I love androgynous names, and Mel Blue does not disappoint! Okay, so her name is Melissa Blue, but I think Mel Blue is so cool. I mean, it’s traditionally a dude’s name, and it’s only two syllables, ok, I’m rambling…On to the interview!
MIRJ: The first question I ask all authors who write IR romance is why do you write IR romance?
MB: I didn’t want to limit to only writing AA characters so I wrote an IR. That title was Everything You Need. The hero is Italian. I got to research some of the customs, the language and I had a blast. It gave me confidence that I could write outside the color lines. Writing an IR also taught me it is all about the character. And, you love who you love. That’s the ride everyone agrees to go on. Romance is at the heart of every book I write so writing an IR was kind of destined.
MIRJ: Do you write full-time?
MB: For a few months this year I did. I was ecstatic and then I burned out on writing. So right now I’ve picked up a very part-time assistant job and I also do graphic art. All writing, all the time makes Mel an unhappy girl.
Musing: Well that sounds very Jack Torrance-ish ala The Shining teehee
MIRJ: Describe your writing process. Do you come up with a concept or plot, outline, research, write, then edit, or is it more of a stream of consciousness where you just let the ideas and thoughts flow and you edit as you go along?
MB: I’m a character-driven writer. I can get really excited about an idea but that excitement peters out if I don’t fall in love with the characters. So I may have an idea first, but the ball really doesn’t get rolling until I find people who will be perfect for that particular plot bunny.
Depending on the length of the story, I’ll make an outline and interview the main characters. And then I start to write. Sometimes this part of the process will go seamlessly. Sometimes I get stuck around chapter 4. I whine to my friends about how writing is hard and my characters are stupid and liars. I get hit with an epiphany and finish the rest of the book. At that point the truly hard part starts because I have to make that book something I’d charge for. My first drafts are never anything I’d make someone pay for. I actively feel guilty making people read it for free to tell me what is wrong with it. I repeat the process until I feel secure the book is ready.
MIRJ: Do you self-publish, or are you affiliated with a publishing company?
MB: I’m mostly self-published. My other name, Sofia Harper, has a book out with Entangled.
MIRJ: You have an impressive library of work, and I’ve admittedly only discovered you in the last year. You don’t just write IR, but AA, and mainstream (WW/WM) romance as well. Is there any difference or nuances that you have to be cognizant of aside from skin tone when writing about characters of different ethnicities?
MJ: That’s a hard question that deserves an essay-like answer, but let me try to be concise. (Anyone who knows me just laughed really hard at that.) So let me cut to the chase real fast first. It’s not what makes us different, it’s what we share. I know that sounds kumbaya, but let me explain.
Someone’s skin tone is an important factor, but that’s usually the last thing I know when I create a character. Well, when I create a story that’s not already part of a series. The most important question I ask myself is what does this character need? To answer that I need to know their history. How did they grow up? Was it a happy childhood? What are some of their triumphs and heartbreaks? Were they poor? Did they grow up in a middle class environment? Was he a bad boy gone good? Was she? Family, friends and lovers shapes us much more than skin color so I need to know all that too.
Yes, we might share some experiences if we share an ethnicity. But at the same time, you can know and share the pain of never really having a father. You can share that pain with someone who is vastly different from you. That person can speak a different language than you. They live and breath in a different culture, but you’ll share that same pain and you could connect on a deeper level.
That’s where I go for the nuance. Knowing someone’s skin tone can and will add to it, but if that’s where I stopped then I’d be doing my stories and characters a disservice. So knowing the culture, the mores, the family make-up, etc. is where I find the crunchy bits. Once I know that I can find the pieces that overlap. Their differences will have that much more impact because even though he’s a Scot and she’s a Cali girl, they connect where they hurt the most.
So if it’s something I don’t already know intuitively I research, but if I’ve built a character where X is believable then it kind of doesn’t matter. We aren’t all the same and we aren’t all that different. Knowing that, putting it on the page is the nuance.
I wrote an essay anyway. My bad.
Musing: That was awesome! I appreciate your telling it like it T.I. tis and not sugar-coating or giving a “PC” response per se…
MIRJ: So far, Under His Kilt is my favorite story by you. Where did the inspiration come from?
MB: I always wanted to write a British hero. I watch BBC like there is no tomorrow. Plus, I have a thing for Spike from Buffy. I said this to my CP at the time and she hit me back with why not write a Scot? She’s Scottish and she offered to vet the hero for me. And that’s how the series was born. Lol I know. A Scottish hero happened by accident and convenience. But then I dug into the culture, the history of Scotland and I fell in love. At the time I wasn’t ready to set a book in Scotland so I needed a reason for him to be in America. The rest of the story fell in place from there.
MIRJ: If you could turn any one of your books into a movie, which would it be, and who would you cast as your two leads?
MB: I’d actually choose my Modern Fairy Tale series. It has a cast of thousands, but trust me I’ve thought about who I’d pick as the actors. That’s what Pinterest boards are for lol… So the first book would be Emma/Tobias and that’s Kerry Washington/Morris Chestnut. Second book is Abigail/Drew and that’s Nia Long/Boris Kodjoe. The last book is Sasha/Warren and that’s Megan Good/Malcolm Jamal Warner.
Like I said, I put some thought into this.
Musing: HELLOOOO!!! Admitted Pinterest junkie here…and I would be the first in line to watch all of those movies! Hot casting!
MIRJ: How important of a role does social networking play into getting your work recognized? Do you feel it takes away from time you could be spending writing, or is it necessary to make that time to interact with readers and fans to keep them engaged and interested in you, the author?
MB: I say this emphatically, FOR ME, it is vital. Anyone else it’s going to be a different answer. Without social media I don’t think I would have had the success I’ve had. My roots run deep in writing forums. It’s where I learned to be a better writer. So these were the first people who listened to my online ramblings. Because I was always myself, I can’t help it, folks followed me on Twitter and Facebook. Some wanted to read my books after some of my online shenanigans. That fed into sales and more people found my books. Some followed me on social media and it’s one thing feeding into another. I don’t find social media a chore because I take to the heart it’s “social.” I treat it as I’m hanging out with some online peeps who are cool and funny. If I end up selling some books that’s gravy. So I know it’s a tool to network and sell books, but I don’t treat it like that. It’s been beneficial for me, which is surprising.
Anyway, if you’re a fan and you see me online, don’t be scared to say hey.
MIRJ: What authors or genres do you like to read when you aren’t writing or promoting your work?
MB: Surprisingly enough my go-to genre is historical romance. I find it easier to take off my writer hat while reading a historical. I can’t nitpick because it’s not in my wheelhouse. The same goes for UF or mysteries. I have to be in the mood to read contemporary romances. I know. It’s crazy, but that’s what happens when you turn your passion into work. You have to find other ways to not make everything work.
Musing: I love historical romance too! From an IR perspective, it is always interesting to see how the author spins romance with the sign of the times…
MIRJ: What’s on the horizon for Melissa Blue in 2015?
MJ: At the moment I don’t know and that’s scary as hell. I know my Sofia Harper name will be busy with her Tanner Creek series. (I know it’s weird to talk about myself in third person. Lol) But Mel’s slate is kind of clear. I know I want to put out Kilted For Pleasure, but that book needs to do some more cooking before it’s ready. The moment I know for sure I will scream it from the rooftops. And while folks wait they can totally check out my backlist.
Thank you so much Melissa B! That was an awesome interview!
Melissa Blue’s writing career started on a typewriter one month after her son was born. This would have been an idyllic situation for a writer if it had been 1985, not 2004. She penned that first contemporary romance, upgraded to a computer and hasn’t looked back since.
Outside of writing, Blue works as a mail clerk for the federal government, has a paralegal certificate (that she has more use for as a dust pan) and is a mother of two rambunctious children. She lives in California where the wine is good and, despite popular belief, is not always sunny.
You can find her camped out on Facebook or Twitter. You can also check out her website at: http://themelissablue.com
UNBIDDEN DESIRES BLURB
When your greatest enemy becomes your best lover…
Zora Riley’s intentions were to discover the scandalous story her rival dug up on The Beaudelaire. If the whispers were true then a five-star hotel in New Orleans transformed into a Den of Sin. Just the name of one famous attendant could make the rest of her career, and if Alastair planned to report the story first then she had to be the one to scoop him. It was only fair since he’d been taking her stories for the last six months. But when a heated argument with Alastair turns into a toe-curling interlude, she’s shaken to her core.
Alastair Halliday left Great Britain to make a name for himself in America, but he didn’t come to the Den for a story. Working for years in a dog-eat-dog environment, with insane hours, has left him needing something a little less refined and ambitious…something that will feed his kink. The Den’s winter masquerade ball will allow him to be anyone, someone whose work won’t get in the way of something simple and primal. That is until he kisses Zora, his most tempting rival.
When the weekend is over and the masks come off, will they go back to being enemies or will they stay lovers?