What a thrill to host Michelle Shocklee on the blog this week! Enjoy getting to know her and learn more about her new historical release, Count the Nights by Stars. Be sure to comment on the interview by March 29 for chance to win a print copy of Michelle’s new book!
Welcome Michelle! Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for 34 years and we have two grown sons. Ten years ago, my husband and I began working as Estate Caretakers, which means we live and work on large properties and help the owners take care of everything. We’ve lived on a 400-acre llama & sheep ranch in Texas and currently live on a 250-acre gentleman’s farm outside of Nashville. We love what we do!
That is so cool! As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I honestly don’t recall dreaming about a future career as a child. My mom was an elementary school teacher, so when I went to college, I chose elementary education as my major. What I didn’t factor in was passion. My mom’s passion was working with children but mine wasn’t. I loved reading and writing but it didn’t occur to me until I was in my late twenties to begin pursuing that as a career.
Readers are blessed you came to that conclusion! How and when did you start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing stories, but it wasn’t until I was married with children that I decided to work on a novel. Home computers were just getting popular, so when my husband brought one home, I got to work. However, I had a LOT to learn about writing a novel. I began attending writers’ conferences and eventually signed with my first agent. It would still be quite a few years before my first book was published, but God is faithful and used those early years to teach me about myself and about writing.
Thanks for sharing that. Your story offers hope for pre-published writers. What genre do you write and what inspired you to write that particular genre?
I love history! When choosing books to read or movies to watch, I always gravitate toward historical stories. As an author, I very much enjoy researching historical events and bringing them to life for readers. My most recent books have been dual-timeline stories, which involves two different historical time periods.
I really enjoy dual-timeline stories! Speaking of research, how long do you spend on it before you begin writing a book?
Too long! I adore research, so there usually comes a point that I have to make myself stop researching and start writing the story. But I also do research as I write, because little things will come up that I need to fact-check or whatnot to ensure I’m on the right track.
Fun stuff! Do you have any pets? If so, do they find their way into any of your stories?
We’ve had many pets through the years, and several have found their way into my books. In my new release, Count the Nights by Stars, our beloved Dachshund, Copper, makes several appearances. Our Copper was not only the best dog we’ve ever owned, he was also the most famous. While in his prime, he was a champion racer, winning eleven national wiener dog races. He was even featured (along with his human, my husband) on CBS’s Sunday Morning show.
Wow, that’s awesome. Tell us about the setting of your current novel. If it’s a real location, have you visited?
My new release, Count the Nights by Stars, is set in Nashville, Tennessee, where I currently live. Although the story is set in 1961 & 1897, I enjoyed visiting Centennial Park and the Parthenon, which make appearances in both timelines. Much of downtown Nashville has changed since 1961, but readers can still see the Noel Hotel (or Noelle, as it’s now called) which stood across the street from the Maxwell House Hotel, the prime setting in the book.
Interesting. Nashville’s a great setting for a novel. How do you incorporate Christ and hope into your writing?
As an author who is also a Christian, I believe everything I write should point people to Jesus Christ. That doesn’t mean I preach, quote scripture, or have conversion scenes on every page, but it does mean that the characters in the story will be on a journey—spiritual and physical—that ultimately ends with a deeper understanding of who they are in Christ.
That’s a great goal. What do you hope your readers take away from Count the Nights by Stars?
I hope readers will be reminded to be more aware of the people around them. “I see you” is the theme at the heart of the story. Each of the main characters—Priscilla and Audrey—encounter people and circumstances that open their eyes to the world around them. Both have lived somewhat sheltered, selfish lives, so coming face to face with the harsh realities of our broken world sets them on a journey of looking deep within themselves and how they can become part of the solution.
That sounds like a wonderful takeaway for everyone. What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Don’t give up. Learning the craft of writing a novel takes time, as does publication. Do go to conferences and workshops. Do join writers’ groups. Don’t compare your journey to that of another author. Don’t compare your skills to anyone else’s. The writer of the Book of Hebrews reminds us in chapter twelve, verse one to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” No one else can run your race or win your prize. No one else can write the books God has placed in your heart and mind.
Excellent advice! What’s next from you?
Count the Nights by Stars is the only book I’ll release in 2022, but I’m working on a new novel that will release sometime in 2023. It too is a dual timeline, but instead of taking place in Nashville, we’re moving over to the beautiful hills of East Tennessee. I’m loving the research (of course!) and am learning all kinds of new and interesting things about…OH, wait! I can’t tell you yet, but I think readers will really enjoy these new characters and their fascinating lives.
I can’t wait to hear more about your next novel! Thanks so much for sharing on the blog this week, Michelle. I’m looking forward to reading your new book! Blessings to you.
Join the conversation. Do you enjoy reading historical fiction? What about dual-timeline stories? Have you ever visited Nashville? Do you have any questions for Michelle?
Be sure to comment by March 29 for a chance to win a paperback copy of Count the Nights by Stars! (Keep scrolling to find the comments section)
Count the Nights by Stars by Michelle Shocklee
Click the book cover for purchase link
Count your nights by stars, not shadows. Count your life with smiles, not tears.
1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier.
1897. Outspoken and forward-thinking Priscilla Nichols isn’t willing to settle for just any man. She’s still holding out hope for love when she meets Luca Moretti on the eve of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Charmed by the Italian immigrant’s boldness, Priscilla spends time exploring the wonderous sights of the expo with Luca―until a darkness overshadows the monthslong event. Haunted by a terrible truth, Priscilla and Luca are sent down separate paths as the night’s stars fade into dawn.
Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels, including Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Awards finalist. Her work has been included in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about.
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If you missed last week’s interview with debut author, Crystal Caudill, find it here.