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All About: One Light by Michelle Arnold

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One Light

by Michelle Arnold

Released: Mar 22, 2024

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Why this book and why now?

The idea of someone hearing voices in the wall coming from another world popped into my head quite some time ago and I had it shelved in my brain, waiting to find a character and story it would fit. I started developing it in spring of 2023, when I was in the frightening position of realizing I could not keep working a job I loved because of my worsening health. Since I was pretty panicked about how to support myself financially, I liked to imagine myself living in a parallel universe where I had no money worries. Then one day I had a thought: what if the imaginary “parallel me” who doesn’t have my problems saw my life and was actually jealous, because I have something she’s missing? That was how I came up with the idea of a woman living a humble life, struggling with chronic medical conditions, who begins finding ways to spy on – and eventually interact with – parallel versions of herself, and learning to better appreciate what she has in the process.

Ari’s health and job struggles parallel my own, but the similarities end there. Ari works in special ed, like I did, so for me it was cathartic to describe her process of accepting she could not do the job anymore and the heartbreak involved as I went through the exact same thing. But as Ari is grappling with the fact that she can’t do all the things she used to be able to do, she also figures out how to do something nobody else can do. As I wrote about Ari opening portals to other worlds, I was learning to better appreciate the metaphorical portals writers can open. It’s hard not to feel useless when you can’t go to work, but I can still write, and that’s a gift! So it was a bit healing for me.

I could have written this as a traditional romance, but there were already enough balls in the air, and I felt Ari could use the stable and steady presence of a wife. So Ari and Mandira are newlyweds, and Mandira often serves as the voice of reason, recognizing and accepting Ari’s limitations even when Ari is being stubborn about it, and also believing in Ari’s gift before Ari herself does. Mandira is Sikh because Sikhs believe in life on other worlds – mainly in this universe, but it’s a line of thinking that opens up the possibility of other universes as well. Reading Sikh scripture as I worked on the book also gave me comfort during a difficult time, because the message that comes through is the same message Ari is learning: whatever your life circumstances, you are here to do whatever good you can do. Even if you’re disabled, broke, and unable to work a traditional job, there is always good you can do (and that does include being good to yourself)!

What is a significant way your book has changed since either the first draft or the way you thought it would turn out when you first had the inspiration?

In the beginning, I wasn’t really sure where I was going with this. I normally have some sort of outline, but in this case, I felt like a reader as I was writing: I wondered what was going to happen next! In the vague idea I had from the beginning, I imagined Ari glimpsing several worlds in which she and Mandira were living different lives, and I did imagine that they would progress from peering curiously through portals to actually going through one and sneaking around in some parallel world. In my early thinking, though, I imagined them being careful not to be noticed or to interfere with anything, and just learning from the interesting things they saw. In retrospect, that sounds a bit boring, so I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way!

I knew things were heading down a different path when Ari told Mandira their alternate selves didn’t know each other in the first parallel universe she discovered, and Mandira said, “How are we going to get them together?” Mandira is the sort of strong-willed character who does what she wants, not what the author tells her to, and she felt there was no point in being able to access parallel universes unless they were going to help the people they found. After that, the story really started rolling plotwise, as it became not just about exploring new worlds, but also about Ari and Mandira finding ways to help others – and sometimes themselves – with Ari’s gift.

What TV show would your main character(s) most likely binge watch and why?

They would binge watch Doctor Who because they are massive fans of the show, and they met at a screening of the 2017 Christmas special. Ari’s big pick-up line to Mandira was that they could watch the show together at her house, and their relationship developed while watching new episodes, so every time they watch those episodes again, they get to relive their early days together.

One of your main characters is planning a romantic night. Tell us about it.

Ari would probably tell Mandira to get dressed up and take her to Paris in an alternate universe, in the evening when everything is lit up, and they would just go for a romantic stroll along the Seine, hand in hand, taking in the sights and kissing near landmarks.

Publishing a book is a huge accomplishment and it’s time to party! Choose a celebratory beverage for one of your main characters to toast the release of your new book.

Ari and Mandira would toast with sparkling grape juice, since neither of them drinks alcohol. Mandira was brought up not to drink since her family’s Sikh, and Ari’s mind is weird enough without her needing to be under the influence of anything! They like to be low-budget fancy though, so they’d probably put the sparkling grape juice in champagne flutes.

What song does your character put on to start your book launch party?

I think they would put on “Alone” by Heart, because I love a good 80s power ballad and it would give Mandira a chance to put on a dramatic performance.

Meet Michelle Arnold

I am the author of six lesbian romance novels, a four-book mystery/romance series, and a collection of short stories with a friends-to-lovers theme. All of my books feature lesbians and bisexual women in leading roles, often facing and overcoming challenging situations.

When I’m not writing, I work as a special ed paraprofessional. I’m also a big nerd and a cat person!

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