This week, the Dames are pleased to welcome Melanie Marks, a prolific and multi-genre author.

 1.  Welcome, Melanie! Tell us about your latest release.

 Well, ha! Way back when we scheduled this interview I was planning to promote my three new novels that were due out any moment. They were being released by three different publishers and I was certain each would be out by now, but alas, NONE of them are out yet.

However, I do have a YA novel available to purchase right this moment. It was published in 2005. When it went out of print I was sad, but then I did a little experiment. I re-released it myself for the kindle. It’s doing way better than I expected since I had written the story for a very niche market. I think it’s already sold more as an e-book than it did while it was in stores. Again, I have to stress it was for a very niche market. So, it’s shocking to me that it is being bought and read outside of its niche.

 2. You’re talking about The Dating Deal, right?  I downloaded the sample from Kindle and judging by what I’ve read so far, I’ll be purchasing the entire book next time I’m on Amazon. Tell us a little about it but no spoilers, please since I haven’t finished reading it yet!

Sure!  I’ll give you the blurb from the book:

Seventeen-year old Megan Turner thought her hard-drive was cleared before she sold her computer in a local online auction. What she didn’t realize is that her journal was recoverable, and that her computer was purchased by someone she knew from school.

Suddenly Trent Ryan has a glimpse into the thoughts, feelings and testimony of “Megan the Mormon.” Upon peeking into Megan’s heart, Trent discovers Megan has captured his. There’s only one problem. Megan only dates Mormons. Until Trent read Megan’s journal he didn’t even know what a Mormon was. So Trent comes up with a plan—all he has to do is get Megan to agree to The Dating Deal.

That’s the end of the blub. I should stress that the book is written for teens and that Megan is dang religious. The book doesn’t have any scripture references in it or anything like that, but if reading about a sincerely religious teen bugs you, you probably won’t be interested in this book. That’s okay.  I still love you. 🙂

 3.  Well, the sample hooked me and now I can’t wait to read the rest. Can you share little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I still have those three novels coming out, sometime soon I hope—A Demon’s Kiss, When Kyle Came Back, and The Stranger Inside.  All three of them are YA paranormal, fairly heavy on the romance.  One is somewhat dark though. I guess it could almost be considered YA horror—but still, even it is focused on the romance. Everything I write is romance—except my children’s books.

 4.  Gotta love the romance. I know I do and like you, all of my books and stories have that little touch of romance in them. Can you tell us a little about the darker novel?

I could tell you a LOT about it, but this is the tag-line:

Seventeen-year-old Jodi Logan has another girl’s ghost inside her—and it doesn’t want to leave.

So, that’s the tag. The story is called, The Stranger Inside. I love it! I’ll give you the blurb:

After her father’s mysterious death, seventeen-year-old Jodi Logan is forced to move back in with her mother and step-family. A couple of years before, Jodi and her stepbrother Jeremy had become romantically involved, resulting in Jodi getting kicked out of the house. No matter how hard Jodi fights her desire, she’s still drawn to Jeremy.

Adding to the suck-fest that’s now her home life, Jodi has been experiencing time lapses. When she comes to one day and finds herself making out with a boy she’s never met, Riley, Jodi learns she’s been living a double life as a girl named Kendra. But who is Kendra? Jodi fears she’s going crazy—maybe developing a split personality. But when she discovers the truth, it’s even worse. Jodi is possessed by a ghost—a stranger who refuses to leave. Her new friends, her kind-of new boyfriend Riley, and Jeremy learn to accommodate Kendra when the ghost takes over Jodi, but Jodi wants her life back. And when something terrible happens, Jodi doesn’t know who she can trust: her new friends? Riley? Jeremy? Or the stranger inside?

 5.  Sounds intriguing and fun and that cover, wow! How long have you been writing?

I’d always loved writing—always. But I didn’t really think about writing for the public and getting paid for it until I had children and I would read them stories from children’s magazines, and I’d think, “I can write stuff like this.”  So I did.  I sold my very first story to ‘Teen Magazine for $500. I used the money to buy my kids bunk beds and I got a lot of fan mail from teens.  It was awesome. I was hooked. 

I went on to have over fifty short stories published in magazines such as Highlights and Woman’s World and many, many more in ‘Teen, but I had to put off writing full-length novels until all my kids started school because I could fit writing short stories into their naptimes, but novels were too time consuming and complicated for me to work on in such tiny spurts of time.  But I’m so thankful I had the short story experience as it boosted my confidence in my writing and let me learn that some things sell and some don’t, but my writing is pretty good either way.  It also let me get used to rejection—without having to put a whole novel’s length of effort into my endeavors. Also, I got the opportunity to work with a lot of different big-time editors and learn from them and grow as a writer, and get paid as I learned. That was a nice bonus. Also, getting paid right up front for my writing instead of relying on royalties was awesome too. So, I’m giving a huge shout-out to writing for magazines. Magazines rock!

 6.  Sounds like an excellent way to get into writing. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Do they have any impact on your writing today?

In eighth grade we read S.E. Hinton’s book, The Outsiders. That was the very first full-length novel we read as a class.  That book is what got me interested in reading.  I went to the library and read every book written by S.E. Hinton, then I went on to read any teen novel our library provided. (They didn’t have much.) I also adored Judy Blume.

7.  How do you promote your work?  Any tips for other authors?

I don’t really “promote.”  This is the very first interview I have ever done.  However, I have stories periodically published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. I think stuff like that helps.  Chicken Soup for the Soul has a very wide distribution. I get fan emails from teens in Australia and the UK that first read my work in Chicken Soup for the Soul. CSFTS is great. They give contributors a fifty-word bio at the end of their books where you can promote forthcoming novels and share your web URL.  That’s free advertising—in fact, you get paid for it!

Also, I have stories in other anthologies such as L & L DreamSpell’s.  I’m in three of theirs—Haunts, Fangs and Romance. (There are some AMAZING authors in those books.) And I have a story coming out in this awesome anthology called Paranormal Punch that is being published by Robot Playground.  Actually, I think they are changing the anthology’s title. I’m not sure. But I have stories in gobs of anthologies. I think it’s good to spread your work around. Readers have to find you somehow, then when they do, some will read everything you write. Everything. That’s awesome! But so, you have to have stuff out there for them to read. Also, having a lot of works out helps you promote everything new that you write. It’s a cycle.

 8.  A cycle is right and I like the way you think. Some might say you’re coming at the dreaded promotion game from a different angle but it’s an angle that obviously works for you. You’re very prolific and you write in a wide variety of genres, everything from children’s books to young adult romance to adult horror. Do you have a preference for any particular one? 

YA, definitely.

 9.  Oh, I love YA too. I’ve written several YA books but so far haven’t done anything with them. Maybe someday… but back to you. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I guess S. E. Hinton.  Her books made me fall in love with stories.  When I was done with one of her books I’d keep writing about her characters. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I had to write about them or I would explode.

10.  One of the highest compliments an author can get. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Usually what happens is I get a scene in my head and it plays over and over and over until I finally give in and write it down. Then I figure out the rest of the story. But it always starts with one nagging scene.

11.  Oh yeah, the nagging scene, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Tell us a little bit about your family and where you live.

Ha! I’ll give you the third person bio blurb:

Melanie Marks was born and raised in California. She is married to a naval nuclear submarine officer and blessed with three amazingly terrific kids.

End of blurb. We live in New England … for the moment. Being in the navy though, we’ve lived everywhere. It’s been an adventure!

12. I’ll bet. Okay, last question: What do you consider the single, most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

Connecting with readers. It’s so nice to hear they enjoy my stories and want more. I love that.

What author doesn’t? Thanks for being with us today, Melanie. For those of you who’d like to find out more about Melanie and her many books and stories, check out her website.