read a ton of Trollope, E. M. Forster, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins. All of these great storytellers introduced me to characters I really wanted to know (well, some of the characters I really wanted to avoid) because they were so perfectly drawn. And each has a wonderful touch in writing humor. I went through a bit of an Anaïs Nin phase in collage. I even wore Anaïs Anaïs perfume for a while, even though it was wasn’t named after the writer.
If you watch TV, what are your shows right now?
My favorite new show this summer is Brain Dead, from the creators of The Good Wife. And I’m counting the days (11!!!) until Drunk History returns.
Do you have any talents other than writing that your fans maybe don’t know about?
Gauging from the reaction to the release of my first novel by people who know me as a harpist, I think writing is my secret talent. Also, I can cure hiccups.
If you could go on vacation anywhere, where would you choose and why?
I recently spent three incredible days in Haiti with my best friends. I would gladly repeat that vacation another thousand times, especially if I could bring my husband and stay longer. The who I’m with always amplifies the experience of being where I am.
Do you have any writing rituals we should all start doing?
Most of the routines I employ as a writer come from my life as a musician. I schedule when I’m going to write each day, for instance. And I give myself time to warm up. I find my productivity at both the harp and the laptop gets into gear after about 15 minutes. I pay no heed to those occasional days when I’m not in the mood to practice or write during my warm up, and I set very small goals for myself until the moment passes. My writing warm up is usually re-reading what I wrote at the end of my last session. But there are days I compose a scene in my head while I’m at the gym, and I run to my laptop and type as soon as I get home.
What is your favorite movie? And then book to movie?
With a nod to the wonderful Gene Wilder, Young Frankenstein is one of my favorite movies. My favorite book to movie is A Room with a View. And the musician in me needs to add a third answer here: my favorite movie soundtracks are 2001: A Space Odyssey and Repo Man.
What are three foods you can’t live without?
Talenti Mediterranean Mint gelato, dumplings from any and every culinary tradition, and g+t’s. They represent all of the major food groups, right? Vegetables and Fruits (Mint and Lime), Grains, Meat, Dairy, and Gin.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is people who don’t public well. For instance, people who block a doorway and don’t move out of the way when a tiny lady pushing a huge harp is trying to walk through it. Well, pretty much anytime people find some way to use space inefficiently (read: selfishly). Or people who play videos on their phones without ear buds on the bus. Or….
About the Author:
DIANE MICHAELS is a professional harpist living in New Jersey. Her career has taken her from Carnegie Hall to the wedding hall (she has played at least 1000 weddings). When not performing or writing, she and her husband make up songs about and for their miniature poodle, Lola.
As a writer, Ms. Michaels has penned program biographies and press materials for classical musicians, and her articles on developing and sustaining a career as a musician have appeared in publications including Harp Column and Allegro.
Ms. Michaels plays the harp for tea at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. She has played on Broadway for the show Thoroughly Modern Millie and with Tony Bennett at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City. She is on the roster of Music for all Seasons, a non-profit organization. She serves as the Mid Atlantic Regional Director of the American Harp Society. In addition to maintaining a private teaching studio, Ms. Michaels is on the faculty of the Wharton Music Center.
(click on cover to go to amazon page)
Ellen the Harpist
Published: July 19, 2016
Single. Inept at flirting. But at least she’s got talent and a sense of humor. The problem is, she’s often the punch line. Despite her difficulties, Ellen Blum is proud of the cred she has earned serenading brides down the aisle with her harp. Doesn’t being 27 and paying her rent on time prove she’s a grown-up?
Not so much, according to her personal chorus of critics. As she dodges the barbs and petty crimes of her bosses and copes with a family crisis, she feels more like a child than ever. She has her heart set on silencing her critics and teaching them — and maybe herself — a new tune. But becoming more than the person described on her business card is even trickier than moving her harp.
To be Author of the Week check out this page.