Author Interview: Melinda Clayton

This author interview features Melinda Clayton. She is the author of several books including Entangled Thorns. Entangled Thorns is the third book in the Cedar Hollow series. You can read a synopsis of the book here. I selected this title from Cheap Kindle Books. In the interview, Melinda thoughtfully describes her path to becoming a writer, the writing process, the books which influenced her and what she is currently reading and writing among other things.

When did you decide to become a writer?
I remember knowing I wanted to write at a very young age. I think I was around eight or nine years old when I first read Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, after which I decided I wanted to live on a mountain and write books. But it wasn’t until my late thirties, early forties that I made the leap. I’d been a practicing psychotherapist for years when circumstances dictated we move from Colorado to Florida. My kids were very young at that time, and I wanted to be more available to them. The move provided the perfect opportunity for a career change. I started out writing for several online magazine sites on topics related to mental health, then had some articles picked up in print, followed by a couple of short stories. In 2009, I decided to take the plunge and write my first full-length novel.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes about a year for me to write a novel between 55,000-75,000 words. I’m quite slow! I do a ton of research as I write because it’s important to me to get the details right. For example, if, in my novel, I mention that it was raining on a certain day in Memphis, Tennessee, it was. Readers will probably never notice those details, but it’s important to me that I get it right.

I also do something other writers say you should never do, which is edit as I go. Each time I sit down at the computer and open the manuscript, I read back over what I wrote the day before. Sometimes (rarely) I leave it as is. More often, I make changes. This makes for an extremely slow process, but it also ensures the novel says what I want it to say.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written six novels and one how-to guide (on self-publishing, which is available for free download on my website). In some ways, my first (Appalachian Justice) is my favorite, and readers, overall, seem to agree. Writing that book was an interesting experience because it almost felt out of my control. I’d jump up in the middle of the night to go write down ideas or plot details. I was completely immersed in the process.

But in another way, Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, my first out-of-series book, is my favorite. This is probably partly because it was a completely different experience – for example, it’s told from a male point of view – but also because I hope I continue to grow and develop as a writer as I go along, and Blessed was written several years after Appalachian Justice. I was a more experienced writer by the time Blessed came along.

What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
I recently published my sixth novel, Making Amends, and although I’ve taken a small break since then, I do have some ideas sketched out for the next one. It will be set in small-town Tennessee (readers of Blessed Are the Wholly Broken may recognize the attorney who pops in from time to time), and will follow the eldest daughter of a very dysfunctional family from the moment she discovers her parents murdered in their home, until after the trial of the sibling who is accused of the murder.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
The solitude is the hardest thing for me. I’ve met and attended functions with a handful of other writers in Florida, and I belong to several online writing/blogging groups, but overall there’s a lot of alone time when one is writing. Every so often I have to make myself get outside to get some fresh air and sunshine.

What was the easiest thing about writing?
By far, the easiest thing is the schedule. At the time we moved and I decided to take the plunge, I was used to working sixty hour weeks and answering emergency calls night and day. The ability to set my own schedule while spending time with my kids and doing something I love has been a true blessing.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read, of course, and I also love being outdoors, whether that’s piddling around in flower gardens or visiting one of Florida’s natural springs. What I love most of all, though, is cheering at my sons’ soccer games, whether they’re playing themselves, or coaching younger children I’m a little bit of a sports fanatic in that way.

What book/s are you reading at present?
I always have several books going at once. Right now on my nightstand I have The Last Breath, from Kimberly Belle; The Maze Runner, by James Dashner; and The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg.

What is your favorite book and why?
That’s a tough one. I don’t know that I can say I have one all-time favorite, but I definitely have books that stand out in my mind for whatever role they played in my life or whichever way they connected with me. Heidi, mentioned earlier, is one of them, along with all of Laura Ingall’s (Little House) books and Louisa May Alcott’s (Little Women) books. Those books sparked my imagination and turned me into a life-long reader.

I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck because he had the ability to convey so much with so little. His writings can be very stark and simple on the surface, but roiling underneath. Same with Kent Haruf (author of Plainsong). That’s an incredible skill.

As for contemporary works, I enjoy Elizabeth Berg, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, Greg Iles, and – my dirty little secret – any good true crime stories I can get my hands on. I love reading anything that makes me question the motivations behind the choices we make, both fiction and nonfiction.

 –Nighttime Narratives

Comments

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who looks up weather reports any time I mention a specific date in a novel. Nobody else will ever know, but I will. One time I mentioned a specific football game and a thunder storm that happened after it. I keep waiting for somebody to write me and say they remember the game and the storm because they were there.

    I’m also a fan of Plainsong.

  2. I do the same thing – think maybe someone who was at the University of Memphis will contact me some day to say they remember the rainiest day of the year in 1989. 🙂 Well, we’ll know, even if no one else does!

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