[Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Melody’s newest book, “The Christmas Angel Project.” Winner will be announced in the next Author Spotlight feature.]
Hi Melody! Thanks for dropping in, so close to release day! Let’s start with the basics: What part of the country do you live in? Who fills up your household?
I live in Oregon with my husband of 38 years. We live in a very small town in the mountains and we have a yellow Labrador retriever named Audrey.
Tell us about your new release: What inspired this particular story?
The Christmas Angels Project features four very different women who have lost a beloved friend . . . shortly before Christmas. It’s a tale of friendship, second chances, helping others and finding hope. I honestly don’t remember what inspired the story . . . probably my appreciation for the good solid friends in my life.
So when did you get bitten by the writing bug?
I’ve loved storytelling for as long as I can remember. I always wrote whenever I got the chance—simply for the pleasure of writing. But in my early-thirties, I got serious about writing—maybe that was when the bug really bit me. So I began to write with the hope of publishing and possibly earning some ‘extra’ money. Well, that was more than 200 books ago and I still have the writing bug and don’t plan to recover anytime soon.
After you started writing seriously, how long was it before you were published?
It happened relatively quickly—although it seemed like forever back when I got all those disappointing rejection letters. It would’ve been easy to have given up because for about a year it felt pretty hopeless. But within the second year of seriously writing, I sold some short stories and won a writing contest. I contracted my first book in my third year of writing and submitting. Although I’d already written about six books by that time. All which were published in the next couple of years.
Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
I used to be able to write ‘anywhere,’ and I did. But I’ve discovered that, over the years, I do better with minimal distractions. To that end, my husband just built me a small writing studio (sort of like a tiny house) that’s situated in our backyard, by our pond. It’s nice and quiet and inspiring. My dog Audrey likes it too!
Do you prefer reading physical books or e-readers?
I actually prefer a physical book. I like the feel of it in my hands. I like seeing the cover and reading the back cover copy. And sometimes I like to be able to flip back to reread or check on something. But if I’m traveling (by air) I read on my iPad because I like to travel light.
How would you describe your writing style?
I’ve always said I ‘write by the seat of my pants.’ Other writer friends used to make fun of that, but I’ve noticed that more and more writers are confessing they write the same way. The fun part of writing for me is discovering the story as I go. It’s like solving a mystery. I like being surprised. If I knew what was going to happen or exactly how it would end, I wouldn’t be motivated to write. I also like to write what I call ‘reality fiction.’ I like to tell stories that feel like real life, deal with real problems, and offer some real answers.
If you weren’t able to write, what would you do?
I love anything to do with home design. But I worked for a really good interior decorator for a short time and decided that wasn’t for me. However, I wouldn’t mind house-flipping. In a way, my husband and I have already done that with our own homes. But I think it would be fun to do as a business . . . if I wasn’t writing.
Right this moment, what does your office look like?
Well, like I said, it’s a small writing studio. And I think it’s rather sweet! It has open-beamed pine ceiling with a big paddle fan, and plank fir floors. The walls are painted robin’s egg blue, decorated with nice art. Very peaceful. There’s an off-white linen couch and a leather rocking chair. I have an antique Irish harvest table for a desk. And lots of windows. And, oh yeah, a big yellow dog sleeping in the corner.
Can a person make a living as a writer?
I get asked this question a lot while speaking at schools. Of course, I say that ‘yes’ you can make a living. After all, I have. But then I point out that to make a living you must either A) write a best seller every couple of years, or B) write a lot of books very quickly like I do, or C) be a flexible freelance writer who is willing to do all kinds of writing, or D) be willing to live in a cardboard box beneath a bridge somewhere.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
It’s difficult (if not impossible) to publish with a traditional publishing house without a good agent. However, you can publish indie books on the internet without one. A really good agent is someone who can help with a multitude of things—from knowing the general state of the publishing industry to understanding the components of good writing. For writers seeking an agent, I always suggest that you look at authors who write similar to you and research who their agents are . . . then approach them to represent you. Of course, you should have some fully written books to show them by the time you do this.
Who’s your favorite character you’ve written so far? Explain:
Isn’t that like naming your favorite child? But, okay, I’ll confess. In my novel Finding Alice, the main character Alice, a young woman suffering from schizophrenia, is probably my favorite. Journeying with Alice through her confusing dark world was very meaningful after working with a family member who’d also been diagnosed with the same mental illness. Also because the book, written in first person/present tense, felt very real to me as I wrote it. And it was cathartic.
Describe yourself in one word:
Are you an introvert? Extrovert? In-between?
I’m an introvert at heart, but I know how to force my extrovert to the surface as needed.
The one thing I hope to discover is…
It’s something I probably won’t find out until I’m in heaven. I want to discover God’s purposes in weaving such baffling DNA in so many people. Some friends and family members seem to suffer so much from inherited genetic traits—and I do believe God ‘knit us in the womb,’ but sometimes I just wonder why . . . ? Of course, this gives me ample opportunity to trust God—and that’s a good place to be. But it would be nice to know the answers someday.
Thanks again for dropping in, Melody. How can readers connect with you?
Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Christmas Angel Project!