Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interview with Michel Stone

Earlier this month I read Michel Stone's novel of immigration and belonging, The Iguana Tree, and I'm excited to share my interview with her. Read on to learn more about Ms. Stone's writing, her book, and what she does when she's not writing. Be sure to check out the giveaway as well!

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

When I was in the fourth grade I wrote and illustrated a story called “Planet Boom-Boom” about an astronaut named Johnny who discovered a new planet. That story was my one and only jaunt into writing sci-fi. In hindsight, I suspect I was inspired by Larry Hagman’s character discovering a genie, Barbara Eden’s character, in the television program “I Dream of Jeanie.”

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

My most successful writing days involve good coffee and several hours of uninterrupted solitude.

Was The Iguana Tree the original title of your book?

Great question, and no, The Iguana Tree was not the original title. For over a year the working title was The Crossing, but then I discovered one of my favorite writers, Cormac McCarthy, penned a novel by that name years ago. Maybe I could have kept that title, but doing so felt like bad juju.

As you were writing The Iguana Tree, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

As I wrote this novel I had vague ideas about the ending, but that ending wasn’t very good; it tied everything up too nicely. Real life has ragged edges. I rewrote the novel’s ending, and once I did so, it felt right.

You've won SC Magazine's Very Short Fiction Contest. Is there anything in writing short fiction that assisted or influenced your novel-length writing?

Short story writers must use an economy of words. In a short story every word bears weight. I suppose one could argue that the same is true in novels, but novelists have the luxury of meandering a bit. I think I’m a better novelist than short story writer, but I’m certain my years of writing short stories prior to attempting a novel helped sharpen my prose. The Iguana Tree actually began as a short story whose characters I couldn’t abandon. I needed to meander with them a bit!

According to your bio, you're a 10th generation South Carolina Lowcountry native. How has place influenced you and your writing?

I know the SC Lowcountry intimately. Somehow, because of that closeness, I’ve often struggled with writing about it. Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” I’ve had trouble telling the Lowcountry slant because I’m too close to it. But with The Iguana Tree, I found my route to a Lowcountry setting. My characters in Iguana are Mexicans, and much about their new home in SC is unfamiliar to them. Describing my home through foreigners’ eyes helped me write about it in a way I’ve previously found difficult. I guess I told it slant.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love being outdoors, and I love being with my family. Almost any activity that combines those two things is a pleasure for me. We enjoy hiking, gardening, playing basketball in the driveway, and boating. I also enjoy traveling, jogging, volunteering in my community, and, of course, reading.

Read any good books recently?

Yes! I recently read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which was published in 1998. It’s one of my favorite books, and I want to read more of Kingsolver’s work now. Other good books I’ve read lately include The Outlander by Gil Adamson and The Call by Yannick Murphy.

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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Iguana Tree to one lucky reader. To enter, please fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 4/27.


  1. I was lucky enough to meet Stone last month. I'm glad to see she enjoyed The Poisonwood Bible since I'll be giving it away for World Book Night. No need to enter me.

  2. I thought the book was promising, but also felt that it fell a bit short. However, what I liked I liked a lot so I would absolutely read another book by this author. Interesting that the title was originally The Crossing. I agree, with another popular book already named that... I can see why she went with what she did.