TCB: Michele is the author of The Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers. Saga 1: The The Uncooperative Flying Carpet. Saga 2: The Uncomfortable Glass Slippers, Saga 3: The Uncontrollable Slingshot, all three titles with educational resources available at http://www.mcmauthor.com. We received two copies of Saga 1, one in a standard edition and another in Dyslexia-friendly version. And this caught our attention. We decided then, to talk to her about her work.
TCB: You seem to put a lot of effort around each book, writing them is hard enough but adding these other resources and think of alternatives for the different type of readers is going an extra mile. What was the motivation?
MMC: My background is in education, so I know that other teachers love having resources already prepared for them to use in class. The teaching resources I’ve developed are free to download and available in traditional font and in dyslexie font so most of their students will be able to use them. When I first decided to publish independently, I wanted to have one book that was suitable for all readers, including those who are dyslexic, but as I did more and more research, I found that the best thing would be to take out a publishers’ licence with the team at Dyslexie in the Netherlands and publish the two versions separately. The more research I carried out, the more I realised how much dyslexic readers are ignored by the traditional publishers, and how much having books for them means. I was touched when the mother of a dyslexic reader contacted me and said that her daughter thought I must be a nice person to have gone to the effort of making sure my books were available for readers like her. I recently signed a contract with a USA-based publisher, Morgan James Kids, who will be publishing The Uncooperative Flying Carpet in the States in 2018 and I’ve negotiated with them to continue publishing the dyslexia-friendly books myself, via my own publishing company Shropshire Lass Publishing.
TCB: Can you tell us about the technical side of the Dyslexia-friendly version. What is different and why?
MMC: I spoke to the NZ Dyslexia foundation and they encouraged me to contact a Dutch organisation who have developed a font that is specific to the dyslexic brain. My books are printed using this font, which is much larger, more spaced, and has heavier weighting at the bottom of the characters. The books are printed on cream paper instead of white and have a ragged left margin instead of the text being aligned in blocks.
TCB: I’m curious about your choice of titles: “The Uncooperative …” , “The Uncomfortable …”, “The Uncontrollable … and the use of “S”s, is there a story behind it? Do patterns have a meaning to you?
MMC: I like the rhythm that repetition of sounds brings, and the focus that it gives to phrases. The book titles are linked to show that they are a trilogy, rather than stand-alone books.
TCB: Tell us about Onslaught, the sci-fi book written by a group of Canterbury young writers? I read the article from Christchurch Mail and it sounded like a very cool project. How did it come about? How did you get involved?
MMC: As well as teaching academic literacy, I teach creative writing at evening classes, and to the home-schooled community, so I was already working with the group of young men who wrote Onslaught. They had contributed to different anthologies which I had published for them, but were keen to work together to co-author a novel. Onslaught tells the story of a number of different characters and how they react when aliens invade earth. Each student wrote a specific character, I wrote another and edited their work at the end. They made over 70 sales of e-books and paperbacks in their first week, so they were thrilled with the outcome. It was so much fun, and gave me a terrific understanding of the types of books young men enjoy reading.
TCB: Is Fantasy your genre of choice to express your ideas and stories in a long format? How do you compare to the newspaper features you also write?
MMC: No-one was more surprised than me that I wrote a fantasy trilogy! I always wanted to write detective fiction, and I have a young adult series in that genre under development at the moment. The Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers grew from a story I wrote for my step-daughter one Christmas, but I enjoyed it so much, I’m also writing a companion book of short stories which feature many of the other characters from the trilogy.
TCB: What type of book do you recommend to read on a daily bus commute? Any particular title?
MMC: I listen to talking books when I go to work, and they range from ‘cosy mysteries’ to children’s books. At the moment, it’s The Blind Assassins by Margaret Atwood because the Book Discussion Group I belong to is reading it – read whatever makes you happy.