Melanie is on book tour for her newest book “Touchstone” and her first stop was our local bookstore, Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 29th. When I heard she was going to be town, I immediately emailed and asked her to meet me for lunch. Melanie has always been so friendly and approachable I was pretty sure she might say yes. She also said yes to an interview, obviously.
This is her third book tour and she seemed pretty jazzed about it. Her first was in 1996 for “Golden Key” and again in 2006 for “Spellbinder” so it’s been a while since she was on the road. But she does rather expect to collapse by the time she gets home.
“Touchstone” is the first book of a new series that she’s titled Glass Thorns. So, why ‘Glass Thorns?’ I asked her. She laughingly told me that she originally thought to call it ‘Glass Magic’… for all of thirty seconds until she realized that it sounded, regrettably, like window cleaner. As it turns out, glass thorns are a drug delivery system in a medieval setting where hypodermic needles are not exactly common. It’s a hollow glass ampoule with a pointy end; you fill it up and poke yourself with it. She’s writing the third book now and she’s not sure where it might end. It all depends, she says, on how the plot of the third one shakes out.
She said to me once, a few years back, that she writes as much for herself as her readers. I asked her if that was still true. Oh, yes, she assured me. She says there are writers who love to write and writers who love to have written. A wonderful quote, I thought, but she refused credit. Melanie puts herself in the former. She loves the process and says that while she usually knows where a story is going, she isn’t always sure how she’ll get there. It’s a journey of discovery which keeps her interested.
Does she need anything special in her environment to make the magic work? Light, music, cats in the background? Mostly quiet, she replied. She can only work with music if it isn’t familiar and has no words to interrupt her thoughts. And, yes, there are cats in the background.
Her last published book “The Diviner” came out in August of 2011. It is the prequel to the gigantic “The Golden Key” which Melanie collaborated on with Kate Elliott and Jennifer Roberson. Melanie advises that one should read “The Golden Key” first. Then, when you read “The Diviner” it will be a way cooler revelation. She had a lot of fun writing that one; after all, what else is the point? So I had to ask if she had any idea if she’d collaborate again as she did on “The Golden Key.” She said she and her two partners loved the process but probably not.
But what about “Captal’s Tower?”, the next one in her Exiles series that has been long-anticipated. No comment was mostly what she said. She does mean to write it one day, she just can’t say when.
Melanie likes to write a lot of human life into her stories. Her characters fall in love, have sex, raise families…all that messy human stuff. Her “Dragon Prince” story was once described as ‘Dynasty in the Desert’ or ‘Dallas with Dragons’ and you have to be our age to understand those references… I asked her if she felt she was selling to the people who want sex with werewolves, vampires, and whatnot. Well, she said she’s going to be writing what she enjoys and if other people like it, then so be it. But if they don’t like it… well, that’s life in the food chain. And that’s the funny thing, she went on. One reviewer might pan the story while the next reviewer waxes euphoric. It not like we writers create two versions, she said: one for some people to hate and another for others to love. It’s the same book, just different readers. No writer can control what any given reader brings to their reading experience. The only thing the writer can control is the words on the page. And what the writer owes to the reader is the best book he or she is capable of writing. What does Melanie bring to her own reading experiences? She’s looking for something a little special maybe language that is really wonderful, or a unique plot. She hopes to be surprised in some way.
Her philosophy: Take the work seriously, not yourself. The work is so much more important than you are.