This week sees the official launch of the newly merged Romance line with Harlequin Romance and Silhouette Romance all under the one
I'm a mother of three, a born and bred Sydney-sider now living in a beach suburb in country New South Wales, Australia. A former nurse, waitress, store assistant, perfume and chocolate (yum!) demonstrator, I believe in taking on new jobs for the fun experience! I'll try almost anything at least once to see what it feels like—a fact that scares my family on regular occasions.
I fell into writing by accident when my husband brought home an article stating how much a famous romance author earned, and thought, "I can do that!" Years later, I found my niche at Intimate Moments. I can be found most mornings walking and swimming at the local beach with my husband, or every afternoon running around to my kids' sporting hobbies, while dreaming of flying, scuba diving, belaying down a cave or over a cliff—anywhere my characters are at the time!
Spotlight On Melissa:
Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?
Hmmm…usually from things I read or news articles, or real life. I got the inspiration for my first book, Her Galahad, from my university reader, about fake death certificates given to Aboriginal people taken from their families. The certificates were given to stop them from finding their families when they grew up (it was part of the assimilation ideal in the White Australia policy – thank heaven that chapter of history is closed!).
My first Harlequin Romance, Long-Lost Father was partly based on my niece, Lily Maya who is legally blind, among other physical challenges. My next, Outback Baby Miracle, is partly my own story, but with a man deeply scarred by guilt and loss. My wonderful mother, who was a counselor for many years, helped me with the emotions Jake went through. My July 2007 release, Her Outback Knight, was suggested by my former editor as she loved Jimmy’s character in Outback Baby Miracle. That story deals with the pain of adults discovering they’re adopted, and learning that their pain can be less than those who had to give their child up.
Injustice – as I guess can be seen from my books! I tend to deal with real-life situations, which makes my books love ‘em or hate ‘em. They polarize readers in a way – I suppose because many people buy books to escape. I hope I do provide that, in the happy endings – but I like stories grounded in reality. I hate racism, abuse of children or any form of prejudice…and my cheeky husband knows it well, whenever he teases me about it!
It doesn’t really sound romantic, but it is to me…my husband noticed that two of our appliances were past their use-by date, and arranged new ones to be delivered to surprise me! Apart from that, we go away every anniversary for a romance battery recharge…and he always gives me a rose for every year we’ve been married. We’re up to 24 this year. ;)
I think what does it for me is a man who’s strong enough to let his woman be herself, and not feel threatened by her strengths. I love a hero who is man enough to apologize, to admit to his faults and work on them. Of course, brown eyes and dimples always work, too.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
What I was – a nurse. I loved it and miss it still, but chose to be a full time mother and don’t regret it a bit. But I still want to pull on a uniform and get to work whenever I’m in a hospital…
What do you do to relax and wind down?
I love the History Channel! Give me historical events and I’m riveted. Give me a good, factual historical book, bio or novel, and I’m engrossed. I love to read, too – I love Bernard Cornwell, Sharon Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Eloisa James and Anne Gracie for historical (among many others, but they’ve faves) Tolkien and Anne McCaffrey for fantasy, Shirley Jump, Fiona Brand, Liz Fielding, Ally Blake, Nicola Marsh, Natasha Oakley, Christine Gordon or Marion Lennox for contemporary among many – the field is wide. Not to mention my beautiful and talented friends and critique partners, Mia Zachary and Diane Gaston…
How do you get out of a writing rut?
My best method is talking it out with my critique partners, Mia, Diane and Rachel. Each has a different method to help me, but each works. Rachel has amazing methods of pulling me out – works every time. I owe that woman so much! My best friend Olga is also an unfailing source of support. She will read anything for me and tell me what a scene or book needs, even though she isn’t a writer. Or maybe because she isn’t a writer!
But for those without inspiring best friends and critique partners, I recommend walking – getting right away from everything and just allowing yourself to *think*. Taking a break to read always works for me, as well.
“Dreamstorming” is brilliant. I learned that at last year’s NINC conference and bought the book “From Where You Dream” (highly recommend it). I learned to think about the book last thing at night – think about the last scene I wrote – and by morning I know what to do.
My CP Mia also recommends “wing washing” – showering and thinking about the book. Works for her every time!
One last fantastic method of getting out of a funk, or seeing the problems in a book causing a rut – is “backwards writing”. Mia introduced me to this and it works. Start at the end of the book – or the end of where you’re up to – and read it backwards. Quite often I’ll find a thread of a plot I’ve forgotten to weave in; a piece of characterization that isn’t working – by reading backwards you get less involved in the story and can read more objectively. For more information, go to http://www.miazachary.com/ and look up her articles.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
My beloved Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. I just came back from a week there. My grandparents and aunts lived in Katoomba, near the top of the ranges, so I did a lot of growing up there; but my hubby’s a beach boy so we live near the coast. I go back every year, though, for the inner peace. I’ve felt similarly at Lake Mungo in the Outback, in a paddleboat on the Murray River, at the Southern Alps in New Zealand, at Yosemite in California, or in the Isle of Bute in Scotland. I’ve been blessed enough to travel and love it – I adore Britain for its history, America for the wonderful people I’ve met and lovely places (adore New Orleans!), but Australia is home to me. I love that there’s not crowds everywhere I go. I love peace and space.
Who would you most like to give a hug to for a fabulous book you’ve read?
Oh, good grief…does it have to be one? God, for the Bible. LM Montgomery for the “Anne” series, and her lovely “Blue Castle”. La Vyrle Spencer, for “Forgiving” and “Morning Glory”. Sophy Burnham for her haunting “Treasure of Montsegur”. Jane Austen for Sense and Sensibility. Anne Gracie for her adorable “Perfect” series (sorry, Anne – I won’t make the hug literal!). Eloisa James for making me laugh and cry in all her books. Nicholas Sparks for just about any of his books. Liz Fielding for making me laugh, and Christine Gordon for always making me cry! Diana Gabaldon for Cross-Stitch (Outlander). And – oh, forgotten her name, but the author of the “Mark of the Lion” series – wonderful tales about Hadassah, a Christian girl in Roman times – a slave struggling with conscience against love for a Roman man. So many wonderful books, so many authors…
What music do you listen to when writing?
Just about anything. I make my own soundtracks usually – I’ve been very blessed that, until this week, my daughter worked for a major recording company and would always bring home fabulous music for me. Some artists I find good for me are Hayley Westenra (haunting stuff!), James Morrison (UK singer – really good for male emotion), Jeff Buckley, the Phantom of the Opera CD, classical, Rod Stewart’s swing series, Dido, Elvis, Paul Kelly, Simon & Garfunkel, Switchfoot, Snow Patrol – the list is very large. I have 5 CD stackers in my study as well as CD cases for traveling. I can’t do without my music – or the ”signature scents” that go with them. I make oils and candle melts for each book – a different scent each time.
Tell us a secret nobody knows about you
Oh…um. I was called “Freckle Bum Junior” at school because I had so many freckles they reckoned I had to have them on my butt (and junior because my brother was Freckle Bum)? How’s that?
Also, I tend to sing VERY loudly when I’m stuck with an emotion for a character. I will go into their “theme songs” (as I said, I make soundtracks, usually one for each character) and close my eyes and feel the emotion, do a role play, if you like…but I sing it; sometimes I dance it, too. My neighbors must think I’m insane, but it works for me.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Which day? They happen so often…from my friend Carolynn telling the boy I adored that I had a crush on him (in front of the whole class, and I was skinny and freckled – didn’t have a chance) to being called the, um, skinniest, ugliest, most (um) flat-chested female dog in the class (that boy asked me out three years later) to being too sick to eat an expensive anniversary dinner hubby bought me (was pregnant – it led to a real Monty Python scene with the waiter, the head waiter and finally the chef!), to falling flat on my face last week and spraining my ankle on a kitchen floor…I don’t really have much mystique, trust me. I am not nicknamed “Anne of Green Gables” for nothing…I am still waiting to fall through a roof and write while I’m stuck up there, though.
What have you had to celebrate in the last year?
Being able to write the books I love best for a line I truly love. My editor led me toward writing “weepies” for Romance, and I truly love it. Seeing my beautiful friend and critique partner Maryanne in California one last time before she passed away. Going back to beautiful New Orleans after the hurricane, and feeling as if I’d helped the community by going there. Getting a fabulous agent who also loves my historical book. Seeing my children turn into wonderful, caring human beings. Having a husband who puts his family before his career advancement, and yet encourages me with my career. Having the best friends and critique partners in the world, who love me as I am.
What’s beside your computer when you’re writing?
I have two stuffed animals from my son, one rock from a friend in my writers’ group that says “Believe” on it…a carved angel from another writers’ group friend; a lovely framed quote from Mia about friendship being a gift, plus a paperweight she bought me – oh, and a sign saying “Housework Makes You Ugly”. J And my scents and candles everywhere!
If you could kiss anyone in the world who would it be?
I have him, every night. And my kids. I am a very blessed woman. Apart from that – hmmm…does he have to be alive? I’m such a history buff, I fall in love with historical men all the time, from impulsive King David to outspoken apostle Peter, to Richard III, Llewellyn the Great and Simon de Montfort. Depends what book I’m reading at the time!
What are you working on now?
Currently I’m working on revisions from my excellent agent for my historical. I’m writing a romantic adventure series about a spy network in France, England and Scotland in 1803-5, during the resumption of war with Bonaparte and the threat of invasion. Must of it is based on real history, and events that happened but they never found perpetrators – or heroes for them. I love that my agent wants to work with me to make the books the very best they can be!
I’ve also sent some ideas to my editor for new Romances, just having finished one about the impact of a long-term missing person on a family. My next two (I hope! If my editor likes them) are about post-traumatic stress disorder and giving to others as a way of coping – and about anorexia nervosa and how it affects a family for years, and the people who love them.
Outback Baby Miracle, Melissa's current title, is part of the launch month books in the new Romance line and is available now in North America and the UK and next month in Australia. You can order the book in North America here and find out more about Melissa and her upcoming books at her website.
And DON'T FORGET GANG! You can join the new Romance Line authors at The Pink Heart Society from this Tuesday (13th) on our Yahoo loop with guests like Melissa James, Liz Fielding, Natasha Oakley, Barbara McMahon, Jackie Braun and oh so many more there to answer your questions!!! To join just click the link on the sidebar and come join us!