Muncy, Pa. -- Michelle McLean always thought being a writer was a dream as elusive as the free time she had as a grad student and mother of young children.
McLean’s mother says her daughter's love for writing was inspired by McLean reading to her daughter so much when she was a child. McLean seemed to agree, saying "its a distinct possibility" that her passion began with those early moments of reading.
“My earliest memory is of a Christmas morning when I was two years old opening a box full of books and tapes, and the absolute ecstatic delight I felt at seeing all those beautiful books,” McLean said. “I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life and that just naturally translated into creating my own stories.”
While McLean has been a writer for only a decade, the USA Today bestselling author said she had always written stories; but no one besides family ever read her work.
Referencing the film ‘Sister Act 2,’ McLean said she was inspired by a quote from the main character played by Whoopi Goldberg. In the movie, Goldberg said to one of her students, “if you wake up in the morning and you can’t think of anything but singing, then you’re supposed to be a singer.” McLean applied the logic to her future writing career.
“I never attempted to write a novel until after my son was born in 2003,” she said. “But one day during my son’s nap time, I decided to go for it. I thought about writing all the time and always had. So maybe I should give it a shot.”
McLean said that she did not know how to go about getting her first novel published but wanted to try anyway. Working from home, attending school, and raising her two children, she said that she wrote mostly during her children's nap times and after they had gone to sleep.
After numerous rejections, she found a publisher and her first novel, “To trust a Thief,” was published in 2013
In 2018, another one of her novels, “Truly, Madly, Sweetly,” was adapted by Hallmark as one of their Fall Festival movies. And in August of this year, McLean celebrated the release of her twenty-fourth book, “Hitched to the Gunslinger," expected to be available in December.
McLean said she often incorporates places that she has lived in her writing. “Or at least some elements of them. All make an appearance in my stories sooner or later.”
“Sometimes it’s actual locations, like the places I loved to visit in San Francisco when I was growing up in California. More often it’s aspects of certain places, like the vinegar smell from the Heinz factory near my high school, or the quirks of certain areas, local slang, mannerisms, characteristics, the unique quirks of the local people,” she added.
She sometimes writes under her pen name, Kira Archer, but said writing about places such as 17th century Scotland, for example, is a little more difficult. The Muncy, Pa. resident says she will often use her adopted hometown in some aspects of her work.
Mentioning one of her novels, “69 Million Things I Hate About You,” which was written under her pen name, she said the characters spend some time at a “gorgeous farm in Pennsylvania, absolutely inspired by the real thing.”
McLean has been living in Muncy for thirteen years and says she is smitten by her new hometown. “Our first Halloween here, we were Trick-or-Treating with the kids on Main and Market Streets, which are stunning in the fall. The church bells started chiming, and I just fell in love.”
“So pretty much any time I describe a small town in my stories, pieces of Muncy find their way in. It’s such a beautiful, quintessential, small town. I always say it’s like living in a Norman Rockwell painting. But with a few more quirks,” McLean said.