Caroline Clemmons interviews Melissa Foster
Welcome, Melissa! Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.
Melissa: I was the quintessential a tomboy. I grew up with six brothers and the most amazing mother a person could have. There was nothing the boys could do that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t). I grew up in Maryland with fifteen wonderful kids on my block. We were all very close knit and got into a lot of trouble. Good times were had by all.
I’m married with six great kids. Four of our kids are now college age, but for years we lived in a state of controlled chaos. Quiet was never to be found, and more often than not you would find all eight of us in one room watching movies together.
My favorite things in life are my mother, my children, my brothers, and my extended family. My friends are my lifeline to sanity, and brownies come in as a close second.
Caroline: Wow, I'm still reeling from learning four of your kids are in college at one time. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
Melissa: I wish I could say that I love all genres, but that would be a lie. I have a very hard time reading non-fiction, so I typically leave that genre to my husband and my sons. I crave fiction that I can relate to, and I can relate to fiction that is a little on the wild or unconventional side as easily as I can relate to women’s fiction.
Favorite authors are hard for me to distinguish. There are so many authors that I enjoy for very different reasons. I love the beauty of Lisa See’s writing, the down-to-earth realism portrayed by Jennie Shortridge, and the descriptive decadence portrayed by Khaled Hosseini.
Caroline: Knowing so many authors does make it hard to choose, doesn't it? I also love Lisa See's writing. How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?
Melissa: Unfortunately, when I’m writing, I don’t get to read as much as I’d like. During the summer I don’t write, and I read about five books per month. During the other months I only read one or two books each month. I run a book club on The Women’s Nest, the social and support community for women that I founded, and I make that book selection my priority for the month.
I’ve just finished reading THINK TWICE, THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON, and HEAVEN IS FOR REAL.It was a good month.
Caroline: Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors. When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?
Melissa: When I’m not writing I love to read. I spend the summer on Cape Cod, and I read continuously. I also get to spend loads of time with my kids doing outdoor activities and joining friends for bonfires and barbeques. I also get to increase my workouts, which always makes me feel energized.
Caroline: Cape Cod? I'm definitley jealous! Our weather here in North Central Texas was 107 F degrees today, sticky humid, but with no rain in sight. And the grasshoppers have descended to strip the leaves from my roses. Ugh. Sorry, I digressed. Describe yourself in three or four words.
Melissa: Creative, headstrong, sensitive, loving
Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?
Melissa: I’m a people watcher with an active imagination. I love to think of stories to go with people I meet and those I observe. Other than that, mint chocolate chip ice cream with whipped cream and chocolate jimmies always gets my creative juices flowing.
Caroline: Now you've made me hungry for ice cream. 🙂 How long have you been writing?
Melissa: I began writing when my second son was born, at the end of 1990. I wasn’t able to do any serious writing until all six of our children were in school full-time, though, so my writing career didn’t begin until 2006.
Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?
Melissa: I prefer to write on a deck overlooking Cape Cod bay, but since that isn’t feasible, I write from home. I need music—anything with a beat, and I prefer to write when no one else is around. I do odd things, like act out my scenes when I’m writing them so I can feel the emotions of the characters. If there were people in the room, I think I’d quickly gain a few strange nicknames.
I write on my laptop. It has a pink cover that I only see when I carry it from room to room, but just knowing that color is there somehow makes me happy, which translates into a better writing experience.
Caroline: A pink laptop sounds perfect. My office is pale pink and I call it my pink cave. I feel very girly and creative there, which makes writing easier. Are you a plotter or a panzer?
Melissa: I love this question! I’m definitely a panzer. I don’t prepare before writing, and when (inevitably) my editor asks for an outline, I moan and groan like a disgruntled child. I’m also a sticky-note girl. My computer has them plastered all over in various colors, and my computer desk is also covered.
Caroline: What did we do before sticky notes? Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?
Melissa: I wish I could say that I don’t liken my characters to anyone that I know, but that would not be honest. Quite often my characters reflect different parts of people that I know. This isn’t always the case, but I believe that we’re all influenced by those around us, so even if I don’t realize I’m patterning a character after someone I’ve met, I probably am.
Caroline: Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?
Melissa: Definitely as I go along. I don’t always know what I need to research until my project has begun.
Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?
Melissa: I am neurotic about my writing schedule. I write from 9 am – 2 pm Monday through Friday from September through June (while my children are in school). I only leave my desk out of duress, and have probably lost out on many good times because of my unwillingness to give up my writing time. I set goals—sometimes word counts, and other times scenes or chapters. I try not to write over the summer, but sometimes I’m able to sneak in a few hours here and there.
Caroline: Great discipline, but you'd have to be efficient to manage a household with six children and still accomplish all you have. Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?
Melissa: I founded and ran a human resources consulting firm for years, and was a Director of Administration just prior to changing my life. After climbing the corporate ladder, when we decided to have our fifth child, I changed my lifestyle and began working from home to be with our four older kids as well as our new baby(ies). I sold real estate for ten years, and put my license into referral status after publishing my first book. Now I run The Women’s Nest, the free social and support community for women that I founded, and I write. I would go without most things in life to have time with my children and time to write.
Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?
Melissa: I hope my readers are entertained, enlightened, and emotionally conflicted. I hope every story brings them to the edge of their seat and makes them think about things that they’d rather pretend never happened. My books tend to lean toward themes of family, forgiveness, and understanding. I hope my readers always come away with a reason to be less judgmental toward others and more accepting of things they may not agree with.
Caroline: Yes, I saw those themes in CHASING AMANDA. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
Melissa: Write from your heart, not to sell books. Don’t give up. The publishing industry is going through major changes that will continue to affect the way books are brought to readers. Don’t get too caught up in the details. Push past the worry and write. Believe in yourself. If you love your writing, chances are, it will touch someone else’s life, too.
Caroline: Sound advice. Tell us about your latest release.
Melissa: CHASING AMANDA was actually my first manuscript that I wrote in 1996, previously titled, THE KNOWING. I put it aside to write MEGAN'S WAY, and then revisited it and reworked the storyline to include more of a women’s fiction slant. CHASING AMANDA is a mystery/suspense. I came up with the idea while running down a very creepy, secluded rustic road one afternoon. I no longer run on that road.
Melissa's Blurb for 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.
At first, the change in temperature seemed imagined. Molly’s eyebrows furrowed. She sped up her pace and her heartbeat followed. Within seconds, the air around her became cold. Goose bumps rose on her arms and sent a chill down her spine. She swallowed hard. Her calm slipped away, overshadowed by dread and certainty of what was yet to come.
A cold sweat replaced the perspiration she had earned. She swiped at her brow with a shaking hand. Her shorts and tank top clung to her small muscular body. An eerie silence took shelter in her eardrums as her vision dimmed, and an acidic taste settled in her mouth. Each breath became a fight for air. Her feet stopped moving. No! Not now! She closed her eyes and tried to will away the pressure in her head. There was no escape. She clenched her fists and brought them to her forehead, bracing herself for what she knew was happening. A fog enveloped her mind, and her legs became weak beneath her. A passerby, seeing her body shake and thrust, would have thought Molly was having a seizure. A passerby wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between a seizure and the Knowing. Molly could.
She cursed herself for allowing the Knowing to continue to control her, year after year, yet she had no power to stop it. She felt like a puppet on a string. Visions flashed in her mind: A cavern-like room surrounded by shadowy darkness; a young girl huddled in a corner, scared and shivering; the smell of rancid, wet earth.
Caroline: Thank you for the excerpt. I hope readers will want to read the entire book. Tell us where we can find your books.
Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
Melissa: Thank you for asking. There are two exciting things on the horizon. MEGAN'S WAY, my 2009 debut literary fiction novel, has been picked up by Director Wendy Crouse for film production. She’s currently casting and hopes to start production this summer.
In honor of the upcoming film, I’ve reduced MEGAN'S WAY in Kindle format to just 99 cents, and I’m hosting a summer long Kindle giveaway. If you purchase any of my books, in any format, you may enter (one entry per purchase). One Kindle will be given away for every 75 books purchased. I’m hoping to give away many Kindles! Details are on my website: http://www.melissafoster.com/
I’m also working on my next novel, (working title) COME BACK TO ME. It’s an international love story/tragedy.
Most importantly, I love to chat with readers and book clubs. If you plan on reading my books, or perhaps have read one or both of them, please contact me and let’s set up a time to meet via Skype, in person, or online. Thinkhappygirl (at) yahoo (dot) com
Caroline: Super idea! How else can readers learn more about you?
Melissa: Readers can always chat with me on THE WOMEN'S NESTt, http://www.thewomensnest.com/ (my username is Thinkhappy)
Visit my website: http://www.melissafoster.com/
Friend me on Facebook and "like" my fan page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/MelissaFosterBooks
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Melissa_Foster
Melissa: Caroline, I have really enjoyed answering these questions. They were insightful and really made me think. Thank you for being creative and for hosting me today on your blog.
Caroline: Continued success with your writing, Melissa. Thanks for visiting with us today.