Meet Michelle Lowery Combs @_BookMistress
I have the pleasure today to introduce you to Michelle Lowery Combs, Author of Solomon’s Bell!
Michelle Lowery Combs is an award-winning writer and blogger who studied business and English at Jacksonville State University. She lives in Alabama with her husband and their army of children. When not in the presence of throngs of toddlers, tweens, and teens, Michelle can be found among the rows of her family’s farm, neglecting her roots and dreaming up the next bestseller.
She is a member of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). Check Michelle out at her website MichelleLoweryCombs.com
“Write what you know, research the rest.”—unknown
When I decided to write about a teenage genie as the heroine of a young adult series, I didn’t know a lot about genies. My default response to so much as hearing the word was to imagine Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeannie: blonde and bubbly, but hapless and dim-witted. What I did know something about, however, were teenage girls, specifically teenage girls with, as my main character Ginn Lawson puts it, “more siblings than should even be legal in the 21st Century.”
I wanted to write about a girl exploring her “otherness,” a girl who would fight her own battles and stand as her own hero, but also a girl struggling with belonging in her own skin and contemplating her place in a giant, chaotic family. There would be tons of research ahead of me—an entire mythos out there to mine for my genie’s supernatural backstory, but I couldn’t wait for all that research to be behind me before getting down the first draft of Heir to the Lamp. I knew Ginn’s family, because it was my family.
Initially, I incorporated each of my six children into the story hoping they would recognize themselves in the snipits I begged to read aloud to them most evenings. (Their ages at the time spanned from three to twenty-one, so some were more willing than others.) I may have needed to comb resource material for details about where genies were thought to originate and why they so often made it into the many objects Barbara Eden seemed to always be getting herself trapped inside of, but I needed zero input about how many classrooms can be rendered to darkness when a mischievous fifth-grader cuts the power cord of his teacher’s laptop with a pair of scissors or what happens when a six-year-old replaces his sister’s contact lens solution with mouthwash. (The answers to those questions are an entire wing and eye balls of fire that smell minty fresh.)
My own daughters and the seemingly endless shenanigans they endure from their four brothers provided so much of the inspiration I needed to get through that first draft. I drew on them again from time to time for the second installment, Solomon’s Bell. These anecdotes also helped provide the realism I coveted to ground the Genie Chronicles series in this world. Ginn is an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances. Her family life, with all its chaos and the challenges of being one among so many, help prepare her for her destiny as a heroine by giving her something to sacrifice for, people she would fight fiercely to protect…even after one of them nearly blinds her with Listerine.
To save her family, Ginn uses her newfound genie powers to transport herself and her friends to 16th century Prague. Only one thing there remains the same as at home: she can’t let anyone know what she really is.
The Emperor of Prague and those closest to him are obsessed with magic. In pursuit of it, they’ve waged war on the citizens of their city. In the citizens’ defense, someone has brought to life a golem, a dangerous being with connections to an artifact capable of summoning and commanding an entire army of genies.
Can Ginn escape the notice of the Emperor as she attempts to discover a way to defeat Prague’s golem in time to save her family from a similar creature?
Solomon’s Bell is the sequel to Heir to the Lamp and the second book of the Genie Chronicles series.
Grab your copy now!
Haley Hardy blinks up at me, her big blue eyes made larger with surprise. Haley’s the newbie: a tiny ten-year-old my family has been fostering for the last few months. Mom and Dad want to adopt Haley, but she hasn’t decided on Charles and Molly Lawson and their chaotic brood of six children yet.
“What’s up, Haley?” I ask, trying to sound as though I don’t know she’s seen me appear from out of nowhere. I turn my back to her, retrieve the lamp from the ground, and stuff it into my pack.
“Sixty-four percent of people believe the Loch Ness monster really exists,” Haley says in her high voice. “Of course, you’d have to use a point zero one significance level to test that claim; the survey I saw was online.”
Half the time I have no idea what Haley is talking about. She’s insanely smart—a genius even. I can practically feel my IQ plummet whenever I try to have a conversation with her.
“Um, really?” I ask, trying to imagine where this is going. Haley half turns toward the open door of the small barn as if she’s about to leave. I sigh with relief, but Haley seems to think better of it and turns to face me again.
“Did you know that there’s an ongoing project to have collected evidence validated by science and the Sasquatch officially recognized as a species?”
What? “Haley, where do you come up with this stuff?” I sink onto the wooden bench behind me, peering into the bright eyes of the strangest kid I’ve ever met.
“I like to read,” she says, looking away. Between her right thumb and first two thin fingers, Haley rolls the fat glass marble she carries with her at all times. Mom says it’s a kind of security object, like how some kids develop attachments to stuffed toys or blankets from their babyhood. Mom also says the rest of us kids shouldn’t make a huge deal about it. Haley’s been in six foster homes in five years, and Mom figures the marble could be a keepsake from her life before all that, though Haley hasn’t said as much. She’s so intense sometimes; I don’t think anyone knows what to make of her. Mom says some of the other foster families exploited Haley; she’s been on a major talk show and even won twenty-five thousand dollars for one of her foster families on some game show before they abandoned her on the steps of the Children’s Methodist Home on their way to Las Vegas. Watching her with her marble, seeing how slowly she works the ball of glass flecked with every color of the rainbow, I can tell I’ve hurt her feelings.
“Reading’s cool,” I say, hoping to reassure her. Sure, I thought about divorcing my parents when I found out we were taking in another kid, even when in the beginning the arrangement was supposed to be only temporary, but I kind of like the little brainiac. Mostly because of the way she’s able to keep Eli and Jasper in line. The Twosome are crazy about our new foster sister. Part of me is starting to wonder if Haley’s stats on Bigfoot could have anything to do with the boys’ obsession with B-grade horror movies.
“I’d be satisfied with being half as smart as you, Haley. I’m having the worst time in algebra.”
“Mr. Lawson is teaching me trigonometry,” Haley says brightening. “Algebra was a breeze.” My parents are homeschooling Haley; they say it’s for the best. She’d be at least a junior at my high school otherwise. I can imagine all four and a half feet of her struggling on tip-toe to reach a locker—that is if her statistics about the Loch Ness Monster didn’t get her stuffed into it. “I’m happy to tutor you,” she tells me.
“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”
I stand and watch Haley eye the backpack on my shoulder. She looks from my face to the pack a few times. I think she’s about to say something about what she’s seen or thinks she’s seen with the lamp when Jasper bursts through the barn door.
“Hay-wee!” he exclaims. “We need wou, quick! I fink we found a chupacabwa!”
“It’s highly unlikely that a goat sucker or el chupacabra would be found this far north of Latin America, Jasper,” Haley says. She corrects my seven-year-old brother even as she allows him to tug her excitedly from the barn.