Today for our WEDNESDAY DEBUT INTERVIEW
, we have some questions for Melody Winter
, whose new adult romantic fantasy, Sachael Dreams
, debuted yesterday from REUTS Publications.
Hi, Melody! First off, tell us a bit about yourself!
I’ve been married to my hubby for over 15 years, and we have two energetic boys, aged fourteen, and twelve. I’ve lived in York, England, all my life, and never been much of a traveller apart from summer holidays to Majorca with my family. I’d love to buy a villa out there and spend my time writing while drinking sangria.
I work part-time as a finance manager, which I always think makes for a strange combination with writing. I view them as complete opposites, but I know several other ‘finance’ people who write as well, so may be the two are a natural combination.
Tell us about SACHAEL DREAMS! What's the one thing you love most about it?
The mood of the book. I feel that it’s almost mythical at times, and I think it’s like that because of where it takes place. The book is set in Ravenscar, which is known as ‘the town that never was.’ It’s on the North East coast of England, about an hour drive from my house.
It’s a beautiful place to visit. It’s quiet, secluded, and has an air of mystery that is difficult to place. It’s very easy to slip into Estelle’s head whenever I walk along the coastal paths there.
Without Ravenscar, I doubt I would have ever caught the true sense of peace and tranquility that’s experienced by Estelle in the book.
How long has this process taken for you, from the time that you began the first draft of this book until the date of its publication?
I first started planning Sachael Dreams in September 2012, started writing it in January 2013, and completed the first draft by June 2013. I spent a lot of time editing, before feeling confident to send it to a select number of writing friends to look through. After I received feedback, it was on to more edits. Then I started sending it out into the real world.
I signed with REUTS in May 2014, and published on 24th February 2015 so from the very start to publication it’s taken me 2 years 5 months.
What aspect of writing do you find easiest? Most difficult?
I think it all depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I have plenty to say and therefore the words flow and I write quickly. Other times I prefer to plan or go over a scene that I know needs more work. Because I’m writing a series each of my 4 manuscripts is at a different stage. I’m now marketing and promoting Sachael Dreams, I’m about to start line edits on Sachael Desires, Sachael Delusions is going through its first ‘hard’ edit, and I’m writing Sachael Destiny.
Like most authors, I enjoy the writing the most, and it’s potentially the easiest (When it’s going well) and also the most difficult (When no words will come.) I've been surprised by how much I enjoyed doing line edits—perhaps it’s because I could see my story getting stronger.
Every writer experiences some rejection and setbacks along the way. How did you learn to cope with them and move on?
My first rejection hurt the most. It was almost a shock. You spend so much time creating and nurturing your characters that you fall in love with them—how can it not hurt? I realise now, I sent my MS out too early. There was still a lot of work to do on it. But I received some wonderful advice as well. So after the first shock and then a few more after, I picked myself up and carried on. This meant ignoring my MS for a month. When I went back to it, it was fresh and I saw many ways to improve it, and armed with the advice I had received, I attacked it again. I always believed in myself and my story, and convinced myself there was someone out there who would love it as much as me—I just had to find them. Eventually I did :)
Tell us about your publisher and how they came to acquire your book. What makes them a good fit for you and your book?
The whole series, the Mine series, is due to be published by REUTS Publications. I’m very lucky that they fell in love with my characters and the world I’ve created. I never imagined that they’d want to offer me contracts on the full series. It was a dream of mine for Estelle and Azariah to have a home—and now they have.
I first noticed REUTS on twitter and started following them, they followed back, and after a few tweets I sent them my submission in line with their guidelines. I heard back very quickly, within two weeks, and they asked for the full manuscript. Then began the waiting. I noticed on twitter through various tweets that they were inundated with manuscripts. I think I was one of the last to pass through the initial submission before this hit them. I waited months for an answer from them, only sending my manuscript out to a few others during this time, as I really wanted to sign with REUTS. Their friendliness and general support are areas they excel at, and I had my eyes on their editor, Kisa. I really wanted to work with her.
As far as a good fit for my book—I think this comes down to their openness and approachability. Kisa was so in tune with my characters that she saw things even I hadn’t.
When she gave me initial feedback I knew there wasn’t anyone else I wanted to work with. And they haven’t let me down. Their support and encouragement have never wavered and I’m pretty excited about sending the second book to them to read. I think there will be a few surprises in there.
Was there anything that surprised you about the publishing process?
The waiting. There are long periods of time spent waiting for responses to queries and submissions. And even when signed, there is still the waiting in line for your manuscript to be dealt with by editors, and cover illustrators. Even though you like to think you are the only person they deal with, the reality is that there are many others also in the waiting line. You have to wait your turn.
After signing a contract with a publisher, what comes next for a debut author? What have you been doing in these months between then and now?
For me, it was some structural edits. There were a few little changes to make and one major one. So I was immediately involved in discussing these details with my editor. Once I had the go-ahead to the changes, I had to write them.
After the edits were finished I had to wait until line edits started several months later—evidence of the ‘waiting line’ I mentioned earlier. Then everything started happening a few months before release. Marketing kicked in, line edits, and cover designs all hit. It was crazy, but great fun.
I filled all my waiting time by writing the other books in the series. If I hadn’t had those to turn to, I would have started writing my next book, or at least planning and researching it.
Tell us about your book cover. Who designed it? How much say did you have in it? What do you hope it will tell your readers about your story?
I LOVE my book cover. Ashley Ruggerilo, REUTS Publications designed it. I had a lot of say in it, but felt that Ashley really caught the mystery and the dream like qualities that the book revolves around. I hope the cover tells the reader that Sachael Dreams is a book featuring romance, mystery, a connection to water, night-time walks into the sea, perhaps even the hint of the moon reflecting on the surface. There are a lot of subtle clues in the cover as to what the book contains.
Tell us about your title. Was this the original title you'd had in mind? If not, what made you change it?
It was always the title I had in mind, but that was only after I’d decided on what to call the species of men from the water. I didn’t want them to be mer-folk (even though they feature as Oceanids in my books) I wanted a unique species, something that was ‘mine’. After searching through random things connected to water, I saw a reference to a ‘Sachael’ as one of the 7 arc-angels of water—they help purify our thoughts and evoke a feeling of peace. It fit exactly with what I wanted, and hence the name was used. The ‘Dreams’ part of the title was always there, as so much revolves around dreams for a Sachael.
What's next for you after this debut? What are your plans for the future of your writing?
There are three more books in the series which continue Estelle’s journey into this mysterious and unknown world of Sachaels. There’s a lot to learn, and I hope the reader enjoys the first book enough to continue reading. I may also be tempted to write the first book from Azariah’s POV. Whether this is released on my website for members, or as an actual book, I don’t know at the moment.
I’m also drafting out ideas for a NA Dark Romantic Fantasy—The Ascent. We’ll have to see what happens with that.
How does it feel to finally have your book out in the hands of readers? Do you have any events planned you want people to know about?
It feels GREAT! When I started writing Sachael Dreams, all I wanted was to hold my book in my hands. Not only do I get to do that with Sachael Dreams, but with the whole series!
It’s very exciting at the moment, but also incredibly nerve-wracking. It’s out there now, there’s no turning back. I just hope people like it.
I’ll be running a Goodreads giveaway at the end of March for a signed copy of the book.
Also, my website will be selling signed copies and a few extra items that cannot be found anywhere else!
Is there any other advice you'd like to pass on to others pursuing publication? Any mistakes you've made that other writers might be able to learn from?
Never give up. If you have a story in you that demands to be told, keep going. Find like-minded writers through talking to people on twitter and facebook. You’d be surprised how many people are out there who want you to succeed, and who will help you along the way.
Join facebook groups, check what your favourite authors are doing, and enter twitter pitch competitions—they are amazing at building friendships with other authors, not just for trying to get an agent or acquisitions person’s attention. Mistake wise, I’d say that I sent my manuscript out too early, but it’s difficult knowing when it is ‘ready’. If possible, once you think it’s ready, shut it away for at least a month, and then attack it again. If you can’t find anything to alter then it’s as ready as you can make it.
And, just for fun, what celebrity do you think would enjoy your book? Why?
That’s difficult. Rather than what famous celebrity do I think would enjoy my book, I’ll mention who I’d like to read it, purely because I see them as characters in the book. In no particular order we have Mila Kunis, Angelina Jolie, Julianne Moore, Clive Standen, Chris Hemsworth, and Alex Pettyfer. I’ll leave you to guess who should play which character.
Thanks so much for the interview! Congrats on your debut!