QUESTION: With so many novels of yours published—many of which are New York Times best sellers—did you ever imagine you would have such a prolific and successful career as a writer? What put you on the path to becoming an author?
FERN MICHAELS: Never in a million years did I imagine I would be where I am today. I think I knew someway, somehow, I was going to write something someday in the fourth grade when I wrote a story about a tadpole and the teacher gave me a big red A. What put me on the path to writing years and years later was when my youngest son went off to kindergarten and my husband told me I had to get a job. Being a wife and mother did not qualify me to go into the outside work force. Plus, and most important, I didn’t have a car to get to and from work. So, I thought I would try my hand at writing a book. It was that simple. What was even more amazing was that the storytelling came easy to me. Please note, I did not say the writing came easy, it was the storytelling part that worked for me.
QUESTION: While many people know you through your writing, not many people are aware of your charitable work, which includes buying bulletproof vests for dogs and creating day care centers set up for the needs of single mothers. You also created the Fern Michaels Foundation, which grants scholarships to needy children. How did you get involved in these projects and why is philanthropy such an important part of your life?
FERN MICHAELS: When I was a kid, my old Polish grandmother said something to me that I didn’t understand at the time but do understand now. She said, “When God is good to you, you must give back.” I do my best. A day doesn’t go by in my life that I don’t thank God for all he has done for me. How could I do less? I have a new project right now with our local police department in the town where I live. With the passing of my daughter way before her time, I wanted to do something in her memory. So I made sure every officer in the department had a defibrillator and was trained to use it, as well as a thermal imaging camera and a taser.
QUESTION: Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there any specific people—friends, family members, etc.—who help provide the characters found in your novels?
FERN MICHAELS: Just everyday life. I think my brain is on overdrive from eight in the morning till around midnight. I hear, I see, I smell, I think, and I write it down. Sometimes it can be something really silly. Like the day I was babysitting my grandson—he was watching cartoons, it was Alvin and the Chipmunks, and they were shouting, “Finders keepers! Finders keepers!” I had been struggling for a title on the book I was writing at the time. You guessed it, it turned out to be Finders Keepers.
QUESTION: Do you have any favorite Christmas traditions?
FERN MICHAELS: Since I consider myself the Queen of Christmas, we decorate inside and out, five Christmas trees inside, two on the porch, beaucoup lights that make people slow down to gape at the display. We do have one tradition that is a little out of the box. After midnight Mass, we come back to the house for dessert, and do our out-of-the-box tradition: We have a grab bag, and the gifts can only cost $11, not two cents over (the gift has to have the receipt attached). The winner is the person whose gift comes closest to $11. The winner gets whatever the newest electronic gizmo is at the time. We pick a name Christmas Eve after midnight Mass for the following year. The reason we do it that way is we have a whole year to find something that has to be useful and fit the person whose name you picked. No, 11 one dollar bills do not work. My grandson tried that one year. You would not believe how we all stew and fret all year trying to outdo each other. It’s great fun, and to be honest, those are the gifts that mean the most, not the ones with the red bows or the envelopes with the dollar signs on the front. I still haven’t found mine yet for this year. I am on the hunt daily.
QUESTION: A lot of your fans know you are a dog lover. What about cats?
FERN MICHAELS: I do have a cat as well. She just appeared one day on my front porch. She’s a calico. I say “she” because the mailman told me she was a girl. Nope! Turns out she is a boy, but for a year and a half I thought of her as a she, so she is a she, like it or not. Her/his name is Winnie. She was neutered and micro-chipped so she belonged to someone at one time. The phone numbers were disconnected so she became mine. It took me a year and a half to get her inside. We were due for a deep freeze and I knew she would die out there if I didn’t get her inside. With the help of my kids, we threw a blanket over her and got her inside.
Wow! I do not have the words to tell you how that cat hated me. It took two—yes, TWO—years for her to warm up to me. She let me feed her and clean her litter box, but she would not come near me. When she would see me all she would do was hiss at me. The dogs didn’t bother her at all, and she didn’t bother them. It was me she hated. Then one day she hopped up on the kitchen counter, meandered over to me, and head butted me. Translation: feed me. I did. She now lives on top of my kitchen counter. I have a really huge kitchen with a very long counter, so I blocked it off and that’s where she resides. Her bed is there, and her food and water. She hops down every hour or so, goes for a walk, uses the litter box, and back up she goes. She has coffee with me now in the morning—one lick. Kind of gross, but what the heck, it’s just one lick. She has to sample whatever I’m eating. She LOVES Twinkies, as does her owner (that would be me). I think she now likes me because she hasn’t hissed at me in a long time. She does purrrrrrr. She/he has turned out to be one of a kind. I love her.