Continuing with Awesome Authors, today I get to interview the multifaceted Melissa Bowersock. Another cool author I’ve had the good fortune to meet because of Indies Unlimited, Melissa has quite a resumé (from her bio):
Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning writer who turns her hand to any kind of story that moves her: contemporary, western, fantasy, romance, action/adventure, spiritual, satire or biography. She has written ten novels and one non-fiction and has been both traditionally published and self-published. She also writes under the name of Amber Flame, and she is a certified hypnotherapist. She thrives in the Sonoran desert of Southern Arizona with her husband and an Airedale terrier.
D: Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for being here. I’m curious: why did you decide to become a writer?
M: Actually I think you’ve got the question backward; I never chose to be a writer—writing chose me. I’ve been writing since I was five and there was never a question about should I/shouldn’t I, never a question about can I/can’t I. I just always have. I wrote my first novel at 12 (about a girl and a horse, kind of an equine Old Yeller), and had a sequel sketched out but never wrote that one. After graduating high school, dropping out of college and getting married, working and raising kids, THEN I got back to writing again and it’s been non-stop ever since. I have often thought that if anyone suggested I not write, it would be tantamount to suggesting I cut both arms off at the shoulders. Not gonna happen.
D: Can you tell me a little bit about your latest book?
M: My latest, Stone’s Ghost, is a contemporary ghost story about the friendship between a living man and a female ghost. Here’s the blurb:
Matthew Stone doesn’t believe in ghosts … until he meets one. He owns a successful business in Lake Havasu, Arizona, home to the famed London Bridge that was brought over stone by stone and rebuilt over the Colorado River. He has a gorgeous girlfriend, a doting mother, and more money than he needs, but no time for stories about the ghosts who were transplanted from England with the famed bridge. When a chance encounter with a female ghost leads to unexpected friendship, Matt and the ghost are forced to rely on each other as they confront the pasts that haunt them.
D: Why did you choose to write a ghost story?
M: Again, I have to say I didn’t choose this; it chose me. I’ve always loved the paranormal, the magical, the occult, the spiritual—anything that kicks a story up a notch from the normal and mundane. One evening when watching Arizona Highways on TV, I saw a short piece on the ghosts that haunt the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, and I thought it would be a kick to do a “fish-out-of-water” story about an English ghost having trouble adjusting to the modern Arizona desert. I envisioned it as a light, fluffy comedy, but the book and my characters had other ideas. I hadn’t written more than five or ten pages before I knew it was going to have a decidedly dark side to it and actually very little comedy. The more I wrote, the more profound the story became, and only toward the end did I realize the true core themes of the story: love and loss and friendship, mistakes and consequences and redemption. The really great news is that, even if I didn’t write the story I thought I was going to, I love this book.
If I try to micro-manage the story too much, it becomes too mechanical; I like to leave lots of wriggle-room for the creative process.
D: Who designs your covers?
M: I generally do my own, so the design was mine. I have a habit of doing Google searches on images, grabbing the ones I like, then cobbling them together in my graphics program and playing around with layout and placement. When I got the cover just the way I wanted it, I sent my low-res Frankensteined image to Brenda Remlinger of http://www.coversbydesign.com. She then does the professional, hi-res (legal) version of it. She’s great to work with: fast and efficient.
D: Do you outline or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
M: I am definitely a seat-of-the-pants writer. I might have a list of 5 or so bullet points, just the pivotal action or main plot points, which I will add to as I go, but it’s more of a suggestion than a guideline. If I try to micro-manage the story too much, it becomes too mechanical; I like to leave lots of wriggle-room for the creative process. That’s when the magic happens and the story writes itself. Very often I have no clue what I’m going to write until it’s on the paper, and I’m often surprised by what comes out. The writing process for me is as much of a discovery as it is for the readers reading the story. We both wonder how it’s going to turn out!
D: What are you working on now?
M: At the moment, I’m completely occupied by the launch of Stone’s Ghost. I decided to have an online party to celebrate the new book, and it’s turning into quite a production. The party date is July 26, 2013, but I’ve already set up a Facebook event page called the Friendly Ghost Party (https://www.facebook.com/events/142948992566792/) where I’m asking folks to post any ghost-related pictures. We’ve already got several pics, some video, even cartoons, and this contest is open to anyone. On July 26, the pic with the most likes will win a prize package. At the same time, I’m posting all the information on my blog at www.mjb-wordlovers.blogspot.com and asking folks to post short ghost stories in the comments section. Again, on July 26, I will choose a random winner out of a hat for a prize package. In the meantime, several bloggers have agreed to co-host the party, and I’m working up a menu for a virtual buffet so party-goers can visit one blog for food, one for drinks, etc. All the food is ghost-related, and I’ll have links to the recipes (in case people are looking for ideas for Halloween!). I will also have a giveaway on Goodreads the week before, and finally I plan to lower the price for the Kindle version of the new book (and all the books on my back list) to 99 cents for that day only. I think it’s going to be quite a celebration! Everyone is welcome to drop by, post pics or stories for the contests and maybe win a prize.
I decided to have an online party to celebrate the new book, and it’s turning into quite a production.
D: Sounds like fun! I’ll have to stop by 🙂 Where do you see yourself in five years?
M: The plan is to be hunkered down in a small town in central Arizona, retired from my day job, writing and enjoying life with my husband. We’ve lived in Tucson for 25 years and are yearning for a smaller town, less traffic, less heat, and closer to the places we love: the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell. We have 12 acres near the Grand Canyon and love to park our little travel trailer up there for the summer, and we plan to get a boat so we can continue our explorations of Lake Powell. Beyond that, I’d like to do some gardening, more travel, and of course—more writing.
D: Love the Grand Canyon. I used to live in Phoenix and often camped on the south rim. Here’s another burning question: what made you decide to go indie rather than traditional publishing?
M: My first five books were traditionally published, two by a NY house and three by small presses. The experiences varied widely, but the most rewarding were the ones where I worked closely with the publisher and had input into the process (not always true). When my first two books went out of print, I began to investigate self-publishing simply to keep them viable, but I discovered how rewarding the process was, and that’s how I’ve published ever since. It’s a lot of work—writing, editing, formatting, designing the cover, uploading, and promoting—but it’s supremely satisfying. I love having total control, having my books turn out exactly as I have envisioned them. No more worrying about the title being changed, about what the cover will look like, about adding or cutting pages merely to satisfy some arbitrary idea of page count. I know when I hand my book to someone, it’s exactly the book I wrote, not someone else’s version of it.
D: What advice would you give to new writers?
M: Keep at it. Writing is not an activity that’s characterized by any overnight results. It takes time to write, time to edit, time to hone and polish, time to promote and time to build a readership. Anyone who’s looking for a get-rich-quick scheme should look elsewhere. But for those of us who can’t not write, it’s immensely satisfying to finally hold that book in our hands, to see and feel and touch that thing we’ve created. It may seem like it’s taking forever, but even if you only write one paragraph a day—one sentence, one word—you’re making progress. Keep chipping away at it and eventually you’ll get there.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Melissa! Here’s an excerpt from Melissa’s new book, Stone’s Ghost:
The London Bridge, he decided as he drove up the approach, had to be the ultimate in kitsch. Leave it to an American to bring the storied stone bridge from England and plop it down over a spit of river in the southwest desert. Before that, Lake Havasu City was nothing but a trailer park beside the Colorado River; now it was known everywhere because it had THE BRIDGE. The aged span sported Union Jacks and ornate lamp posts at intervals, objects more at home with bone-chilling fog than the hot desert air that bleached out the colors and faded the metal. It was the ultimate incongruity—
Suddenly a dark form, blacker than the night sky and human-shaped, appeared directly in front of his car. He had no time to jam on the brakes or swerve, although he did both, but before the car could respond he had barreled directly over or through the thing standing in the road. Immediately hauling the sedan over to the side of the road, he set the brake and popped the car into neutral. Without even checking for traffic, he scrambled from the car and ran back to see what he had hit. He just prayed to God it wasn’t dead.
Heart pounding, he searched the dark roadway. It was empty. No trace of anything wet on the pavement that might have been blood, not even a stain. Even his frantic braking had not left a mark. He glanced further down the road to see if a truck or a bus had preceded him, perhaps belching exhaust or smoke, but there were no other moving vehicles anywhere. He considered a low-hanging cloud but knew no cloud ever looked like that, black and almost solid. He scanned the lanes in both directions, searched the sidewalks on both sides. Nothing. He even glanced over the sides of the bridge, noting that the ripples in the water below reflected only the normal flow of the river, nothing like what he would expect if something had fallen or jumped from the bridge. There was no evidence that there had been anything there at all.
Breathing deeply, still shaking, he shook his head as if to clear it. He wasn’t that loaded. He hadn’t even finished his second beer. How could he have imagined something so real? He hadn’t been nodding off; he wasn’t sleepy before and certainly was not now. There was no reason for him to see something that wasn’t there. He looked again westward down the roadway toward the island; nothing there at all, not even a leaf moved in the heavy air. It just didn’t make any sense.
He walked uneasily back to the car and examined it. The front was unmarred and shiny, as clean as the day he washed it last week. There were no dents, no bits of fur or fabric caught in the grille. He remembered the fleeting sense of the dark shape coming at the windshield but when he examined it, there were no scratches, no marks. There was nothing to indicate he had encountered anything at all.
“This is nuts,” he said to himself. Wiping his face with a still shaking hand, he pushed the shock of thick black hair off his forehead. His reaction, the way he felt, was completely at odds with the fact that there was nothing there. Obviously there was no reason to stay, no reason to search anymore, yet he felt leaving would be irresponsible somehow. He had an uneasy sense of incompletion, yet … what was there for him to do?
“There’s nothing here,” he said out loud. His own voice ringing in the emptiness of the night irritated him. “Screw it,” he said finally and got back into the car. Checking his mirrors, looking around in all directions, he slid the gearshift into first and pulled slowly away from the curb. Gaining speed gradually, he continued to monitor his rear view mirror as he drove on across the bridge.
He saw nothing else all the rest of the way home.
END OF EXCERPT
To find out more about Melissa and her writing, click on the links below: