1. Welcome Melissa to Mother/Gamer/Writer. For those readers who are not familiar with you or your work can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi everyone, and thank you for having me here today. I’ve been writing since the third grade (and I graduated from high school in 1998, so anyone who cares to do the math will know that’s quite a few years, lol). I was first published in the sixth grade in a national poetry anthology, also won a horse (yes, an actual one) in the sixth grade in an essay contest, self published several nonfiction books on my two great loves of dance and cheerleading, and won a local Harry Potter essay contest in 2008. But I wasn’t brave enough to send out any of my fiction to publishers until I was an adult with two kids, and it was only at my husband’s urging that I did so. Once I did, however, I’ve been lucky enough to see at least one of my stories published every year since! My writing follows my reading tastes, so I’ve been published in a diverse range of genres including paranormal, science fiction, mystery, thriller, contemporary, young adult, new adult, and adult. About the only thing you can be sure of when I write a new story is that it’s going to include at least a little romance, because I just can’t seem to envision a story that feels complete without it!
On a more personal note, I’m thrilled to be married to my soul mate for going on fourteen years, and he seriously needs to be nominated for Best Writer’s Spouse of the Decade! I have two equally awesome and supportive kids, both boys currently ages 12 and 8, the older of which has been helping my hubby and me brainstorm plotting solutions, titles, and character names for years. I also have a very opinionated cat whom we picked up almost 8 years ago from a homeless shelter who loves to eat strange things like avocadoes and donuts if he can get access to them.
2. Do you have a particular writing style? Any odd writing habits?
While I can occassionally bond with a snarky heroine as a reader, as a writer I prefer my heroines to be naturally on the sweeter side and just caught up in a crazy situation that pushes them to their emotional, psychological, and moral brink. My heroes are almost always going to be what we in the writing world call beta types, because alpha males just tick me off and make me want to push them off a cliff or something! The closest I’ve ever gotten to writing the more headstrong silent type was Hayden Shepherd in my new YA romantic thriller The Source, and even he mellows out a lot and lets others take the lead towards the end.
For writing habits, I’ve got a bunch, though some have changed over the years.
Music: I think this one might come from my background as a dancer. As soon as a story concept is fleshed out enough to be plotted in detail, I have to start a custom playlist for that story. That playlist gets rearranged and edited as I outline the story. Then I listen to the playlist on loop countless times while I write the story. If one particular scene is taking me too long to hammer out, I find its matching song in the playlist, set it to repeat, and find I can then finish the scene much more smoothly. Even years later, I’ve found I can pull up and play a story’s playlist and instantly be transported right back into that story, seeing it like a movie in full color in my mind.
Food: This is probably weird. When I’m roughing out a first draft for a new story, I crave crunchy stuff to eat. I used to prefer Crunch N Munch, Nacho Cheese Dorritos, and high octane peach-flavored Snapple tea, but I’ve since switched out the Crunch N Munch for cheddar-flavored mini rice cakes in an attempt to be kinder to my poor body, lol. I also usually now drink room temperature caramel cappucinos made from that corruptive beast of a Keurig instead of tea, though this varies, lol.
Location: I know there are lots of authors who highly recommend writing in noisy public places like coffee shops and cafes because they feel more connected to the human race. This absolutely does NOT work for me! Apparently I need to disconnect from reality in order to fully live my imaginary worlds enough to write about them, because even the slight noise of a public library drives me batty when I’m trying to write. I also can’t write anywhere within sight OR sound of an operational TV because I’m almost guaranteed to get sidetracked. So I shut myself away in a bedroom (though I now have my own gorgeous and super girly zen office after my family’s recent move to a new home), put on my headphones, tell the boys to stop screaming at each other, and THEN I can write and/or revise.
Smell: I read somewhere (can’t remember where now) about several ways to “trick” or train Pavlov style your brain to creatively produce on demand. So I now do this on purpose to myself with the addition of an olfactory stimulatant in the form of the wonderful Sensy my sister-in-law gave me last year and a particular scent I get for it from Walmart. Every time I sit down to write now, I turn on the Sensy to get that particular smell pumping into the air of my office, turn on my story’s playlist, eat a mini rice cake or Dorrito, and I’m instantly ready to write for up to 8 hours at a time!
Program: This area has changed the most for me over the years. I used to laboriously plot out each new story using color coded Post It notes on a bulletin board. Then I would write every story’s rough draft in nearly indeciphable longhand in composition notebooks, with the reasoning that this process felt more visceral to me and made my hands-on crafty side happy, turned off my internal editor, and in the process of transcribing my rough draft into a typed format I also got to revise it. But while writing Consume I discovered the writing/plotting program Scrivener, which replaced both the bulletin board and the composition notebooks because it helps me stay organized and on point as I write each scene, plus I can actually type far faster than I can write by hand!
3. Who would you consider your favorite authors, or where do you draw inspiration?
I’ve got a long list of fave authors, and like I said earlier they’re all over the place genre-wise…Michael Crichton, Lisa Gardner, Alexandra Sokoloff, Barry Eisler, Holly Lisle, Dan Brown, Kim Harrison, Laurell K. Hamilton, Ally Carter, Edgar Allen Poe, Jodi Picoult, Nora Roberts, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, L.J. Smith, Barry Eisler, Richelle Mead, Jane Austen, Julia Quin, Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, and of course the Harry Potter series! I draw inspiration from all over the place…I’ve always admired Nora Roberts’ straightforward writing style and dialogue, Kim Harrison’s wild and fast paced paranormal plots, and I especially love Dan Brown’s use of real world history, locales, conspiracy theories and historical artifacts in each of his stories. Though their overall approaches differ, I also am hugely inspired by Michael Crichton and Jodi Picoult’s ability to take a lightning rod issue and weave a story around it that shows so many different and intimate points of view from wildly varying sides of that debate. And because I sincerely hate writing setting descriptions, I greatly admire and find motivation for my own attempts at it from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s lush and lyrical setting descriptions in their Beautiful Creatures series and Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides.
4. What books are currently on your bookshelf?
Currently on my Reading and To Be Read Soon shelves are Dan Brown’s Inferno, Kim Harrison’s Pale Demon, Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls spy girl series, J.A. Konrath’s Origin and The List, A.G. Riddle’s The Atlantis Gene, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Agent Pendergast series, Alexandra Sokoloff’s Huntress Moon, Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes, Tammara Webber’s Good for You, and Barry Eisler’s John Rain series. Thank heavens for digital editions so I can carry them all around with me everywhere I go on my tablet and phone (though I also have no less than three bookcases in my office plus another in the living room also stuffed full of paperbacks and hardbacks)!
5. The third novel in The Clann Series, Consume will be arriving on August 27. Not to spoil the series for anyone who has yet to devour it, can you give us a little hint as to what we can expect?
Expect everything and everyone’s worlds to fall apart! As the final installment in Tristan and Savannah’s love story, even from the first book for them I envisioned this ending to their saga to be filled with a ton of world changing problems not just for them but for everyone they love as well.
6. Without giving too much away, out of the three novels, can you tell us what were your favorite scenes, chapters, or characters to write?
My favorite scenes from this series are Tristan and Savannah’s first date, all of the battle scenes, the infamous “scene in the woods with Nanna” near the beginning of book #2 Covet, and one particularly nasty verbal catfight in book #3 Consume, lol, and each for very different reasons…romantic love, family love, violence and action, and how easy it is to inflict damage on others with just a few words spoken in the heat of the moment.
7. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
First, read a ton, read all the time, and read in as large a range of genres as you can. This helps your writing enormously. Every time I’ve struggled to find something to say, it’s because I haven’t read others’ works in too long.
Secondly, read and try out the techniques taught in nonfiction how-to writing books. The books I turn to again and again and again are: The Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff, all of James Scott Bell’s books on writing, Vicki Hinze’s numerous and excellent articles on writing, Novel Shortcuts by Laura Whitcomb, The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, and Karen S. Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel. And for those days when I need motivation to get my rear in writing gear, I love the collection of inspirational bestselling author articles in Scott Nicholson’s Write Good or Die, Vicki Hinze’s Writing in the Fast Lane, and the tons of posts on J.A. Konrath’s The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog.
Third, I’d like to recommend aspiring authors subscribe to Writer’s Digest and try out the writing program Scrivener, the former for its continual selection of fresh inspiration and tips, the latter because of how much easier it is to write using Scrivener. (Please note I’m not affiliated with either in any way.) Before discovering Scrivener, I used to use Lisa Gardner’s notecarding method to fill up two bulletin boards with multi colored Post It notes while trying to plot out a new story, and a composition notebook with bits of dialogue and scene ideas, and then I’d write the story’s rough draft longhand in another pile of composition notebooks before eventually transcribing it over to my computer. It was a messy, slow, disorganized process, and I felt like a total newbie while using it even after being published several times. Then I tried Scrivener and fell in love because it has a virtual corkboard view where I can create custom color coded “Post It notes” to help me plot out the scenes for a new story, each of those notecards is automatically tied to a text file where I can start typing out the rough draft for that individual scene, and I can also put notes at the side of my rough draft text for things to include in the scene. In conjunction with Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel, plus Laura Whitcomb’s excellent tips in Novel Shortcuts, I can whip out a long novel’s rough draft in a matter of weeks, have far fewer scenes to ultimately cut in the end (and thus less wasted time while writing), my scenes stay focused and on target, all of my notes are organized, and best of all, if I need to reorder my scenes I can do so simply by dragging around their notecards on the corkboard view!
And my final tip to aspiring authors is, if you can’t make it to writing conventions, check out the website www.vwtapes.com. They have a wonderful and continually updated selection of MP3s and CDs from some of the best writing conventions in the world for really affordable prices (I buy the MP3 singles of just the convention sessions I’m interested in, which range from three bucks for older conventions’ sessions up to $10 for the latest conventions’ sessions). This allows me to hear tips and stories from bestselling authors in their own voices and words, and not only do I learn a ton while listening in my pajamas at home, but I also feel more connected to fellow writers and a lot less lonely (an occupational hazard for us authors!). I even discovered a new (to me) author whom I now love to read, Lisa Gardner, because I first fell in love with her teaching style on these MP3s and then went in search of her novels.
8. Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to your fans, or to people who are considering reading your novel?
If you’re looking for a snarky, smartmouthed heroine who doesn’t care about her family or trying to do the right thing, don’t read my books because you’ll be disappointed. If you are hoping for a dark and mysterious hero who acts like a jerk for no apparent reason, again, don’t read my books! And if all you want to read is action, and the reasons and internal conflict behind it seem too slow for you to want to bother, you know what to do…don’t read my books! As with every story I write, The Clann Series is about a hero and a heroine who are trying to be good people, but the situation and their hearts just won’t let them follow their society’s rules, and as a result, their choices lead to huge and potentially worldchanging consequences. It’s got lots of romance and action, but it’s also got a lot of characters each struggling to make the right decision for them and then finding a way to deal with the repercussions along the way.
If that sounds like the kind of story you’d like to read, then please check out The Clann Series and my other books at www.MelissaDarnell.com and www.TheClannSeries.com!
This or That:
- Tea or Coffee? Both! I love Snapple peach-flavored tea, and this year the Keurig I bought for my hubby has now corrupted me into loving homemade caramel cappucinos, lol (curse you, Keurig, for your corrupting influence upon me!).
- Reading or Writing? Both! When I finish writing each day, I desperately need the downtime of reading someone else’s hard work for a change. And I find it impossible to read others’ hard work without getting motivated to get my rear into writing gear on my own story ideas because I end up thinking either “I wish I could write that well” or “geez, I can write better than that!”
- True Blood or Game of Thrones? Both (I swear, I CAN pick sides in debates usually, but your choices here are killing me!) If I were a character in True Blood I would be Jessica but wish I were more like Pamela. And in Game of Thrones I am totally and one hundred percent rooting for that awesome dragon mamma Daenarius!
- Vampires or Werewolves? Gotta say vamps on this one, but only because I’m not into that wet dog smell, lol. Though I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to marry a secret Lycan who will never let me freeze to death if we move to Antarctica (what is it about the male body that it insists on running twenty degrees higher than mine? lol)
- Books or Movies? Urgh, both! (Don’t shoot me for saying that again!) When I write, I see all of my stories as movies playing inside my head complete with a cast of celebrity level actors. And when I watch movies with my fave actors, I catch myself thinking “he/she would be perfect to play __________ (insert name of one my stories’ characters here)” For instance, when I watched Beastly, I actually gasped and told my hubby right there in the movie theater “OMG that is Tristan for The Clann Series!” when Alex Pettyfer first showed up on the screen with that cocky smile and curly blonde hair. And when I started writing The Source, I immediately saw Zac Efron as Hayden and the too cute Selena Gomez as Tarrah. Once I cast my characters, it helps clarify every scene so much more, and even sometimes guides me in figuring out what they might say or do next!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions; it has been my pleasure having you on Mother/Gamer/Writer!
Dangerous to be together. Painful to be apart.
Savannah Colbert knows she broke up with Tristan Coleman for the right reasons. Most of all, to keep from killing him with her new vampire abilities. But try telling her heart. Now, lost in a sea of hostile Clann faces, Sav tries to come to terms with what she’s becoming and what that means for her future. And that someone is doing their best to bully her into making a terrible mistake.
Tristan can’t believe Sav won’t even talk to him. If being apart is her decision, fine. Just don’t expect him to honor it. But even as he prepares to fight for the girl he loves, forces beyond their control take them both in directions neither could have foreseen or prepared for.
Savannah Colbert has never known why she’s so hated by the kids of the Clann. Nor can she deny her instinct to get close to Clann golden boy Tristan Coleman. Especially when she recovers from a strange illness and the attraction becomes nearly irresistible. It’s as if he’s a magnet, pulling her gaze, her thoughts, even her dreams. Her family has warned her to have nothing to do with him, or any members of the Clann. But when Tristan is suddenly everywhere she goes, Savannah fears she’s destined to fail.
For years, Tristan has been forbidden to even speak to Savannah Colbert. Then Savannah disappears from school for a week and comes back different, and suddenly he can’t stay away. Boys seem intoxicated just from looking at her. His own family becomes stricter than ever. And Tristan has to fight his own urge to protect her, to be near her no matter the consequences .[/note]