Michelle Areaux is much more than a language arts teacher at Lexington’s Edythe J. Hayes Middle School: She is also an author of a young adult fiction series.
Her reading audience includes teens the same age as her students, and her historical fiction works include lessons on bullying and showing compassion.
“When my students ask about writing or how I began my journey with writing books, I simply tell them to just start writing down their ideas, even if they don’t flow right away,” Areaux said in a recent interview on a blog called O.D. Book Reviews.
Areaux told the Herald-Leader she’s been writing stories since she was about six: “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
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The first novel Areaux had published was in 2015. Wicked Cries, she said, is a “modern-day book, but the premise centers around the Salem witch trials.”
Wicked Cries is a paranormal mystery about Sadie, a 16-year-old student who is a messenger to the dead.
Sadie’s family moves from California to Salem, Mass., where Sadie finds a journal written by a young woman named Elizabeth who was condemned for practicing witchcraft, even though she maintained her innocence. Sadie uncovers the truth about Elizabeth’s death and the history of the Salem witch trials.
Areaux said she started writing Wicked Cries 10 years ago after having a dream, but it took her eight years to get the courage to approach agents and publishers.
Another book in the series, Wicked Lies, follows the same main character as she moves to Kentucky.
“I throw in Civil War history,” she said. Her character goes to Camp Nelson National Cemetery near Nicholasville where Areaux lives with her husband Anthony Areaux and her boys, Connor, 6, and Cooper, 3.
There are historical references to Lexington and Kentucky in that book.
“She’s able to tie in historical facts into her fiction,” said Areaux’s literary agent Keith Chawgo. “Her main character grows and becomes more self-aware.”
Readers get a history lesson and “learn something about themselves,” Chawgo said.
Two books are in the editing process now, Areaux said, including the third novel in her series called, Wicked Truth. The teacher is also working on a new novel aimed at college students that she describes as “edgier” than her usual novels.
Areaux, 31, also wrote a thriller called Runaway that was published this year.
“When I first became published, I didn’t think much would come out of it,” said Areaux. “I just thought, ‘I’m going to get a book published, if people read it, great.’”
But these days, Areaux can be found at book signings, and literary conferences attended by the likes of R.L. Stine, the author of the popular Goosebumps series. Areaux will attend the Decatur Book Festival near Atlanta in September.
Areaux said she generally writes when her two young boys are sleeping.
“My kids are my No.1 priority,” she said. “If my books sell, it’s wonderful. If they don’t, at least I can say I’m a published author.”
Areaux said she shares with her Hayes students tips on writing but doesn’t focus on her part-time career as an author when she’s in the classroom. She’s taught at Hayes for eight years.
This summer, Areaux is also teaching a creative writing class at the Jessamine County Public Library.
The class, for ages 12 to 18, gives students a chance to write poetry, short stories or a novel.
“I’m watching them break out of their shell,” she said of the budding writers.