Monday, July 7, 2014

What's Your Damage?

I am a damaged person.
My characters are damaged...
It takes one to know one.

In Dec. 2009, Publisher’s Weekly said of The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, “Damaged people inhabit this debut novel: people who have been struck by lightning as well as those who have lost loved ones from death, divorce, drinking, or duplicity. Young-Stone tells parallel stories that hurdle storm after storm headlong into one another... [She] is a very fine writer who has created a host of endearing losers—young, old, literate, and simple, all full of longing. What she does best is portray the incredulousness of the unlucky.”

"I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth…”  As a matter of fact, I used to skip class in elementary school, hiding in the school’s library or staying at home (latch-key kid) to write stories.  In high school, I was a Goth girl, punk rocker, skipping school to hang out in the city, to go see bands like Gwar and The Butthole Surfers: drums on fire and topless dancers.  I experienced a lot of craziness from a very young age.  With the craziness, a lot of scary things, damaging things, happened to me. 

I think you have to own it: the damage and the madness.  I think you gotta take hold of it so that it doesn’t take hold of you.  I think you have to use it.  I put it down on paper and count myself a survivor.  I’m like my characters.  I came out all right in the end.  Better than all right, really.   

Sometimes what I write is “too dark,” and I have to revise.  Just the same, I need to write it down.  I need to put my experiences on paper.  Then, it’s all right to scrape away the raw things.  I also need to write fiction and NOT non-fiction because for me, it’s too scary to “tell all.”  I like to infuse my characters with my own emotions and experiences.  I like to inhabit and bring them to life, but not me.  Not all of me.  It’s too scary to put that on the page. 

With my next book, Above Us Only Sky, I drew from a myriad of experiences, but one
Release Day, April 13, 2010 (my sweet boy)
of the driving forces was my love for my son, and my fear of what the world might do with him.  When I was pregnant with him, I started sponsoring a little girl in Ecuador.  I couldn't "change the channel" anymore.  I couldn't imagine a parent watching her child go hungry.  All of the sudden, it was too close to home.  Now, I sponsor two children.  Having taught The Diary of Anne Frank to middle-schoolers for four years, I was haunted by Anne's plight, by the Holocaust.  I pray that my son never knows starvation or war.  I wish that no one knew hunger or war.  But so many people have, and so many still do.  These are some of the many things that compel me and drive my storytelling.  

Above Us Only Sky is a novel about two girls born with wings, but at the simplest level, it’s about survival.  Without a survivor, there’s no one to tell the story.”  In my upcoming novel, I’m one of the survivors.  I’m telling the story for two WWII survivors, for the Baltic countries, for oppressed regions around the world, and for the children, our children, AND with the hope that one day the wars will stop, and no one will have to know fear, hunger and pain.  Thank you for reading!   

Michele Young-Stone is the author of the debut THE HANDBOOK FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS (Crown, 2010).

Her next novel, ABOVE US ONLY SKY (Simon & Schuster), will be released in early 2015.  She has a third novel, PERFECT BIRDS, under contract with Simon & Schuster.  Michele is currently at work on a fourth novel, as yet untitled. 

When Michele isn’t writing, she is spending time with her family, crafting, painting, or doing Zumba.  She’s not a good sleeper.  

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COMING 2015 Above Us Only Sky; Early reviews from fellow novelists: Lydia Netzer, Heidi Durrow, and Tracy Guzeman.

"Above Us Only Sky is a raw, beautiful, unforgettable book that folds unfathomable horrors and
unfathomable love into a story of incredible power. Young-Stone is a master writer, and her deft control of this novel's many moving pieces puts her in the highest echelon of our craft. Yet at the center, literal and figurative, of this novel is a story so brilliantly simple and deeply moving, you'll forget you are reading a book. This story shook me to my core, and I can't wait for the rest of the world to experience it." -Lydia Netzer, author of Shine Shine Shine, one of the NYT Book Review's list of 100 Notable Books of 2012.

"Rich with themes of love and loss, Young-Stone has spun a beautiful tale on the cusp of magical realism, but with 100% pure magical prose. …Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down." Heidi Durrow, New York Times Best-Selling Author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books)

“The beautiful prose in Michele Young-Stone’s Above Us Only Sky flies off the page. A stirring meditation on resilience, the ties that bind us to our past, and what it means to have wings.”—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds


  1. What a wonderful post Michele. I feel very similarly about my fiction, I take elements of my life, cull through the damage and pain, and smooth or disguise the edges (sometimes keeping it raw) and what emerges is a story, a fiction.

    That picture of your sweet son holding your novel is so adorable and inspiring. One day I can only hope my kids can hold up my published novel.

    Looking forward to reading your fictional words!

    1. Dana, Thanks for the wonderful comment. I can't tell you how amazing it was taking my son to bookstores and libraries to see my first novel. We also saw it in the airport in New York. I told the lady next to me, "You should buy that book. It's really good." LOL My son has been such an inspiration to me, and my husband is my rock. Please let me know when your first novel gets published. It'll happen. There's nothing quite like it. XO

  2. Looking forward to this new book, Michele!

    1. You are a doll! Thanks for commenting, and I hope I can do Writer Unboxed when it comes out! You have the best Writer Networking/How-to/Inspirational blog. Much love. Thank you for the support.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Leslie. I get so excited when someone comments on a blog that I write. When I read this month's topic suggestion, I was like, "AHA, that's got me written all over it!"

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, Barbara. Me too! It's been a long time in the works.