Welcome fellow bibliophiles. Today, we are featuring author Melissa Lynn Herold.
About The Author
Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself along with your writing ambitions before we begin with the actual interview
I’m Melissa, author and herbal alchemist, and I toggle between creating unique herbal blends for my store, NightBlooming, and writing. Although I’ve published two non-fiction books, Rehabilitating Damaged Hair Naturally and Coloring Hair Naturally with Henna & Other Herbs, my fiction writing has always been the second beating heart in my chest. I’ve been working on The Iyarri Chronicles for years, and Heaven’s Silhouette is both the series debut and my debut as a fiction writer. My goal is to see the entire series through (I’ve planned at least four books but the series can easily grow into more) and to complement it along the way with side projects that make use of my fine art skills (for an illustrated guide to the Iyarri) and my herbal alchemy (for character-inspired perfume blends).
Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?
My husband titled it in the sweetest way possible. I’d been working on Heaven’s Silhouette for a good while but didn’t have a title for it. I was away for a weekend and as a surprise he wanted to make me a book cover and set it as the wallpaper for my computer as a surprise. But a book cover rather needs a title, so he picked something he thought went with what he knew of it. It was a fantastic surprise and felt the title was perfect—years later, that was the title we went with in the end.
Who is your favourite character in this book and why?
I think authors that write first-person tend to favor their main character (which is why they ARE the main character), so if I went with that answer, I love that Aurelia’s strength draws from her artistic side—her eye for detail and visualization—rather than her becoming some sort of physical badass over the course of a few 1980s Training Montages. There’s a quiet strength to the art of creation, and I wanted that to be what Aurelia uses to come to terms with herself and, eventually, shape the world around her rather than physical prowess and ass-kicking. To give the non-first-person-POV answer, I love Cæl so much. He’s a character who is trying to get out of the morass that his past decisions have landed him in, but none of the choices in front of him are easy, either on him or those around him. He’s an immensely conflicted character and that makes him a joy for me to write.
What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?
While some authors have a “What if-?” idea for a world-threatening conflict or start with a societal issue they want to explore, I always start with an individual character and spin the story outwards from there. Aurelia is a character that exists in the grey spaces, in between the halves of her world. The larger inspiration for Heaven’s Silhouette, and the series of The Iyarri Chroniclesbecame an exploration in what happens when halves and pieces, real and perceived, get torn apart and pushed back together.
How long did it take you to write it?
This question is a little tricky because I didn’t write this book and then start the next. I actually wrote the first draft of Heaven’s Silhouette, then the first draft of book two Mourning’s Dawn(which is coming out next year), and then would go back and tinker on Heaven’s Silhouette, then start drafting the third book, etc. There was a lot of concurrent drafting and editing for the first three books over the better part of a decade, but I’d say Heaven’s Silhouettetook me about two years solid to write and then a year to work through the final editing and publishing process.
Are you working on any other project(s) right now? If yes, what are they?
I’m working on more books in The Iyarri Chronicles. The second book, Mourning’s Dawn, should be out in a year or so and that’s in the editing process. The third book is being redrafted based on some revelations that came out of editing book two, and I’ve got the skeleton for the fourth book, which will be a prequel to the first three. As a Patreon goal, another big project I can’t wait to get my hands into is the illustrated Précis on Iyarri Society. I’m a visual artist as well, and this project would marry my writing and my drawing. I’ve also been making Iyarri-Chroniclesinspired essential oil/perfume blends for my herbal alchemy store, NightBlooming.
Why have you chosen this genre?
This is probably going to sound familiar to a lot of readers and writers of fantasy, but I fell in love with the genre, initially, because of the escapism it provided. I didn’t particularly enjoy middle school and high school (*cough* understatement *cough*) and wasn’t popular, so reading let me go to these other worlds instead of being stuck in reality. I’m also a huge gamer and started playing D&D and other RPGs in middle school, so fantasy settings where you can create your own characters and choose your own course of action have always been where I’m most at home. Being an avid reader in the genre, and then playing RPGs in the same genre lends itself naturally to writing (and being a Dungeon Master) in it.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t think there was ever a decision to start writing, I just had these stories in my head that I wanted to pull out and put down. It kept up as a hobby until I was reading a particularly questionable book and went, I can do better than this. I think I’m already doing better than this. It was my husband who nudged me to take that final step from hobby writer into author with physical book in her hands.
What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?
The main thing is late at night, really late at night. While a lot of writers are night owls, I have a sleep disorder called Delayed Phase Sleep syndrome, which means that my internal clock doesn’t budge and can’t be trained into a new schedule. I’m hardwired to go to bed at 5am, which puts my best and most creative hours from about 11pm until 4am. There’s something wonderful about the rest of the world being hushed and asleep and while I’m working. So, late, lateat night, with a cup of green tea and a kitty is what I need to settle in and write.
How do you prefer to write? On computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
In an ideal world, I’d write longhand, but the downside there is I can’t read it half the time. I’m naturally left-handed, but when we moved back in with my grandma she decided that was a no-go and I had to relearn to write right-handed when I was 9. The result is that I can write illegibly with either hand. Because of that, I do the bulk of my writing on my gaming computer while listening to music on my headset, but I will use a notebook for taking notes, and I have a special waterproof note-taking board in my shower (which is where I get all my best ideas). Something I love but don’t get to do often is writing on my laptop on the train. There’s a magic of being in that in-between space where you’re not one place or another, with the ticking of the tracks and the sway of the train.
Your 5 favourite books?
I’m a huge rereader and finally managed to answer this question by looking at which books I’ve reread the most. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (I’m going to cheat a bit and cite the series here because when I read them I binge on them back to back to back.)
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
There’s two parts to this answer.
1) I take a bath or a long, hot shower. I get all my best ideas there and keep a waterproof notepad in there for exactly this reason. The number of ideas I lost before I did that is kind of depressing.
2) I let the problem I’m grappling with stew in my brain for a while. I go work on something else, I read, tinker on character-inspired perfume blends, go for a walk, but what I don’t try to do is force it. After a couple days or a couple weeks of my subconscious gnawing on the problem, and the answer will present itself and it’s always the right It’s part of why I take a little umbrage at all the “You MUST write XXXX words a day!” advice out there. Yes, there’s immense value in getting into the habit of writing daily (or nightly, in my case), but there’s also knowing when you, as a writer, need to step back and give yourself breathing room to make the right decisions moving forward.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Realize that you are both a better writer than you think you are and a worse writer than you think you are. By that, I mean that I think most writers know what they’re good at and where they need to improve, but also need to be mindful of overusing the things you’re good at, and avoiding the things you’re bad at. For example, my favorite, and strongest, part of writing is the description— I love going into the insane amounts of detail I can see in my mind’s eye. Because I was so confident and comfortable with description, I didn’t notice that it manifested in my writing as me introducing a character or a setting with a Wall O’ Description that totally killed the forward momentum of the story. By contrast, I was told I used too many commas in school and this turned into me becoming immensely comma-shy in my writing. I had to learn to trust my judgement again when it came to punctuation. That’s a really long way of saying to be critical of your strengths and trusting of the improvements you make to your weak spots rather than declaring yourself ‘bad at XYZ’ forever.
Thank you, Melissa, for all the honest and inspiring answers! I love the way you deal with writer’s block and your advice on writing really strikes a chord.
About The Book
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