Author Interview with Melissa Meske

1. What inspired you to write this book?

My first published book is a poetry anthology entitled “The Dirt Still Looks the Same.” It

is a compilation of works from the first half of my life, with my original poetry and prose

selections spanning as far back as my early teenage years. It is available through

Amazon.

I was inspired to pull it together and publish it for two reasons. One, to go through the

process from start to finish on preparing and publishing a book so that I could learn what

all was involved. But second, and perhaps most important, was that it was very

therapeutic and healing for me to look back over the writings from the first half of my life

as I journeyed forward into the second half of my life and along an entirely different path.

The book I am working on now is a fictional piece, but is also inspired by life

experiences. I also have a non-fiction book in progress, along with a few short stories and

other works that I am hoping to get out there this year.

As cliché as this may sound, my writing has always been also inspired by life itself. Life

experiences, encouragement from friends and family, the beauty of nature, and French

vanilla coffee with French vanilla creamer all help keep me inspired too, though.

2. Can you tell me about the book?

My fictional piece has become my focus at this point. Its current title is “The Bracelet,”

and it has been a work in progress for nearly 3 years.

I had first started developing it while living out East, but had put it on hold after moving

back home to the Midwest to care for my mother and taking a demanding job in news

journalism that kept me from having the energy and momentum to write anything else.

Since being downsized from my job one of the local newspapers back in February, I have

been able to get back into my writing studio and begin work on penning the things I want

to write again.

The storyline of “The Bracelet” weaves pieces of stories that I have read and heard from

several domestic and workplace abuse victims into Laurel and the other characters in a

way that I hope compels its readers to move forward, to heal themselves and to help

others move forward and heal.

3. What is your writing process like?

That is a tough question to answer, because it has been hard to re-establish a process with

all life has dealt me recently. But I am slowly getting back into a routine now. My

husband and I bought our home in late October 2018, and along with the main house, it

came with 2 outbuildings. One of those I have developed into my writing studio, and I

have been tweaking it into a highly conducive space for writing over the last few months.

My writing process has greatly solidified as a result. I can now get up each day and head

out to my studio, spend at least 2 or 3 hours out there each day, and do that at least 4 or 5

days a week. Sometimes those hours are spent writing, and other times I spend those

hours researching or reading the works of others.

4. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who?

As I noted earlier, the storyline of “The Bracelet” weaves pieces of stories that I have

read and heard from several domestic and workplace abuse victims, including my own

experiences as a childhood victim and from the abuse I experienced during my previous

marital relationships and more recently in the workplace.

5. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?

I’m not done writing it yet, so we still must wait and see on that, but I expect the

characters will continue to live and tell their stories in books that will hopefully follow

this one.

6. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It does both. Once I really get the words flowing, sometimes it’s hard to keep my fingers

moving across the keyboard or my pen moving across the notebook quickly enough to

record the storyline as I envision it in my mind. This only energizes me to keep going

until it’s all out there on the screen or page as I intended. Then, as those words have left

my mind and I am satisfied with how they are now residing on the screen or page, I

become exhausted and must walk away to re-energize.

7. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I facilitate a monthly meeting of a group of local writers and wannabes. The one thing

that seems to come up a lot is this idea of “how to become a writer, or how to write a

book.” Many think you must go to college and obtain a degree in English composition or

something similar in order to truly be a writer or author. Short of that, many will spend

months and years studying how to hone the craft through a series of publications,

webinars, seminars, online classes, etc. I did that myself.

But, at some point, and this is what I tell my group’s members, you must stop researching

how to become a writer and just write. You have to let go of all the rules, society’s

expectations, and whatever else you have read-heard-been told, and just get whatever it is

inside of you burning to come out and make its appearance to the rest of the world down

on the pages. If you have something you need to write and share with the world, then you

just have to do it. You can’t stop yourself or give one moment’s thought as to whether

you’re good enough, or it’s good enough.

After all, it’s an editor’s job to take what you’ve written and make it “presentable” in its

appearance to the rest of the world once you’ve created the work.

8. What is your writing Kryptonite?

My smartphone is my ultimate writing Kryptonite. Although I have turned off most

notifications, I still feel compelled to read every text message as it comes in or look to see

if the missed call notification results in an important number to which I should respond.

Oh, and since I’m already surfing my phone, I might as well check all the social media

for new posts and likes too…LOL.

A smartphone can make a person very efficient, or very distracted. If I could only

remember to turn it face down when I sit and write, I’d be fine.

9. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

The only way I know to be a writer of stuff people will want to read is to be original and

authentic when I express my stories and messages. If I write something that is not a part

of me somehow, or at the very least a part of my understanding, then the written piece

ends up very flawed and often unread.

10. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of

work with connections between each book?

With “The Bracelet,” it is my intention that it connects my readers and me to future

published works. The same holds true for any further poetry anthologies I may publish –

that they somehow connect in their presentation. As for the non-fiction books and any

short stories and other works, a connection is not necessary. But as with all writers and

authors, readers eventually will come to recognize my writing style through each piece,

which makes them all connected in a way.

11. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

As I noted previously, 2 books are currently works in progress. But there are at least a

dozen shorter pieces in various stages resting in my writing studio as well.

12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before

beginning a book?

That really depends on what it is I’m writing. Researching online, in person, on site, or

vicariously through reading similar works by other authors are all regular practice. For

“The Bracelet” and for the non-fiction book I’m working on, for example, I had lunch

with one of our local police chiefs and picked his brain a bit. He also loaned me the

investigative file binder for one of the more heinous domestic violence crimes he had

worked in the past so that I could make further notes on how such a case came to be and

how it was handled.

13. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?

Personal finances really dictate this, but I first and foremost define myself as a writer.

Full-time. A full-time writer who sometimes has to work doing something else as well in

order to make ends meet in the rest of my life.

14. How many hours a day do you write?

I try to spend at least 2 or 3 hours each day, and at least a few days a week. Even if it’s

just mapping out how the story is going to move forward, or if it’s just some fragmented

thoughts that will later turn into complete sentences, I try to write something.

15. What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager,

young adult)

Right now with my works in progress, it’s more evolved around my younger adult years.

My first book, my poetry anthology, also encompassed a bit of my teenage self. But I do

see my writing shifting toward my older self now, especially in the shorter pieces, articles

and blogs I have in the works.

16. What did you edit out of this book?

I’m not there yet with my current works. So, I guess my answer here is to stay tuned…

17. How do you select the names of your characters?

I chose the name “Laurel” for the leading character in “The Bracelet” because of its

meaning, both as a name and as symbolic to the writing world. Other character names

come from people I know sometimes, but often more so as names that fit the character’s

personality once defined.

18. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

If I didn’t write, I’d have to work in a library. Or become a singer. I guess I could be a

singing librarian! In a different life, I’d always seen myself as Secretary of State, though,

too. I’m very good at bringing people together…

19. What was your hardest scene to write?

The descriptive scenes surrounding the characters’ abuse are difficult because they often

bring flashbacks of my own experiences to the forefront of my mind again. But that is

also helping me move toward more closure for me personally as well.

20. How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I guess write now I’d have to say about 3 years, LOL. Hopefully once these two books in

progress are done, my turnaround time will become much more consistent.

21. Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes, but I also believe that the only way to get past it is to first refresh yourself then get

back to it.

22. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or

longhand?

At this point, I compose sometimes at my computer and sometimes longhand. I have yet

to try a fountain pen, though, but I aim to. My husband handcrafts pens in his

woodworking shop, and his fountain pens are stunning!

I also own a few typewriters, and I’ve always thought about doing my writing with them,

but they are all manual typewriters and my wrists tire too quickly to do much with them. I

own an Astrohaus Freewrite too but have not really worked with it much yet.

Dictation sounds like a great idea in theory, but I don’t know how easy it would be to

move forward from paragraph to paragraph if I couldn’t look back on what I had just

said/written.

23. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since elementary school, really. My love of reading

and writing stems back, according to my mother, since I was about 5 or 6 years old. I re-

committed myself to the title of writer and author seriously though after my divorce in

2012. I had allowed myself to think that my writings were not good enough to share

during that marriage, and I realized only after escaping that relationship that I had plenty

to say and to write that others wanted and needed to hear and read.

24. How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

It was scary, and it still is. It is scary even answering your questions here. Exposing

myself on such a personal level is still very unnerving to me. I never want to be seen as a

failure, or as fake. Maintaining my integrity and authenticity is my every day driving

mantra, so to write something where it is then committed to print and share it with

someone else never gets any easier because it requires me to continually define myself to

the world with each word and sentence.

25. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

That is a goal as I continue to regroup and restructure my writing process. But for now, I

just focus on trying to complete a set number of hours each day to writing.

26. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I really prefer just going wherever an idea leads me. I admire plot-driven works but have

not yet been able to write that way myself. My writings often end up being more

character-driven, or sometimes taken away by setting.

27. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?

I don’t read as often as I once did or should. Up until recently, I was working as a

journalist in print news media and just did not have the mental energy for any other kind

of writing or reading outside of my employment. Sadly so.

However, among my favorite go-to authors whenever I get the chance to read are

Elizabeth Gilbert, JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith, C. Hope Clark and Dan Brown. I have

read every book written by Joanna Gaines except the children’s book, and I’ve also read

Chip Gaines’s book and its revision as well. I also have Whitney Scharer’s “The Age of

Light” and Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing” waiting for me on my coffee table

right now.

28. What is the most important thing about a book, in your opinion?

Hmm. That’s a question I’ve not really considered before. Perhaps the most important

thing about a book to me is the storyline, if it’s a book of fiction. If it’s a non-fiction

book, then the credibility of the author and the resources accessed to put it together

matter a whole lot to me.

29. How much of yourself do you put into your books?

Well, with my poetry anthologies, it’s a given to say all of me. With “The Bracelet” and

my other current works, I could say the same. But it’s done in a different way. Again, I

don’t think anyone can write something that will be read without being authentic and real

as the writer.

30. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

In my family, the most supportive of my writing is probably my husband and my two

children. My husband made the first purchase of my poetry anthology and has attended

many poetry readings and other functions with me just so I could promote myself as a

writer, author and artist. He is far from being a poetry aficionado or enthusiast.

My oldest child is a visual artist, and he supports my creative endeavors in a very

different way perhaps, but unwaveringly so. My youngest attended my book signing, and

even purchased a copy of my book while there, just because of the importance my writing

has to me, and maybe just a bit out of love. I also have had the support of a few of my 8

siblings, again all for various reasons.

31. Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

At this point with my writings, I would have to say Life has been my muse. I do believe

that any artist, be it literary, performing or visual, has a muse. Or several muses. I find

my muses to come from life experiences, personal interactions, stories I’ve read or have

been told, as well as from nature and my own back yard. All have found a place in what

I’ve written.

32. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?

Not yet!

33. What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?

I think co-authoring could be very exciting, but also very difficult. Brainstorming ideas,

story development and dialogues with someone else can be extremely energizing. But I

also know firsthand that getting two creatives to agree on something when they are each

steadfast in their differing visions can lead to difficulty and even heartbreak. I don’t know

if I’d want to co-author or not. With the right partner, I wouldn’t be afraid to give it a try.

One of my previous projects, though, that I completed at about the same time as my

poetry anthology was to work with 3 other artists to professionally produce a set of lyrics

I had written. Working with the vocalist, the composer and the arranger to come up with

music that fit with my written lyrics was quite a challenge. As I understand it, usually the

lyrics are written to go with the composed music. We were doing it the other way around.

It was a very challenging project, but also SOOOOO rewarding! I am glad to have had

the experience, and that publishing song is available for download through Amazon,

ReverbNation, and other online sources now.

34. Is writing book series more challenging?

I don’t know for sure – at least not yet. Again, stay tuned!

35. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some

time earlier?

Absolutely. I have been known to have little journal notebooks in key places everywhere

a thought might come to mind. The only place I haven’t been able to work that out yet is

when a series of ideas come to mind at mid-shower.

36. Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?

Most definitely!

37. Can you tell us about your current projects?

I think I covered them as best I can at this point earlier in the interview…

38. Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to

become a published writer one day?

I had a language arts teacher in middle school, Mrs. Ross, who repeatedly told me I had

real talent and a lot of potential as a writer. I wish I had only remembered her

encouragement sooner in adulthood instead of later. Recalling her words, and those from

several others, have helped me over and over when I have become frustrated and

discouraged. In recent days, I’ve had to lean on those encouraging words again as I

would think about walking away from my life as a writer and just getting an “easy job.”

39. Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?

Neither of my parents were reading enthusiasts themselves, as I recall, but my mom

encouraged me to read when I was really little. Then, particularly in elementary and

junior high school, I mostly lived at our local public library when I wasn’t at school. I

loved everything about reading, and about books, and will always need them in my

personal world.

40. Do you enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with your partner? If yes, how much do

you value their inputs?

I enjoy discussing upcoming ideas with my husband, but I’m not sure he enjoys the

discussions as much. Not because he is not supportive, but because he is really not a

reader. He doesn’t read, doesn’t enjoy reading, and is not much into creative writing

overall. I value his input even more for that reason, though. He will not say an idea is

good simply for the sake of writing or reading it someday.

41. Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?

Not yet, but I’m sure I will!

42. How can readers find out more info about you and your books?

The easiest way to find more info about me is through my website, macmeske.com. You

can also visit my Amazon author page and even ask questions to learn more, or you can

visit my Goodreads page. I also have a YouTube channel and a ReverbNation artist page.

And of course, I can be found on most all the social media outlets by searching for

@macmeske.





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