Genre Chat – Michelle Barfield – Contemporary Christian Fiction
Author Michelle Barfield is a former first and second grade public school teacher. Now a stay-at-home mother of two, she uses her love of teaching to write children’s books. Michelle is the author of two children’s books: The Sully Bug and Weezy’s Wedding. Her debut novel, The Well, was released in 2014, and is currently being adapted as a Christian film.
Caleb: Tell me about your journey writing The Well.
Michelle: I have to start by saying it was a God thing. I had no desire whatsoever to write a novel. I was comfortable with children’s books. And God put this story on my heart, and I tried really hard to ignore it, but you know how that goes. You can’t ignore God but for so long. Finally, I shared it with my husband, and he said “You have got to write this story down.” I said, “I don’t even know where to start,” and he said, “Just sit down in front of the computer and start typing.” That was probably the best advice that I got. I sat down, and it just started to pour out like water. I have a producer that has committed the next year to The Well, and he is interested in doing a feature film.
Caleb: What was it like adapting your novel into a screenplay?
Michelle: With the book, you can write so much background. It’s much more visual with a screenplay. It was different, and I had a lot to learn. I kind of jumped in with both feet.
Caleb: What was it like transitioning from writing children’s books to writing for adults?
Michelle: I taught school for eight years, first and seconds grades, and I’m a mother. So I always feel like I have plenty of material for children’s books. I always felt pretty comfortable there. I was very intimidated with transitioning into the novel. I thought that I may spend all this time, and put my heart into it, and not be able to finish. But, God just put it out there. I probably, myself, would have never said “oh, I’m going to write a novel,” but I just had no choice.
Caleb: With this being your debut novel, what are some lessons you learned throughout the journey?
Michelle: I learned to write from your heart. Don’t try to force it. Don’t try to make it something. Don’t try to send it in a certain direction. Just write from your heart.
Caleb: What inspired your characters, and how did you go about developing the story?
Michelle: Several people who read it, thought that I based the main character, Ava, on myself. That was certainly not my thought process. She’s a doctor. She’s a missionary in Africa. As the writer, of course I put some of my personality in her. There’s a little bit of my mom, my dad, my husband, my son, my daughter. Little things that are each one of them.
Caleb: How did you research the setting and lifestyle of a missionary?
Michelle: Our church sends our youth group to Haiti. They have a relationship with a church there and they go often. I was able to talk to a lot of people who had been there. The Well, the whole thing behind that is that Ava, the doctor from the United States, she goes over as a doctor. Then she realized that one of the main causes of this illness there is water borne illness from drinking unclean water. So she reaches out to her contacts in the United States to put a well in that would help this poor, rural area. That’s very realistic to what’s going on in Africa right now. Just keeping it as true to life as possible.
Caleb: What advice would you give to someone working on their first novel?
Michelle: I would just say that if I can do it, anybody can do it. Write from the heart. Write what you love. Write what makes you feel that you’re doing something positive.