The Spotlight welcomes YA novelist, Michele Kwasniewski, here to chat about her second book in the Dani Truehart series, Burning Bright

Author Name: Michele Kwasniewski

Book Title: Burning Bright Book Two of The Rise And Fall of Dani Truehart series

Book Genre: Young Adult

Release Date: November 1, 2021

Publisher: Rand-Smith

Welcome to The Spotlight, Michele! Please tell us about Burning Bright.

With her ego growing as fast has her fame and fortune, a string of platinum hits and her jealous mother desperate for a piece of her wealth, sixteen-year-old pop sensation Dani Truehart navigates the glamor and perils of stardom as scandal threatens to ruin her and everyone who helped make her a star.

What sparked the idea for this book?

I worked for fifteen years behind the scenes in television and film when I was younger. The entertainment industry is like no other, well, maybe it is similar to the political sphere. So many people are fascinated by movies, television and music. There’s such a fierce competition to  become a part of it, either as the talent or even just behind the scenes. I was fascinated by what people are willing to do to become and stay famous. I was especially curious about the effects of fame on young people, who haven’t yet figured out who they are and what their values are. It’s been an interesting topic to explore

How long did it take for you to write it? Did you have to do any research?

It took me about seven years to write the first book in the series, Rising Star, but Burning Bright was written in about eighteen months. You wouldn’t think I’d be able to write an entire book while being quarantined with my family and homeschooling but it was actually a great distraction. Not being able to go anywhere forced me to get on with writing and it was nice to get away from the reality of life for a few hours each day.

I ended up researching quite a few things related to music and touring for Burning Bright – concert tours and how they travel around the world, band equipment, arenas, foreign cities, and fashion…so much research on fashion and luxury goods. I cannot believe how much people can spend on clothes or accessories if they are so inclined. I built a tour schedule modeled on the Jonas Brothers’ and Taylor Swift’s tours. And I loved researching all the cities that Dani visited on tour, picking out a few to feature in the story. Some cities I had visited, some cities I have family and some are places I’d love to visit one day.

What drew you to the young adult fiction genre?

I think being a teenager is the most exciting and scary time in life. You are finding your voice, finding your place in the world, and starting to become your own person, not just a reflection of your family. And your body is changing so drastically! Hormones are raging, your body is physically transforming into a new shape…things can messy, and embarrassing. I remember it being hard to separate your emotions from your thoughts because your hormones make you feel everything so deeply.  Amid all that chaos, it seems that you also start to notice the world at large, not just your immediate environment. The idea of changing things in the greater world becomes more of a reality and you start to question everything around you.

Emotions run so high for teens; everything seems to have such big stakes when you are younger. A year seems eternal. Getting older, finding a career, building a family – there are much fewer options once you start making those big choices. But when you’re young it feels like, you have an endless array of options to choose from. That’s what I find exciting. It’s almost as if teens remind us of who we used to be, that our life isn’t set in stone as we grow old. We can still make choices, it just gets harder to change ourselves and our routines the older we get. Being a teenager is an exciting and uncomfortable place to be.

What’s your favorite part about being an author? What do you find challenging?

I just love telling stories. I enjoy thinking up a premise and letting my mind run with it.  Knowing why people make the choices they make is something that has always fascinated me, so coming up with backstories and plausible motivations for characters is one of my favorite things about story telling. As a writer, I get the opportunity to live so many different lives through my characters and explore so many personality traits. 

I hate marketing my books. It is not something that comes naturally to me and I was never on social media until I started looking for an agent. In a perfect world, I would write an edit my books and then send them off to a magically marketing machine that would create a successful campaign to sell my books. But the reality of it is I need to work just as hard as my agent and publisher if I want to make a name for myself. After all they I am not their only author. I feel it’s my job to work as hard as I can to help sell my books and interact with readers in order to establish myself as an author readers have heard of and follow. I want readers to know my work and be excited when they hear I have a new book coming out.

If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Burning Bright?

If I was trying to interest a new reader in my book, I’d say thatif they ever once dreamed of becoming a pop star or a rock singer, then Burning Bright offers them a realistic glimpse into the life of a teenage popstar. It’s not all cute stage costumes and hearing your song on the radio. It is a full-time job with pressures and expectations that most teenagers aren’t equipped to handle.

I also think if anyone is at all horrified by what Britney Spears has endured throughout her conservatorship, Burning Bright offers some insight as to how that might have happened. Let me be clear, this series is in no way based on Britney Spears, her career or life. But it tells a story that many teenage stars, whether they are an actor or singer, have endured. The pressure to succeed from parents, isolation from friends and family and the relentless pressure perform while grow up in the public eye. It is an incredible burden to deal with at such a young age. These teenage stars pay an unimaginable price for their fame.

What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?

I am most surprised by how little I understand the comma! My saintly editors have slowly been expanding my understanding of my tiny grammatical nemesis.

What advice would you give your pre-published writer self?

Just start writing! For years, I put off writing when I was younger because I felt I didn’t have anything else to say. Then it was because I didn’t really know how to write and I have horrible grammar. But honestly, it was just fear keeping me from writing. Deep down I didn’t have the confidence to write something that someone may not like. Don’t get me wrong, it always stings when someone doesn’t get what you write or they flat out don’t like it. But now I feel that critiques and feedback make my writing better. If I can open my heart and know it that the criticism isn’t personal, I just might get some notes that will improve my story. Having to explain my choices to a beta reader clarifies my writing choices and helps polish the story. It was a big lesson to learn.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

I love reading and belong to a great book club, Let’s Get Lit(erature). I also love paddle boarding, singing in a local choir, traveling and spending time with family.

Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.

I’m working on the final book in the trilogy. Falling Star. I’m having a hard time saying goodbye to all these characters that I’ve spent more than a decade creating. I’m trying hard to do justice to them and end the series in the right way, though I’m not sure all my readers will be happy about my choices. I’ve had some very definite feedback about what they would like to see. It’s been a bit of a struggle really, do I write the series I set out to write or bend to the will of the readers because they are invested in the story just as much as I am. In the end, though, I hope the readers will be happy with the choices I’m making. It’s going to be a pretty wild ending to the series. I can’t wait!

And where can readers find you? 

My website & blog:

IG:  author.michelekwas

IG Link:

Tiktok: author.michelekwas

TikTok Link:

Twitter: michelekwas

Later this month (date TBD) I’ll be on The Weekend with Ed Kalegi Radio Show:

Thank you, Michele! Burning Bright is out now!

Fresh off the debut of her EP, sixteen-year-old Dani Truehart is flying high on a string of number one hits. After locking down her first full-length album in record time and furiously preparing for her world tour, Dani is torn between leaving her loved ones behind and embracing her burgeoning stardom.

Dani’s career explodes as her tour moves across the globe. Elated when two of Hollywood’s hottest young actors, Kayla Spencer and Trey Connors, befriend her, Dani finds herself living life in the fast lane and recording her second album as she tours. Constantly dogged by the paparazzi, Dani basks in the adoration of The TrueHart Nation, her loyal super-fans who are ready to follow her around the world and go to war with anyone who dares dis their favorite pop star, whom they’ve dubbed “The Queen of Harts.”

With her ego growing as fast has her fame and fortune, a string of platinum hits and her jealous mother desperate for a piece of her wealth, sixteen-year-old pop sensation Dani Truehart navigates the glamor and perils of stardom as scandal threatens to ruin her and everyone who helped make her a star.