What do you do with your life after being crushed?
I received a letter from Deborah Michaels of Nashville. She opened up the moment she was destroyed and convinced her lifelong dream was dead.
She didn’t know she was writing to a person, me, who had been run over so many times that she felt like there was only slime left.
Michaels, 46, grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, where she had colorful and inspiring parents. The branches of his family tree were cracked and gnarled enough to make him think, in grade three, “I want to be a writer.”
She had a relative everyone called “Tightwad”, and some marriages in her family fell apart.
As a young adult, after moving to Nashville, Michaels got a job in a doctor’s office and a novel crept into her.
At 26, she sat down to write.
She loved the process, developing characters, building a plot, and noting dialogues.
She thought of her heroes, Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts. These two women had risen to the top of the publishing world by writing scandalous stories about murder, romance and glitter.
His book was called “The Palace”. It took him almost seven years to complete it, and it was over 600 pages long.
When she was done, Michaels thought it was only a matter of time before she joined the luminaries on the bestseller list.
âI thought this book was amazing,â she said.
She took it to an editor and waited for the praise to arrive.
The editor, however, was not on the same page as Michaels, so to speak. The publisher told him, in so many words, that the book stank.
If people saw this manuscript, the publisher said, “You’ll never sell another book in your life.”
The character set:Pandemic lockdown project turned America trip
Deborah Michaels was 33 and immediately depressed. She didn’t want to write anymore.
When I spoke to him last week, I told him about my own doubt. I wrote the script for the movie “Showtime” with Robert DeNiro and Eddie Murphy. After the premiere, my agent invited me over for lunch to celebrate.
He asked me to bring five new ideas for my next film. I had five, but I particularly liked one of them. I tried to hide this one as the third idea I mentioned to him.
We were in a fancy Chinese place in Los Angeles. When I finished spreading my wonderful ideas, my agent shook his head. Basically he told me they all stank. Especially, he said, this third idea. He said I should take this script and put it in a drawer where no one will ever see it.
Shortly after this meeting, he was no longer my agent.
I continued to write, and 16 years later, I had a second screenplay turned into a film (it wasn’t that third idea, but still). This one was called “Finding Steve McQueen”, with Forest Whitaker.
I’ve been told I stink so many times in Hollywood that I can’t hear it anymore. I continue to write.
And that’s what Deborah Michaels did.
Several months after being run over, she got stuck in Nashville traffic.
It was then that another idea occurred to him like a flash. What if a family gets killed in traffic and they all go to heaven. But one of them, a young woman, was not allowed to enter.
She had to return to earth and earn a living.
The character set:For Halloween, a letter about an unsolved 1929 Nashville homicide
A very religious person, Michaels began to write about a woman trying to get closer to God.
Michaels wrote and wrote and wrote, sometimes standing until sunrise. She would forget the time.
The result was a book she called “Almost an Angel.”
It took him over a decade to complete. During the first days of the pandemic, she ended it.
She prepared herself by sending the manuscript to three editors.
She expected to be rejected.
And she was.
Three consecutive refusals … and then she tried again.
Trilogy Christian Publishing said yes.
âI was jumping up and down,â Michaels said.
They asked her to make some changes, making an even happier ending than the one she had written.
“Almost an Angel” became available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all bookstore sites on September 8th.
Michaels had a few tips for writers.
âYou cannot give up on your dreams,â she said. “You have to work for your dreams.”
Today Deborah Michaels is working on the sequel.
It’s a great place for her.
Contact Keith Sharon at 615-406-1594 or [email protected] or on Twitter @KeithSharonTN.
This story is part of Project 88, which is named after the 88 characters produced on a Smith-Corona typewriter. Keith Sharon of Tennessean types letters on his 1953 typewriter and sends them to people around the world with an envelope and a stamp so they can respond. This story grew out of a letter Keith received. The question Project 88 tries to answer is: will people communicate the old-fashioned way, through heartfelt letters about the best and most difficult days of their lives. This project is not intended for political diatribes, and any type of postal mail (typed, handwritten or computer printed) is acceptable.
You can be part of Project 88 by writing to:
1801 West End Avenue.
Nashville, TN 37203