Lexi: Congrats on your release of Made for You! Not only because it is another release for you, but that it’s also a venture into uncharted territory for you. What made you want to explore writing contemporary realism?
Melissa: I don’t like boxes, and I do like exploring. That’s often my biggest motivator. If I were to restrict myself to only ever doing one thing, I’d get bored. . . which would lead to either surliness or switching careers again. Writing a contemporary book has been an interest since before I was published. Plus, I think it’s harder than fantasy, so that gave me extra urgency to do so. I found it both rewarded and unsettling to write about a stalker and to write from the killer’s pov, so MADE FOR YOU was a great experience. I pushed myself emotionally and creatively, which is energizing.
Lexi: Your writing carries an underlying tone that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat while also entertaining. That ability to write a thrilling story but also build relationships is tricky. What kinds of books do you enjoy reading the most? Do you feel inspired when you read outside your go to genre?
Melissa: I’m not sure I have a genre. My reading is the same way. There are very few sections of a bookstore where I wouldn’t be happy browsing. In fiction, I read romance, YA, MG, picturebooks, thrillers, mystery, literary fic, and classics. In the non-fiction area, I read parenting, lit theory and criticism, and folklore stuff. Beyond that, I try to read nonfic to keep up on things that interest my family: Marine Corps Gazette; Wired; and Guns, Germs, and Steel (bc of spouse); archaeological essays (daughter); and various political articles (son). Fiction itself isn’t an inspiration. Those ideas and books were already written. Where I find inspiration is in nonfiction or in the world around me.
Lexi: Made for You has some fun genre tags on it if you peek on Goodreads. Mystery, fantasy, romance, thriller and southern gothic to name a few. I will admit that I am unfamiliar with southern gothic; I guess I will need to pick up a copy of Made for You and remedy this immediately. What genre do you feel best encompasses your new release?
Melissa: I’d tag it as “romantic suspense with a supernatural element,” but that’s wordy. It’s not actually Southern Gothic. It is set in the South though. It’s not properly fantasy either, but it has supernatural elements. Romantic suspense is an adult romance category though, so it wasn’t one that made as much sense to some people when I suggest that it’s the “right box” for this book. At the end of the day, though, it’s up to readers as to what they think is the right box.
Lexi: For me I love reading fantasy, and when an author weaves fantasy into contemporary situations I get a bit giddy. Special powers, talents that are outside our capabilities and all the fun stuff that keeps us dreaming. But we know what is real and what isn’t, but for your character Eva she gets to wake up with a magical ability. What was it like putting yourself in her head?
Melissa: Eva was oddly comfortable to write, although we couldn’t be much more different! I grew up working class/blue-collar/poor in rural Pennsylvania. The girls who lived nearest me have grandchildren older than my youngest child. The familial expectations I had were more of the “don’t get pregnant unless you plan to get married” kind than anything career related. So, while Eva and I have little in common in our backgrounds, we had a few experiences in common. I had a stalker in my 20s, and I’ve been on crutches post-surgery, and in 2012, I spent 40 days living in a hospital (with my youngest child). Further, while I obviously don’t see people’s deaths, I do have trouble with face-blindness. I count on other cues to ID people, and it’s something I’ve not admitted (even to most of my friends) until recently. So, to get into Eva’s head, I had a few angles—just not the obvious ones.
Lexi: I think I am going to enjoy my trip with Eva! Thanks for stopping by to share Made for You! Here is the rest of the bottle of wine, I need to go buy a book!
Melissa: *pours a glass* Excellent. Will you grab me something interesting while you’re out? I could use a new read for when I finish my revisions.