Interview with Melissa Bowersock

Published 2013-08-21.
How did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a family of introverts and readers (same thing?). My mother was a teacher and my father was an artist so creativity and knowledge were both highly prized in our family. As introverts, we were all much more inner-directed than outer-directed, so we would all be more apt to be reading or pursuing our own personal endeavors rather than socializing or entertaining. I'm sure having a rich inner life contributed greatly to my first attempts at story-telling and my father (also a writer) was a terrific sounding board and champion of my efforts.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
My first story was about bunny rabbits. I was about 5. I do not remember the plot nor the characters, and although I'm sure it was riveting, it has been lost to time. The only thing I do remember is my mother reading it and asking me how I knew to put the quotes around the bits of dialog. I just said that that's the way I had seen it in books, so that's what I did.
What is your writing process?
I'm terribly undisciplined. Writers are described as either "planners" (or "plotters") or "pantsers." Planners like to be organized and plot out their books, often using outlines or very detailed guidelines. Pantsers are those of us who write by the seat of their pants. When an idea first comes to me, I will generally let it percolate in my brain a bit, and then when I realize (1) it's not going to go away and (2) there are some valid plot lines and characters developing, I will begin to jot down notes. Generally I will make a list of 5 or 10 or 20 bullet points: character names and back story, plot lines, major plot twists, etc. I will put these in a very rough chronological order and start writing. Often I will add to my notes as new ideas come to me, or put in more detail so it's easy for me to refer back (did my character have blue eyes or brown eyes??). But the writing process itself is very organic, and I love it when the book begins to take on a life of its own. That's when I know I'm in the zone; that's when it changes from mechanical to magical.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I actually backed into being an indie. My first two books were published by a NY house, and my next three were published by small presses. When my first two books went out of print and the rights reverted back to me, I began to investigate self-publishing options in order to keep them viable. At the time, the options were limited, but I published them through iUniverse. This was the time when self-publishing was just beginning to ramp up, but I kept up with the changes in the industry and when I had my next book ready, I self-published through Create Space and Smashwords. I have been supremely happy being an indie and have published my last 6 books that way. I love having total control over my book. I never have to wonder what the title might be changed to, or what the cover might end up looking like. It's a lot of work, but it's hugely satisfying.
Describe your desk.
Piles! I'm a piler. But I will say that my piles are organized, and I can generally find anything quickly. It may not look like much of a filing system, but it works for me.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have an older Kindle, 2nd generation. It was a gift from my son, and although at the time I didn't see much need for it, it has become indispensable to me. I love books, real books that I can hold in my hand, and I had a huge library in my den. However, over time I realized that there were few books that I read over and over and most of my books were simply gathering dust. After hauling many, many bags of books to the local used book store, I knew it was time to quit cutting down trees and get with the e-program. E-books now are my first choice of format and I will only buy a paperback if the Kindle version is not available. I still love books (and still publish in both paperback and e-formats), but the Kindle is so much more practical.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, Stone's Ghost, is a contemporary ghost story. It's about a very successful young man in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, home of the original London Bridge that was brought over stone by stone and rebuilt in the desert over the Colorado River. My main character, Matt Stone, is a man of integrity and responsibility but he tends to hold himself apart from messy human relationships. When he inadvertently connects with a British female ghost who came over with the London Bridge, they both find the friendship serves to launch them into the painful pasts that haunt them. It's a story about love and loss and friendship, mistakes and consequences and redemption.
What are you working on next?
Fresh off of Stone's Ghost, I was attacked by another ghost story, quite different than the first. This one also concerns parallel stories of both the living and the dead dealing with the choices and consequences of their lives, but the resolutions to this story are much more emotional, much more visceral.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, of course, is at the top of the list when I have time, but I also enjoy photography, travel, the outdoors, nature. My husband and I have discovered that travel is an addicting pastime, and we have visited Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Peru, giving me ample opportunities to polish my photography skills. We also bought some property near the Grand Canyon and love spending time there, enjoying the seasons and the wildlife that abounds. I think I could be happy in a bark hut as long as I had a great view, my camera and my computer.
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