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I met author Michele Kwasniewski when she approached me to review her first novel Rising Star. I knew immediately that I would love her because she was down-to-Earth and had worked on my reality show obsession, Big Brother, in her previous life. That’s how we bonded, but after reading that first book, I was sure that we would remain book buddies forever. Keep reading to get to know more about this amazing YA author!

Author Michele Kwasniewski at a Barnes and Noble Book Signing.

The Nitty Gritty With Author Michele Kwasniewski

You worked on the reality show Big Brother for a while, did this job give you a lot of insight into Dani’s story format?

I don’t think my time on Big Brother impacted the format of my series. But it gave me insight into how enamored people are with Hollywood and the disparity between what happens in front of the camera versus what happens behind it.

Big Brother is a grueling show to work on because production runs twenty-four hours a day. Most viewers don’t appreciate what that means for the crew working behind the scenes. The long hours and exhausting schedule, the stress of managing houseguest needs, maintaining Pentagon-like secrecy regarding everything that happens to prevent juicy details from getting out before the episode airs, and the urgency of having enough rubber ducks (that last part alone should give you an idea of the idiocy of my job at times).

We weren’t saving lives, but millions were being spent to provide an envelope-pushing show each week to viewers desperate to know what happens next so there was an urgency to everything aspect of the job. That kind of intensity and pressure is what I wanted to communicate to the reader about Dani’s journey to fame.

Author Michele Kwasniewski books Rising Star and Burning Bright cover images with 2 succulents in the corner.

What is the inspiration for The Rise and Fall of Dani Truehart?

I wanted to shine a light on what it takes to become famous, how hard it is to maintain that fame, and all the temptations and hardships that come along with it. Being a celebrity seems so glamorous when you’re looking at a magazine, but it costs much more than any money and fame the celebrities receive.

Being able to enjoy a quiet meal in a restaurant with friends or having an argument with the person you’re dating without it being splashed across the tabloids are luxuries we all take for granted. But if we become a celebrity or suffered a public scandal and we’d all realize that being hounded by paparazzi isn’t as glamourous as it seems.

Why did you decide to make Dani’s mentor a former member of a boy band?

I wanted her to have someone on her team who could offer her honest advice and feedback from their own life experience.  The entertainment business is such a unique entity and it can be very disorienting and overwhelming.

Martin sharing his perspective was a unique way for Dani to get some insight into the business from someone who’d been through it as a teenager. But like any of us who have talked to our parents about a problem, Martin’s advice to Dani is somewhat outdated and seems to bring her more stress than comfort.

Many aspects of society have changed drastically since Martin was young and I thought Martin trying to guide her forward when he wasn’t fully versed in all the ways things have changed added a realistic layer to the plot.

Interview with Michele Kwasniewski Pin Image

In your life experience, do you know many people like Dani’s mother? She is a real piece of work.

Jodie was one of my favorite characters to write about. She’s pure fiction, but aspects of here contain characteristics of people who I’ve encountered who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

Jodi is one of those people who sucks all the oxygen out of a room; a vortex of greed and desire incapable of appreciating all she’s destroying in her quest to obtain the fame and wealth she feels entitled to.

There’s a great backstory for Jodi that was cut out of the first book and I’d love to expand on it in a prequel one day. I’d love to be able to explain how Jodi came to be the nightmarish stage mom that she is. I think readers might be interested in learning that Jodi’s transformation began, just like her daughter, when she was sixteen…

I love the LGBTQ+ aspect you add to the relationship between Martin and Brett. Was that intentional or did it just flow from the pen?

Martin and Brett’s relationship wasn’t planned but sprung naturally as the story unfolded as so many romances tend to do when strangers are repeatedly thrown together during their daily routines. Many relationships start out in similar ways– the flush of attraction, the discovery of common interests, the weaving together of lives the more time that is spent together.

As a full-fledged pantser ( those not familiar with the writing world – a pantser is a writer who does not outline) I knew that Martin wouldn’t be a perfect guardian for Dani. But it wasn’t until I introduced her personal trainer Brett to Dani’s story that I realized that a relationship could be the perfect vehicle for Martin’s distraction.

Just For Fun

What is your favorite book?

Gah! This question plagues me every time it comes up. Like potato chips, I can’t just have one book: Anna Karenina, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Shining, In A Dark Wood, Under The Skin, and Never Let Me Go are just a few titles that I could read a million times over and never get bored. Each of them is an artful haunting tale that sticks with me. I hope I can write something remotely as moving as any of these stories one day.

London Telephone Box

Where is your favorite travel destination?

London, baby!

Coffee, tea, or something else?


Favorite snack?

Fresh fruit (Mango, raspberries, grapes) or Ritz crackers

Music or no while you write?

I love singing so I definitely can’t listen to music while I write. Too distracting.

Wrapping Up

I hope you’ve loved getting to know more about author Michele Kwasniewski. I urge you all to read Rising Star and Burning Bright because they are fantastic! I’m so excited to see what the third volume brings.

Have you read any of the Dani Truehart series? Let me know in the comments what you think!

>>>You may also enjoy my interview with YA author Jennifer Ann Shore.

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