[Interview] Marissa Monteilh

Marissa Monteilh is a former model, television news reporter, and commercial actress. She is a regular contributor to the literary blog, Novel Spaces, and is a member of the all female group of touring writers, Atlanta's GA Peach Authors.

Her books include May December Souls (William Morrow & Company, 2002), Make Me Hot (Dafina Books, 2008), Dr Feelgood (Dafina, 2007) and The Six-Letter Word (4D Publishing, 2012).

In this interview, Marissa Monteilh talks about her concerns as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I did not plan to be a published writer. I sat down to write my life story in 1998, and honestly, it was so boring that I added in a whole lot of fiction. Before I knew it, I had an 80,000 word rough draft.

I did a lot of research on the craft of writing and finished the story, shopping it around to publishers for about one year. Once I self-published my title May December Souls (at the suggestion of a well-known author) in 1998 and it was in bound book form, I ended up signing with an agent who'd heard of my work, and before long three publishers auctioned for my titles.

I signed a two-book deal with Harper Collins in 2001.

How would you describe your writing?

I write relationship-type novels that fall into the category of women's fiction. I also write erotica under my pen name, Pynk.

My target audience is women, ages 21 to 65. I support women and enjoy showing the trials and tribulations of life as it pertains to love, family, careers, dysfunctions, addictions, religion, sex, etc.

I write what I call fiction-friction... people who are broken or who struggle to gain something or break bad habits, in spite of the obstacles that stand in their way.

Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to read about a woman who abuses her husband, or to read about the life of a sex addict, but through the uncomfortableness of those stories we can learn a lot about situations that we may never experience personally. Or perhaps it's a story about a tough break-up.

Many of my readers enjoy being a fly on the wall, and learning about how to deal with moving on after a tough divorce. Reading is life-therapy.

Which authors influenced you most?

Terry McMillan influenced me with her contemporary stories about love. She writes strong female characters who are very flawed, yet very relatable overall.

And James Baldwin influenced me when I was young. I read Giovanni's Room and was hooked on reading fiction. The story was bold, vivid, and unforgettable.

My very first book, May December Souls, was semi-autobiographical. Without my life experience of having a well-known father who abandoned his family, having gotten caught up in the trappings of his fame, I never would have sat down to write my first book.

All is in divine order.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

Writing is my passion. I always have new ideas and manage to meet my deadlines, which, in the beginning, I thought would be challenging. Today I focus on ways to garner continual word-of-mouth momentum so that readers are constantly aware of my titles. Most authors seek out new and innovative ways to get readers talking about our works. It's challenging and so very necessary. It takes a lot of creativity.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

This is a business of numbers, so back to the previous question, we must make sure that readers know about, talk about, buy and read our books. Word-of-mouth is key.

Do you write everyday?

I try to write or edit at least a page per day.

I handle emails and promotion during the morning hours, and begin settling down to write in the afternoon and evening hours. If I'm on deadline, I can easily spend eight to twelve hours writing. I prefer writing at home, not in a bookstore or airport, and I must have total quiet. I even turn off my phone at times.

How many books have you written so far?

I've written 15 titles:
... more novels, novellas, and anthologies to come!

How would you describe your latest book about?

My latest book is called The Six-Letter Word, and it's a peek into the life of a married woman named McKenzie Livingston who is diagnosed with cervical cancer, and how her life gets turned upside down. She refuses to say the word "cancer", and refers to the disease as "the six-letter word". This is a story of survival, courage, faith, and love, and I'm very proud of it. I interviewed many women who have experienced gynecological cancers and learned a lot in the process.

I began writing this book years ago, having first written it about pancreatic cancer, but I kept it aside until I really felt I could do the subject justice and conduct more research. I changed it to cervical cancer after hearing about how many women rarely understand the risks that make us more susceptible to cervical cancer. I wanted to enlighten women and raise awareness about all cancers, particularly those that involve reproductive issues.

The Six-Letter Word is an ebook novella which was released in July 2012.

How did you chose a publisher for the novella?

While I do have contracts with mainstream publishers, I decided to self-publish The Six-Letter Word.

With all of the amazing opportunities for authors which involve electronic books, I felt this novella would do well as an ebook.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

Creating the scenes that show the main character dealing with the reality of her diagnosis was difficult. I actually cried while writing a couple of the chapters. But, that's part of the process of writing. We create characters and get to know them. When our own characters test our emotions and surprise us, that's a very good sign.

I enjoyed showing the relationship between two close sisters. I don't have a sister, being that I have two older brothers. I found this particular familial connection interesting and complex, yet very loving.

What sets The Six-Letter Word apart from other things you've written?

This title became so much more important to me once I interviewed seven women who've had personal experiences of living with cancer. They wanted people to know about how cancer changes lives, how tough it can be to accept and deal with, and about how strong, mentally and physically, one must be. After a while I saw it as my mission to do this story justice, and make my beautiful interviewees proud.

This story is different from my other 14 novels, though I do try to create characters who face very tough challenges head on. Sometimes the outcomes are tragic, sometimes triumphant, but they are unusual and taboo and life-changing.

What will your next book be about?

My erotica title, Politics.Escorts.Blackmail, will be released in December 2012, and is the story of the world of politics in New York City and how so many politicians feel entitled to solicit the services of escorts, in spite of all that they have to lose. The book is written from the viewpoint of a madam named Money Watts, and her three escorts, Leilani, Midori and Kemba.

And, finally, what would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

My most significant achievement as a writer is that creating stories allows me to live my passion, and my purpose. I'm in love with words!

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