Today, we are honoured to have an interview with the international bestselling author Melanie A Smith. Melanie is an award-winning romance author of The Safeguard Heart Series and The Life Lessons Series, among other books.
Here is the interview. Enjoy!
On your website, it says that you have lived in several places in the US. How have these places influenced your writings?
It’s the places I’ve lived the longest — Northern California, Southern California, and Seattle that end up making it into my writing. I think it’s important to authentically reflect the location your story takes place, and those are the locations I’m most familiar with. I would never want to misrepresent a location that sounded exciting to write but I didn’t haven’t sufficient first-hand knowledge to do justice to the vibe.
On top of writing, you have had careers in domestic engineering and property management. Have your careers influenced any element of your stories at all?
So domestic engineering is my joking term for being a stay at home mom, since prior to that I was an electrical engineer. Engineering typically doesn’t make it into my stories but deciding to stay home is what gave me room to pursue my dream of writing a novel.
Around the same time, my husband and I started investing in real estate and managing our own property. This gave me the inspiration for my first series. Apart from that, there are definitely elements of the various jobs I’ve had here and there in my stories.
This blogger: Oops. I did not realise the true meaning of ‘domestic engineer’ lol. Still, it sounds like bits of your work experiences have had some influence on your stories.
You are an award-winning and international bestselling (romance) author. Well done! That is an author’s dream come true! Why do you think your books have been so successful? (Three reasons please.)
Thank you! Usually, though, the first thing I tell people who ask is that anyone can be an award-winning and international bestselling author. Don’t get me wrong, I think my books are great, but those are marketing terms. They are not terms that actually define the quality of your work (per se) or, necessarily, how many books you’ve sold (but that’s a whole other topic).
In any case, first and foremost, if I hadn’t put the time and effort in to make a quality product, none of that would be possible. My writing is solid from years of studying, practicing, and honing my writing. Then, I have it professionally edited (a must, in my opinion). Also, I make sure it meets the expectations of the genre for everything from the cover to the story to the blurb.
Second – and this is pretty specific to the romance genre because of the voracious tendencies of romance readers – I found more success when I published rapidly, so I’m finding ways to do that which work for me.
Finally, I pay for marketing. I tried for a while to find ways around paid advertising, but I didn’t end up selling very many books (and trust me, I tried all kinds of things). But when I started small with a mere $100 a month on ads, within five months I went from making $30 a month to making $1,000 a month (note: by that point I was spending more on advertising because I could, which helped me get to that point). Learning how to advertise effectively isn’t trivial, but it’s absolutely crucial to monetary success as an author.
This blogger: Good advice. I need to take you up on your marketing tactics. Seriously!
What two things inspired you to write The Life Lesson Series?
I chose medical romance because I wanted to write in a new subgenre to see if I enjoyed it. Moreover, I’d been mulling over the concept of how romantic relationships teach you lessons about yourself and others. So, I mixed the two, and the series was born!
In your opinion, what makes a great romance story compared to an average one?
Dimensional characters. If you don’t spend time building likeable characters with deep motivations, it will come off as just another trite romance. For a reader to connect, your characters need to be extremely well-developed.
Which character in any of your stories if the most like you? And how?
I purposely make my characters a little like me (so I can connect to them and write their reactions realistically), but not too much like me. I’ve actually read books by other indie authors where the main character was so similar to them, as were other aspects/events in the book, and I found myself wondering if I was really reading fiction.
It’s for that exact reason that I only give my characters bits of me. From my first series, Sera was a real estate investor and property manager like me. From Everybody Lies, Frankie was a foul-mouthed Italian-American like me. Things like that. I’d say they’re all equally bits of me, just in different ways.
This blogger: That’s very fair and honest of you to say. Also, I think it’s hilarious (and very true) that you’ve pondered if you were reading fiction whilst reading some stories. Mentally and with friends, I speculate about these sorts of things when I read books and see films too.
If you could go back in time and speak with your younger self, what advice would you give her about the writing process?
Writing? Nothing. I’m pretty confident on the writing side. Business strategy and marketing? Well, I would tell her to treat it like a business from the start. As it is, I started a year and a half later on all that than I could’ve, and the market gets more crowded every day.
What is your writing kryptonite?
Life? Haha. Really, though, I need to be in just the right mood to write. Well rested, well fed, my to do list managed, etc… It’s a wonder I ever get to write at all. If it weren’t for having a partner who really steps up to help manage the house and child, I wouldn’t.
This blogger: I am glad you have a partner who is so helpful then! The writing community is lucky to have you (and him, vicariously, lol).
W A Smithhat is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
There’s a tipping point where I’ve done my basic character and plot definition, started writing, but still don’t feel like I’ve totally connected with the characters yet. It’s about the point where things start getting involved/serious and I need to put them in difficult situations. This is usually about a third of the way through.
Often, I write those parts. Then, once I’ve finished and feel fully connected to the characters and the flow of the story, I go back and revise or tweak those spots to make them fit a little better.
How has writing changed you as a person?
I’m not sure how to answer this one because writing has always been a part of who I am. I’ve been writing stories since I was six years old, in one form or another. Being able to do it more often and make money from it has definitely made me feel fulfilled and motivated, which I think has improved my overall happiness.
This blogger: Then, I guess, writing has changed you for the better! Honestly, that’s wonderful to hear.
Are you writing another book at present? If so, could you tell us a bit about it please?
I’m always writing another book ☺. I have a rock star romance novel fully plotted and ready to write, but am on a pause to write two short stories: one a bonus for some holiday activities I have scheduled coming up in a bit; one an exclusive bonus for my newsletter subscribers (I like to rotate in new material every once in a while).
The rock star romance idea actually came from an experience I had in college with a rock star I had a huge crush on.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say that you haven’t as yet in this interview?
Since I put it out there above, I’ll explain what I mean that “award-winning” and “international best-selling” (or even just “best-selling”) are actually marketing terms more than anything.
Basically, those terms are useful to sell books, so I figured out how to attain them. And by the time I did, I realized they weren’t really what I thought they were to start. Winning an award isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. There are dozens (or possibly even hundreds) of award contests you can enter. Much of winning an award is taking the time to find the contests that fit your book and submit to them. Lots of them. Eventually, if you have a quality product, one of those organizations will prefer your book over the other entries.
Likewise, achieving best-seller status isn’t as lofty as I’d imagined. Amazon has top 100 bestseller lists in every category and subcategory. Attaining a list on Amazon.com or any of the Amazon international sites boils down to selecting categories that both fit your book and have the least competition.
In short, it simply takes research. Now, attaining USAT, WSJ, or NYT bestseller status is a different beast, but not unattainable, it just takes hard work and money (or a publisher’s resources). Though I’m not convinced most readers know the difference between “best-seller” and “USA Today Bestseller” or whatnot. In any case, I often see authors holding these titles up like they’re unattainable, so I thought it was worth discussing. They’re perfectly attainable. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
This blogger: That is a fascinating answer. You show us (through your hard work and dedication) that becoming a bestseller is achievable and very attainable too. Thank you.
End of Interview
That brings our interview with the international bestselling author Melanie A Smith to a close. I would like to thank her for her time, to say that it has been insightful speaking to her, and that I wish her all the best with her upcoming writing projects.
You can purchase Melanie’s books on Amazon, including The Safeguarded Heart Series and The Life Lessons Series, among other books.
Moreover, like Melanie on Facebook; follow her on Instagram and Twitter; check out her Bookbub and Goodreads page; and visit her website and sign up to her newsletter there. That way, you can keep up to date with her to know exactly when her Rockstar romance novel will be released.
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