Award winning author of two novels, Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda, Melissa Foster, has stopped by our blog to share with us some of her wisdom on writing and publishing.
Just a little bit of information about Melissa: she is the founder of The Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, designed to help women better themselves and escape the chaos of their daily lives. Melissa and the other women of The Women’s Nest are working hard to bring you the best women’s community on the web!
Coming September 2011: WoMen’s Literary Cafe, an extension of The Women’s Nest, will promote the writing community, bridging the gap between readers and authors. The WoMen’s Lit Cafe will offer free promotions to authors, reviewers, bloggers, and editors–bringing readers, authors, and author services together under one umbrella in a free, easily navigable venue. http://bit.ly/o2oxCi
Melissa also hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she’s written a column featured in Women Business Owners Magazine, and she has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC.
What a talented and gifted woman. Where does she find the time to do it all? Well, maybe she’ll enlighten us on how she does it. Let ‘s talk with Melissa.
Melissa, how did you come up with the idea for your book?
So far, my ideas have been born from true events and/or my worst fears. MEGAN’S WAY bloomed from an event with my mother, and it took me several years to weed through my own feelings and get to the heart of the story. CHASING AMANDA touches on every parent’s worst nightmare, and my own fear about not recognizing what is unfolding right before my eyes. Interestingly, the idea for COME BACK TO ME hit me like a Mack truck when I was jogging down Route 6 in Wellfleet, MA.
My eyes and ears are always open. Do you know those t-shirts that say, “Watch out or you might end up in my novel”? I travel through my days wondering how every person, action, activity, and even voices and mannerisms, can fit into my stories.
What do you think readers will appreciate most about your book?
When I write, my main concern is creating characters that readers can easily relate to. I write about women who are flawed, yet strong, women who must decide between real-life issues and their desires. I think readers appreciate the ability to connect with the characters.
Your book is being adapted to film. I am sure you are excited about it.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am definitely what you might call a pantzer. I don’t use formal outlines, and I usually begin my story with a strong protagonist and the ending of the story (which often quickly becomes the beginning or the middle of the story). I write for 5 hours each day while my children are in school, September through June, and I only leave my desk under duress.
What is your greatest writing strength?
Easy – dedication. I love writing, so for me, every second of my writing time is cherished. I plan phone calls and errands around my writing time. I even hustle through lunch (if I eat), so as not to lose too many minutes.
What is the hardest part about writing?
The most difficult part of writing is definitely editing. I find that when I read my own work, I see the story in my head—the story I told—rather than the words on the page. I really have to be overly vigilant when reading my own work.
What is the most unique or unusual research you’ve ever done for a book?
I think the most unusual research was trying to find out how people keep their secrets. This involved talking about uncomfortable subjects and reading between the lines, into the gray areas that people painted.
Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
My journey was an interesting one. When I first published MEGAN’S WAY, it was mid 2009, and we were in the midst of the recession. Agents were shying away from books that dealt with sad topics, or so I was told. I decided to put MEGAN’S WAY out to readers as a trial, to see if my writing was strong enough to develop a following. I was shocked when I immediately began receiving emails from mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, and even husbands and fathers, who had been touched by, or lost a loved on to, cancer. My book was giving people hope for what lies beyond our earth, and readers were finding comfort in understanding the decision Megan made, which seemed to translate to how their loved ones made their own decisions. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve helped someone through a rough time.
My second book, CHASING AMANDA was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to. I was surprised, worried, scared, to put it out to the public after MEGAN’S WAY was so well received. So far, the reviews have been wonderful (hope I don’t jinx the process!). I’m not sure that fear of giving my books to the public will ever go away, but I’m excited to release my third book, COME BACK TO ME. All of my books are very different genres and cover different subject matters, and this is a no-no in the publishing world. As I recommend to others, I have to follow my heart and write the stories that feel right.
I’m glad I didn’t snag a great publisher/agent for MEGAN’S WAY. Somehow, having to market my book from scratch, having to prove my writing abilities, makes it all feel more real. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I have learned a tremendous amount about our ever-changing publishing world. I’m able to use that knowledge to help other authors weave their way through the same tangled web.
If you could meet any author who is no longer living, who would it be?
I would love to meet AA Milne. He created such a wonderful, simple world, all based on his son’s toys. His son resented his stories, and failed to see his father for many years, including when he was on his deathbed. I find myself wanting to understand the conflict that must have sparred between his paternal emotions and his love of writing. Obviously there is much more to the story, and not for the eyes of the public, but he fascinates me.
What is the best and worst writing tip you’ve learned?
Best writing tip – Don’t listen to all of the advice you’re given. Do your research, but most importantly, stay true to the story that comes from your heart.
Worst writing tip – I have never followed this advice, but too many authors are touting it: Put out as many books as fast as you can to gain a following. BIG red flag. I would never sacrifice quality for quantity. Research, write, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, polish, reread, publish. Don’t skip any steps.
Can you tell us a little about your next project?
I would love to! My third novel, COME BACK TO ME (working title), is an international love story/tragedy. As with each of my prior books, the ending will throw you for a loop.
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.
2011 Beach Book Award Winner (Spirituality)
2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist (Spirituality)
2011 Readers Favorite Awards, Finalist in two categories: Fiction/Drama, Women’s Fiction (Winners TBD Sept 2011)
Nominated Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Award 2011 (Winners TBD summer 2011)
2011 Readers Favorite Awards, Finalist in three categories: Women’s Fiction, Paranormal/Fiction, Suspense/Mystery (Winners TBD Sept 2011)
Nominated Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Award 2011 (Winners TBD summer 2011)
Find out more about the Women’s Literary Café here:
Find out more about the Women’s Nest here:
Thank you so much for inviting me to chat with you today. I have really enjoyed answering your questions, and, as always, I’m happy to answer reader questions or questions from writers.