Michele Stegman, an author and artist, weaves historical romance novels, as well as fabric. Her passion as a fabric artist is reflected in her writing. “I have never written a scene where material or any clothing is blithely discarded,” she said. Likewise, her genre inspires her art. “I love to paint people in historical costume,” she added. In this Q&A, Stegman talks about her book, “Conquest of the Heart,” and how her love for history led her to writing romance.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
A: Even as a child I loved history. I majored in history in graduate school but, according to my professors, I put too much romance in my papers. I never thought history was boring, so why should history papers be dry and boring? I decided to put more romance in my writing and write historical romance.
Q: How long have you been writing and how many books have you published, so far?
A: I have been writing since fourth grade. I guess most writers start young. As soon as I was old enough to realize that books were written by people, I wanted to be one of those people. I wrote a lot of articles and worked as a reporter for a local paper. “Conquest of the Heart” is my sixth full-length book. I have also published a novella and some short stories.
Q: What is “Conquest of the Heart” about?
A: The book is set in England during the Norman Conquest. The hero is English and is forced to marry a Norman woman in order to keep his land. The two of them have a lot of distrust and resentment to work through to find love. But even though that is a serious topic set in a dangerous and violent time, the book has a lot of humor. I usually say it is a lighthearted romp through the Dark Ages. It also has some unusual twists.
A: As an artist I work in several mediums (oil, watercolor, acrylics, etc.). I have done tiny paintings, just 1 1/2 inches by 2 inches, and I have done a 3-foot-by-6-foot mural for a local city.
As a fiber artist, I work with fibers such as wool, llama, alpaca, mohair, etc. I take a raw fleece, wool that has been sheared from the animal, and clean the fleece by washing it in hot soapy water. Shearing doesn't hurt the animal. It's just like us getting our haircut. Next I card the wool. Carding is similar to brushing your hair. It is one way to prepare the fiber for spinning. Then, using my spinning wheel or a spindle, I spin the wool into yarn. I use the yarn to weave something on my loom, or I use it to knit or crochet.
Q: How does your writing affect your art work and vice versa?
A: As a hand spinner and weaver, I understand the process that our ancestors had to go through to make their clothes. It takes a lot of time to create an article of clothing when you have to shear a sheep, clean the wool, spin it, weave it, then make the material into a dress or suit. For me, spinning and weaving are just hobbies, but for people in the past, it was part of their lives. I try to keep in mind how important fabric was in the past. Clothing, bedding, linens, were left to children in wills and used for generations. I have never written a scene where material or any clothing is blithely discarded.
Because I write historical romance I love to paint people in historical costume. The mural I painted was of a spinner at her spinning wheel. You can see it at www.MicheleStegman.com/myart.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Listen to critiques of your writing without defending it or arguing. Then take the advice you feel is right and disregard the rest. Ultimately, it is your book, and it must come from you.
Make sure you know the mechanics of writing, grammar and punctuation, paragraphing and spelling. Make sure you use the right word. For instance, "he could have," rather than "he could of." Spell check doesn't catch those kinds of mistakes and sometimes, neither does an editor.
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