Friday, September 28, 2012

Feature Friday: Melissa West

Melissa lives in a tiny suburb of Atlanta, GA with her husband and two daughters. She pretends to like yoga, actually likes shoes, and could not live without coffee. Her writing heroes include greats like Jane Austen and Madeleine L'Engle. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.S. in Graphic Communication, both from Clemson University. Yeah, her blood runs orange. GRAVITY is her first book. 

Interview:

A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Melissa: 
Read. Read as often as you write, perhaps even more. It’s amazing what our minds retain about plotting and character development. I find myself re-reading scenes that work well in a book over and over to determine how the author did it. Classes are wonderful, but in my opinion, reading is the single best thing you can do to advance yourself as writer.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Melissa:
This is tricky! I adore most of Jane Austen’s books. I loved A WRINKLE IN TIME as a child. I remember thinking L’Engle was so brilliant to have come up with the story and telling my father that one day I would write a book.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Gravity?

Melissa:
I’m asked this question quite a lot and I find myself torn on the answer. I have always found alien theory to be fascinating, but the real root of my story began one day when I was watching the start of a storm out my back door. The trees were all moving around in an easy peacefulness that was both comforting and unsettling. Suddenly, I saw movement in the trees—likely a squirrel or something—but in that moment I wondered, “What if there was a creature, a being, which came out of the trees?” And through that nugget of an idea, GRAVITY was born.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Gravity?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Melissa:
Yes! I find that I write the first 2/3 of my stories easily, and then I hit a wall. I’m not sure where to go. I like everything to feel logical. Even the illogical needs to feel logical, so I tend to fight my stories to death until I find that place where everything makes sense—at least in the world of fiction.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Gravity is your favorite and why?

Melissa:
This is tough. I love Ari, my main character. She’s so tough, yet internally so unsure of herself. I always find that sort of hero/heroine more realistic. No one is completely fierce. Everyone has doubts. I also love Jackson, my hero. He’s different than a lot of the heroes I read. He’s strong and certainly arrogant at times, but he isn’t the brooding type.

A.L.:
Have you always wanted to write? 

Melissa:
 Oddly enough, no. I have always loved to write and as a kid did say that I wanted to write a book, but I did not really set my mind on writing until a few years ago. I wrote my first book and was hooked. Now it’s like a drug. I need my writing fix to feel whole.

A.L.:
What was your journey to publication like?

Melissa: 
It was, like most, stressful! It amazes me that we survive the querying process. I started querying GRAVITY in April of 2011 and had an insane request rate. I thought I had it all figured out. Boy was I wrong! The book wasn’t ready. So after receiving several R&Rs and comments from agents, I rewrote the book. Then in September of 2011, I decided to submit to Entangled. Within a week, I had an offer from them and multiple agents. It was a dream come true!

A.L.:
So, we hear you love shoes and coffee.  What’s your favorite brand of each and why?

Melissa:
LOL! Yes, I am a tad addicted to both. I have a rule about shoes. I do not allow myself to spend more than $40 on any given pair—except Uggs, which I love—because I do not typically wear the same shoes each year. Yes, I realize that is crazy. I have a few pairs that make it more than a season, but normally I get tired of them and want a new look. I won’t allow myself to throw them out though, so I have a ton of shoes. My poor husband. As for coffee, I am completely addicted to Starbucks and my drink of choice is a white mocha—hot in the winter, cold in the summer.

A.L.:
Why do you write YA?

Melissa:
Honestly? The romance. I find the teen years to be so very pure when it comes to romance. We all remember our first kiss, our first love, etc. And nothing in adulthood compares to those years. I like to try to recreate that warm, fuzzy feeling in my books. Everything from the first look to the first touch to the first kiss, it’s all like magic.

A.L.:
What made you decide to write a Sci-Fi piece?

Melissa:
I love a good easy read, but for the most part I prefer what I call “smart fiction.” I think sci-fi, especially soft sci-fi, can both make you think and still read easily. It’s the best of both worlds.

The Giveaway:
Today's a light giveaway because Melissa doesn't have any ARCs yet!  So, she's giving away some signed swag for her debut novel, GRAVITY, and you can look for it in the stores in October!

Gravity:  In the future, only one rule will matter:

Don’t. Ever. Peek.

Seventeen-year-old Ari Alexander just broke that rule and saw the last person she expected hovering above her bed — arrogant Jackson Locke, the most popular boy in her school. She expects instant execution or some kind of freak alien punishment, but instead, Jackson issues a challenge: help him, or everyone on Earth will die.

Ari knows she should report him, but everything about Jackson makes her question what she’s been taught about his kind. And against her instincts, she’s falling for him. But Ari isn’t just any girl, and Jackson wants more than her attention. She’s a military legacy who’s been trained by her father and exposed to war strategies and societal information no one can know — especially an alien spy, like Jackson. Giving Jackson the information he needs will betray her father and her country, but keeping silent will start a war.


Read Goodreads reviews.
Buy it on Amazon.
Buy it on Barnes and Noble.

How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the green "Do It" buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the green enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to national entrants only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway