Monday, September 24, 2007

[Interview] Melissa Wathington

Melissa Wathington lives in Tampa, Florida where she works as a writer and runs a children's charity. She has self published a number of books.

Writing under the name, Elissa Kyle, she has also published In My Dreams (Lavender Isis Press, 2007); Surrender Your Heart (Lavender Isis Press, 2007) and Love Of A Lifetime (Lavender Isis Press, (Lavender Isis Press, 2007).

Her latest story, Double The Blessings (Lavender Isis Press), was published in April of this year.

In a recent interview, she spoke about her writing.

*What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

Time management, control of my creativity, and dialogue most definitely!

Like most writers, I have a daytime job (two in fact) and they both eat up much of my day. Then I also work for Lavender Isis Publishing, run a children’s organization (Homebound Hugs) and an inspirational writer’s community (PRAIZES! Inspirational Voices). Juggling all of them has been a task, let me tell you! Learning how to say no to extra responsibilities has been difficult but necessary. There’s no way to do it all so I pace myself, setting up a list of “to-do’s” and handling one thing at a time.

As far as creativity surges, there are periods where I just don’t have the creative spirit moving in me to sit down and work on my stories. I have to press through those and continue writing, even if it stinks! I let my imagination run wild and do a free write of ideas that run across me. It can be any kind of scenario, as crazy and far out as I want, and I fill two or three pages. Once I loosen up, working with ongoing projects is easier.

I also tend to be one who likes narrative, descriptive passages and have not been liberal with dialogue in the past. Although I’ve always been one who loves to talk, applying those skills to characters has been more of a challenge. Dialogue helps add life to fiction, communicating the feelings of your characters and invoking a response from your readers. Good dialogue transitions scenes smoothly and can add aspects such as humor and intimacy if written correctly. Due to a good piece of advice, I’ve been working on an exercise where I write out all the dialogue of a certain scene before I add the narrative. It has really helped in expanding the voices of my characters and sharpening my skills in communicating realistic, scene shaping dialogue.

*Which would you say are your main concerns as a writer?

Wow, good question. I think right now finding time to dedicate to writing everyday and developing the discipline to work on my craft consistently are my greatest concerns. Dealing with health issues, it makes it harder for me to follow a routine when one day I’m full of energy and the next I can barely get out of bed. In order to make progress on both of these issues, I have taken on a critique partner who is reaching for the same goals. We flush out ideas together, brainstorm and hold each other accountable for writing goals. I also have designated at least an hour everyday where I close myself off to everything else and write.

*When did you start writing?

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school. I learned to read at an early age and reading was (is) my favorite pastime. I grew up with many physical problems and jumping into another world through books helped me deal with the endless doctor visits, hospital stays, and convalescent periods.

It was in eighth grade, while working on a creative writing assignment, when I realized I had a talent for creating my own stories. I’ve also been very social and writing, to me, was an extension of that. By the time I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the written word.

*When did decide you wanted to be a published writer?

I’d have to say becoming a published author wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I started college. I actually studied journalism and wanted to be a newspaper reporter first. I wrote for college papers (junior and 4 year) and handled layout and advice columns as well as writing articles. I even served as Entertainment Editor for a year. Although, my time there was well spent, I felt stifled and uninspired.

In Techniques Of The Selling Writer, Dwight Swain says, “To be a writer, a creative person, you must retain your ability to react uniquely.” There were stories inside of me I longed to share and newspaper writing made me feel hemmed in. So, I branched out and found magazine work, where I worked as editor in chief of two national magazines (STREET and Ultimat Black Hair). They were a different challenge but a huge growth period for me. In doing this, I found confidence I had been sorely lacking in before and I decided to try self publishing.

*How did you chose a publisher for your books?

As far as my other stories, I chose iUniverse to self publish in the beginning because it was an affordable way to get my stories out in print for my family and friends. Due to my disabilities, it worked out well as I could control the promotion. When I started working at Lavender Isis, I decided to expand my work and give them a face lift of sorts.

*What advantages and/or disadvantages has this presented?

The only disadvantage I can think of is iUniverse is now charging prices on a level hard to obtain for those who are not making much money or are living on a fixed income.

*How are you dealing with these?

I’m now looking for representation, hoping to move to the next level of my writing career.

*How would you describe the writing that you are doing?

Most of my writing falls in the category of women’s fiction, inspirational and romance. I love stories about relationships and human interactions. I’m a romantic at heart and I’m in love with love. As the saying goes, “Write what you know”. I write what I know and love.

My target audience is everyone from the ages of 15 to 100. They will have a heart for romance, enjoy emotionally charged fiction and connect with my characters. I believe men can enjoy my stories just as much as women.

*What motivated you to start writing in this genre?

Two books in particular come to mind when I consider how I was drawn to the romantic fiction genre. Tender Is The Storm by Johanna Lindsay and Heart Of The Falcon by Francis Ray have vibrant, passionate characters who battle internally and forge unbreakable relationships with their significant others. The authors were able to build a bridge to the readers, creating an emotional investment in the future of the characters. That is the kind of feeling that moved me to want to pursue romance and hopefully have the ability to invoke the same in my readers.

In my writing career, I would have to say my biggest influences have been Beverly Jenkins and Francis Ray. I have had the honor and privilege of meeting both authors (at Books For Thought in Tampa, Florida) and each took time from their events to talk with me. Their writing styles are unique, one writing mainly historicals while the other deals with contemporary issues but share the characteristics that make for bestselling books -- intriguing story lines, treasured characters, and plots with intensity and emotion. They have both encouraged me in my writing pursuits, sending supportive emails and imparting many words of wisdom in dealing with the business. I consider them mentors and they serve as constant inspirations to me as I go along this writing journey.

In my personal life, my parents and sister have had the biggest influence. They have stood by me through thick and thin and taught me the true meaning of love, loyalty and faith. They have conquered many obstacles (together and separately) and they are a wonderful example of determination, integrity and generosity.

*How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I believe my personal experiences have enriched the passion that is poured into each of my stories. While I don’t use real life experiences in my writing, I have let the pen be an outlet to the range of emotions I have dealt with in my lifetime. Despair, sorrow, frustration, love, commitment, respect and fear have all played a part in my development and that can’t help but be reflected in my stories, through either the plot or characters. When you grow up with a physical ailment, it’s almost like living in a fish bowl. You always have others looking at you, studying you. It’s difficult to maintain personal boundaries when you have to share your vulnerabilities with the world. Having lived my entire life that way could not help but influence not only the direction of my writing but the heart and soul of it.

*Do you write everyday?

I’d like to but it doesn’t always happen. Most of the time, it winds up being more like three or four times a week.

[When I do write] I like to sit with my laptop in a comfortable place (with the door closed) and my iPod playing. I consider it my time to play in my creative playground and I don’t stop until I have at least two pages of new material -- full chapters are the objective, however.

*What is your latest book about?

My latest book is Breaking Point (working title) about Leslie, the woman readers did not like at all from In My Dreams. I wanted to redeem her and give her a love and family of her own so this book was to be about her salvation but after working through some plot points with my critique partner, I’m not so sure Leslie’s ready to be redeemed quite yet. (Laughs out Loud.) We just have to wait and see what happens.

I’ve been working on it for over two months now.

*Which aspects of the work are you finding most difficult?

Finding the time for uninterrupted writing was the hardest thing for me. I just wish I could expand the day with 12 more hours!

My schedule has changed since moving closer to my sister (I help take care of my nieces) so I ended up doing a few all-nighters to get the books finished.

*Which are you enjoying most?

Getting to know my characters and entering their world is my favorite part of penning a new story. From learning their family tree to peeking into their deepest dreams and motivations, I relish the introductory phase where the story begins to come together in my mind.

*What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

Both this book and Surrender Your Heart are written in first person, giving the reader more of a bird's eye view.

My stories all deal with affairs of the heart and people overcoming obstacles and working through hardships to be together. I believe in building and maintaining strong friendships and family bonds. No man is an island and it’s only with others who care about us, giving us support and comfort, that we live truly rich lives.

*What will your next book be about?

My next two books are in the Covington Chronicles, a series that began with In My Dreams. Both titles are in the working phase but deal with characters you met in the first book. Then I have A Precious Faith, my medical memoirs, that I’m targeting towards young adults. There are also several novella length stories I’d like to expand into full novels.

*What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

To gather the courage to self publish my first book. Taking control of my own destiny and determining that I was ready for my writing to face the world was a thrilling achievement for me. I spent many years letting the fear of the unknown keep me from pursing the path I’d always wanted to take and when I finally took that first step, the feeling was something I’ll never forget! Like Mastercard says, [it's] priceless!

*How did you get there?

Through a lot of hard work, tears and plenty of prayer. God is my strength and He was my guiding force through all of it.

*How many books have you published so far?

I’ve written three books, all e-book format -- a romance and two short story duets, all under the pen name, Elissa Kyle. There was also a shorter duet, Double The Blessings, under my given name released in April. Published first through iUniverse in print, I added additional scenes, expanded some characters and re-released the stories through Lavender Isis Press, between March and July of this year.

In My Dreams, is a full length contemporary multicultural about star crossed lovers who face their destiny.

My novella length duets, Surrender Your Heart and Love Of A Lifetime are sensual short stories about sexy heroes and the women that tame them. Double The Blessings is inspirational fiction.

This article was first published by OhmyNews International.

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