Welcome to the tenth Author Spotlight post of 2022! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is Melissa Grace! I was lucky enough to get an eARC of Melissa's newest novel, Long Way Home, so I read the first two books in the series as context and fell in love with the characters. Melissa has created a beautiful found family in this series, and I can't get enough of it. She gives fantastic writing advice as well, which you'll see in this interview!
Bio: Melissa Grace is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in publications like Medium, Thought Catalog, and The Mighty. She resides just outside of Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and adorable fur children. Long Way Home is her third novel.
Q: Can you tell readers about your most recent release, Long Way Home?
A: This story follows Derek, the bass player of Midnight in Dallas, and Katie’s best friend, Jo, who are both on a sort of parallel journey of figuring out who they are without the weight of other people’s expectations. This book also deals with complicated family dynamics, including breaking cycles of abuse.
Q: What inspired you to write about a band? Is Midnight in Dallas based on a real group?
A: They’re not based on a real band, but if I was to tell you what they sound like in my head, it would be a mix of The Lumineers, Lord Huron, and NEEDTOBREATHE. But I imagine Jax’s vocals to be kind of a mix of Lewis Capaldi and Shawn Mendes. I wanted to write about a band because I love music, but also because I Iove the idea of the family dynamic that exists within a band.
Q: There are so many characters in the Midnight in Dallas series, and yet each one is fully fleshed out and has a distinct personality. How did you develop your characters?
A: It’s interesting because I don’t feel like I have much to do with how these characters come together. They kind of appear in my mind fully formed, and their little quirks, how they respond to things that happen in their lives, and their thoughts all seem to exist independent of me in a weird way, I’m just the messenger telling their stories. I think each character is kind of a mix of me, people I know and love or have known and loved, but they appear in my head as their own people.
Q: You write such engrossing dialogue and witty banter. What’s your process for writing dialogue? Do you have any tips for fellow writers?
A: Thank you so much! Dialogue is my favorite way to move a story forward. I often say the words out loud to make sure they flow well and that they sound natural, and I find that very helpful.
Q: A cute and lovable animal features in each of the Midnight in Dallas books, and I know you’ve got some fur babies of your own! Did your fur children inspire the ones in the books? If so, how?
A: They did! The animals in the series are all based on my furbabies. The way they appear on the page is very much how they are in real life. It all started with Mama the Hostile Kitty, who is probably more hostile in real life. Then you met Bradley Cooper, who was based on my real life dog, Cash, who we lost soon after the release of the second book. When we got a little boy puppy a few months later, we knew there was only one name that he could have, and that was Bradley Cooper. He’s so much like Cash that it’s unreal. He will eventually be in a book, but I will give him another name. In book three, you met my sweet Izzy girl. Books four and five will introduce three more furry characters I think you’ll love.
My babies have been such a big part of my own journey that I wanted to pay homage to how healing their companionship is. There’s nothing like the unconditional love of an animal.
Q: Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
A: For me, it was all about timing. I wanted to publish my first book while my grandmother was still here to see it happen. Self-publishing meant that she got to be a big part of that process with me. I’m still interested in traditional publishing, but that could definitely change. I think the entire publishing landscape has evolved and is still evolving. People are starting to recognize that self-published authors deserve a seat at the table and that self-published in no way means subpar.
Q: What advice would you give authors who are looking into self-publishing?
A: You have to know that talent is not always synonymous with success, and I know that can sound a little jaded, but I actually find that thought very freeing. While talent does contribute, there’s also a huge amount of luck involved. A lot of right book, right time. And you can follow industry trends and write to market and still not see a ton of movement. But you can also write something that may seem obscure and it be a massive hit. You can have a book out for years before it gets discovered by the masses. My point is, write what you want to write because that’s what you’re going to put your whole heart into, versus writing something just because you think that’s what readers want.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: I tend to operate in chaos, and I am trying really, really hard to stop that. But you can almost always bet that I am not at my desk in my ergonomic chair and am instead sitting with my legs folded like a pretzel on the couch or in my bed and will inevitably wake up unable to move the next day. And there is always, always, an animal nearby.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: There’s a lot of googling involved, but more importantly, I like to speak to people who have experience with what I’m writing about if I don’t have my own personal experience to rely on. For example, when I am writing about anything medical, my best friend Nicole is my expert. She’s an ICU nurse, and if she doesn’t know the answer, she always knows someone who does.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: Lurlene McDaniel probably had the most impact on me as a storyteller. I stumbled on a signed copy of one of her books in a bookstore once when I was a teen, and reading it was eye opening for me. She helped me realize that I could tell stories that dealt with tough topics while maintaining a hopeful voice.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: I don’t know that this necessarily deals with it, but I think knowing that the majority of creatives deal with it too at least makes me feel a little less alone. And keeping screenshots of a few reader reviews and emails that mean a lot to me. That always helps me remember my why and who I’m writing for.
Q: How do you refill your creative well?
A: Music, driving with the windows down, and talking to other writers. That always helps me recenter and refocus.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m working on book four in the Midnight in Dallas series and another top secret project outside of the MID universe.
If you'd like to follow Melissa Grace on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her: