It is my pleasure to introduce you to travel romance author Michelle Tonnesen on the last day of her Desert Skies, Rebel Souls blog tour. I’ve had a chance to read her lovely novel and really enjoyed the story and locations. Take a moment to learn more about Michelle before reading my review.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself, your books and writing career.
I learned to read and write at the age of four – I haven’t stopped since. I have always seen stories unfold in the little and big things in life. Combined with a good memory of people, places and emotions, I guess my inner storyteller was always there waiting to be set free. My love of travel fuels my stories too. The majority of my working life has been centred on the corporate world. Creative writing started as an idea and a Plan B for my new life when I moved to the Isle of Man. However, it soon became a growing passion which I just had to pursue as Plan A. I still work with organisational change and communication for corporate clients, but I feel very fortunate to be able to put both my left and right brain halves to good use. Spreading literary joy amongst readers across the world is a very gratifying job.
Who would you like to sit next to on a long flight (up to two people, living or dead)?
Madeleine Albright – a strong female role model whom I had the awe-inspiring pleasure of experiencing live at an event in Copenhagen once. She is the first woman to have become the U.S. Secretary of State, and she has lived an extraordinary life as the daughter of a Czech diplomat, forced into exile with her family under Hitler, and became a professor at Georgetown University. I would love to hear about her travels and diplomatic challenges.
Audrey Hepburn – she had style, talent and wit, as well as a good heart. She is part of my inspiration for the young female lead in “Desert Skies, Rebel Souls”: elegant, elfish and strong-minded Olivia who ventures out to explore the world. I think we would bond over everything from her upbringing in Brussels (she was actually born in Ixelles, the district in which I lived for a while too!) and her multinational background, to fashion, films and charity work. She devoted her later life to UNICEF – and even supported the Dutch resistance during the Second World War!
Why do you write the kinds of books you do?
There’s a Toni Morrison quote that goes: “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must write it.” I have found this sentiment very inspiring, and it motivated me to write stories based on my own unique experiences, but with fictional characters and plots. I enjoy reading contemporary fiction and have read a lot of women’s fiction in the past too, so these genres came natural to me – as did the adventurous travel twists due to my globetrotting inclinations.
Tell me something about yourself that has nothing to do with writing?
I was a competitive gymnast from a young age. I won several medals with my team throughout my childhood and teenage years. I think this contributed to rooting not only a strong sense of self-discipline, but also competitiveness and persistence deep inside me, which means I never give up in any of my endeavours.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I enjoy cooking and eating good food, going on adventures with my family, and watching great films and TV shows. Along with reading books, I find lots of inspiration in watching actors perform; their body language, the dialogue and the visual scenery on screen – it’s all stored in my creative memory bank for potential later use. Just like watching people in real life.
What is the inspiration behind your latest novel?
When I was 18 years old, I left Denmark on my own for the first time (apart from a few brief holidays). I popped my backpack on and walked through Copenhagen Airport with a racing heart and a nervous smile on my lips. The adventure I went on was unlike anything I had ever undertaken before – and deliberately so. Like Olivia in “Desert Skies, Rebel Souls”, I was the good girl and the clever girl, but far from the rich girl she is. I thought it was more fun to create a protagonist who was from a completely different background. Thus, my own experiences living and travelling in the Middle East are the springboard for the story, but the storyline is the product of my imagination.
What motivates you to write?
I write because I can’t NOT write. I write because I have stories to tell which I do not believe have been told by anyone else – stories to which most people can relate somehow. It sounds like a cliché, but it truly feels like a calling.
Why do you write stand-alones?
I mostly read stand-alone books, but occasionally a series comes along and captivates me, like Jojo Moyes’ “Me Before You” and Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander trilogy.
I did consider linking my second novel to my first, but because the main character is younger, it would have had to be a prequel. I thought it took the fun out of writing if I knew the ending up front – and for the reader too. So, I decided to stick to my stand-alone preference which gave me the freedom to create brand new characters and storylines. However, “Desert Skies, Rebel Souls” might turn into a series… You never know 😉
Do you read books by other authors when working on a first draft, or do you prefer not to?
I’m always reading, and I find inspiration for words, expressions and character traits in books by other authors. I do not feel they influence my stories in a negative way or that my uniqueness is tainted. You need inspiration to create any form of art. As the wise Stephen King says: “Reading is the creative centre of a writer’s life”.
My review of Desert Skies, Rebel Souls
Desert Skies, Rebel Souls is a lovely coming of age story that follows Olivia, a young yet determined eighteen year old Danish girl, as she takes her first trip abroad – to the Middle East no less! While volunteering on a kibbutz she meets Chaim, an Israeli enjoying one last adventure before having to start his three years in the army.
Though both are young, they feel an immediate connection, one that remains strong during his first months of training and her further travels around Egypt and the Jordan, where she explores the sights and learns more about the region’s turbulent history.
Via Olivia, we visit many places and experience cultures most Westerners haven’t. The author’s excellent descriptions of the archaeological sites, holy temples, crowded cities and crazy border crossings of all three countries are fascinating and enhance the story.
When an accident threatens Chaim’s life, their budding romance is severely tested. She returns to Israel where they discover how deep their love for each other really is.
This is an enjoyable romance set in a fascinating region of the world. The author’s easy to read style pulls you in and keeps you captivated until the satisfying end.
4 out of 5 stars
Amazon description of Desert Skies, Rebel Souls
A journey into the unknown. A rebellion against family, culture and society. A love against all odds.
From Scandinavia to the Middle East, a young woman travels to discover herself and finds a world of passion and history, war and peace. A whirlwind romance takes a dramatic turn, leaving Olivia caught between countries, belonging nowhere, and with the love of her life in danger far away.
From the award-winning author of The Cosmopolitan Islander comes an uplifting tale of adventure, conflict and reconciliation that never shies away from brutal reality, yet sparkles with the sheer love of life.
Desert Skies, Rebel Souls is a bittersweet coming-of-age story set under the desert sky against the backdrop of music and key events of the nineties – to be enjoyed by adventurous globetrotters and readers longing to escape.
Order your signed copy from the author via her website.
Find out more on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via @mptonnesen
Watch the book trailer.
Cover illustration and design by Bruno Cavellec Art