Featured Friday! Melissa Bowersock
Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: paranormal, biography, western, action, romance, fantasy, spiritual, and satire. She has been both traditionally and independently published and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. She has a tattoo on the inside of her left wrist that says IMAGINE. In her next life, she plans to be an astronaut. She also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.
What’s your favourite part of the lifestyle of an Author?
The first thing, of course, has to be the fact that I can write what I want, when I want. If I couldn’t write, I’d probably go insane. (Some might argue that’s a moot point, but anyway…) The second part, which hinges on the first, is that as an indie author, I am in complete control of my work. I write the things that I would like to read, and I don’t have an editor or a publisher hanging over my shoulder telling me to change this or that to take advantage of the latest trend, or hurrying me with deadlines. I have no interest in what’s popular, I don’t write to get rich, and if my stories don’t come from my heart and don’t satisfy me, they don’t get published. My only contract is with my readers; I offer them a piece of my heart and soul, and if they like it, they can carry it with them for the rest of their lives. If they don’t, we’ll part company with no hard feelings. I can’t think of a more honest or gratifying profession.
What made you start writing?
Ha! I can’t not write. I began writing stories at the age of five or six, and never stopped. I have no idea why. My brain just seems to work that way. I see a person or a situation and I just start imagining the story behind it; how did that person get there? What precipitated that situation? Sometimes the story in my head becomes so compelling I have to write it down; sometimes it doesn’t, and just evaporates. So many of my books have begun with a single thought: if I were going to write about this, how would I do it? Then I’m off to the races.
Is there an Author that you consider your inspiration?
I have three books on my bookshelf that I read over and over, and have, for decades. Each time I re-read any of these, I am inspired all over again, both to keep doing what I’m doing and to renew what I’m doing. They are: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (best book on the planet); The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser; and Six of One by Rita Mae Brown. Whether I read these with a critical eye and try to dissect what makes them work so well, or as a reader simply immersing herself in the story, they inspire me to keep going and to make my own work the best that I can.
What’s your number one tip for an aspiring Author?
Keep writing. Sometimes it’s hard work, and you just have to slog through the slow periods. Sometimes you write yourself into a corner, and you have to figure a way out. Sometimes the idea of setting 50,000 or 90,000 words on paper becomes overwhelming, but just chunk it down and keep going. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been knee-deep in a book and it just doesn’t seem like it’s coming together, but I keep chipping away at it and suddenly it all falls into place. Magic.
What type of book do you like to read and does this differ from the genre that you prefer to write?
I like to read books with a little bit of magic to them. I’m not drawn to full-blown fantasy, but to real worlds with just a touch of the extraordinary. The juxtaposition of the real, the mundane, and the magical makes it all seem possible. And, yes, that’s pretty much what I write.
Which one of your characters would you most like to spend time with?
I like all my main characters, otherwise I wouldn’t spend so much time with them, but a few stand out. In my current paranormal mystery series (Ghost Walk is the first), Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud have become good friends that I could definitely hang with. She’s an ex-cop and fuelled by a sense of fairness and bringing criminals to justice. Sam is a medium and approaches life from a spiritual standpoint. Although they come at their cases from very different perspectives, the end goal is the same, to heal and release tortured souls, and that’s what makes their partnership work. Lacey is all here-and-now, hard-nosed and down to earth, while Sam is other-worldly, aware of things that reverberate throughout the universe. They meet somewhere in the middle (usually), and find a way to satisfy both their aspirations.
Another character that I really enjoy is from the two books in my time-travel series, Finding Travis and Being Travis. While the main character, Travis Merrill, struggles mightily with being thrown backward in time to the Arizona frontier of 1877, his striker (think personal assistant) at Fort Verde is a very practical and no-nonsense Irishman named Patrick Riley. When I first introduced Riley, his character was a necessary invention to go along with the operation of the fort at the time, but he soon made his presence known and stole every scene in the book. I love Riley’s deadpan humour, his very practical and unvarnished view of the world, and his loyalty and heart. He’s definitely a keeper.
Which book do you consider a must-read?
If you’re talking about books written by others, the three I mentioned above are my number one recommendations. If you’re talking about my own books, that’s a tough one, because I write in many different genres and most of my books are very different than the others. My favorites over time have been Superstition Gold (historical romance), Queen’s Gold (reincarnation/action/adventure), Stone’s Ghost(paranormal), Finding Travis (time travel), The Man in the Black Hat (time travel), and lately, the books of my Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery series, starting with Ghost Walk. I re-read all my books occasionally, but these are the ones I particularly enjoy.
What’s been the hardest edit that you’ve had to make? Why did you want to keep the material in?
My first two books (historical romances) were published by a New York house in the 1980s, back when traditional publishers were still willing to take a chance on an unknown. The first book I submitted did not meet their page count, so they asked me to add 50 pages. Interestingly enough, I had gotten so sick of working on that book for so many months that I actually glossed over some of the latter part of it, and now I was able to add in the detail I’d left out before, and do it with a fresh eye. My second book, however, was too long for the publisher’s page count, and they told me to cut 70 pages. This was pure torture. I went through the book once cutting entire paragraphs. Then I went through again cutting full sentences. The third time, I was cutting single words. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and yet when I was done, the book was absolutely better. It was tighter, more immediate, more impactful. I was very glad they asked me to make the cuts, and I did come in on the page count.
If you could live in a book, which one would it be?
Probably the dragon world books of Anne McCaffrey. Civilization on the planet Pern is anchored in realism, and the relationships, the problems, the concerns are all normal human stuff, yet when you throw in the ability to telepathically communicate and work with dragons, it elevates it to a whole new level. I love these books, and re-read them often.
If you could pick an Author to write your biography, who would it be?
Someone with an excellent sense of humour. Maybe Bill Bryson or Farley Mowat. Someone with an appreciation for sarcasm and the ironic workings of the universe.
Is there any conflict between what you want to write and what you think your readers will like?
I don’t actually think of my readers as I write. I should clarify that. I don’t think of my readers as I’m doing the initial setting down on paper. I write what comes to me, what works, and that’s my sole guideline. Later, as I’m editing, that’s when I think of the reader and make sure the story is clear, the characters are interesting, and the book carries the reader along. So to answer your question, no, there is no conflict. What’s interesting is that I’ve been writing a paranormal mystery series for the past two years, and I have many readers asking for more. Luckily, the ideas keep coming, and I’ve been able to continue the series (now working on Book 18) without any angst. If the day comes when I no longer have any fresh ideas, that’s the day I’ll quit the series, and I’m sure many of my readers will not be happy when, or if, that happens, but I simply will not pump out books that have no inspiration behind them. I’ve read too many of those that take a good first idea and rehash it to no good effect, and I refuse to do that.
What effect can a review have on you, if you read them at all? Both the good and the bad.
I do read reviews, and luckily the vast majority have been good. I’m very pleased that most people enjoy my books and like my characters. I enjoy them, but it’s always nice to have some validation. As for the bad reviews, I know no one can please everyone and we all have different tastes. I do seriously consider the criticisms readers offer. I’ve never gone back and changed a story to satisfy a criticism, but I do keep the ideas in mind in future books. It helps me to be aware of attitudes and feelings that are different from my own.
Can you sum up your life story in ten words or less?
What’s next? Whatever it is, I’m ready for it.
What’s exciting you about your next project?
My latest adventure is moving wholeheartedly into the realm of audio books. According to some, audio books are the next best thing. I’ve partnered with a wonderful voice artist and we have already produced the first book of my paranormal mystery series, Ghost Walk. Book 2’s audio is complete and will be released when Audible processes all the files. The other books in the series will follow as quickly as we can get them done. In accordance with that, and in conjunction with Zealot Script, I’d like to announce a CONTEST. I’ve got some codes for a free download of Ghost Walk, and I’m ready to give away three of those to the person who tells me the most adventuring, funny, unique or implausible way they will listen to the book. What will you do while you’re listening? Sort laundry? Climb Mt. Everest? To enter, tell me what you’ll be doing in a comment on my Facebook page, and on February 28, 2019, I will choose the three top (most fun? Weirdest?) entries. Please also indicate if you’re in the US or the UK, as the codes differ.
And finally, you have one quote to be remembered by, what is it?
I think the one quote (not mine) that has always rung true for me is,
“Life is what happens while we’re making other plans.”
This applies to life in general and to writing more specifically.
Our gracious thanks to Melissa for agreeing to take part.
We are delighted that she has announced her Audiobook Giveaway! Head on over to her Facebook page to take part!