Today, Bookin’ It would like to welcome Fantasy author, Jennifer Melzer. So nice to have you here with us, Jennifer. Can you tell us a bit about how you became a writer? When did you decide that’s what you wanted to be, and what steps did you take to prepare for a writing career?
JM: When I was ten, I got a Fisher Price typewriter for my birthday. Before that, I made up extravagant lies about everything under the sun. After, I started typing the lies out and hiding them in a shoebox I kept under my bed. I don’t know why I hid them. Probably because my mom taught me that lying was morally wrong, but as I got older I started to realize there was so much more to it than lying. I was making up stories, living out little fantasies through these elaborate falsehoods I would never get to live out in any other way. By the time I was sixteen, I had dozens upon dozens of full notebooks of handwritten short stories and novels and I was relatively sure the only thing I would ever know how to do is tell stories. Eventually, I went to university and majored in English and creative writing, and experience I highly recommend.
BI: Well, hiding stories in a shoebox under the bed is a new one. Thanks for sharing that. I love it! Were you inspired by any particular authors, past or present, and what is it about their work that impresses you, or moves you?
JM: Neil Gaiman has been one of the greatest inspirations throughout the course of my life. As a teenager, I was enraptured by the Sandman comics and absolutely fell in love with Neverwhere when it came out. One of the things that inspires me about his work is that Gaiman has never been afraid to take risks. Sometimes the more fantastic the risk, the better and no matter what kind of stories we tell.
BI: I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan, myself, though I only discovered him recently. Still catching up with him and Terry Pratchett, another late discovery. What genres do you read most often for pleasure today, Jennifer…those books you gravitate toward the minute you walk into a bookstore?
JM: Fantasy is my go-to genre of choice, followed by historical fiction centered around the Dark Ages and Medieval Period. Epic fantasy, urban fantasy… Dragons, sorcery, fairytales. I might be a bit of an escapist, but I love stories that take me out of this world. Historical fiction has the same appeal for me because it is a world we’ve already been to, and yet it seems so alien to the world we live in now.
BI: Good point, about historical fiction being alien to our world today. I can see that. Do you have a dedicated workspace, and are you consistent with the amount of time you spend writing each day?
JM: At the moment, I work in my bedroom, tucked away from the rest of the household for several hours a day. Consistency, however, depends highly on where I am with what I’m working on. If I’m fully absorbed, I can spend anywhere from five to ten hours a day writing, forgetting there is a world beyond my keyboard. If I’m struggling with a plot point or a character is giving me a hard time, I am far more easily distracted.
BI: Makes sense to me. Those characters can really run amok with our minds. Do you use visual aids, like Inspiration Boards/Photos or maps of your book’s setting? What reference books or other material do you consult most frequently as you write?
JM: It’s funny, but as a fantasy writer I have to use a lot more resources than one might think. I find myself consulting maps quite a bit, especially when constructing my own maps of the fantastical worlds I create. Linguistic resources come into play quite a bit, and so do mythology texts. Even when you’re making up monsters or fantastic beings unlike any the world has ever seen before, inspiration is often found in other mythological beasties and stories.
BI: I can understand that, and I think good world-building would require a ton of research, to be sure it all works together like it should. Jennifer, when you have an idea for a new book, do you sit down and start typing, or do you start with an outline, and figure out all the major plot points first? In other words, is your working style structured and organized, or more organic and free flowing?
JM: I am what is often referred to as a “pantser,” meaning I write from the seat of my pants. I struggle with outlines, their rigidity and structure making me feel like I’m suffocating. My first draft almost always turns out to be what others might consider their outline. I have tried being a good little plotter my whole life, but the more I plot and plan something, the less likely I am to finish it because I really do feel like I can’t breathe.
BI: I’m a firm believer in “whatever works for you.” There’s more than one way to write, just like pretty much everything else in life. It’s good you’ve figured out your own approach. Let’s talk about reading again. Do you prefer eBooks, or print? Why?
JM: I still prefer reading good old fashioned books. I love the way the smell, the way they feel in my hands and there’s no threat of your tablet or eReader battery dying just when you get to the really good parts. As much as I love traditional paper books, however, I tend to buy more eBooks these days because it’s easier and often less expensive.
BI: I love both, myself, each for different reasons. Can you tell us about the books have you published, and where we can buy them?
JM: My current project is The Serpent of Time series. The first book in the series, Edgelanders, came out in February, 2014, and is available in paperback and eBook formats. The audiobook, narrated by the incredibly talented Veronica Giguere, will be available by summer’s end. When Princess Lorelei of Leithe overhears her fiancé’s plot to murder her on the way to their wedding, she does the only smart thing: she runs. Into the Edgelands, the savage, woodland home of the legendary U’lfer, a race of fierce wolves who walk as men, she knows she is as good as dead, but she would rather be torn apart by werewolves than die by Trystay’s hand. A young U’lfer warrior named Finn catches her scent on the wind and finds himself possessed by an unnatural desire to shield and protect her from that which hunts her. From the moment he first sees her, Finn knows she is his. He feels her heartbeat, knows her soul, and he will do anything, even suffer exile from the Edgelands to be with her. But there is more to Lorelei than meets the eye. She is like Finn; there is U’lfer blood in her veins, a beast beneath her skin she never knew was there. The answers she seeks lie south, in the frozen tundra of Rimian, where a village of people just like her have been waiting for Lorelei to come and save them since before she was even born.
There is a page on my website with links to worldwide sales venues, as well as free samples of text and audio.
BI: Great synopsis of the story line, and absolutely beautiful cover, too! Edgelanders sounds like something I’d enjoy. (Have added it to my TBR list). Are you currently working on a new book? When do you expect it to be available?
JM: I am wrapping up edits on the second book in the Serpent of Time series: Sorrow’s Peak. It will be available in eBook and paperback formats by autumn 2014, but an exact release date has not been announced at this time.
BI: You’ll have to keep us updated on that one. I’d like to know what you think is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
JM: I love everything about being a writer, and I always have. I love the stories and the characters, working through difficult plot points and coming out feeling as if I’ve only just returned from someplace incredible I can’t wait to share with others. As a storyteller, one has so much freedom and it’s a beautiful thing.
One of the hardest things is often the amount of self-promotion one has to do in order to make noise in the void of competitive voices vying for reader attention. I love talking about my books, but I love writing them far more and often feel my attention would best be spent on that aspect. Sadly, I know that can’t always be the case.
Thank you so much for being here with us today, Jennifer. I’m really looking forward to checking out Edgelanders, and I wish you the best of luck with the whole series.
Fantasy author Jennifer Melzer enjoys spinning elements of the fantastic with strands plucked from the heart. She spent most of her life denying the romantic overtones sewn into her fiction, but awoke one morning and realized every single tales she’d spun somehow revolved around the heart. She has since given into the whim, spinning yarns woven from heartstrings.
She currently resides in Northeast Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and a houseful of dragons she must train regularly to keep them from setting fire to the curtains. Nightly she dreams she is laying on the beach watching stars burst over the Atlantic Ocean.
Connect with Jennifer Melzer all over the ‘net!
You can get a copy of Edgelanders from Jennifer’s own website, Jennifer Melzer, Author
Or from amazon.com: