By KARINA EID | Intern
Author and former Palisadian Michele Kwasniewski recently debuted her first novel, “Rising Star: Book One in The Rise and Fall of Dani Truehart.”
The young adult novel, set in Los Angeles, depicts a 15-year-old girl, Dani Truehart, who finally earns her big break as a pop star. She earned it, too: Dani’s entire childhood was spent diligently honing her skills as a dancer and singer at the behest of her overly ambitious mother.
The novel follows Dani as she navigates the winding, treacherous road to stardom. Kwasniewski wanted to touch on “how fame affects people’s lives,” specifically “how it could affect someone young.”
Prior to writing a novel, Kwasniewski spent about 15 years working in the film and television industry, beginning as a film set assistant and eventually becoming a production manager. Some popular films and shows she worked on include “Independence Day,” “Primal Fear” and “Big Brother.”
Kwasniewski was also a screenwriter. Although she never received a paycheck from her scripts or pitches, her writing, on the other hand, garnered encouraging feedback.
During this time, she also gave birth to a baby boy. In search of a project to focus on while raising her son, a friend suggested that she should try writing a novel since she had such an affinity for creative writing.
Kwasniewski took her friend’s advice and, without any formal training, embarked on the journey of Dani Truehart. After seven years of dedication, Kwasniewski finished her first novel in 2017.
Then, in 2020, her longtime dream of publishing a book “the old-fashioned way” became a reality when Rand-Smith Publishing agreed to publish “Rising Star.”
Kwasniewski shared the plot of her novel was loosely influenced by events she witnessed firsthand while working in the entertainment industry. However, she still wanted to create a clear divide between her own experience and Dani’s, which is why she decided to focus on the music industry, instead of the film or television business.
“Rising Star” allows for readers to understand the often overlooked aspects of being famous at a young age, such as not having the “people skills that most adults have,” or the pressure and negativity of maintaining a large social media following, Kwasniewski explained. To add authenticity to her writing, Kwasniewski did extensive research into young pop stars like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande.
It seems that Kwasniewski’s hard work has paid off, as “Rising Star” has received many positive reviews and captured the hearts and minds of an incredibly diverse audience.
“I found that there are a lot of moms reading it with their daughters,” Kwasniewski shared.
Kwasniewski is not done writing, either. She just finished the sequel to “The Rise and Fall of Dani Truehart” titled “Burning Bright.” Unlike the first novel, she was able to complete this book in only 18 months. She is eager to provide her readers with more insight into Dani’s growth.
Kwasniewski, a graduate of Corpus Christi School, shared that she loved growing up in the Palisades—specifically the Marquez Knolls area. Her mother was raised there too, which helped to create a “very hometown feel,” Kwasniewski explained, including participating in the annual Fourth of July parade.
She currently resides in San Clemente, California, with her husband and 9-year-old son, though she still visits the Palisades frequently.
Now, she is working on “Fallen Star,” the third book of the trilogy. Hoping to expand her audience, Kwasniewski is also writing a children’s book called “Officer Small’s Big Break,” at the request of her son.
Ultimately, Kwasniewski shared that she hopes her readers enjoy and connect with Dani’s journey. She did, however, caution: “Everyone loves a downfall,” teasing the plot of her two upcoming novels.
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