Michelle is telling us about her life, writing, and also answering some questions. Well, I couldn’t let her get away unscathed, could I?
I was born in the town of Warwick in 1981. It is a small historical town in the heart of England, and Ι was the fifth child born into a family of boys. I developed an interest in the written world from a young age, with more than a little help from Roald Dahl. Book club at primary school only proved to increase my love of escaping into the world of a good book.
Whilst six years at secondary school did little to quell the romantic notion of one day sitting in my mountain cabin and smoking a celebratory cigarette as the first novel was born, somewhere within those six years the dream of becoming a writer got put on hold. Perhaps it was because science was deemed a safer career path, or maybe it was because they let me chop up hearts, but I found myself spending more and more time in the biology lab and eventually the university applications went in and the next twelve years of employment were set; science, hearts, although sadly no more dissections. Somewhere though resting quietly in the background was the desire to find those old aspirations to write, and follow the dream. It was at this point that I began to write my first book.
Six years later, having uprooted from England and having settled on the southern Mediterranean shores of Cyprus, the dream to publish is now a reality. I am still working as a part time scientist, but I am also writing daily. When I am not sat at the computer you will find me hiking in the mountains, drinking frappe at the beach, or talking to myself in the kitchen in the style of an American celebrity chef. Just think Ina Garten.
Escaping Life by Michelle Muckley is a book that holds the reader in anticipation and suspense from the beginning to the end.In this book, the style and rich descriptive language captivates the readers’ imagination to allow them to become immersed within the setting and to explore into the minds of the characters.
Escaping life is not only enjoyable to read, but is also didactic. It shows that through suffering comes strength and the desire to change and to move forward.
It is a book that you cannot stop reading until you come to the end!
If I was still alive, I would be able to feel the smooth pebbles in the early morning tide brushing against my feet. I would know that there were a few stuck between my toes as the waves washed them up onto the shore. My skin would soak up the early morning sun like the ripe fruits of the raspberry bushes growing in the nearby gardens, rather than remain blue and lifeless to the touch. It is a comfortable resting place that I made for myself. I wriggled my body around a little once I was lying down, shuffling the rocks beneath me into place, a perfect imprint of my body. The pebbles and stones have formed a soft cushion, and it is here that I will lie until the time I am found by the beach comber, his dog excited and eager to share such a finding as he sniffs around me and barks his excitement. What a find I am. The beach comber will not know what I am at first. I will look like just a small mound in the distance. I could be rubbish, or discarded clothes, the scent of which has sent his companion into a sensory frenzy. Even upon seeing me, he will not believe his own eyes. He will walk cautiously towards me, certain that I am asleep and scared to wake me. He will convince himself that I cannot be that which his mind is telling him. He will see the items at my side, and my feet in the water. He will tell himself over and over that I am asleep, but he will know that I am dead. Waking up this morning he had no idea of this fate before him as he pulled on his summer walking shoes. He dressed whilst his Golden Retriever excitedly paced back and forth standing up onto his hind legs, front feet scratching high up on the door and nuzzling at the cracks as if he can already smell me, my scent drifting along on the early morning breeze. I do not know this man, but I know he will do the right thing. I have learnt to trust my instincts. He will put the lead on the dog. He will quickly struggle his way across the beach to call the police using the coins that he had stowed in his pocket for the morning newspaper, and which instead would now be pushed with shaky fingers into the metallic slot of the payphone at the end of the road where it sits like a lighthouse before the stormy ocean of sand dunes beyond it. He will return to my body and guard me until the police arrive. Of this I am certain, for I have watched him every day this last month. He is always here. He is a good man.
I am dressed in my mother’s clothes. My skirt is loose and blowing around as the wind has whipped up underneath it like an expectant parachute. The edges have become wet and look dark against the light mocha brown material. I have tucked the shirt into the high elasticated waist, a cap sleeved flower print vest. I am also wearing her necklace. Just cheap beads, white, large and chunky, like bone fragments strung together and draped across my neck as a voodoo talisman for my sacrifice. They look old and out of place against my face. I would have been thirty three in a month’s time. I would not have celebrated my birthday. The last time I celebrated was for my twenty-eighth birthday: I ate dinner with my family and friends; I drank wine; I had a cake and blew out the candles. I stopped celebrating after this. There is no celebration alone. Perhaps I would have cooked my dinner, sat on the settee, and watched the television. Later, when I missed her, I would have taken out the photographs. I have only a few now, but I look at them each day, enjoying them as if they are new and just picked up from the developing shop in that moment of excitement when they are still warm and stuck together, and still smell faintly of chemicals. I lived for such memories. I keep them safely in a drawer and look at them each day. I do not display them. I do not want this house to be mine. I shouldn’t pretend for it to feel like home.
I have placed my mother’s sandals neatly to my side. They match my bone necklace with the white leather crisscrossing across their open toes. My mother always wore these sandals. They were her favourite pair and she would wear them in the house, shopping, school sports day, and to the beach. She didn’t let things go to waste in a cupboard. There was no day to save for. No Sunday best. Every day was for living. What did she know?
In my left hand I am clutching a photograph. It is old and tatty, battered from its daily use. In it my mother sits, staring at the camera with blank eyes. She always tried so hard not to blink. I am sat opposite her. My face is open, wide-eyed with a big toothy smile, too young to be self conscious about my crooked teeth and before I was old enough for braces. There are candles on the table too. We are celebrating. You are sitting next to me, propped up with a frilly cushion. We are wearing the same dresses. Red corduroy A-line dresses with a small white frill at the neckline. It is too childish for me. You are only four years old. You are not looking at the camera. You are too interested in the toys that Santa Claus has brought for you. I am trying to get your attention; I am grabbing at your arm trying to get you to look in the right direction. He got fed up with waiting for you and took the photograph anyway. He will scold me for this. I love you so much already.
Next to my mother’s shoes there is a packet of cigarettes. It’s a small white carton with a blue band across it. It has an emblem of a sailor, a fine looking man standing proudly with his blue sailor’s hat on. The cigarettes inside are different. They are my cigarettes. In my right hand I am holding a bus ticket and a key. It is dated April fourth, two thousand and six. It’s the day you think I died.
I came here once, with you. We ran wild like caged animals released, uncertain what to do with our new found freedom. We built a fortress and fortified the walls. We claimed this beach as our own. We sat here in this spot, and ate ice creams quickly before they melted and ran over our skin. You weren’t quick enough though, and your ice cream dropped like a freshly laid egg into your lap. You cried so much that I gave you mine. I would have given it to you anyway. I was in awe of you. I first saw you when you were only minutes old, our mother still recovering, with beads of perspiration sitting on her face. She called me in. She said that you had asked for me. I was so young, I didn’t realise that you couldn’t have. To me you were perfect. You are still perfect. When I came back here to our beach for the first time, I sat on the bench by the phone box. I didn’t expect to see anybody so early on in the day walking along the beach. I heard the dog first. He was here every time I came. I knew he would be the one to find me. I understand why he comes here every day. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful place to die.
10 Quick-Fire Questions with Michelle Muckley
1) Best holiday destination is the Caribbean or Alaska?
Alaska – it is absolutely a dream destination to me. I want kayak, a paddle, and a aqua coloured lake backed with snow capped mountains. Throw in a tent and I would be a happy girl.
2) Best food for a relaxed summer afternoon: a selection of cake slices or a platter of barbecued foods and salads?
I am going to say a selection of cakes, as living in Cyprus really means that every Sunday lunch is a barbecue with salad! I never thought you could get bored with barbecue………..
3) Best use for the last ten dollars in your pocket is a lottery ticket or a book?
I’ll say a book because even if I’m disappointed with it, the excitement of reading it will last longer than the excitement of the lottery ticket. Plus the chances of enjoying it are way higher!
4) Best use of spare time is strolling along a deserted beach or in the middle of a great bunch of friends?
Can’t I combine the two?
5) The hardest job in publishing is marketing or coming up with a good blurb?
Marketing, hands down. Blurb is tough, and I don’t enjoy condensing 80,000 words into 150, but marketing is so time consuming, it has to be considered harder
6) Best reader reaction is high sales or top reviews?
As I don’t rely on my income from books I am going to say reviews. If it were my books keeping the roof over my head, I might think otherwise.
7) Most important part of a story is plot or character?
Character. Without a character you care about, who give a monkey’s about the plot.
8) Best masterpiece is created in a few weeks or a few years?
The best masterpiece is created in however long it takes to become what it should be.
9) Scariest beast is a shark or a spider?
Well I have swam with sharks and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I run a mile from spiders, so I will say the spider.
10) Best century to live in is the 1st or the 21st?
Has to be the 21st. I am from England, and I think living in a hut year round wouldn’t be much fun. Plus, being a woman, I’m not sure that I would have had too many rights back then, and I don’t think being married off for a dowry would have suited me much. Much better off where I am now I think. But, if the option was to live in Rome, or perhaps even Sparta, I might be more agreeable.
Now that you know more about Michelle, here’s where you can stalk her: