Today, the Dames are pleased to present multi-genre author Colleen Kelly Mellor. First, a little bit about Colleen’s books:

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Named ‘Cool Gifts for Kids’ by the biggest international truckers’ association, OOIDA, in “Landline” magazine, Grandpa and the Truck: Tales (for Kids by a Long-Haul Trucker, Books 1 and 2 track the real-life adventures of a big rig driver who traveled America’s highways for 30 years. In the process, he went through every state but one. Each book is comprised of two stories, set in different states. In addition, there’s trucker lingo, maps, and question pages to accompany text. Books 1 and 2 are currently available at their website, http://www.grandpaandthetruck.com, or at Amazon.com.

“We teach geography…and a whole lot more.”

Welcome, Colleen. Anything else you want to add?

Grandpa and the Truck books are Tales (for Kids) by a Long-Haul Trucker. Books 1 and 2, were just published this past summer and fall. We were selected by the biggest international truckers association, OOIDA, as “Cool Gifts for Kids” in their “Landline” magazine. In addition, WomenInTrucking (WIT) endorses us, too.

As a teacher, I can tell you these sound like books I’d love to have in my classroom. From the WNC Writers’ Guild meetings, I know you’re also working on an adult book that’s close to your heart, Patient Witness. Tell us about that.

I took a bit of a break after a punishing round producing those books and I’m working on Patient Witness, story of my lifetime interaction with medical industry.

I’ve heard a bit of the back story in our meetings and I’m looking forward to reading it when it’s finished. How long have you been writing?

Seems forever, but it really took off 33 years ago when my second husband was battling      cancer that went the route lung…bone…brain. If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, I wrote till the wee hours of morning to stave off insanity.  Don’t know if it worked.

I’ve met a lot of authors who tell me it was a personal crisis that got them started writing, too. That’s what happened with me and I like to think it helped keep me sane—although at times I think it might be driving me in the other direction! Are there any major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?

I’ve had many crises in life, and I needed to be my own champion, hence in my blog (at www.biddybytes.com), I encourage others to persevere, though it can look darkest at the moment. By 42, I had divorced one highly-abusive man and buried two more husbands. Life was extremely difficult. I raised two daughters ten years apart in age, myself, while teaching. I did that career for 30 years. I’m a breast cancer survivor of 11 years who’s been diagnosed with MS (it’s not awful). Our Grandpa and the Truck books came out of despair, also:  My husband, the quintessential trucker (named one of Atlas Van Lines’s Elite Fleet of Drivers) was hit on a mountain road, in Weaverville, by a 12-year-old girl driving her uncle’s truck. He “died” at the hospital, was brought back via paddles, but the damage was done. We’ve been coming back from that, ever since. I write real-life stories that grew out of despair.

I didn’t know you had MS. How did I miss that? As Joan Rivers says, “we need to talk!” I was diagnosed almost ten years ago and as you say, it isn’t awful and since it’s what got me started writing, I’m even thankful for it at times. Enough about me, who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

This one’s easy—Mark Twain for his honesty in portrayal of the humanness of people…their peccadilloes…their flaws. But he did it in a loving manner. I also like Charles Dickens but I am ever amazed that people flocked to weekly newspapers, in England, to get the latest segment of his Great Expectations, etc. That’d never happen today.  People won’t invest in the way one needs to do to read Dickens. As for keeping current, I read Huffington Post, CNN, Providence Journal on line…

I love Dickens too, but rarely read him anymore because it is an investment. I do, however, take the time to read his “A Christmas Carol” every year at Christmas. So, Dickens and Twain, how about personally, who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I once sent a story to National Geographic Traveler editor, Keith Bellow, who told me to call him.  He also said “You’ve got talent (but I’m not going to use this piece.)” I was crushed, sent him a couple of other things and never heard back.  Then I reasoned, “I’m never going to be going to these posh places NG focuses on, so ‘Forget it.’” I had to be real:  I was single Mom raising two daughters alone, a teacher with no extra money. So, I deep-sixed my drive for publication there but kept his advice, front and center, to keep me believing in myself.  My other biggest influence was the major editor of our state newspaper, Carol Young. She advised me to keep going, even if the paper couldn’t hire me at the time. They wanted me as free-lancer. I did this for years.

What a wonderful story of perseverance! Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Nature is a major source of inspiration.  I get choked up seeing practically anything that’s naturally gorgeous. Husband and I bike for many miles, on excursions, and this nourishes my soul….I am refreshed and can go back to writing, energized and pumped. I also get tremendous motivation from observing people.

Nature pretty much does it for me every time. What is a typical writing day like for you?

I get up at 7:00AM and work steadily till 12:00 noon—sometimes beyond. But then I quit and do other things…

Wow, wish I had your dedication. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been able to get myself on a schedule and stick with it! Tell us a little bit about where you live.

Two states…Rhode Island I for 7 months of the year and Western North Carolina—Weaverville—for another 5 months.  We have the best of both worlds—the ocean and the mountains.

I love the mountains and ocean and find them both inspirational settings but I prefer the mountains—which probably comes from the fact I was born and raised in East Tennessee. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

Well, if you’re talking about our trucker books, the character driving the big rig better be in control…I guess my characters are always in control because they’re always talking through me…I am the medium.

The medium…I never thought of it quite that way before but I like it. Don’t be surprised if you hear me refer to it that way in future meetings. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Connections with others…the fact my words have made a difference in another’s lives. The thrill about writing our trucker stories for kids?  I can’t say how many women have written to me to tell me “Thanks” for putting these stories out there.  They want the thread of continuity…they now have a vehicle (pun intended) to tell their little ones what their Dad, Mom, or grandparent did for a living, when they drove the big rigs across this country.  No one’s done this before my husband and me, a fact we find astounding, for who’s a big rig driver’s best fan club?  Little kids. But being a 30-year teacher, I combine lots of factual material, along with the adventures, so children learn as they ride along with Grandpa (he’s a young trucker in these stories.)

Great answer, Colleen. One last question, what’s your attitude toward the standard advice: write what you know?

Our Grandpa and the Truck books are all about that…Children ride along with Grandpa (when he was a young trucker) seeing the wonders of our country. He drove through all 49 states (kids will learn which one he couldn’t go through); they’ll note topographical changes; maps are provided. Since I’m a teacher, I provide Question pages as well, to guide the journey.  But the stories are exciting, from a 5-car pileup that occurred on a coastal California highway in the fog, to a Category 5 hurricane Camille that ripped the roof off this trucker’s motel, a romp one night when Grandpa’s trucker buddy went for fuel and came back with a pack of bloodhounds nipping at his heels. “Girl Truckers’ take center stage in story 2 of Book 2, proving all people should do what they wish, for careers. Our children’s books are offered at www.grandpaandthetruck.com.

In my other works, I write of difficult things that I overcame, with a message that others can, too. “Encouragement in a Difficult World:  Biddy Bytes Blog” at www.biddybytes.com is all about that.

My latest blog, Patient Witness (at www.colleenkellymellor.com) will showcase my eventual book (by the same name and to be released this year,) that will document my lifetime experiences, with the medical industry.  It will encourage others to become their own advocates in crises. But it has, as its kernel, that tragic event when my husband was struck on that mountain road, just outside of Asheville, three years ago. In weeks following the crisis, I exploded at my husband’s surgeon, for I’d determined I’d no longer put up with his dismissive, arrogant remarks. My book will invite dialogue between hospitals/doctors and the patients/families they serve.

2coversinone,sidebysideHere’s a link to our reviews on Amazon for the Grandpa and the Truck books (scroll down for Book 1 and Book 2): http://www.amazon.com/Grandpa-Truck-Book-One-Long-Haul/product-reviews/0985677007/ref=pr_all_summary_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

But please note—If you buy from us, at our website, we can personalize for the child and sign as author.  Same price, too, as Amazon, because we don’t charge for shipping. www.grandpaandthetruck.com and please stay tuned for Patient Witness

I definitely will! Thanks so much for being here today, Colleen, and thanks for including the links to your sites so our readers can find out more about you.

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