An Interview with Melissa

1. How long have you been writing? Besides Colder Weather, do you have a favorite of everything you’ve written?

As an only child, a lot of my time was spent playing with Barbies, making up elaborate stories about their little plastic lives, and that kind of morphed into stories that played out inside my head. It never occurred to me to put any of it down on paper unless it was a creative writing assignment, so I really didn’t start writing until high school. At first, it was just fun, silly nonsense with two friends – one who is a published author as well – until I learned that fan fiction was a thing. This is about the time that online communities were popping up and suddenly there was an infinite amount of fiction to read about my favorite show, and when I didn’t like the way things were going with my two favorite characters, I wrote my own short story about them. I’ll be the first to admit it was terrible. I mean, downright awful. But that didn’t stop me. My audience was small but encouraging, and it was the perfect place to begin.

Besides Colder Weather, my favorite is probably two fan fiction pieces I wrote years ago. The first took the characters out of their television setting and was part love story, part implied supernatural, and all about unconditional love. Its sequel took place ten years later and continued to explore the family dynamics introduced in the first. I loved it so much that I’m actually taking both stories and using the basics of it to create my newest work in progress. For those that read these stories originally, they may find hints of the originals in the WIP, but overall, it will be a new story that stands on its own, and I’m excited about that.

2. Was there anything that surprised you about the process of writing and publishing Colder Weather?

I think editing was the biggest surprise for me. Colder Weather sat in a semi-completed state for a few years before I finally decided I wanted to publish it. When I started going through it with fresh eyes, several chapters needed some serious help, and that was somewhat overwhelming. Trashing sections and rewriting new ones gives you a lot of perspective on how the story should be told, but it’s hard to delete something that is so close to your heart. In the end, it was the right decision, but at the time, it was very stressful.

3. What does a typical writing session look like for you?

I’m probably a bit unusual in that I don’t have a typical writing session. For me, finding time to write comes at a premium, so I take advantage of the times I have, grabbing my laptop and writing when I can. I also have times where little scenes pop into my head, and I don’t have my computer available, so it goes into the Notes section of my phone. Right now, a future chapter of my WIP is sitting on my phone, and won’t be moved until I find the right spot for it. But, as more of that scene unfolds, I add to it, and I’m looking forward to seeing that chapter play out when it is time.

4. Do you have a favorite character in Colder Weather? If so, why are they your favorite?

Emma is my favorite character from Colder Weather. She’s insecure in the beginning, but as the story progresses, you get to see her grow not just physically, but emotionally as well, and the end result – I hope – is that you see a strong, young woman who takes charge of her life when it matters most.

5. You have a talent for painting vivid settings for your scenes. Where do you find inspiration for creating such beautiful scenery?

Drawing on my own experiences and using photographs is essential to getting the description exactly as I imagine it to be. For Colder Weather, a lot of the settings are real or reimagined from actual places. Prairie Heights is the Quad Cities. It’s where I was born and raised. The riverside park is where we hung out in high school, so it was important to me to bring it into the story. The ice skating scene is mostly imagined. To get it just right, I looked at photos of bridges, creeks, and fields covered in snow. Between memories of rural roads covered in snow and those images, I was able to build the right look for what is probably one of my favorite parts of the book.

6. How do you come up with character names? Do the names ever have deep meaning?

I have a list of names that I draw on when creating a new story, but sometimes the names just come to me. I’ll spend a lot of time working with the names when creating the characters to make sure they all fit together. While most of the time the character names don’t have significance to me, there are times when they have significance to the characters. For example, if a child is born into an existing storyline I’m working on, their name may be steeped in the traditions set up by the family. They may be named after a beloved grandmother. Or the name of one of the parent’s might be used as a middle name. In one case, the child’s name was a combination of his grandparents’ names. Overall, the names just have to appeal to me and work well with other characters.

7. Is there a location, real or imagined, where you would love to set a story?

My WIP is set in Sanibel, a place I really wanted to write about. Initially, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate it, but it seems to be coming along. I would love to set a story in another country at some point – maybe Scotland or Ireland – but since I haven’t been there, I’d be afraid I wouldn’t do justice to those countries. Building an entirely new world at some point would be fun.

8. What three favorite tips would you pass along to new writers?

(1) Don’t give up. Writing is a process, and the things you write when you first start out are going to be bad. They get better as you learn and figure out your writing style.

(2) Get a writing buddy. Someone who not only praises the good stuff but can give a critical eye to the things that need to change in your writing. Trust me, you’ll be happy when you’re stuck on something, and they point out just the right thing that makes your story so much better.

(3) Write for you. (Or your buddy.) If you want to read your story, others will too.

9. Do you have any favorite apps, tools, or web sites that you use while writing and editing?

I think my favorite app is Grammarly. I also like Pressbooks.

10. Is there a particular genre or type of story you haven’t tried to write yet but hope to tackle in the future?

It would probably take me entirely out of my comfort zone, but I might want to try something in the fantasy or sci-fi genre at some point.