Good morning. Today Coffee Time Romance has the pleasure of speaking to Marliss Melton. Welcome Marliss, the readers would love to hear more about you and your fantastic works. Please grab a seat and get comfortable where the coffee is always fresh and hot, and the chairs most comfy.
I just read Don’t Let Go and I have to tell you it is nail-biting. I do not know how you do it, but this story captures the reader and takes them on an incredible ride. I am sure you are asked this many times, but where do you get your ideas to form these likeable characters that really touch upon the reader and leave a lasting impression?
I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, Cherokee. The ideas for my characters mainly come from people I know and places I’ve been. For example, my hero, Solomon, is a mix of my husband and the charming town of Camden, Maine. Camden is where I found my husband’s wedding ring with the inscription You fill my life with magic and grace. Because Solomon is from quaint, romantic Camden, he has a deep romantic streak which he keeps deeply buried. And since Camden is downright frigid and inhospitable in the wintertime, being on the coast of Maine, Solomon is also tough-minded and sometimes cold-hearted. Other heroes of mine have been based on real people, like Pat Tillman, the former NFL player turned Army Ranger who was killed by friendly fire and Marcus Luttrell, the only Navy SEAL to survive the worst disaster in SEAL history.
The emotional heart-tugging feelings with Solomon, for his son, just tore into my heart, not to mention, Jordan and her deepest desires to adopt Miguel. While writing this part in the story, was there something that touched upon in your life that you could draw on that made this part of the story more realistic?
Absolutely. When I was ten years old, my family and I lived in Thailand, where we fostered a baby girl in the hopes of adopting her. She was my heart and joy and I played with her every day. But after six months, we were told that she would be adopted by another family and we were made to leave her behind when my father was transferred back to the United States. This was a heart-breaking experience for me which made it easy for me to convey both Jordan and Solomon’s grief upon being separated from their children. In Don’t Let Go, the secondary love story between Jordan’s widowed sister and FBI agent Rafe Valentino is also a familiar story for me. Like Jillian, I’ve been widowed with young children. Being given a second chance at love is both a terrifying and exhilarating experience.
I noticed that you spoke to a Navy SEALs Commander to help in the making of some of the book. The story is so life-like it practically jumps from the pages. Did you spend many long hours with your research?
Honestly? No. I wrote the story the way I wanted to write it, sent it to this wonderful Navy SEAL commander who tweaked it here or there to make it more realistic (like the language on the helicopter requesting “redirect extremis”). Commander Mark Divine, who owns and operates Navyseals.com, isn’t just a true professional, he’s an incredible human being. I can’t thank him enough for taking the time to offer his expertise.
What do you think makes a good writer?
Can I change the question because I’m not sure if I’m qualified to answer. I’m working on becoming a better writer. What I can do pretty well is to tell a good story. To be a good story teller, you have to have a true sense of who your characters are in order to understand the conflicts between them. Then you need to create and environment that magnifies those conflicts and makes them build to a point of crisis. You then resolve the differences in an emotionally rewarding way so that readers are swept through all the upheaval and distress toward a peaceful and promising resolution. Sounds easy, right?
What time of the day is more productive for you, to do your writing, morning or night?
I’m definitely a morning person, but not too early. I like to write from 8:30 AM - 2:30PM.
How long does it take you to finish a book from start to submission?
It depends on how clearly defined the characters are to me, but it generally takes me 6-8 months to write the initial manuscript. I always say that writing a book is like having a baby. The characters and the general premise have to develop in the womb of the imagination for a while before putting pen to paper.
Do your characters ever wake you up in the middle of the night and insist you write?
When they do, I tell them to shut up and go back to bed. I love to sleep, even more than I love to write. However, you bring up a very important component to my writing that occurs every night before I fall asleep. In that zone between consciousness and unconsciousness, I review what my characters have been doing in my book and I advance forward into scenes I haven’t yet written. Often they appear very clearly to me, and when they do, I’m able to jump onto my computer the next morning and write down what I envisioned the night before.
You have been given a proposal to draft a story on the ultimate wedding, what preparations would you create so the bride will always remember her wedding day?
I pondered this one for a while before I realized that weddings, in my humble opinion, aren’t really for the bride and groom; they’re for everyone else. I believe there is a special moment preceding the actual wedding when two lovers “marry,” and that’s the most magical, unforgettable moment of all. For me, it happened on the island of Bermuda when my future husband and I pledged our eternal love under a moon-gate, where it is said your souls become one if you pass through, holding hands. It was late at night, under a clear and starry sky. I remember the smell of succulent seafood, of chlorine from the pool nearby, and the words of my soul mate promising he’d be mine forever. The wedding, which came months later, was lovely, but as is so often the case, it came and went in a blur that culminated all my frenzied preparations. My night under the moon-gate, however, I will never forget.
What three words describe you?
Eclectic, compassionate, and blessed.
You are called upon, at a school, to tell those interested in becoming an author, all the ins and outs of good writing skills and getting published. Name three important elements in writing, publishing and promoting that you would give them.
To anyone interested in writing for a living, here is my advice. First, don’t expect to make a lot of money. Write because it’s what you love to do, because you’re “pregnant with book” and you’re going to give birth to a story no matter what. Second, in regards to publishing, my advice is not to let anyone persuade you to give up. One of the most motivating moments for me was when I was told by a well-known publisher that my writing just wasn’t good enough. I realized she was right, so I set about getting better. Also, be patient. It takes a long time to make a name for yourself—about fifteen years longer than you think it will. Finally, in regards to publicity, my advice is to set a modest budget, but write a great story, and let your story sell the book.
You have been given a free vacation trip to, Japan, Antarctica or just sailing the seas for thirty days, which would you choose and why?
I’d have to say Japan because there aren’t any new and interesting people in Antarctica or on that damn sail boat, where I’d get sea sick the moment I saw someone else get sea sick. Japan has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and fascinating cultural values. I’m sure I’d meet people everywhere I went—locals, tourists, even flight attendants—to populate the pages of my books to come.
You wake one morning to find that you have changed identities for a whole week with a famous person, dead or alive. Who would be the famous person and what fun things would you do that week?
That would have to be Oprah Winfrey, who gets to meet all kinds of fascinating people, from celebrities to child prodigies. She’s not afraid to ask them questions, to pry into their lives like I am, because she has the clout to do it. If I were Oprah for a week, I’d get to eat all those delicious, exotic foods cooked by her personal dietician/cook. I’d have millions of dollars to give to charities (which she already does). I’d have a line up of fascinating people to interview and take them out to dinner afterwards—people like Marcus Luttrell, who inspired my book NEXT TO DIE, and child prodigy Aki Anna, who paints visions of God and heaven. I’d probably even recommend another romance for my book club. Which one, you ask? I don’t know. I haven’t read it yet…
Do you have a favorite pizza?
Yep, artichoke. No, joke.
Do you have a favorite dessert that you could eat everyday?
Can I substitute a glass of red wine for dessert? Make it an Australian shiraz, bold and spicy.
Is there a favorite vacation spot that you enjoy visiting?
I love visiting my lake house on Lake Anna. (There’s a photo of it on my website). The house made of lovely red cedar, with a spiral staircase, pine floors, a soaring ceiling, and a loft with acoustics perfect for singing. Every summer I look forward to spending hours boating, sticking my feet in the sand under my umbrella (I burn easily) and watching my children splash around. In the winters, I enjoy a cozy fire and putting together an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Vacations are all about relaxing, and that’s what I get to do at the lake house.
Marliss, I cannot thank you enough for this interview. You are a very talented author and I look forward to more of your great works.