Welcome to the eighty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with YA / middle-grade fantasy writer Melissa Dalton. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Melissa. Please tell us how you came to be a writer.
Melissa: I’ve wanted to be a writer for most of my life. When I was a child, I got really hooked into reading by the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and when I realized that she grew up to be a writer, I decided I wanted to be one too. I started writing stories, and I haven’t stopped since.
Morgen: I used to watch that and loved it. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Melissa: My favorite genre is YA/middle-grade fantasy. I’ve considered writing chick-lit and mysteries too, but YA fantasy is what really does it for me.
Morgen: It’s a very popular genre. I help out at a teen writing group and they’re always saying that there aren’t enough books for them. What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Melissa: I’m in the process of finishing revision on my first novel, Merrick Maples and the Legend of the Lost Stone. To date, I’ve been doing all the marketing for my book. I’ve actually got to give a shout out to the Indie Book Collective for their amazing teaching tools. They showed me how to market my book by utilizing all that social media has to offer, and my platform and audience have been growing ever since.
Morgen: You certainly can (http://indiebookcollective.com). Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Melissa: I don’t currently have an agent, but I’m open to searching for one. Five or ten years ago, I would’ve told you that an agent was absolutely vital to an author’s success. But now, with digital and indie publishing changing the industry as a whole, I’m not sure that having an agent is required for an author’s success. I know authors who have traditionally published and authors who have indie published, and both sides have produced very successful authors.
Morgen: I do tend to agree. I’d still love to have my books in the shops and think an agent can definitely help that process along but in the meantime I’m happy going it alone (with help from my editor / first reader) and going the eBook route. What is your experience of eBooks Melissa?
Melissa: About 99 percent of the books I read are eBooks. We were running out of bookshelves at our house, and then I got a Sony Reader for Christmas a couple of years ago. I was hooked, and I haven’t gone back! Really, the only printed copies I read now are books that I can’t get in eBook format or magazines. My books will definitely be available as eBooks. I feel like the whole publishing industry is moving in that direction, and in order to be competitive in the market today, an eBook is almost a requirement.
Morgen: I’d say so yes. I read more paperbacks but that’s because I have them already. I have an eReader and it comes away with me but I don’t go away very often. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Melissa: Once Merrick Maples and the Legend of the Lost Stone is out, I’ll start working on its sequel. I’m already making notes for it, but I don’t want to get too far into it and then have to go back and change it because book one changed.
Morgen: And you’ll probably find things change from the plan as you write book two anyway. Those pesky characters love to keep us on our toes, don’t they? 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Melissa: I definitely strive to write something every day, but I don’t always get to work on Merrick on a daily basis. I think the most I’ve ever written in a day is 5,000 words, but I didn’t do anything else! That is usually pretty rare for me, and I think that might’ve even been during a NaNoWriMo period.
Morgen: Ooh NaNo (http://nanowrimo.org). I’ve done it three times and loved it. Although I don’t plan to be a novelist as such (short stories is my first love) I’ll keep doing them whenever I can. One thing that is vital you don’t get during NaNoWriMo is writer’s block. What is your opinion of it? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Melissa: Writer’s block is every writer’s nemesis. I’ve suffered from it before, as I’m sure most authors have. It usually happens for me when I’ve got too many other things going on at the same time. In those cases, I usually put my project down and walk away from it for a little bit. Sometimes, I try to read a book in the genre I’m writing so that my mind is already thinking stylistically in the way I need to write. That helps me prevent writer’s block quite often.
Morgen: I think that’s the best thing to do. It’s easy to worry about where you’re going wrong and focus on it too greatly. Relax and it’s easier to get through it. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Melissa: A little of both. For Merrick, these two characters—Merrick and his twin sister, Lorena—came to me, and I started thinking of all the adventures they could have. After that, I sat down and started plotting their first adventure. I’ve got another, older, YA story that I’m working on too, and that one I plotted out before starting it.
Morgen: But again they’ll probably go off at tangents. 🙂 How did / do you come up with the names of your characters?
Melissa: For Merrick, I sat in a Borders store one afternoon with a book of baby names and wrote down the ones I liked the best. After that, I started thinking about my characters’ traits to see which names would fit them the best.
Morgen: Ah yea old faithful baby book. 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Melissa: Oh, absolutely! When I was a child, I wrote this story about a creature called a “whomper” who gets adopted by a couple, but … well, I won’t bore you with any more details.
Morgen: “whomper”, I like that. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Melissa: My favorite aspect is that I can get up every day and devote my work to writing and editing, which is one of my biggest passions. There’s nothing else I’d rather do. The least favorite aspect is hard … I would say that my least favorite aspect was trying to set up a good schedule that balanced my writing and revision time with everything else in my life. You have to learn to fit it in and make it a priority like other parts of your life, and sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Morgen: It certainly is (she says, reminding herself to have an early night for once :)). If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Melissa: I’m learning that revisions take a lot longer than I thought they would. You work hard to write your first draft, but it’s the second, third, and fourth drafts that really take a lot of time. It’s worth it in the end though. The revision drafts are where you can get really nit-picky about your writing and making sure that everything is perfect.
Morgen: That’s one thing I’d not thought of either and it’s so true, especially when the draft your wading through is 117,540 words long (my second NaNo) and you’re still finding though/through on edit number four! What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Melissa: Never give up on your publishing dreams. If you know in your heart that this is what you want to do, you should do it. Also make sure that you know the genre you want to write in. Study your favorite authors’ styles to get a feel for how they write, and that will really help you learn what publishers expect in that specific genre.
Morgen: I’ve written a variety of genres and am still working out what I want to do, although having an agent tell you face-to-face that you should write crime does focus the mind. 🙂 What do you like to read?
Melissa: My all-time favorite genre is YA fantasy. I also like to read all kinds of fiction. Basically anything with a great storyline.
Morgen: So you’re writing your favourite genre. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Melissa: For writers who are new to social media and want to learn more about what it can do for them and to promote their books, I highly recommend the Indie Book Collective. They have tons of webinars and helpful tips and programs that writers can utilize. They’re @IndieBookIBC on Twitter, and http://www.indiebookcollective.com.
Morgen: They do have a lovely-looking site. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Melissa: I’m on LinkedIn and several of the other social media sites. I think they’re fantastic for networking with other writers and publishing industry professionals. In fact, it’s how I’ve met several of my closest writing friends.
Morgen: I’ve only found LinkeIn recently and think it’s great! Where can we find out about you and your work?
Melissa: You can read more about my novel and me on my blog, http://www.eulana.com.
Morgen: Yes folks, please drop by. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Melissa: I’d like to think that the future holds many opportunities to publish and get my work out there, regardless of whether it’s indie or traditional.
Morgen: I agree. That’s brilliant. Thanks Melissa. 🙂
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