JL: Well Melanie, you’ve done it! You’re a published author and it’s great to welcome you here to Bath to have a chat over tea and cake in Sally Lunn’s .
MELANIE: Thanks for inviting me, especially to this wonderful, historic restaurant. You couldn’t have chosen a better place to talk to me about my debut novel.
JL: My first question is when did you decide you wanted to change from being a reader to a writer? And how did you get started?
MELANIE: Back when I was a teen (and we won’t say how long ago that was), during the summer I graduated from grade 8, I wrote what I thought would be a romance novel but there never seemed to be a place where I could write “the end” so it went on and on and on… Well, you get the picture. My next serious attempt at writing came in 1993 when I tried to capture the emotions of my first ever trip to Scotland (my father’s birthplace).
Things slowed down again until about 1999/2000 when soon after reading the first four novels in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, a girlfriend suggested I could write something like that and just as good. I wasn’t so sure about the last bit but writing a time travel set in Scotland, I was pretty sure I could do fairly easily so I wrote a rather loooong short story called Sarah’s Gift. I think the original clocked in at pages double-spaced and 16000+ words.
I’m not sure when I made that decision. I’d put together a few short stories to display on my original website “Melanie’s Corner”. It was a mish-mash of writing, family history, and the like. Then a co-worker discovered an ad for a creative writing course in, I believe it was, The Ottawa Citizen. I thought about it for awhile and eventually signed up. My first article, about William Quarrier and his Orphan Homes of Scotland, was published by The Scottish Banner back in December 2001. I didn’t even know it had been accepted until I thumbed through my copy when it came in and there it was – a two page spread!
My instructor thought I could write a cracker of a novel, so I hauled out Sarah’s Gift, and created an outline keeping my original story but with lots more detail and situations to throw my poor heroine into.
JL: Did being a reader help you with the writing process?
MELANIE: Absolutely. As a reader, I had (and still do have) rather eclectic tastes. I’ve read everything from crime, horror, paranormal, mysteries, sci-fi, and romance (never was a huge fan of the Harlequins or over here Mills & Boon). When you read, you expand your vocabulary. You need to have a wide range of words to use in your writing – not just the basics like in the Dick and Jane children’s stories. The extent of your vocabulary also aids in developing “your” voice.
JL: Tell me how you made the connection with your publisher.
MELANIE: This is so cool. I’m glad you asked me. Sorry if I rambled a bit with my earlier answers. Anyway, I was checking out a few blogs that I drop in to visit periodically and there was an interesting post at Rosemary Gemmell’s Reading and Writing Blog about the MuseItUp Online Writers’ Conference. I clicked on the link and checked it out. Included amongst the other goodies on offer were a chance to pitch to editors and agents so I signed up to pitch to Vivian Zabel of 4RV Publishing on Oct 4th, 2011. I loved pitching this way. Doing it face to face can be intimidating by times. This was all done online in a chat room set up specifically for that purpose. I copied and pasted my pitch a few sentences at a time leaving a pause between each one. When all was said and done, I was asked to submit. I worked feverishly the next week perfecting my submission and on Thanksgiving Monday (Oct 11th), after I got home from work shortly after 3:00 p.m., I emailed it off. I really wasn’t expecting much – just being asked to submit was huge. I almost fell off my chair when about 8:00 that night, I received an email saying “We are offering you a contract.”
JL: You debut novel has been very well received with some excellent reviews. Were you nervous when your launch date came?
MELANIE: Petrified! I’m more of an introvert (goes well with reading and writing) so getting out there terrified me. Especially at the Kansas Book Festival where I would be “selling” my book. Of course, too, I was afraid that people wouldn’t like my book but since then, I’ve had many wonderful reviews, a number of which were sent in e-mails to me from the folks who had bought A Shadow in the Past.
The following week in Brockville, I hosted a launch as part of the Wedgewood Author Series, where I got up in front of a room full of people, talked about my book, read a short excerpt and answered questions – the whole time being filmed for Brock News TV to go along with the interview I did prior to the launch.
JL: Tell us about the launch, I gather it was quite hard work.
MELANIE: Both were hard work but Kansas was harder. I flew in to Kansas City the day before the launch as did my editor. We met at the airport, rented a car and drove to Topeka where the launch was held. It was great to meet Carla in person since we had worked so well together throughout the editing process. We had to be at the venue to start setting up by 7:00 a.m. on launch day, which meant unpacking the publisher’s van and trundling carts and carts of books, racks, and other materials from the parking lot to the tent and the booth we’d been assigned. At the end of the day, we got to do that all over again.
My Brockville launch from a labour intensive standpoint wasn’t nearly as hard but it was intellectually difficult. How many books to bring? How many postcards and other promotional goodies? Make sure I had lots of pens for signing. Bring a cash box with a float… see what I mean? Oh yeah, and what do I wear? There were other questions that needed addressing, too, so it was a good thing I made a list and had my crew of willing volunteers (conscripted might be more like it)with me come launch day.
JL: And what are your plans for the future? Tell us a little about your next project.
MELANIE: I have a couple of other ideas for books. I started writing one novel a few years ago (had the beginning and ending written) about a helicopter ditching in the North Sea. Soon after I got that much finished, if those things didn’t start happening! I had to leave that one. I wondered if writing that storyline might have been premonition. It sure felt like it at the time.
My next project will be the sequel to A Shadow in the Past. Without creating any spoilers, I can say that the framework is already written (it used to be Part 2) so I have to flesh out some sections, take others out, and blend in things that happened in the first book. It might be easier to bin it and start from scratch. I have a couple of ideas for titles for the sequel, too. Shadows from the Past or Shadows from her Past.
JL: Thank you Melanie for a really interesting interview and good luck with the sequel!
A Shadow in the Past
When a contemporary teen is transported back through time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…
When nineteen year old Sarah Shand finds herself in Victorian Era Aberdeenshire, Scotland, she has no idea how she got there. Her last memory is of being at the stone circle on the family farm in the year 2010.
Despite having difficulty coming to terms with her situation, Sarah quickly learns she must keep her true identity a secret.
Still, she feels stifled by the Victorians’ confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, confronts them head on and suffers the consequences.
When Sarah realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, she faces an agonizing decision. Does she try to find her way back to 2010 or remain in the past with the man she loves?
Where to buy:
4RV Publishing: http://4rvpublishingcatalog.yolasite.com/robertson-king.php
Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
Author Website: http://www.melanierobertson-king.com/
Author Blog: Celtic Connexions http://www.melanierobertson-king.com/wp02/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Melanie-Robertson-King/221018701298979
Twitter Account: @RobertsoKing https://twitter.com/#!/RobertsoKing
And if you are interested in reading more about Sally Lunn’s historic eating house and museum check out http://www.sallylunns.co.uk
Next week I’ll be back with my normal blog plus news of future guests on Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s