Interview with Author Michelle Buckman

Turning In Circles is permeated with what is – to me, anyway – a Southern fiction voice. What characteristics do you see as setting Southern fiction apart from general fiction set throughout the United States? (Because I wouldn’t necessarily call everything set in the American south, “Southern fiction.”)

Turning In CirclesBecause I was born in New York and raised in Canada, I arrived in North Carolina as an outsider when I was at the critical teeny-bopper stage. That experience permitted me to observe the South from a different perspective than those who have always lived here. There is a difference in mannerisms, in how families interact, in how people interact in public, and even in the social structure of small communities.

To that end, Savannah came to me as the perfect character to reveal those very Southern mannerisms and viewpoints. Turning in Circles captures the charm of small-town families, the connectedness of such communities, as well as the humid air and the sunbaked landscape. The sentences themselves drip with the slow, sugary verbiage of the South.

When Rachel’s Contrition was first published, I remember a buzz about it on the (now-defunct) Faith & Family blog. There was clear excitement about a women’s fiction novel written from a Catholic worldview. And yet, it’s been my experience that the Catholic fiction audience is difficult to identify. Do you agree, and, if so, why do you think that is?

Rachels ContritionCatholics will read anything. Catholics filter out whatever is contrary to their faith, but don’t necessarily put it down. Therefore, we don’t have Catholics seeking specifically Catholic fiction. I think it’s also because most people, even really devout Catholics, don’t want to read sappy, predictable stories, and when they hear something labeled as faith fiction, they assume that’s what they’ll get because there is so much of that out there. Obviously, they get a great awakening if they read mine. It’s definitely gritty, more gritty than some mainstream works. Having deep faith doesn’t mean not having worldly issues to face every day of our lives, and those are the things I tackle in my plots.

Some Christian authors find a tension between entertaining and evangelizing. Do you believe that’s an inherent tension? Should one prevail over the other?

Obviously, the intention of any story is to entertain, and certain elements must be included within the story structure to achieve that goal. However, I don’t think a writer should aim to evangelize. The story belongs to the character and therefore the character should tell it. Faith should be depicted as it naturally flows into that character’s journey, not forced into it to project a message.

I think every writer has a message within their story, whether it’s something as simple as enjoying every day of your life or as serious as coming to terms with death. However, the message must be almost subliminal; the reader must “get it” from what they see unfold, just as Jesus used parables to let followers gather his meaning. Some people will get it, some won’t, but in my opinion, being blatantly didactic is a turnoff in fiction.

Death Panels has been on my to-be-read list for too long. Without having read it yet, I’ve heard that it’s more relevant today, perhaps, than when it was written. Have any of the circumstances you’d predicted come to pass?

Death PanelsI wrote Death Panels way back in the early 90s when I saw where things were headed. It wasn’t a book I wanted to write because I wanted to stick to women’s fiction. Nevertheless, God pressed it on me. Every time I tried to turn away from it, another piece would land in my lap. It was a scary book to write. I could feel evil pressing in on me during the writing because I was revealing things that satan had planned. However, it’s not a scary book to read because we’re already there now, in one form or another.

When Obama was elected, three people from a writing group a decade and a half earlier each contacted me individually within a week of one another, from the far reaches of having moved, and told me to get that manuscript published. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), I found an old printout of it while moving my office. I typed the entire thing back in, revised it, and immediately sold it to Tan Books.

Exact things that I predicted aren’t as important as having predicted the general atmosphere of our nation. You can’t explain to young adults today what life was like growing up in the 70s and 80s, or how corrupt their worldview has become in terms of religion and sex. Prior to this generation of young adults, Christianity was the basis of law and order in our country. That baseline is being eroded in court case after court case. The anti-Christian atmosphere, taken to the extreme, is the entire premise of Death Panels, and the most important takeaway.

A few specifics that have come true:

  • We would be watched and listened to through cell phones (keep in mind that the first Motorola  phone had only come into being when I wrote the manuscript, and it was far from being what we call a cell phone today!)
  • People would read and watch the news on computer servers, and everything we did would be watched. (Internet was just coming into use when I wrote the book.)
  • Baby parts would be sold for profit.
  • Marriage would be abolished and replaced with certificates of union for tax purposes. (Not there yet, but…)
  • Fingerprints are now used to pull up medical records—I used implanted chip IDs.

What’s the single best piece of advice you’d give to aspiring authors?

Read, read, read. Study (don’t just read) the books you love and figure out why you love them. When you get caught up in reading a story, go back and figure out why—and learn from it. Use real dialogue. Leave out the boring parts. Choose the right POV character, and then be true to that character. Listen to the character—it’s his/her story, not yours. Don’t be predictable. Attend one of my workshops or hire me to edit your manuscript

What project(s) are you working on now?

I work as a copy editor for a NYC website now, so that cuts out my mornings,  but I continue to write women’s fiction. I’m thinking of turning my newest idea into a screenplay, but that’s a new territory, so I may partner up with someone for that.

I am also a freelance editor. I’ve edited everything from cookbooks to memoirs to fiction. I don’t have a set fee because every manuscript has its own issues. I have to see the work to price it. I only do a limited number per year, but I’m more than happy to talk to anyone about what my editing will do for them. Contact me at MichellePBuckman at gmail dot com for more info.

Michelle Buckman

Michelle Buckman is an award-winning novelist and international writing workshop instructor and speaker. Her career has encompassed almost every facet of writing, from a weekly newspaper humor column to freelance articles for national publications, including Writer’s Digest. She has been the managing editor of a Charlotte business magazine and is currently a freelance copy editor for an NYC website, while continuing to freelance edit books. She is finishing her eighth novel and working on a children’s series.



Fall Book Signing Events in PA

I’ll be signing and selling copies of Stay With Me, Ornamental Graces, and Rightfully Ours at two upcoming conferences for Catholic women.

Harrisburg Diocesan Women’s Conference

The Harrisburg Diocesan Women’s Conference will be held Saturday, October 14, 2017 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Bishop McDevitt High School, 1 Crusader Way, Harrisburg, PA 17111.

For more information, including registration, click here.

The WINE 2017: National Women’s Conference

The WINE 2017: National Women’s Conference will be held Saturday, October 21, 2017 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, 654 Ferry Rd., Doylestown, PA 18901.

WINE Conference

For more information, including registration, click here.

Refocus Your Lens In Changing Seasons

By Guest Blogger Billie Jauss

I’m feeling old. “Life flies by so fast.” I hear myself saying this more and more often now that I am ‘over 50’ and my baby boy just turned 21 and is heading into his junior year of college. It seems that I have seen a lot of the past flash by in front of me. Panic creeps deep into my spirit. I become focused on the past and what I think I have lost, not the truth of who I am. I focus on me, not on Jesus.

The yearning to change my focus sent me on a spiritual journey to rectify my panic, my selfish spotlight. Being a consummate list maker, I began to list the positive truths of who I am now.

B Jauss Guest PostWho am I? I am a child of God. I know this to the core of my being. I am strong and confident because of my faith. I am a proud wife of an amazing husband I love dearly and like most of the time! He is the man God has given me to dance with through this life.

I am a writer. To admit this to me was much harder than the writing process. I began to embrace the gift God has given me and use it to glorify him. I am a mother, a mother who no longer needs to oversee every aspect of my children’s life. I am a mother, a mentor and guide for my kids through the young adult years of their lives.

Identifying who we are, begins with trusting God with who he has created us to be. Understanding above all the chaos and confusion he has a plan and hope for our future. He has gone before us to prepare the way. When the seasons of our lives change and we question who we are, we turn to him for our identity. Standing strong and confident in who he has created us to be, to glorify him, guides us to use the gifts we have been given to continue to move forward.

We are his.

We are strong.

We are living life to the fullest.

As seasons change and life continues, we grab onto our faith and let God pull us along. Life can take us into places where our identity is displaced. God has been there before us. Knowing who we are in him helps in the changing seasons defining our lives. We can trust God has a plan and hope for our future.

 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

1Corinthians 5:18-20

The old self, our spiritual self before we believed, was a slave to sin and death. Our new self is forgiven and free, given the gift of grace. Our sinful spirits have been destroyed; our slates have been wiped clean. Sin no longer controls us, his spirit does. Even though our past has been wiped clean, we have to choose every day to live in the freedom of knowing Christ was sacrificed for us.

The definition of reconciliation is a restoration of friendly relations. Isn’t it what we want with Jesus, a friendly relationship? If we are to have this type of relationship with an almighty God, we need to cleanse our hearts of the past and choose to live in his love and forgiveness. Getting rid of our old selves and walking in the new self is a gift of our faith.

“You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words” (Psalm 119:57). He is our portion. Jesus satisfies our needs better than a bigger house, a name brand dress or any amount of money. When the Lord becomes our portion, he moves in powerful ways. Remembering God is our portion isn’t always easy. God meets us where we are. He cleanses our hearts to be more open to his desires.

The evaluation of the heart reveals the malfunctions can be asymptomatic until we find ourselves where we never intended to be, in critical condition, complacent, lacking the desire to grow deeper with Christ and experience the abundance in him. The evaluation of our heart increases our desire for a permanent pursuit of God, not of personal focus.

Billie JaussBillie is a North Carolina girl married to a Chicago boy living the baseball life. Her husband is a coach with the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have been in Professional Baseball for 30 years. They have three ‘young men’ who are still her babies. The boys live in Australia, Chicago, and New York. She blames the vagabond lifestyle of baseball for their love of adventure.
Billie loves encouraging women to:
  • Pursue Jesus as their greatest passion.
  • Do less so God can do more.
  • Be the remarkable woman God created YOU to be.
  • Strengthen one another in faith, family, and friendship.


Check out the other fantastic posts by the Summer 2017 guest bloggers!


Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes

Seven Most Recent Reads Edition

As if I didn’t blather enough about books already, right? Between An Open Book (here and at Catholic Mom), Sabbath Rest Book Talk with Erin McCole Cupp and Rebecca Willen, and my Relevant Fiction Reviews posts, you’d think I’d be covered on the book front. But, no, I’ve read such a strong string of books – fiction and nonfiction – that I thought they’d earned their own post. Here are the seven books I’m reading or have recently finished, in order from currently reading to already read.


Standing Strong

 Standing Strong by Theresa LindenStanding Strong, by Theresa Linden, is the forthcoming book in her West Brothers series of teen fiction books that began with the award-winning Roland West, Loner. I’m barely into this one, but chuckling at the gag lingering from Battle for His Soul – a car befouled by rancid Limburger cheese. The characters in this series are so well-developed and the writing so solid and strong. Coming this fall!


Heidi by Johanna SpyriThis children’s classic, Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, was one of my favorites as a child. In fact, I read it multiple times. Thanks to my lousy memory, however, reading this aloud to my younger children is like reading it for the first time!



Finish by Jon AcuffFinish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, by Jon Acuff, is due out next month. I can count the number of motivational-type books I’ve read on one hand. This one appealed to me mainly because I find Jon Acuff’s personality and humor so appealing on social media. Finish is all about reaching goals minus the gung-ho approach that ignores our natural proclivities and often ends in failure. Even if I thought the content was bunk (and I don’t), I’d still read it for the humor. The riff on the Apple Genius Bar is terrific. Coming September 12!


The Other Side of Freedom

The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia ToneyIf you’re looking for solid children’s literature for your middle grade reader or young teen, look no further. The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia Toney is the story of one boy’s struggle to do the right thing when it’s not clear what that may be. Sal is a courageous, relatable hero, and this story set in early 20th century Louisiana has the feel of a classic. Coming October 9!


The Friendship Project

The Friendship ProjectI’ve been anticipating The Friendship Project: The Catholic Woman’s Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-Filled Friends by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet for months now.  I loved their Divine Mercy for Moms: Sharing the Lessons of St. Faustina. This book follows much the same format with chapters from both authors, personal anecdotes, and concrete suggestions for action.  I need to focus on the “making” of such friends more than the “keeping,” since friendship is and has been a long-neglected aspect of my life. I’m hoping to implement some of the suggestions and pray for opportunities to develop such friendships in my life. Coming September 22!


Rosa, Sola

Rosa, Sola by Carmela MartinoHere is another solid choice for middle grade readers and young teens. Rosa, Sola by Carmela Martino, is an honest, heartfelt tale of a girl who, more than anything, wants a baby brother. Rosa’s story is a compassionate tale of hope, heartbreak, and family. A well-written story I’m handing off to my daughter to read.


Caddie Woodlawn

Caddie Woodlawn This Newbery Award winner, Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink,  had slipped by my notice until it became a Sabbath Rest Book Talk selection. I read this aloud to the little kids, and we all enjoyed it. It’s a humorous, touching coming of age story set on the American frontier, and I’m glad to have read it.

If you’re looking for more options for Catholic teens and preteens in the vein of Standing Strong, The Other Side of Freedom, and Rosa, Sola, visit Catholic Teen Books. If you’d like to follow my reviews, you can find me and friend or follow on Goodreads. I read a lot of Catholic fiction (adult and YA) and Christian romance with a variety of other genres sprinkled in. Here’s what I’ll be reading next: Dying for Compassion (The Lady Doc Murders: Volume 2) by Barbara Golder, How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career by James Scott Bell, and Pickup Notes by Jane Lebak.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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All In with Saint Francis

By Guest Blogger Theresa Linden

You only get one life. Live it to the fullest. Follow your calling. Give it your all.

I am a Third Order Franciscan, often called a “Secular” Franciscan because we still live in the world. Some Secular Franciscans are married. Many work regular jobs, but we all seek to pattern our lives after Jesus in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis of Assisi has been my inspiration for giving myself completely to whatever I do.

Do you know the story of St. Francis of Assisi? Regardless of your faith, his life is very inspiring. He gave it all to God, holding nothing back. But even before his calling, he went “all in” no matter what he did. Continue reading

An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the August 2017 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND!

My husband has spent ten days with our oldest son at the National Scout Jamboree. While he was there, he received a copy of Your Word is Your Bond: Lessons in Leadership from Rex W. Tillerson by Perry L. Cochell. It’s so brand-spanking new that I can’t find it anywhere online. Rex Tillerson is the Secretary of State, the former national president of Boy Scouts of America, and an Eagle Scout. Should make for some interesting reading on his long bus ride home.

Hope Dies LastAfter I drag my weary bones home from Vacation Bible School and tend to the rest of the day’s duties, I’ve been wrapping up the night by watching Poldark: Season 2 and reading Hope Dies Last: An Alaskan Adventure by Megan Webb. A young woman crash lands in Alaska with a small group of airplane passengers now tasked with surviving in the wilderness. I’m only about a third of the way through, but I’m enjoying the characters, and the writing is good – always a treat when I pick up a book by an author I’ve not read before.

Bead by BeadNext on my reading list is Bead by Bead: The Scriptural Rosary by Meggie K. Daly. My Rosary “habit” is in constant need of being re-invigorated, so I’m looking forward to this book, which I’ve read many good things about. I’m also looking forward to incorporating some suggestions for praying the Rosary that Allison Gingras shared on my blog: 3 Unique Ways to Harness the Power of the Rosary.

AntigoneI’m pleased that instead of saving all of his assigned summer reading until the final week before school, my son spread his three books out by reading Animal Farm by George Orwell in June  and Antigone by Sophocles in July. Although he liked it, he admitted he didn’t quite understand it all. Sounds about right for his first foray into ancient Greek literature and his unfamiliarity with reading plays. (Ashamed to say that I was a classics major, and this is one of many Latin and Greek classics I haven’t read yet.)

Woe Is IWhile his first two reading assignments were ones he chose from a list, the final book is required for everyone in the class. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English  by Patricia T. O’Connor is, according to my son, “a lot better than you’d think” for a grammar book. It appears to be written in an engaging style, and you can be sure my writer’s paws will be all over this book once he’s finished with it. I can’t guarantee I’ll agree with all of it, since I don’t like anyone messing with the grammar rules I learned in school, but there appears to be a lot of solid writing advice contained within.

Underground RRMy daughter’s been zipping through books so quickly, I’ve taken to roaming the library during the other kids’ summer programs to find her new series.  She reads well, but she’s only nine, so books must be appropriate for her maturity level. I discovered the Liberty Letter series, published by Zondervan, that as a fan of American history, she has absolutely loved! Escape on the Underground Railroad by Nancy LeSourd, is her favorite thus far. The series is written from a Christian worldview and the characters rely on God in their difficulties.  Other books in the epistolary series, which she has read or is reading, pertain to the Civil War, Jamestown, and Pearl Harbor.

Paul RevereAnother series that indulges her love of American history is the Childhood of Famous Americans Series. She enjoys them because she said they “tell you about a lot of things you might not learn in school,” like the fact that Martha Washington went by “Patsy.” So far, she’s read about the childhoods of Pocahontas, Martha Washington, and Betsy Ross. Her favorite, though, remains Paul Revere: Boston Patriot by August Stevenson.

The Happy JarWe read The Happy Jar by Jake Frost at bedtime, and it melded seamlessly with out nighttime prayers. We typically go from person to person thanking Jesus for various things that happened throughout the day. I have to pull it out of some kids and for others I have to limit the list to a manageable number. The Happy Jar took us a step farther in considering the memorable aspects of our day for which we are thankful and that we may cherish for years to come. A sweet, simple book that could start a new custom in your household.

The Great Fuzz FrenzyI chose The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Susan Stevens Crummel and Janet Stevens from a box of displaced books in our hallway! The younger kids didn’t remember this story of a group of prairie dogs greedy to grab the fuzz from a tennis ball that has fallen into their burrow (courtesy of a dog). Fun illustrations, and a book I enjoy reading aloud. The kids like looking at the prairies dogs and their creative uses for the green fuzz.

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3 Things Pregnancy Is Teaching Me About Parenthood

By Guest Blogger Olivia Folmar Ard

Pregnancy Teaching Me Guest Post

Photo Credit: Bich Ngoc Le via Unsplash

“So, don’t hate me, but . . .”

It’s a conversation my husband and I have had about twenty times this pregnancy, usually about the name we’ll use if our baby is a girl. The formula is quite clear: we discuss the names on our shortlist and settle on a combination, and then a few weeks later, I start having doubts. Continue reading