Melinda is a licensed psychotherapist and freelance writer living in central Florida. Her vast experience working in the field of mental health gives her a unique perspective on human behaviours and she likes to explore this dynamic in her writing. She has published over twenty articles and short stories in various print and online magazines, and is currently in the dissertation phase of an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration.
Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain are available in ebook and print from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and from the publisher at VanillaHeartBooksAndAuthors.com
When did you first think of becoming a writer and who or what got you interested in writing?
I was really young, around eight or nine, when I read Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. I absolutely loved that book. I’m not sure exactly what about it made me decide I wanted to write, but ever since then I’ve always had that goal. I started out a few years ago by writing mental health-type articles for print and online magazines. I went from that to short stories, and finally to novels.
How would you describe your books and style?
One reviewer likened my style to that of Jodi Picoult, which was very flattering. I think maybe that was because I like to cover psychological issues in my writing. I want my characters to face the same struggles many of us face, and I want them to be defined in shades of gray. Their choices don’t come easily.
When you write do you have a particular routine you follow, and what do you find the most difficult part of writing a book?
I always write best in the morning. If I miss that window, I’m sort of lost for the day. The most difficult part is getting stuck – what most people call writer’s block, I suppose. It tends to happen to me right before a crucial chapter. I’ll know exactly where I want to go, but won’t be sure how to get there. I usually have to mull it over for a few days before the path becomes clear.
Do you start a book knowing what the beginning, middle and end will be or does it take on a life of it's own as you write?
I do tend to know the beginning and the end, but don’t know the details. I’ll know the situations I want the protagonist to face and have a good idea of how it will end, but won’t know all the specifics of the journey. That comes to me as I write, and I sometimes have to go back and change things if the journey takes me somewhere I hadn’t expected.
Are you self-published or traditionally published, and what has been the best and worst thing about the route you have taken?
I’m published through an independent publisher, and it’s been a wonderful experience. When I first finished the manuscript for Appalachian Justice I spent nearly a year querying agents, getting nibbles, finding out the agent who was working with me was no longer there...it was very time consuming and very frustrating. Then I queried Vanilla Heart Publishing and I’ve been thrilled with the outcome.
If this isn't too much like asking a mum which of her children she likes best, which of your characters is your favourite?
Oh, that’s a hard one! In Appalachian Justice it has to be Billy May Platte. I think maybe she’s a once in a lifetime story. I’m not sure if that’s because that was my first book, or if it’s just that people, including me, can’t help but fall in love with Billy May.
In Return to Crutcher Mountain I think it’s a tie. I identify with Jessie because we’re close to the same age. I understand the struggles she faces because I spent so many years working with survivors of abuse. But I love Robby, too. He’s a ten year old boy with Down Syndrome who sees the world as is, without the filter of political correctness.
What do you like to read and do you have any other passions?
For contemporary fiction, I love Anita Shreve, Barbara Kingsolver, and Elizabeth Berg. For classic works, I’m a fan of John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. But my guilty pleasure is true crime. I think I’ve read just about everything Ann Rule has ever written. I’m fascinated by the way the personality develops. What makes a person make such awful choices? I haven’t found any answers, but I do enjoy reading it.
Finally, what are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Return to Crutcher Mountain has just come out as an ebook and is due out in print on the 22nd of June. I have a couple of ideas for my next book but may have to take a break for a few months to do my dissertation research. If I start writing, I’ll neglect my research!
A big thank you to Melinda for taking time out to answer my questions. If you want to know more you can find her at at authormelindaclayton.xanga.com, and she can be friended on Facebook at Author Melinda Clayton.