Fran Allen interviewed Melissa Foster for the Red River Writers on Blog Talk Radio. Listen to the audio on Melissa's Press page.
SPOILER ALERT*****PLOT SPOILERS EXPOSED******
Fran: Why did you decide to write Megan's Way?
The main inspiration for Megan’s Way came from the surgery that my mother had years ago. She had told me that she was having a very benign surgery. A year or so later, she told met that they had thought she had cancer, and if she’d had cancer, she had decided she was not going to have treatments (if it was malignant). I went through many years of torment trying to come to grips with this decision and thanking God that it never came into play. After many years (ten+) I had transitioned through reverting back to being a child and wondering how she could decide to leave me, to coming full circle as a parent and understanding where her decision had come from.
Fran: How did you develop your main character?
I think that women are much stronger than people sometimes realize. We are mothers, sisters, lovers, workers, professionals, housekeepers, cooks, and so much more, all rolled into one. I wanted Megan to show the strength and the vulnerability of a woman in such a torturous and tenuous position, which is why I showed all aspects of her personality.
Fran: What was Olivia’s problem?
Olivia was dealing with so many deep seeded issues. Her mother had already undergone treatments for cancer and had gone into remission. She knew her mother was lying to her about being ill again, and as a teenager, felt old enough to be told the truth. While Megan was trying desperately to protect Olivia, Olivia vied for her trust She also struggled because she didn’t know who her father was—naturally making her wonder what would happen to her own life after her mother was gone. Lay all of that on top of being fourteen-years-old, a time of complete and utter confusion, and therein lies Olivia’s issues in a nutshell. At fourteen, she’s not equipt to handle the issues she’s presented with – hence her behavior turning to dangerous.
Fran: Why did she feel so alone?
I think that no matter how close mothers and daughters are, during the teen years, most teens go through a period of feeling alone, like no one “gets” them. Olivia had always been a large part of Megan’s life, too, so when Megan begins to pull away—in her own mind believing she’s going to help Olivia with the transition of her death—Olivia feels even more alone.
To deal with her mother’s death, Olivia has to pull herself up by her bootstraps. She’s in a position where she has to confront her worst nightmare and learns of her father’s identity at the same time. Olivia is pressed into a coming-of-age sort of introspection, and I think she comes out the other side a new young woman.
Fran: What was her relationship with Jack? How does Olivia deal with what is happening to her mother?
Olivia’s relationship with Jack has always been that of her mother’s close friend to his friend’s daughter, another adult that loves her unconditionally.
Fran: Why does she rebel?
Most teens rebel at some point, and if any teen has a reason to, I’d say Olivia is at the forefront of that list. She doesn’t know how to handle all of the changes around her. She does what a lot of teens do, they reach out to strangers, to people they think might “get” them.
Fran: Why does Olivia have this special connection with Megan?
Olivia’s paranormal connection with Megan was brought on by the fortune teller Megan and Holly visited when they were teens. “She will need you, and you will know,” she had said, and then she cast the spell, “I empower thee.”
Fran: What is the ritual?
Megan and her friends had developed a birthday ritual for Megan that they carried out annually. They would each take turns, around the bonfire, stating what they hoped for and were thankful for that year. It was a spiritual connecting of friends, a coming together of the mind and washing away of the chaos of life. After they had their say, they said thank you to the Powers-That-Be and then they’d celebrate with dancing and music.
Fran: Why does Olivia feel she is ready to join her mother and her friends?
At fourteen, Olivia feels like an adult. She’s watched her mother and her friends take part in the ritual for as long she could remember, and has always longed to be part of this secret, special part of her mother’s life.
Fran: You allow the reader to experience along with Megan what she feels when her time comes: Why did you choose to do that? THIS CAN BE REWORDED TO SOMETHING LIKE: You allow the reader to experience all of the emotions of each character, how did you succeed at doing that?
Emotions are paramount for me. I am a very sensitive, emotional person, and in order for Megan to be a real, three dimensional character, to have raw emotions and for the reader to feel those emotions right along side of her. I actually acted out many of the more powerful scenes of the book while writing them so I could feel what she would feel, how her body changed, what she might be thinking. Hopefully, doing so created more vivid scenes for the reader.
Fran: How does Olivia come to handle her mother’s passing and why does she still feel her presence?
Olivia handles her mother’s passing in the best way she knows how. She falls apart, she is consumed with anger, she wants to be alone, she wants to share with someone who is her own age, and in the end, she knows she has to move past it.
She and Megan have such a strong spiritual connection, that it’s natural that she’d still feel her presence. Megan was not fully ready to move on. She needed to know Olivia would be okay before she could move on. She was stuck. Olivia’s progression helped Megan’s ability to move on, and vice versa.
Fran: After losing recently losing both my mom and my sister I often feel them around me when I look at their pictures and talk about them: Did you mean to create an angel?
I didn’t mean to create an angel, per say, but I love that word, and think both Olivia and Megan were angels to each other.
I truly believe in spiritual connections, Fran. I think you are very blessed to have your mother and sister around you. Love is real, and when it’s powerful, I don’t think there is much that can stop it. I’m sorry that you’ve lost people you have loved, but you are truly blessed to have them looking over you, and they are blessed to have you thinking of them. Love lives on.
Please give our readers a brief summary of Chasing Amanda
Fran: Tell everyone about Chasing Amanda and how this book differs from Megan’s way.
Chasing Amanda is a suspense/mystery with a women’s fiction slant. It differs from Megan’s Way on many levels. The genre, the characters, and the overall voice and dynamics of the books are very different. Below is a summary of Chasing Amanda:
Nine years ago, Molly Tanner witnessed a young girl’s abduction in the busy city of Philadelphia, shifting her occasional clairvoyance into overdrive. Two days later, the girl’s body was found, and Molly’s life fell apart. Consumed by guilt for not acting upon her visions, and on the brink of losing her family, Molly escaped the torturous reminders in the city, fleeing to the safety of the close-knit rural community of Boyds, Maryland.
Molly’s life is back on track, her son has begun college, and she and her husband have finally rekindled their relationship. Their fresh start is shattered when a seven-year-old girl disappears from a local park near Molly’s home. Unable to turn her back on another child and troubled by memories of the past, Molly sets out to find her, jeopardizing the marriage she’d fought so hard to hold together. While unearthing clues and struggling to decipher her visions, Molly discovers another side of Boyds, where the residents–and the land itself–hold potentially lethal secrets, and exposes another side of her husband, one that threatens to tear them apart.
Fran: Who is the main character?
Molly Tanner is the main character. She is headstrong, sensitive, and very curious. With a backstory of witnessing an abduction—that she didn’t realize she had witnessed—she was carrying a lot of guilt and insecurities throughout the book.
Fran: How does Molly differ from Megan?
Molly and Megan are both strong women, but Molly has more insecurities, and what she stands to lose in her story, is much different than what Megan stands to lose. While they are both selfless in different ways, Molly is also a bit selfish in her need to clear her conscience. Molly is clairvoyant, while Megan is not.
Fran: Why was she so connected to Amanda’s Murder? Why did she think she could have prevented it?
Molly witnessed Amanda’s abduction, though she didn’t realize it was an abduction at the time. Molly is clairvoyant. She had nightmares about what was going to happen to Amanda before Amanda had been killed. She didn’t believe in her own clairvoyance enough to stand up to her husband and try to help—she was too weak. She pushed past that for Tracey.
Fran: What message do you want children and parents to get from reading Chasing Amanda?
Even the most innocent of environments can be wrought with danger. Tracey knew her abductor—far too many children do. I would hope that parents would take away from the story that in today’s society, their ability to protect their children has to be their number one priority at all times—whether it’s monitoring emails, knowing who they meet and talk to, or even as simple as knowing exactly where they are at all times. It’s a sad realization, but our world has far too many openings for predators these days.
Fran: What are some safety tips that parents need to put in place to protect their children?
Most importantly, don’t assume your child knows what to do in different situations. Teach them, even if it’s scary. If they are grabbed by an adult and can’t run away—do they know to drop on the ground yelling for help? Dragging dead weight is much more difficult than little running feet. Do they know the ploys strangers use (candy, puppy, Mommy said to come with me), and will they use what you’ve taught to be safe? Talking is the only way your children will know about these things. Open those lines of communication, even if they’re scary.
There are so many, and I’d hate for people to think I don’t give my children any freedoms, but I’ll give you a few that I think are paramount.
Monitor all internet use—from profiles on accounts to emails. Even the child who you believe is the most responsible can (and probably will) make poor judgment calls when it comes to being accepted.
Know where your child is at all time. Speak to the parents of their friends, open the lines of communication so you can be certain that when your child says a parent is home, they really are.
Don’t trust texts. Texts are great because they can be sent from anywhere. We all want to trust our children, but teens are sneaky. In Megan’s Way, Olivia’s trip to the “library” almost landed her in the morgue. That type of scenario is very real in today’s society. Follow-up. Know your child’s whereabouts.
Being the bad guy is not a horrible thing if it keeps your children safe.
Fran: What is the knowing?
The Knowing is Molly’s paranormal ability to see what is yet to come.
Fran: What lessons were learned in this novel?
I think the biggest lesson is that people are often not what they seem. There are other lessons, of course, never judge a person or ability too quickly, and if you have a gut feeling about something, follow-up. You never know what the universe is trying to tell you.
Questions About Melissa And Writing
Fran: What made you become a writer?
I have wanted to become a writer since 1990. I had stories and characters running around my head and needed a venue for them.
Fran: How did you choose the subjects for both of your books?
Megan’s Way was born from an event with my mother, and Chasing Amanda came to me as I was running down a White Ground Road (a very creepy road mentioned in the book). Both books, however, stem from my worst fears.
Fran: What research did you do for both books?
With Megan’s Way, I spoke to people who had endured cancer and people who had lost loved ones to cancer. I also spoke to medical professionals and teenagers, mothers, and daughters and husbands. When researching Chasing Amanda, the research was all internet related.
Fran: How did you get your books published?
I took Megan’s Way through Outskirts Press to see if my writing was strong enough for readers to enjoy. With Chasing Amanda, I was referred to a publisher by a fellow author, and chose to go that route.
Fran: What awards have you received for Megan’s Way?
Megan’s Way has won the 2011 Beach Book Festival Award for Spirituality, and was nominated Finalist in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, also for Spirituality. Both Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda have been nominated for the Dan Poynter Global eBook Awards—winners TBD later this summer. MEGAN'S WAY IS CURRENTLY BEING ADAPTED TO FILM.
Fran: What are some ways you promote and market your books?
Most of my promotions are online. I work with lovely bloggers, such as yourself (thank you, Fran), I use social media, and I connect with readers through as many reading sites as I am able.
Fran: What makes both of your books five star books?
I believe it is the emotional impact of the story and the depth of the characters.
Fran: How important do you think a book review is?
They are of utmost importance. Even poor reviews give a writer something to consider. Some reviews are just plain nasty, and those are not helpful, but typical reviews are always helpful. They are also the readers first glimpse at what readers think of the books, and that’s paramount.
Fran: Where can we buy your books?
Both Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda are available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and a few of the Borders around town. They can be ordered from just about any bookstore, as they’re distributed through Ingram and Baker and Taylor.
Fran: What are you websites and blogs where readers can learn more about you and contact you?
Chat w/me on The Women's Nest
Thank you so much for this outstanding interview. One final question:
What is your next project? What subject have you chosen to address?
Thank you for asking, Fran. My next novel, COME BACK TO ME, has just been sent to my editor. It’s an international love story/tragedy. Below is a brief summary of the story.
Coming Soon: Come Back to Me (working title)
Tess Johnson has it all, Beau, her handsome photographer husband, a thriving business, and a newly discovered pregnancy. When Beau accepts an overseas photography assignment, Tess decides to wait to reveal her secret—only she’s never given the chance. Beau’s helicopter crashes in the desert.
As Tess struggles to put her life back together and deal with the pregnancy she can no longer hide, a new client appears, offering more than just a new project.
Meanwhile, two Iraqi women who are fleeing Honor Killings find Beau alive in the middle of the desert, his body ravaged. Suha, a doctor, and Samira, a widow and mother of three young children, nurse him back to health in a makeshift tent. Beau bonds with the women and children, and together, with the help of an underground organization, they continue their dangerous escape.
What happens next is a test of loyalties, strength, and love.
Fran, you are a joy to work with. You are interested beyond just the words on the page and your reviews are always well detailed and insightful. Thank you for all you do for the writing community.
I hope you will pass along that I love to discuss my books with readers, and I’m happy to visit book clubs and reading groups, in-person or via Skype.
Many thanks for the enjoyable interviews.