Michele PW - Everything is Not as it Seems
Michele Pariza Wacek is an author who enjoys leaving the reader with the feeling that "everything is not as it seems." Her second novel, Mirror Image, is no exception, where even the main character doesn't know whether she is the killer or not. As our author of the day, Pariza Wacek reveals how whe uses dreams, memories and an unreliable narrator to create this creepy atmosphere that keeps readers at the edge of their seats.
Please give us a short introduction to Mirror Image
Six months after Linda's sister Elizabeth killed herself, Linda has finally gotten her life back to some semblance of normalcy. Until a killer appears who is stalking men ... a killer who resembles Elizabeth ... a killer who seems somehow familiar to Linda.
And to make matters worse, Detective Steve Anderson, her old high school crush, is assigned to the case. He's asking Linda all sorts of questions - questions she couldn't possibly have an answer to.
There's no reason for him to be investigating Linda. She couldn't possibly have anything to do with this.
What inspired you to use a serial killer who preys on men? It is usually the other way around.
Precisely because it's not normally done -- I thought it would be interesting to explore flipping the script to see what would happen. But, even more than that, while I enjoy the serial killer genre, I don't always enjoy that it's women being targeted. So, I personally thought it would be interesting to read a serial killer murder mystery where it was men being hunted.
Mirror Image also deals with repressed memories. Why did you decide to work that aspect of the human psyche into this book?
One of the themes that show up consistently in my books is "things are not as they seem." If you can't trust your memories, what can you trust? So much of what we perceive as "reality" and "truth" depends on our memories -- if that's taken away, how will we know what's real and what's not? Or what's true and what's not? People always say the truth is the truth -- but is that actually true? Or is how we perceive truth based on our perceptions, which can be faulty?
How important is it for you to hook your readers in the very first chapter?
There's a saying that your first chapter is how people will make the decision to read that book. But your last chapter determines if people will read your next book. So, for me, making sure the first chapter hooks readers is very important. (As well as the last chapter.)
Dreams play an important role in your book. How do you think do dreams guide us in life? Or are they just a reflection of what is happening in our minds?
I personally believe dreams are an important link to your subconscious. If you study the human brain, the subconscious is actually the largest part of your brain (not the part of your brain you're using right now to read this -- that's considered your ego and is actually the smallest part). What's fascinating about brain science is how powerful your subconscious is -- it can influence your habits and behavior and even what you perceive as truth in ways you're likely not even to be conscious of. Your dreams are an important link -- your subconscious could be sending you messages or helping process emotions such as grief or anger. So, to me, dreams are an essential piece of helping us navigate through this world.
Linda doesn't know whether she might be the killer. What inspired you to use an unreliable narrator, making Linda a prime suspect, even in the reader's eyes?
I've always liked reading, and writing, about flawed characters -- having an unreliable narrator is certainly the definition of flawed. And, it continues the theme of the book about what the nature of truth and reality. If you can't trust the narrator, can you really trust the story? Or is there more beneath the surface?
Besides writing, what other cool skills do you have?
Ha! I certainly wish I had other magical skills, but alas they're woefully lacking. My dog and I do agility and barn hunt (barn hunt is when the live rats are placed in tubes -- yes the rats are safe and they really don't seem to mind it -- the tubes are hid and the dogs need to find them) but I think that's more about my dog's skills than mine. I'm also excellent at keeping the couch from floating away during football season.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do to get over it and how do you manage to stay productive?
It's interesting because my views of writer's block have changed over the years. When I was younger, I viewed writer's block as something I needed to conquer because it was something that was trying to hurt me. But, over the years, I've realized writer's block is actually my friend and not my enemy. To me, when I'm blocked, it's almost always because something deeper is going on. Maybe I don't have enough information and I need to do some additional research or ask more questions. Maybe it's because I'm going about this project all wrong and I need to rethink my angle or approach. Or maybe it's because this isn't the right idea or project for me to be working on right now. Now, when I'm blocked, I almost always take that opportunity to pause and feel into what the bigger message is and what's really going on.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
While I still love physical books -- the feel and even the smell -- it's hard to beat having a kindle. Before, when I would go on a trip, I would pack a bunch of books because I just wouldn't know what I would feel like reading (or if one of the books I brought would be a dud) but now, I don't have that issue. So, I would say, I'm mostly reading ebooks but print books will always have a place in my heart.
What's an aspect of being a writer that you didn't know about going in?
Hmmm, I've been a professional writer for so long (and I've been writing since I was a child) I really don't know what aspect I didn't know going in. I will say that over the years I've learned that just because you know you're supposed to be a writer -- that it's your purpose and passion -- doesn't mean you always love writing. Or that there aren't times where you're blocked or just don't feel like writing. It's not always going to be smooth sailing, and that's okay. It can still be your love and you can still have those days where you want to pull all your hair out.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Well I really loved Gone Girl -- that is definitely a book I wish I had written. (Which is why I've taken it as a huge compliment that a few people have told me Mirror Image is similar to Gone Girl.)
What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Keep writing. If you're a writer, you write. If you're not, you let things stop you. I personally did let things stop me (at least on the fiction side-- on the nonfiction side I've never stopped) and that advice is one of the things that helped me find my way home.
Where can our readers interact with you or discover more of your work?
My fiction writing website is MicheleParizaWacek.com, which has a lot of links to my social networking sites. I love hearing from my readers so most definitely reach out and say hi!