Welcome to the one hundred and eighty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers, agents and publishers and more. Today’s is with Y.A. fantasy and children’s author Mel Taylor. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Mel. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Mel: I’m 23-years-old, I have a degree in Professional & Creative Writing and Media Arts, and I’m ever so slightly obsessed with Disney, cupcakes and sparkly jewellery! Writing has been one of my biggest passions since I was very young and it made sense to build a career doing something I loved!
Morgen: Absolutely, too many people settle (I’ve met a few) and whilst it’s sometimes not easy to change career (or in my case, not know it was what I wanted ’til my late 30s), it’s so important to be happy. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Mel: I love writing fantasy novels. There’s something incredibly satisfying about dreaming up your own world and envisioning characters, settings and situations that are extraordinary and spectacular. From a very young age, all of my stories have featured some sort of magical aspect, although I would love to write a horror novel in the future. I have a bit of an overactive imagination and I frequently scare myself over the smallest things. I think I could end up with a very twisted and chilling horror story!
Morgen: We’re half-way through NaNoWriMo, it’s not too late. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Mel: I’m still at a very early stage of the publishing process. I’ve been with my agent for just over six months and we are currently waiting to hear back from publishers. I’m hoping my debut novel ‘Above The Clouds’ will be published in the near future!
Morgen: Fingers crossed… you’re more than half-way there though by finding an agent. Although you’re still looking for a publisher, do you do much marketing?
Mel: I think it’s important to talk about my journey to publication from an early stage to build interest and awareness of my writing. An author’s success is primarily down to good writing and creating a novel that is enjoyed by a wide audience, and with this in mind, I like to interact with as many people as possible to gauge their responses and gain invaluable feedback. I have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter profile, which I frequently update, as well as a blog where I update followers of my progress. I also designed my own website (thanks to studying web design as part of my Media Arts degree!), which enabled me to publish reviews from test readers, an excerpt from ‘Above The Clouds’ and a short biography about my writing history.
Morgen: You’re certainly doing all the right things. You mentioned that you have an agent, do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Mel: I do have an agent, and I count myself very fortunate to be in this position. I recently read that the average agent takes on between 1-4 new authors a year, which is a tiny amount compared to the thousands of requests some of them receive! It is possible to self-publish via Amazon and Kindle nowadays and some authors become very successful that way, but I do think that having an agent greatly increases an author’s chance of success. An agent has all the relevant industry contacts at their disposal and they regularly attend literary festivals and events where they can network with publishers and promote new clients to editors. A large proportion of leading publishers won’t accept unsolicited work, which means that being represented by an agent is vital if an author wants to get their work in front of the best editors in the business. Agents also handle all of the confusing contracts and legal work, as well as providing never-ending support and enthusiasm in the sometimes lonely journey toward publication!
Morgen: They do. I’ve gone the eBook route and have an editor who’s very supportive; apart from finding errors (fortunately not many) she comes up with some wonderful suggestions. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Mel: At the moment I’m editing the sequel to ‘Above The Clouds’, which is entitled ‘Under The Stars’ and I am writing the third and final instalment, which is entitled ‘The Magic In-Between’. I’ve been writing this teen trilogy for three years, although the original concept came to me when I was just 16-years-old, and it’s become an everyday part of my life now!
Morgen: I know how that goes.
Mel: As well as the ‘Above The Clouds’ series, I’ve also written a series of 25 books for children aged 4-7, entitled ‘The Adventures of Harry and Anna’. I’ve worked with children for the past seven years and I would love to write something for every age group.
Morgen: Twenty-five books… wow. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Mel: I try to write every day but every day is different. Sometimes I can write for hours on end – usually forgetting to eat or drink in the process because I get so wrapped up in what I’m writing – but other times I barely write anything at all! I’m not sure what my biggest daily word count is, but I remember reading that Enid Blyton wrote 10,000 words a day and that just seemed impossible to me! If I were able to write that amount, I’d write a new book every week! I’d say my average is 1-2 chapters a day – around 2,000-4,000 words, but I have written four chapters in a day and neared 8,000 words.
Morgen: My goodness, you could easily do NaNoWriMo. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Mel: I think every writer suffers from ‘writer’s block’ occasionally, but I try not to put too much pressure on myself when it happens. Sometimes I can write pages and pages without stopping for a break and other times I can’t seem to get one sentence right. When this happens, I just give myself a break, think about something else and try again shortly after. Sometimes I just need a half-an-hour break, and other times I need a break for a couple of days. The main ‘cure’ is not to let it get to you – it happens to everyone and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It just means that your head is so full of amazing ideas that it can’t process them properly!!
Morgen: “Amazing ideas” I love that. Where do you get your ideas from Mel?
Mel: This is an easy question for me – EVERYWHERE! My ‘Above The Clouds’ trilogy sparked from a conversation I overheard between two people when I was sixteen, but I’ve continued to get inspiration ever since. Sometimes it can come from something I overhear on the radio, a photo, something on the news, a book, an article, an object, the weather, a conversation, fashion, art… the list is endless!
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Mel: So far, I’ve plotted all the stories I’ve written. ‘Above The Clouds’ was a very complicated idea and without planning it carefully, I never would have remembered it all. When it expanded into ‘Under The Stars’ and ‘The Magic In-Between’, there were so many twists, turns and links between the books that I had to plan for weeks before I could write a single word. During my Creative Writing degree, I had to write a number of stories about any given subject and I could run with those quite easily, but with books as intricate and elaborate as the ‘Above The Clouds’ series, I definitely had to plan them!
Morgen: I think that’s why I prefer short stories to novels… I’m not a planner and found there were so many threads with the novel that after doing four edits (of a 117,540-word-whittled-down-to105,000-word chick lit) my head hurt. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Mel: My Mum! She’s my biggest fan and she’ll always give me honest feedback and criticism. She’s also great at picking out any errors I glaze over after reading something for the thousandth time!
Morgen: Touché Mel. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Mel: ‘Above The Clouds’ took a fair amount of editing. From the time of my initial idea, I’ve attained a degree in Professional & Creative writing, I’ve completed several proofreading and copy-editing courses, and I’ve matured into my own writing style. Of course there will be more edits once it gets picked up by a publisher, but I’ve learnt a lot during the editing stages and I definitely think my writing will continue to develop with every book I write. So far, my second book has needed less edits than the first, and my third book seems to need less edits than the second, so I’m hoping this means my writing is becoming more ‘fully-formed’ as you put it!
Morgen: Absolutely, it’s practice; like playing the piano or painting. How much research do you have to do for your writing? Have you ever received feedback from your readers?
Mel: I did a fair amount of research for ‘Above The Clouds’. I wanted to study the hierarchy of archangels and make sure all of their traits / appearances were correct. I also wanted to include some authentic angel names and ensure the books didn’t have too many religious connotations. Research is also a great way for finding inspiration and sparking new ideas!
Morgen: What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Mel: My creative process usually involves turning my mobile phone off, putting my glasses on and making sure I have a tidy room. It sounds pretty boring, but I usually can’t write unless I do all of these things. I like to write with as little clutter around me as possible, and a hot chocolate each morning usually gets me in the writing mood, too!
Morgen: Yum. I blitzed my office this morning before cracking on with my eBook anthology edits and it made me feel much better… literally. I have a desk against a wall and my feet were suffering because I didn’t have enough legroom. I moved my laptop to a table and have the desk as a flat surface and it’s great. I can stretch my legs as far as I like under the table. As you say it sounds trivial but it’s like having a pen that doesn’t write properly… drives me mad. Speaking of which, do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Mel: Usually, I write on paper first. I seem to be more creative that way and my writing seems to flow a lot more naturally.
Morgen: Apparently pen and keyboard use different sides of the brain.
Mel: The only downside to this is when I have too many ideas in my head and I can’t write them down fast enough. My writing quickly becomes illegible and I then spend hours trying to make sense of my own scribblings!
Morgen: <laughs> My writing’s not too bad but yes, at speed it then resembles a doctors, although I’ve temped for a number of those in the past so there’s little I can’t translate. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Mel: I prefer silence. I get easily distracted – music, Facebook / Twitter and my mobile are the worst culprits, and I find I write a lot more when I just shut everything out and concentrate solely on writing.
Morgen: (note to self: shut everything out) What’s your favourite aspect of your writing life?
Mel: My favourite aspect of my writing life is that I get to do what I love. I’m following my dream and I know that there is nothing else in the world I’d rather be doing.
Morgen: Me too (going freelance at Christmas ). Do you have a least favourite?
Mel: I don’t really. I appreciate how fortunate I am to be in this position and to be doing something I love. Every career has its pro’s and con’s, but the only thing I can think of is that it’s a very hard industry to crack and the long waits hearing back from agents / publishers can sometimes be excruciating (but also exciting, too!)
Morgen: Do let me know when you do. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Mel: When I’m not writing, I’m either out with my friends, watching a film or baking cupcakes! Writing is my main hobby and it takes up most of my time, but I’m also an X-Factor fanatic, an eBay queen and a hoarder of anything sparkly!
Morgen: Let’s hope you get something sparkly for your birthday. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Mel: The Children’s Writers and Artists Yearbook. It’s filled with industry facts, useful information, and plenty of writing advice. It also has an extensive list of literary agents and is full with general publishing protocol.
Morgen: It is, it’s great. The adult version is the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and I think the US equivalent is the Writers’ Market. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Mel: I’ve got a great community of supporters and friends on Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to join my Facebook page –
Morgen: I have.
Mel: or follow me on Twitter: @MelTaylorAuthor
Morgen: I do.
Morgen: If you could have your life over again, is there anything you’d have done differently (writing-related or otherwise)?
Mel: I wouldn’t change a single thing. I believe that everything happens for a reason and every decision I’ve made has led me to where I am today… a future bestselling author (hopefully!).
Morgen: That would be lovely. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Mel: I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Morgen for conducting this interview and a another huge thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read it. The support I’ve received has been overwhelming and I’m so excited for the next stage of my publishing journey.
Morgen: You’re so welcome Mel. It’s been great chatting to you in more than 140 characters. Thank you for agreeing to take part and good luck with your book. You’ll have to tell me when it comes out and I’ll add it to the books-other-peoples page. Oh, and happy birthday for tomorrow.
Mel is a 23-year-old (almost 24) author, with her debut novel ‘Above The Clouds’ currently being sent to UK publishers with the help of one of Europe’s most renowned literary agencies. She has worked with children in a variety of environments over the last seven years and she hopes her book is one that will inspire readers and be enjoyed by teenagers and adults of all ages.
Mel graduated from St Mary’s University, Twickenham, England in 2009 with a degree in Professional & Creative Writing and Media Arts. Since leaving University, she has continued her professional training by completing several proofreading and copy-editing courses with the SfEP, gaining experience by working in a national publishing house and holding her own Creative Writing classes for children aged 11 and over.
Growing up in Surrey, England, Mel started writing from a young age, re-writing stories using her favourite characters from Blyton’s ‘Enchanted Wood’ series. Her favourite children’s authors include Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Philip Pullman.
Morgen: Roald Dahl’s my no.1 (closely followed by Kate Atkinson).
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