Junior Emma Desrosiers is cordially occupying the position of Executive Sports Editor for her first year on staff. In her free time, Emma enjoys playing field hockey on her club team, hanging out with her friends and family, and listening to music.
Photo used with permission from Michaela Horan
Sophmore hopes her recently published novel can ‘become like a home’ to her readers
December 9, 2021
Her hands hit the keyboard at the speed of light, but it doesn’t seem fast enough. Her brain whirls with ideas and she sits back to catch her breath to relieve herself from the excitement at the words on the pages in front of her.
This has been sophomore Michaela Horan’s process for the past several years while writing her recently published novel, Rolling Hills and the Lost Key of Peachtree Palace.
Her book was released on Amazon and online on Barnes and Noble on September 10, 2021. Horan thought of the idea for her novel in fourth grade, and started the writing process in seventh grade. Her novel is a great fit for readers who enjoy the young adult fiction and fantasy genres.
Horan reflects on getting her novel published
Horan hasn’t quite been able to grasp the fact that Rolling Hills has been published.
“I have many emotions,” Horan said. “It’s really weird. I don’t think I’ve fully processed it, and I don’t think I will until Saturday when I see people actually holding it. It’s just so weird to me, especially after I saw the number of how many people had bought it.”
Horan previously hosted a book signing at Ovation Theatre Company on Saturday, October 30. With over 5,000 followers on Instagram and over 23,000 followers on Tik Tok, Horan has accumulated a large following that supports her in all of her accomplishments, especially in getting her book published.
“It was kind of insane and I just can’t really believe that people actually get to read it after it being only mine for so long,” Horan said.
By expressing her excitement about the event through her social media platforms, many of Horan’s followers will be attending to show their support. When her followers told her that they were coming to get their books signed, she was very excited.
“I know that a bunch of my random followers are coming that I didn’t even know existed and they were like ‘wow! I can’t even believe you live so close, that’s so cool,’” Horan said. “Some people that have been following me since January are going to come and it’s going to be so cool.”
Horan said that she “enjoys connecting with people” and one of the “coolest” things that has ever happened to her was meeting such incredible people online.
After having her book released, however, Horan expressed how she feels “separated from her readers because she can’t be there to see people’s reactions to it.”
“It’s a little bit different than if you had a movie or a song coming out, because there’s something physical you can listen to,” Horan said. “Whereas when you have a book, you feel so separate from other people reading it. It’s not me, it’s the work of art I made, so it’s just so weird knowing that people are reading the words I wrote and liking it.”
How social media helped Horan gain a following for her writing
Through her social media platforms, Horan had received many kind words and encouraging feedback from her followers during the writing process. Although she believes that “you shouldn’t rely on outside validation,” the support from others was what motivated her to continue writing.
“It was so nice to hear from people that weren’t obligated to say it, in a way, and that they actually wanted to read it,” Horan said. “I was already a little bit into the publishing process when I started my tik tok account, but I think I might not have finished it if it weren’t for the support that I got online.”
Once Horan realized that social media would become the main marketing tool for her book, she started to develop a love-hate relationship with the internet.
“It’s so easy for me to be like ‘well, every like that I get matters’ and suddenly, all I’m checking is statistics and how many people have looked at my account in the last month,” Horan said. “It’s a little bit difficult to think about because at the end of the day, you can’t really put a number on it because who knows if maybe there were just less people online that day.”
Horan’s inspiration came from reading what she wanted to write
During the writing process, Horan took inspiration from other novels she read at the time, in particular, Keeper of the Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger, and The Rosewood Chronicles, by Connie Gylnn; two of her favorite book series. Horan admires these authors’ writing styles and expresses it in her own writing.
Horan said reading their books definitely “made me want to write my own.”
“There’s this quote somewhere, by someone, that says, ‘write what you want to read,’” Horan said. “I definitely think I did that. The plot at first was very simplistic, but I would say I got more of the ideas from the books I was reading and thinking ‘oh, this would be cool, but what if it was like this instead’ and I would just go back and add it in. It started as not really a book and then I just kept adding stuff, and adding stuff, and adding characters and plot lines until it kind of made a thing.”
Currently in the process of writing the sequel to Rolling Hills, Horan has taken inspiration from one of her favorite books, Six of Crows.
“I adore Leigh Bardugo’s writing style,” Horan said as her eyes lit up with joy, “so I’m definitely going to get a lot of inspiration from reading their writing.”
Horan feels that she has a connection with her characters and sees them as her “friends.” When creating them, Horan prefers not to make them similar to people she knows.
“People always ask if I base [my characters] off of anyone, and I don’t because I am too scared that I’ll come to hate the person that I base them off of in real life,” Horan said. “I think that my characters are kind of like my friends in a way and I see myself in certain parts of them and them in certain parts of me. I definitely want them to be really relatable and I want them to be the kind of characters that people my age, and also people older or younger, can relate to.”
Horan often had moments while writing when ideas “just appeared.” Although she recently started writing her sequel, Horan has already experienced memorable moments where “all the pieces began clicking into place.”
“Those [moments] are my favorite to write,” Horan said, “because when the characters get excited, I get excited.”
Horan started writing Rolling Hills when she was very young and doesn’t remember the reason why she decided to take the idea, and transform it into a story. What she does remember, is where she was given the opportunity to create it.
“I was in a really great English class in seventh grade and we had a lot of free time to do creative writing,” Horan said. “We had a lot of freedom in that class to write whatever the heck we wanted and I think somewhere along the way I was like, ‘oh, here’s this. Maybe it would be cool if I actually finished it.’”
When she finally did finish writing the story, Horan remembers crying because she was so happy.
Support came from a variety of family, friends and followers
Horan has only received positive feedback on her book so far. Many of the positive comments that find her, are through social media.
“I’ve had some instances where people would DM me and be like ‘you’re my biggest inspiration and I’m such a big fan of you,’” Horan said, her voice rising with joy. “I don’t even know how to react to that because it’s just so weird that they see this version of myself that I put online and are like, ‘wow, she’s actually cool’ and that people actually care about my life. It’s kind of crazy.”
Along with the support from her followers online, Horan’s parents were very encouraging as she wrote her book.
“They let me talk about it even though they have no idea what I’m talking about 99% of the time, so that’s really nice,” Horan said.
A lot of the support that Horan has received from publishing her book, was from her friends.
“It would always be a super big confidence booster when I would tell people I was writing a book and they were like, ‘what, that’s so cool,’” Horan said.
Horan’s friend, sophomore Kelly Egan, is someone in particular who has been cheering her on through this process.
“Michaela is such a big inspiration to me as a friend,” Egan said. “Not to stereotype our generation, but I can’t name that many people who would start a book at age 15 with all the homework and other stuff that’s thrown at us, and actually have the determination to achieve and successfully complete their goal.”
Egan greatly admires Horan’s determination and kind hearted nature and she is incredibly proud and “in awe of her achievements.”
Horan has also found support through people she’s connected with online. Her friend Julia Stearly, who is also writing a book, has become Horan’s best friend.
“Michaela has worked so incredibly hard on her amazing novel,” Stearly said. “I mean it completely sincerely when I say she put her entire heart and soul into Rolling Hills. When she says it feels like home, she’s telling the truth. I find it ridiculously inspiring that she took a little idea and turned it into the 6th best-selling YA fantasy novel on Amazon the day it was published.”
Stearly said, “when it comes to the actual story,” Horan’s novel is “one of the best I’ve ever read.”
“Her style and ability to bring characters to life is such a unique gift, and she utilizes it perfectly,” Stearly said. “I genuinely think every human on the face of the Earth needs to visit Rolling Hills at least once, and speaking from personal experience, they won’t want to leave.”
Horan’s sister, Meara Horan, greatly supports her book, and the author that she has become.
“It is very inspiring the amount of representation she has in it and how she can express herself in all of her characters,” Horan said.
Horan’s friend sophomore Lily Floyd is an avid reader who regularly reads books from many different authors. Already having read part of her book, Floyd has formed opinions on the writing.
“I started reading her book last week and I love it so much,” Floyd said. “She is amazing at describing her setting and making it so readers can picture the pages. I am enjoying the plot so far as well as her characters. Overall, I am so proud of her and I can’t wait to read her second book!”
Floyd said that it was so exciting to read a book from an author she knows. She is so proud at what Horan has already accomplished and is “thrilled to be able to know her as a friend.”
Horan explains the process of self-publishing her novel
Instead of publishing her book traditionally, Horan decided that the best route for her was to use self-publishing company IngramSpark. Since she decided to self-publish, Horan’s book can be found everywhere.
“I don’t really understand how it works, but apparently it’s at some small book store in Boston,” Horan said. “I didn’t even know about it until one of my mom’s coworkers messaged her and was like, ‘just ordered your daughter’s book from this book store in Boston that likes to highlight the voices of women and people of the LGBTQ community.’”
The design on the cover of Rolling Hills was of utmost importance to Horan. Her cover artist is Beverly Johnson, a character designer and book illustrator. She designed the characters in one of Horan’s favorite novels, the Rosewood Chronicles. When explaining to Johnson how she wanted it to look, she wanted to make sure her descriptions were accurate so that it would be the “exact projection of the image.”
“I explained to her what I wanted it to look like using a lot of Pinterest photos and I cannot describe to you when I say that it’s exactly what I pictured,” Horan said. “I sometimes just look at it and I’m like, ‘did she read my mind?’”
Horan waited to create her cover art for a while because she was scared that it wasn’t going to look like how she imagined it. Luckily, the result was everything she could have asked for.
“It is literally perfect; like everything about it,” Horan said. “The way that Hattie [the protagonist] looks on the front cover is exactly how I picture her in my mind.”
Horan’s editor of Rolling Hills is Susan Arnold, grandmother of Horan’s childhood best friends, Jo and Lainey Anthony. Horan is incredibly thankful for all of the work Arnold contributed to her story.
“She’s incredible and this book really would not be anything like the way it is right now without her,” Horan said.
Final thoughts from Horan
Horan wants her book to be the one that, “someone stays up till midnight reading because they don’t want to put it down.”
“That’s why my dedication is, ‘to all the fictional worlds that I got to call home, I hope this can do the same for you,’” Horan said. “Fictional worlds mean a lot to me and so I just want people to feel like they can find a kindred spirit in my characters.”
With tears in her eyes, Horan said, “I just really hope that I can make my book like a home for my readers. I definitely think that when I was growing up, I had friends, but I definitely felt most at home when reading books; I really think it’s kind of insane that people can think the same thing about mine and just obsess over it.”