What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
Melissa Darnell. I was born in California, grew up in East Texas, and have since lived in the following states…Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, Puerto Rico, Utah, Iowa, and South Dakota (where I currently live).
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
The Clann Series #1: Crave is a contemporary YA series featuring a forbidden romance between members of warring vampire and magically-gifted societies.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self publish?
The publisher for my Clann Series is Harlequin Teen. My cheerleading and dance nonfiction books are all self published at www.CheerAndDanceBooks.com.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
For fiction, unless I’m under a deadline I tend to wait until I can see the story like a movie inside my mind before I ever start writing it, which can take anywhere from a month to several months. Next, I plot out each scene using Post-it notes on a bulletin board in my office. Then I’ll spend about a day creating a custom playlist of music specifically for that book to give myself a “soundtrack” to listen to while I work. At that point, I’m then ready to write. I write the rough draft of every book in longhand using a pen and a stack of composition notebooks, and average 50-60 pages a day writing 6-8 hours at a time. Since I tend to write fairly long novels (usually around 100,000-150,000 words) and also have a family that sometimes requires me to take days off here and there, the rough draft can take a few weeks to get down on paper. Once the rough draft is completed, I type it up and make the first round of revisions as I go. Then it’s off to the agent or editor for feedback and more revisions.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
There will definitely be 3 books in the Clann Series, with book #2: Covet due out in the fall of 2012 and book #3: Consume due out in 2013. I also recently wrote an urban fantasy YA romance revolving around teens and illegal magic use called The Source. And I have a YA conspiracy thriller and a contemporary YA Greek mythology story in the works as well. So while I’m sticking with YA, the specific genres tend to range a bit in variety. I don’t worry about genre too much, as I prefer to go with the strongest story ideas that I have brewing in the back of my mind at any given time! Whichever “pot” boils the quickest is the next title to be written.
Where do you get your book plot ideas from?
I get ideas from everywhere! And I do mean literally everywhere. Two of my latest ideas came from actual news stories. Another was inspired by the Greek meaning of my name!
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I started out reading all of the reviews for Crave. But then I realized that everyone’s opinions vary wildly, and it is impossible to please everyone or even to try to. What one reviewer loves another hates with a passion! So in the end the two reviews that matter the most to me are my agent’s and my editor’s. However, I will confess that I do still read the good reviews when I need a little pick-me-up to keep me going. I just let my hubby filter out the bad ones nowadays.
How do you market/promote your books?
I’m just now learning how to use social media (sad, I know, but I’ve been spending all my time reading and writing till now!). I’ve always enjoyed designing websites, though, and I think a really good site can add so much to the fictitional world that the books create. So I like to design websites for each book series. TheClannSeries.com, for instance, not only features each book’s summary and book trailer, but it also includes information about the vampires and magically powerful Clann, images of the East Texas woods and the lead characters, as well as an online playlist app that allows you to listen to the soundtrack for each Clann Series book without having to download anything.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
Absolutely! My characters tend to be more melodramatic combinations of several people I knew in real life, and my own life’s events and experiences either directly or indirectly inspire a good portion of the scenes and events in my stories. This helps me to really get inside my characters’ heads and the emotions of each scenario taking place.
What do you think about book trailers?
I LOVE book trailers. They’re simply commercials for books, and they don’t last very long, but for that short minute or two it’s like getting to watch that book in movie format.
Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
While I do not use a pen name for my YA books, I did use a pen name for several adult romance books I wrote years ago. My adult romance books were more on the steamy side, and as a mom, I know how I would feel if my kids accidentally stumbled on an adult book beyond their maturity level because they were looking for more works by that author. By using a pen name and making sure to never do any cross promotion between the two categories of my writing, none of my YA readers will ever accidentally read something inappropriate for a YA audience.
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
My husband has got to be THE most supportive writer’s spouse on the planet. Not only does he serve as my primary beta reader before anyone else gets to read my stories, but he also lets me bounce ideas off him for hours if needed while I’m plotting out a book. Thankfully once a book is plotted out, I know exactly what needs to be written and don’t generally get writer’s block.