Q&A With Michelle Collins Anderson

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Q&A With Michelle Collins Anderson

I have the honor of doing a Q&A with USA Today Bestselling author of the debut historical fiction novel The Flower Sisters by Michelle Collins Anderson. In a past life Michelle spent fifteen years as a copy writer in advertising & public relations agencies in St. Louis, Palo Alto, & Denver before pursuing a freelance career. 

Q: Michelle would you please give a brief description of the novel The Flower Sisters? Where did the idea for the book come from? 


A: This historical fiction novel is based on a real-life 1928 Ozark dance hall explosion in my hometown of West Plains, Missouri that killed 39 young people and wounded 22 others. The effects of the tragedy ripple through decades in this multiple-point-of-view novel of survivors and secrets — including a party girl who loses her twin and becomes an oddball mortician and a crippled Casanova who turns to Christ — uncovered by hippie teenage outsider who raises some eyebrows… and more than a few ghosts. 

The idea for the book came from a 2011 non-fiction book called “The West Plains Dance Hall Explosion” by Lin Waterhouse, a writer who lives in West Plains. My father sent the book to me when I was living in Kansas City, and I couldn’t believe I had lived 17 years in West Plains and didn’t know anything about this devastating event!


Q: How long did it take to research & write The Flower Sisters? What made you choose to write in the historical fiction genre?


A: I started the novel in 2011, when I got the book about the explosion. But I was in my MFA program at Warren Wilson College at the time and didn’t have time to work on it until a few years later. I wrote it while I raised our three kids, so it took a while! 

I didn’t choose to write historical fiction as much as it chose me! I just knew I had to write a fictionalized account of the dance hall explosion that happened where I grew up.

Q: What lessons do you hope readers learn after reading The Flower Sisters? 


A: Just that secrets can be powerful and hurtful. It’s never too late to tell the truth, ask for and/or grant forgiveness, and to heal. In the novel, there are individual characters (and the community as a whole) who need to come to terms with the truth of what happened that fateful night — and by doing that, find redemption and reconciliation.


Q: I saw on Facebook that the first week The Flower Sisters was released, that it was on the USA Today Bestsellers List! Congratulations are in order! How does it feel knowing that your debut novel is already on the USA Today Bestsellers List? 


A: It is surreal, to be honest! I was so thrilled that this book that I worked so hard on for so long was finally out in the world… I didn’t even know what to wish for beyond that. The response has been overwhelming and amazing. I’m so grateful to everyone who pre-ordered, read, shared, talked about and supported THE FLOWER SISTERS! 


Q: Are you currently writing your next historical fiction novel & if so can you reveal any details?


A: Yes! I’m finishing up a draft of another historical fiction novel also set in the Ozarks in the late 1920s/early 1930s. A close-knit family makes moonshine during Prohibition and, when the father is murdered, the youngest daughter takes over the family business — with revenge on her mind!

Q: What were your experiences like being a copy writer in advertising & public relations and then having a career in freelance? 

 A: I loved advertising copywriting and PR writing, too. It is fun to be creative and help your clients to market themselves or their products. But I probably enjoyed teaching ad copywriting even more than doing it, and I was an adjunct professor in advertising and/or marketing at both the University of Missouri-Columbia and Stephens College. Freelancing gave me the flexibility to write and raise my kids. I have an empty nest now, but that experience of working on my own from home was great training for writing novels!