The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Shannon Dittemore is Felicia! Please email my assistant Christen with your mailing address. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This week Melanie Dobson is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of her book, Love Finds You in Mackinac Island Michigan leave a comment on this post!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
My husband and I adopted two girls eight years ago and parenting these beautiful young ladies has been a wonderful, wild ride that has kept us on our knees. I homeschool one of our daughters and then write in the evenings and on Saturdays. Several times a year I take trips to research for my historical novels, and my daughters have begun to travel with me. This spring we went on an Oregon Trail trip and had a blast exploring together though we weren’t so thrilled about the five-day car ride. After discovering we would have walked the entire two thousand miles in 1845, the long car ride didn’t seem so terribly bad.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
My desire is to write stories that stir people’s heart and soul–whether historical or contemporary–but my favorite genres would be to write historical romance and romantic suspense. I love to research old towns and uncover stories about heroic people from the past. When I write historical fiction (what one friend calls “fact-tion”), I immerse myself in a different era and ask “what if….” The wondering “what if” is my favorite part of writing a novel.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I’ve been passionate about reading and writing stories ever since I was a child, but after I graduated from college, I shelved my dream to write fiction for almost a decade. Not long before my thirtieth birthday, God rekindled the fire in me to pursue this dream and I began writing stories again.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
Seven years! I began writing on Saturdays and then moved to about a thousand words a day, five days a week. I had written (and rewritten) three novels before the third one found a home. Looking back, I am so grateful for those seven years of learning and growing as a writer. I’ve been publishing regularly ever since, and I never would have been able to meet some of my deadlines if I hadn’t had those years to practice and prepare.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
The best place for me to write is a quaint little coffee shop in our small town. I find a quiet place and drink green tea and chew an embarrassing amount of gum to help me focus. I also like to write at our local Pho restaurant. They let me spend hours eating soup and drinking jasmine tea while I work.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
Writer’s conferences were a huge help to me when I first started as well as my husband’s encouragement for me to focus solely on my fiction writing for a season. My writer’s group is now a tremendous help as I strive to be consistent in my writing as well as create new characters and plots. When a character’s motivation or the direction of my manuscript doesn’t ring true, they are honest with me, and I’m incredibly grateful for their insight and direction.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? (Explain your answer)
I’m not sure that I ever really had a preconceived idea of what the “writer’s life” would look like, because honestly I never really thought I would become a published writer. But the biggest transition for me in writing regularly has been the deadlines. I used to have months and even years to linger over a story idea or dream about what might happen with my characters. Now I have to discipline myself to decide quickly about the direction of my characters and story. Part of me misses those days of researching for hours as I dreamed and wondered about the beginning and middle of a story, but as someone who starts a new project with great enthusiasm and then struggles to complete it, deadlines are really good for me. They help me stay on track to actually write the endings of my story ideas as well the beginnings.
What are your biggest distractions?
I am my biggest distraction! I allow myself to get distracted by just about anything—laundry, the craving for a cup of tea, a sudden need to email a friend, the dust at the edge of my desk that needs to be cleaned right away. You can always tell when I’m close to a deadline because I begin cleaning my house like crazy. I’m not sure exactly why I do it—perhaps I simply need to complete something—but because of these distractions, I write best in a coffee shop or locked away in a hotel room where someone else does the cleaning for me. ☺
What advice would you give to new writers?
I watched an interview a long time ago with a bestselling novelist and was shocked when the woman said she was a “horrible” writer. She quickly followed up her admission, saying that even though she was a horrible writer she was a fabulous re-writer. At the time I watched her interview, I was talking about writing all the time and thinking about it even more. The problem was that I was not actually doing much writing because I was terrified I would fail. And if I failed, I would be devastated. Once I realized my first draft didn’t have to be even close to perfect, I let go of my fears and began scribbling down random thoughts and scenes onto paper. Then I polished and reworked and rewrote these thoughts and scenes until I had a clean manuscript that I could send to a publisher. I would encourage a new writer who might be terrified of the process to sit down with a notepad or her laptop and begin pouring out what’s in her heart for the first draft. Don’t sweat the editing and publishing until later.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
That’s a great question, but I’m bad at answering this because it’s so hard for me to whittle one of my plots down into a sentence or two. But here goes… Love Finds You in Mackinac Island, Michigan is a historical romance set on a beautiful island where time seems to stand still. The story about a young society woman trying to avoid the man she’s supposed to marry even as her heart longs for a man she’s not supposed to love. If any of your “bleaders” have already read the book, I’d love to hear how they’d write the promo!
What’s on the book horizon for you?
American Tapestries is a new historical romance series from Summerside Press that launches this fall. The novels will all be set around major events that have shaped our country, and my next novel will be part of this series. Where the Trail Ends is about a young woman and her brother who get left behind on the Oregon Trail.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
They can find more information at my website, www.melaniedobson.com.
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)
It’s been my pleasure. Thanks so much for hostess-ing me on your blog!