Michele Kwasniewski Interview Published on: 26, Mar 2021

Where were you born, and what was your childhood like?

I was born in Santa Monica, CA and grew up in nearby Pacific Palisades, the youngest of three children. I was a shy kid and loved reading from an early age. I used to pretend I could read in pre-school, following along with books on record (tapes weren’t even popular, yet!). Books have always been a big part of my life. My mom was an avid reader and encouraged us all to read. As I got older we’d swap books and talk about what we were reading. Though my parents divorced when I was young, it was a happy childhood. I think one benefit of the divorce was that we got to take more vacations because both our parents liked to travel.

Is anyone else in your family a part of the entertainment industry?

No, I was the only one interested in going into entertainment and I think everyone thought I was a little crazy to try it. I actually majored in theater in college. I had no idea what I was going to do for a career after I graduated college, but then I met someone while I was stage managing a local production of the Manchurian Candidate in Hollywood.He helped me get my first job interview with a film production company and I networked from there. It was a fun career but one I was glad to leave behind when my husband and I started our family.

How was the idea of writing your own book born?

I was a new mother when I started writing Rising Star. I was used to working very long hours in television and even though being a new mom is exhausting, I wanted a little project for myself. A friend suggested I start writing again which sounded like a good idea. But I needed a subject that didn’t require a lot of research since babies and libraries don’t usually mix. I realized my career entertainment might be a good subject and thought about what might interest people about entertainment. I realized that I had experienced “behind the scenes” aspects of entertainment that most people weren’t aware of and decided to build the story from there. I always love stories with a bit of an edge or darkness to it so I wanted to focus how fame can negatively shape a young girl growing up in the spotlight.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl is the first book I can remember reading on my own. I loved it! It was such a wild concept to my little brain - magic crystals, an orphaned boy leaving home on an adventure with enormous talking bugs in a giant peach. It was incredible! I could see all the characters in my head and couldn’t wait to find out what happened. I loved the escape books provided. I still do. Being able to immerse myself into another world, experience things I would never experience in my regular life is what I love about reading most.

What challenges did you face while writing your book, "Rising Star"?

This was my first book, so honestly the biggest challenge was my lack of experience as a writer. I have no formal training in writing, but I am an avid reader so I know what I like to experience when reading a book and how I like a story to unfold. Also, it took me a while to find the balance between juggling family life and writing a book. I guess that’s why it took me seven years to write Rising Star. Luckily I figured it out because the second book in the series only took me eighteen months to write.

How would you describe the hard work it takes while working in the film and television production?

I’ve never worked longer hours or done so many diverse tasks at the same time as when I worked in entertainment. I think the best trait one can have a willingness to learn and be open to new experiences. I looked at every new task I faced as an opportunity to learn something new. Movie or television schedules are so fast paced and time is literally money in entertainment, so I often found myself learning on the fly to keep up with the demands of the job. There was no time to be scared I didn’t know what I was doing; I just asked a lot of questions and tried to figure it out as I went. I remember being in Argentina trying to instruct background extras for a scene. They spoke no English and I spoke a dialect of Spanish they weren’t familiar with (I didn’t realize until I arrived in Argentina that my high school Spanish wouldn’t translate in Buenos Aires). But after a few frustrating attempts, we were able to find a way to figure it out and make the scene happen. And I eventually learned how to speak Spanish in Buenos Aires.

Since how long have you been an active member of the Producers Guild of America?

I’ve been a member of the Producers Guild of America for twenty years now. It’s a wonderful organization to be a part of. It protects, connects and promotes all members of the production team (from coordinators, managers and up) and helps create a safer, more diverse and environmentally friendly work experience.

What are the pros and cons of being "FAMOUS"?

Well, I imagine the biggest con is being watched all the time. Famous people are always in the public eye and that has got to be exhausting. Think of how many times in a day we might be impatient or have a bad moment because we’re tired or we’re stressed or in a bad mood. No one really notices our bad mood, but if you’re a celebrity, you’ve got paparazzi trailing you or random fans snapping your photo and suddenly one bad moment in time is broadcast everywhere. There doesn’t seem to be any room to breathe when you’re famous, no private time to relax or be yourself. The public thinks they know you from how they see you act, but they really have no idea who you are. It was what interested me when I started writing Rising Star. How would all that fame, constantly being in the spotlight affect a teen who is still growing into an adult, developing who they are. I think the pros are all the free stuff, access to exclusive experiences ( courtside seats, private jets, etc.). Things that aren’t necessary for a happy life, but things that sure would make life more fun. Plus having a platform to work for a cause close to your heart would be amazing. You have the ear of the public and you could do so much good if you were moved to do so.

What something you didn't know about the entertainment industry before joining it?

I never understood that when you’re working on a production, there really are no days off. Productions are usually finite jobs, lasting only a few weeks or months.They don’t have the typical office structure most people are used to at work. So calling in sick or taking a day off was really not an option because there was no one to do my job if I wasn’t there. Someone else would have to take on my work as well as their work for however long I was gone. It doesn’t sound so bad, but when you’re working a twelve hours or more a day, having to do someone else’s job in addition to your own was not easy. The pressure to show up every day was intense.

Having worked on popular TV shows and series, was the process of marketing your first book easier?

I wish! I think it only would have been easy if I was the star of a show. Trying to break into any industry is hard; but making the jump from TV to the literary world was not easy because the shows I worked on were not scripted. The producers I worked with weren’t interested in a book with the potential to be a scripted series. I do hope to develop the series into TV series in time…I just need to finish the final book in the series first.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I do. There are so many different genres of writing and so many different readers. Some readers might not connect with an emotionally driven story or main character. I am a sensitive person, so writing emotions comes fairly easy to me. But I don’t think every piece of writing needs to be so dramatic. I think if someone is moved by a topic, they will be able to write about it in an interesting manner.

How do you handle criticism as a writer?

I think it is a necessary part of being a writer. Of course I want everyone to love my work. But I need to hear what doesn’t work for a reader in order to know how to improve my story. I give a new manuscript to several trusted readers before I submit it to my agent. The feedback I have received, while it might sting at times, has undoubtedly made my books better. Being able to have an honest conversation with a reader about what does and doesn’t work has helped me clarify points in my stories, cut out useless information or sharpen points I was trying to make but that weren’t coming through to the reader. I decided very early on that I wanted to sell my books and I realized not opening myself up to constructive criticism would be a big mistake in the long run. I could put my foot down and refuse to make any changes to my manuscript, but I didn’t think I’d be able to get an agent or a publisher with that attitude. I do stand up for aspects of my story that I truly believe in, but I am always open to hearing changes that might make the store more appealing to a wider readership.

Having experienced all the fame firsthand, what is your experience of being a part of the glamour industry?

I think being in entertainment was fun when I was young. I attended movie premieres, got VIP treatment at clubs, traveled for work, met celebrities…it was all very exciting. But it was also hard work. Worrying about the impression I made, always making sure I had a good reputation so I could get a good referral for my next job, having to network…it got old after a while. It seems like everyone wants to be involved in entertainment, so there are always people willing to do more, for less money. I felt immense pressure to do my job well and not be difficult or say no to anything. The threat of being replaced was ever-present. It was hard to walk the line of doing whatever it took to keep my job and follow my moral compass and sometimes I lost a job because of it. Once I had a child, I realized I wanted to spend my time differently and I valued different things than when I was younger. I got tired of networking and always being on call for work (remember what I said earlier about no one else being there to do your job. On some shows I took calls in the middle of the night and had to go into work) and not saying no. In the end, I chose

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

Like most writers, I have a bunch of ideas I’m working on at the same time. My next book is one I’m writing for our son and it’s called Officer Smalls’ Big Break. It’s about a bumbling rookie police officer who comes from a long line of famous police detectives. He gets the chance to solve an international jewel theft with the help of a savvy private eye who just happens to be a mouse. I started telling this story to my son every night at bedtime, making up a bit more each night. I decided to write it down and finish it for him.

When did you join AllAuthor? What do you think of the experience so far?

I joined AllAuthor in November 2020 and It’s been an amazing experience! I’m able to connect with other writers and readers which is so important for an unknown author. I need all the help I can getting my name out there. I’m also able to market the book using the wonderful banner mock-up’s you have on the website. The magic tool makes creating beautiful banner’s so easy! The AllAuthor website has banners for every holiday and season, so I’m able to market my book effectively.It would have been much harder to market my book without your help!

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