Today’s author spotlight searched out and rescued Melanie Smith from a mountain of paperwork, an avalanche of writing about to fall. Thank goodness for the keen eyes of this loyal K-9! Without further ado, here’s… Melanie!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Utah and lived here all my life. I am the second child of seven. As you can imagine, there was never a dull moment in our household when I was growing up. I hold an Associates in Marketing, a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution and Negotiations. I recently retired after working for approximately 26 years as a support member of law enforcement where I worked closely with SWAT, Search & Rescue, K9 and the Motor Unit. In addition, I coordinated communications and provided logistical and tactical support to our SWAT Team for over 20 years and was a member of the logistics unit of our Child Abduction Response Team.
I have always been adventurous (to my mother’s horror) and have been sky-diving, rappelling and in my younger years I loved to water ski. I currently enjoy camping, ATV riding, motorcycle riding (I own my own Harley) and horseback riding.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
This is a long story but the short version is that I have always enjoyed writing. At any given time, I have three to four story ideas running around in my head. For years I was too busy with work and before that college, to really get serious about writing for fun.
My first full length novel was Dusk, book one in my Warrior Series. I guess you could say the story was determined to be written. I had this idea that kept returning, growing and blossoming with each passing day. It took several weeks before I finally sat down and began to write. The rest as they say, is history. One book turned into two and I am just getting ready to publish the seventh and final book of the series, Progeny. Since then, I have also published a Western Romance and the first book in my Thin Blue Line Suspense Series as well as several novellas and I am currently experimenting with what I call a Crime Blog on my website.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
My books all have a romantic angle in some form or another. I’m a sucker for a happy ending. So, I guess you could say all the greats have influenced me. Nora Roberts has a special knack for character development and can draw you into the story line whether it’s a romance written under her name or one of her JD Robb / Eve Dallas novels. I also enjoy Carly Phillips because her novels are fun and carefree. Other favorites are Iris Johansen (Eve Duncan Series), Carla Neggars, and Lynsay Sands. I could go on forever. But I guess you could say anyone who can draw me into the story and make the plot, characters and setting believable has influenced me to try to do the same in my novels.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
Mount Haven was my most recent release. It is a suspense novel about a police officer who is injured in the line of duty and is forced into retirement due to medical reasons. The tragedy sends ripples throughout his entire family. They eventually move to Mount Haven where his brother becomes the new Sheriff and Rowdy (the injured officer) purchases a local bar and grill. This is where things get interesting. It immediately becomes obvious his employees have secrets. When their past catches up to them, Rowdy is the only one that can keep them safe.
How is the title significant?
I chose Mount Haven because each one of my characters are struggling with something and when they finally land in this fictional town, they are able to find a place of safety or refuge from their troubles.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
That’s easy…my husband and his former K9 partner, Knight. Ever since reading my first novel, my husband has wanted me to write a “police story”. I used my husband, his dog and my own personal experience in law enforcement to write a story that I believe is fun and believable at the same time.
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
The characters are good, honest, honorable men and women who are struggling to overcome various obstacles that are beyond their control. This is true of the two main characters as well as many of my supporting characters throughout the story.
As far as my bad guys…I drew my inspiration from several individuals and situations I encountered on the job throughout the years. Bad guys are bad…there are varying degrees, but underneath it all…the common thread is evil.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
I think this book has something for everyone…Romance, suspense, adventure, intrigue. If you are looking for any of the above, I think you will like the story.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
I didn’t set out to portray a certain message. Good vs. Evil, Love can give you strength…honestly I don’t have a good answer for this. I guess the reader will have to decide if there is something they take away from the novel.
What is your writing process like?
I have a fairly lengthy writing process. My first objective is just to let the story tell itself. I don’t worry about the details, sentence structure or anything. I just write the story as it comes to me. Basically the first draft is terrible. The second round is where I focus on adding in the details. As I read through, I try to add in descriptions (what is the character seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.). Once I have that down, I go back through and make sure the story flows smoothly and that I haven’t left any loose ends or any part of the story hanging. Then it’s time to move on to editing.
How do you go about editing your story?
Editing is a long and sometimes boring process for me. First I read through the manuscript and focus on typos and misused words. Then, I go through it again and focus on sentence structure. Then, I go through it a third time and look for formatting issues. Once I am fairly comfortable with it, I run it through a grammar program and fix additional issues.
Now it’s time to let my husband read it. He is my first editor and beta reader. He will let me know if something doesn’t make sense to him or if there are any typos or editing issues as well. Once he has finished with it, I run it through a program that allows me to listen to the story and pick out any issues with flow or typos I may have missed. Once I’m finished listening…it’s time to send it to my editor.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
When I decided to publish my first novel, I gave a lot of thought to this process. I talked to a colleague of mine who is a proficient photographer and well versed in Photoshop, photo design and image manipulation. He gave me a few tips but ultimately, I decided to use some of my own photos. My Warrior Series is a paranormal romance about vampires. I am lucky to live in an area where it is fairly easy to get good, scenic, wilderness shots during dusk and dawn which coincided perfectly with my vision for a cover. As far as my other novels go, those are also my photos. I’ve been lucky so far. As long as my landscapes and wildlife pictures fit the storyline, I think I will continue to use them.
How did you go about getting published?
Initially I did what writers have always done, I sat down and drafted a cover letter and emailed it to hundreds of agents. Some responded, some did not. Eventually I was on the verge of giving up when I discovered Amazon. Now that I have established myself as an Independent Author, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
I would definitely say one of the pros of self-publishing for me was meeting so many other talented, generous and amazing fellow authors. No matter where you are along the publishing highway, there is always someone who has been there before and is willing to step up and help in any way they can. Authors are amazing people and in my experience, most of them have really big hearts.
What were the surprises? Good or bad? If so, what were they?
The biggest surprise for me was how much time I spend marketing and promoting my work. The other huge surprise was how many people actually love what I do. It’s a wonderful feeling to have my creation bring joy and entertainment to people around me, whether that is a friend, family member, or a stranger.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
I am still working on this and try to improve my marketing and promoting techniques regularly. Social media plays a huge role in getting the word out for me (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.). I also have a blog that I post to fairly regularly and I produce a quarterly magazine that helps to bring readers and authors together. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can find my latest issue on my website under the eMagazine tab. The magazine is always free to both readers and authors. It has promos, reviews and sales in every issue.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
Never give up and follow your dream. The process isn’t easy, but it’s worth it if you are doing something you love.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
I am just about to publish the seventh and final book in my Warrior Series. I’ve had multiple request to go back and write a prequel to the series and I’m kicking around the idea but haven’t decided if I’ll do it or not. I guess only time will tell.
I am also currently writing a sequel to Mount Haven that will be the second book in my Thin Blue Line Series. In addition, I have ideas for at least one other book in that series as well possible two. I’m also in the beginning stages of another paranormal series and a stand-alone that will be more of a romantic suspense.
AND…don’t forget my Paige Carter Crime Blog. That is a series similar to a television show like Bones or Criminal Minds. Each month I will publish a new episode to my blog. The entire season will remain available for free until the next season begins. Then, I will compile the episodes into a full season and sell them as a box set. The current season will always be free through my website.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
Mount Haven (Universal Amazon Link)
Warrior Series Brochure
Amazon Links (Universal)
Paranormal & Fantasy
After Dark http://geni.us/AfterDark
Mount Haven http://geni.us/MountHaven
Hidden Lakes http://geni.us/HiddenLakes