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Author Melody Carlson
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books for youth and adults. Most recently she has released two young adult novels, Double Take and Shattered.
I was recently given the opportunity to interview Ms. Carlson for Teen Ink.
Rachel- Tell us about yourself.
Melody Carlson- Writing is a full-time job for me, but with the flexibility that an “at home” job offers. My office is located on the first floor of a guesthouse that’s only about 25 feet from our front door. But something about leaving my home and coming over here makes me feel that I’ve arrived at work. I usually begin my work day with “office stuff”—all the business-ish details that go with publishing a lot of different books. During this time, I try to stay current with the latest by playing a morning news show. I usually start seriously writing before ten, and I write for about six hours a day—more if the deadline is close and less if I feel like procrastinating.
I only work on one book at a time and it’s no secret that I write very quickly. I’ve discovered that it’s the way I work best. It might be because I was so busy when I first began writing (working fulltime with two sons and a busy life) I learned to pack in a lot of words in a short amount of time. Later on, after I began writing fulltime, I tried to slow things down, allowing myself more time to finish a book. But I found that my writing suffered and, even worse, I got bored. So I went back to writing fast. And I suppose that’s good since I write quite a few books a year and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
One reason I’m publish so many titles has to do with the voracious teen market—they read books quickly and are always begging for more. So that keeps me busy.
RH- How did you first become interested in writing?
MC- I’ve always been interested in writing. And I always found avenues to express myself in writing. But in my early thirties, I decided to get serious. I felt like I was going to write or burst. I chose to write. Because life had its demands (as I mentioned) I learned to write quickly. And fiction was my first love. Shortly after I began writing seriously, I managed to sell some short stories, but I had no idea if anyone would ever publish my books. At the time the Christian market had very little interest in fiction. Even so, I just kept pumping out novels, building a little stock pile. Eventually fiction caught on, I sold my stock pile and the rest is history.
RH- One of your latest books is Double Take; tell us about that.
MC- It’s spring break of her senior year and Madison Van Buren is stressed out. Hoping to escape from Ivy League demands, her parents’ marital problems, and her boyfriend’s pressure, Madison gets in her car and drives west. Meanwhile, eighteen-year-old Anna Bronner is bored with the so-called simple life of the Amish. Caring for younger siblings, sewing, cooking, and gardening are hard enough, but knowing she could get stuck with a man she doesn’t love pushes her to an extreme. Worlds collide when Madison and Anna meet in a small town, realize they look uncannily similar, and decide the grass is definitely greener on the other side.
RH- Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
MC- They come from everywhere. Sometimes I hear something alarming in the news—particularly teen trends—and I decide to find out more and write about it as a warning. Sometimes I write about things I’ve witnessed in real life and want others to understand. Occasionally, a dream will transform into a story. Sometimes I simply see an interesting character or setting...and the next thing I know it’s becoming a story.
RH- Who are some of your favorite authors and books?
MC- I really enjoy contemporary fiction authors like Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler for the way they explore relationships, develop interesting characters, and understand the power of storytelling. But I’ve also enjoyed some of the old classics like Jane Austin and the Bronte’s. And I still have a soft spot for some of the Brit writers like Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy.
RH- What was the inspiration behind Shattered?
MC- I heard a statistic about teens and homicide that stunned me—it’s reported differently from various sources, but teens in general were much more likely to be involved in a homicide than any other age group. I had to ask myself why was that? The answer seemed obvious—teens don’t always think situations through the way adults do. Teens don’t always see consequences for actions. And teens are more likely to engage in risky behavior and situations. So I decided to set up a story where the main character makes a bad choice that leads to some very serious repercussions.
RH- Which do you prefer writing: YA or adult fiction?
MC- I prefer whichever one I’m working on at the moment. YA fiction is rewarding because of the amazing response of my readers. Also I can write edgier books for teens and that can be fun. But I love writing for women too. I wouldn’t want to give up either group. Ironically, many of my women readers enjoy the YA books and my teen readers are happy to ‘read up’ into the adult books.
RH- Please share with us your testimony of Salvation.
MC- I grew up in a non-churched family and when I was twelve, I declared myself an atheist. This was probably my cry for help—secretly hoping God would reveal himself to me. Several years later I found God in a big way and went from being a wild child teenager to a born again Jesus freak. This was the result of hearing the gospel message (for the first time) at a Young Life meeting. Since then I’ve been sold out on God.
RH- What new projects are you currently working on?
MC- Right now, I’m writing the first book in a historical series and loving it. It’s the 1850’s and an extended family is heading out on the Oregon Trail. It’s something new for me, but I come from pioneer stock and it feels completely natural.
RH- What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
MC- First of all, develop thick skin. Almost no one gets published straight out of the gate. Be willing to take constructive criticism and then put it to smart use—one of the easiest ways to do this is with a good critique group or writing class. Study the market to see what’s been done, what’s being done, and what’s missing? Then ask yourself where do you fit into this picture? It’s also vital to read the sorts of things you want to write—to really analyze them and find out why they’re working—or not. But the most important thing is to write and keep writing. That’s the only way to really improve your craft. Finally, ask God to lead you, to open the doors that need opening, and don’t despair over the ones that remain shut. And, oh yeah, don’t forget to submit your work. Nowadays, that probably takes “connections” and the best way to connect might be to start attending some writers’ conferences. But if you really feel called to write, don’t be afraid to jump in. Okay, the water might be a little chilly at first, but it warms up.