The Writing Life of: Melody Winter
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Meloday Winter.
Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in Finance.
Melody is convinced the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.
Melody Winter lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the beach.
With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures. In fact, if she wasn’t such a terrible swimmer, she’d say she was a mermaid.
1) Do you remember the moment you decided that you would like to become a writer?
I don’t think there was ever a ‘lightbulb’ moment when I thought ‘I have to be a writer.’ It was more a gradual thing.
My desire to write stemmed from reading books and thinking that I would have ended them differently. I went through a particular time where five books in a row made me feel this way.
I started to get annoyed with my inability to accept what the authors had written, and decided to write my own endings. These endings never became anything more than a list of bullet points, but it made me realise that perhaps I should try and write something myself. It was all well and good writing a different ending, but there were full stories that led to the endings.
I wrote a vampire/half-vampire story and let a few close friends read it. They loved it and encouraged me to try and get it published, but I felt it was my trial run.
I learnt a lot when I wrote it, but it was far too long to get published—over 250k words. (Maybe one day I’ll blow the dust off it—we’ll see.) I loved writing about vampires, but wanted to create something unique—something that was my own creation. That’s when I created my Sachaels.
2) How did you go about following your dream?
Following on from the last question, I started researching for my Sachael story. I drew a rough plot idea and then fleshed it out with my two main friends who had supported me 100% with the vampire story. (Those two friends are still with me, pre-reading and editing my words before anyone else gets close to them.)
It took six months to do all the research and plan out the story. I plan in quite a lot of detail, a rough idea of each chapter, and it soon became apparent I had too much material for one book. Further planning presented enough material for four books as there were four natural story lines. Only when I had a detailed outline for book one, and rough chapter ideas for the remaining three books, did I begin to write.
Sachael Dreams was written in six months but went through numerous edits before I dared to send it out to the professionals. At this time I became quite active on twitter, following other authors, chatting to other writers who were in the query trenches like me. It was during this time that I saw REUTS Publications, and after a few tweets to Kisa Whipkey, I submitted Sachael Dreams to REUTS via Kisa. I heard back very quickly and they requested the full MS.
Whilst I was waiting for them to tell me of their decision I got on with the second book in the series, Sachael Desires. It seems strange now to be writing about this when the second book has just been released, but I still remember those days of checking my emails every five minutes, and living with the fear of rejection.
Even when Sachael Dreams was accepted, I still had the rest of the series to place. I was lucky that REUTS stressed an interest in the whole series, and not long after signing Sachael Dreams with them I signed contracts to publish the other three as well.
3) Is there a particular author that inspires you?
There’s not one particular author. I read across a wide genre of books. From YA, through to adult, thriller through to erotica. (Thriller wise – Linwood Barclay always has me desperate to keep reading – ‘No Time for Goodbye’ is so good) But I always enjoy a nice romance, whether it be of the sweet teenage variety or the more challenging ‘sexy’ stories. (Tiffany Reisz knocks my socks off)
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any strange writing habits?
I have two writing days a week during school terms (holidays are a nightmare for me) On both days I wave my boys off to school, and my husband to work. A big cup of tea is next—only my big red mug with white polka dots is acceptable on these days—and then I sit down in the room that I claimed as my writing room.
I’m usually sitting down by 8:30am and write best on a morning, so I aim to try and get at least one chapter written over the two days, which for me is approximately 4-5k. I tend to write a chapter a week on average, but can knock the words out and have hit a maximum of three chapters and 12k words over two days.
(Only once) I have to work in complete silence which is why school holidays are a nightmare for me. But when I’m particularly busy or have a deadline to meet, I shut the door to the room and my boys and hubs know only to disturb me with cups of tea.
I don’t think I have any strange habits apart from always drinking from my red, polka dot mug.
5) Do you write Longhand, Type writer, Computer?
I mainly write with the computer, but I have drafted entire scenes longhand in a notebook (which I take everywhere with me.) I always have several notebooks dotted around the house as well— just in case a line or an idea comes to me. I tend to write quickly on a keyboard, whereas my longhand is a slower process.
6) From all your books, do you have a favourite character?
My favourite character from the Mine series is Kaimi. His introduction to the series is in the prologue of Sachael Dreams, but you don’t actually get to meet him properly until Sachael Desires.
I intended to write him as the prologue suggests—uncaring, unsympathetic and pretty nasty—but when I got to the chapter where he came to life he refused to let me write him that way. It was the first time a character ever took over my writing. It was a frightening but amazing experience.
He’s snarky, and completely unpredictable, so I managed to keep some of his planned traits, but he moulded himself into the character he is. And now, I wouldn’t have him any other way. He’s a special man and think a lot of other people will see a side to him they didn’t expect, perhaps they’ll even like him.
7) Do you plot your books completely before hand or do you let your imagination flow whilst in the writing process?
I spend several months planning a book/series before I start to write properly. I may have snippets of scenes of conversations drafted out. I’m definitely a plotter. I’m comfortable with knowing where I’m heading with something and having a guide as to how I’ll get there. That’s not to say that when I start writing, things don’t change. They do, but still within the plotline I have outlined.
With the Mine series, a four book series, I had to know the main arc of each book and the arc of the overall story. I’d not have been able to just start writing and see where it led. I had to have specific stories to write within each book, otherwise it would have sounded like a ramble, heading nowhere.
Before I start to write, I have a rough outline for each chapter. I do deviate from this many times, but I know where I need to bring it back to. Chapters get added, others deleted—but it’s my guide.
The whole series was planned this way. I had all four books planned out chapter by chapter. I’m currently writing the fourth book and it’s amazing how much I’m not deviating from what I wrote some three years ago now.
The beauty of planning is that you can have multi levels, plots and sub-plots running alongside your main story. These need weaving in carefully so as not to just jump out at the reader mid-way through a series. This is what happens within the Mine series.
There are several things that happen in Sachael Dreams that won’t come to fruition until the 4th book. But the seeds are planted, and I have no fear of readers fumbling through the first book to check those parts that link directly to future events.
I’ve done the same with my next planned series (a duology) a dark romantic fantasy, The Ascent, (INIQUITY – Book one, VERACITY – Book two) although I wasn’t as strict with myself this time, and wrote the first book before planning out the second. Now I’ve planned Veracity I’m in the process of revising the first book as several things that happen in the second need to be alluded to in the first.
Concerning your latest book:
Mine Series Book Two
Author – Melody Winter
Publisher – REUTS Publications
Release Date – 24th February 2015
Format – ebook, paperback
During her ordeal with the Sect, Estelle Bailey dreamt of escaping back into the arms of the sea—and Azariah. But freedom came at a price, and though she’s back with the Sachael who’s stolen her heart, she’s also land-bound until the next full moon. And with the threat of Orontes looming ever larger behind them, Azariah, Estelle, and Michael—her once-captor turned rescuer and friend—are on the run.
Following Michael’s lead, they seek sanctuary amidst the natural beauty of the Orkney and Shetland Islands until Estelle can complete her next submergence ritual and Azariah can whisk her away to the safety of Saicean.
Secrets, betrayals, and old enemies await them, though, and as events spiral out of control, Azariah makes a decision that puts all their lives at risk, forcing Estelle to face a journey she never wanted to take. With time running out and tempers running high, her only hope to save the man she loves lies in a reconciliation between two kingdoms who despise each other.
8) How long did it take to get from the ideas stage, to the date of publication?
The whole series was planned out before I started writing the second book, so it’s impossible for me to answer that as the series was taken on as a whole by REUTS Publications. But I started planning for the whole series back in September 2012.
The first book was published February 2015, so from the initial idea to publication took 2 years 5 months, with the second book, Sachael Desires, released now, some 9 months later, November 2015.
9) Did you suffer from writer’s block at any stage? How did you overcome it?
I’ve been very lucky and never suffered from severe writers block. I’ve had odd days when my muse has upped and left me, usually when there’s some crisis going on at home, but when that happens, I use the time to do further research that I’ve put to one side whilst I write, or I read (my to be read pile is incredibly high.)
10) How did you come up with the name(s)for your lead character(s)?
I like to use names that aren’t popular and over-used for my main characters, and I have to pick a name which fits the character perfectly. Azariah was named before any other character as his name literally means ‘he whom god has helped’ which was so fitting for him.
For Estelle, I wanted an uncommon girl’s name, one as unique as her, but also one which had a meaning that weaved into the story. Estelle means ‘star’ so it was perfect.
I’m a huge Greek mythology fan, so the names I used for the Mine series are nearly all Greek names with meanings to fit their characters. I may list them all at the end of the series.
11) If your book was made in to a film, who would you love to play the lead character(s)?
There are certain characters that I wouldn’t even bother to audition because in my head, they are already my characters.
Estelle: Mila Kunis
Azariah: Alex Pettyfer (Although he needs to dye his hair or he’ll be mistaken for an Oceanid)
Michael: Matt Damon
Orontes: Chris Hemsworth
Lilith: Angelina Jolie
Kaimi: Clive Standen
12) Did you get anyone in particular to read your work before sending it to the publisher i.e family member, friend etc?
I have several people who help with my MS before it got anywhere near a publisher. The first people to see my words are my writing friends – Barbara, and Denise.
Barbara is in America and I’m in England, but chapters get sent to her for a first read as soon as I’ve written them—she gets to see my work at its ugliest. Barbara is also my google junkie, and the first person I throw questions at and mull ideas over with.
Denise is the next person to see what I’ve written. We try to get together one evening a week to go through at least one chapter. We also spend a lot of time discussing the series as a whole and how things weave together.
After Barbara and Denise, I have a few CP’s who run through the whole manuscript and once again give me valuable feedback. I couldn’t do this without any of them.
I would like to say a big thank you to Melody for sharing with us details of her writing life, and for a wonderful interview.