Interview with Melanie Houtman

Describe your desk.
A complete and utter mess. It's set up against the wall, with books on either side of my computer screen, Artemis Fowl on the left, comics in a Disney-themed book holder box on the right. In the left corner, there's the desk lamp I use to write at night, and in front of it, there's... another Disney box with drawing books in it. Right aside it there's a faux quill with a ballpoint feather pen in it, and a whole stack of... well... tangled earplugs, a chunk of clay packed in tin foil and two empty chocolate bar wrappers. (God, I gotta clean up). My Mockingjay Pin bracelet hangs by the corner of my computer screen. In front of the screen, we have two small, unplugged speakers (I use headphones), a keyboard and a Wacom Bamboo tablet. A white, "The Sims 3" themed mouse with a blue mouse mat to the right. There's also a Christmas mug on my desk...

I should go and clean up this mess. Right now.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Probably my ambition. I have a strong belief of "If I can dream it, I can do it". I've spent a lot of time wondering who I am and what I want with my life, and although I am still not entirely sure, it's starting to become clearer to me every step of the way.
What is your writing process?
Well... 90% of my stories have started with a song. Inspiration strikes with me most often when I listen to music, and thus I start developing characters and plot lines from that song on. Then, when I have most of the plot and characters done, I start writing - and playing with it. A first draft usually goes through two or three rewrites until I'm fully satisfied - and then comes the editing.

To keep the inspiration flow going, I listen to music matching the scene and story. To tap into my characters, I write them into situations that stand apart from the book I'm working on - hardly 50% of what I write actually ends up in my books, really.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Drawing! Aside from writing, I draw and animate. My dream job would be a storyteller at the Walt Disney Studios, and I'm working hard to achieve that goal.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Aahh!! Yes, I do. It was about a little witch, who didn't quite understand what magic was and how it worked, and thus ended up getting in trouble. I was seven years old and utterly obsessed with Harry Potter, so you have a bit of background information on where the inspiration came from. The story wasn't that great, but I'd like to rewrite it someday. Maybe as a children's book?
How do you approach cover design?
I think main characters. Important scenes. Settings. But... the cover should never be giving away too much. I draw my own covers, and out of the two books I have written, the cover always contained the main character(s). With my newest book, I wanted to make clear that there'd be fighting and a lot of sinister stuff, so I tried to give that kind of vibe on the cover. There might not be much movement in the characters, but I think it might not be necessary - they've got their weapons drawn, they're ready for a fight.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Ooh... That's a difficult one... I guess I'll just take my favourite book from each series I've ever read... and try and stuff 'em into a top five...

5. Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher - I chose this book because from sixth to eight grade, I've had a very difficult depression due to various reasons I will not state, but this book actually helped me somehow. It showed me that there'll be always someone who cares, even though it seems like there isn't. That actually made me rethink my choices, and I decided to go find that person who cares. And... I found them!

4. Artemis Fowl: the Time Paradox, Eoin Colfer - This was actually the first Artemis Fowl book I ever read. The writing style and story instantly kept me captivated, and thus I ended up reading the whole book in two days - I loved it. I now own all of the books in the series, and they've been read more times than I can count.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling - This book is very important to me, because it introduced two of my all-time favourite characters to the Harry Potter universe - Prof. Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. Harry finally got to learn a bit more about his parents, and finds out that he's still got family, aside from the Dursleys. I remember keeping this book in my desk all year in fifth grade and reading it twice, because I just loved it so darn much.

2. Star Wars: Before the Awakening, Greg Rucka - I put this one on the list, because it's one of my most recent reads, and I love it. It shows the three main characters of Star Wars: Episode VII (The Force Awakens) in a new perspective - we get to learn a bit more about them, who and where they where before VII. Also contains nice references to previous films.

1. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins - I got into this book series around December 2011, a few months before the first Hunger Games movie was released. And Mockingjay is my favourite one out of the three. The book actually shows the dark and light side on both sides of the battle - the Capitol, no matter how corrupt the government might be, still has innocent citizens. And District 13? They aren't all goody two-shoes, either...

Of course there are plenty more books I've read and love. But I could only answer for five, so....
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
From what I remember, one of the first stories I ever read was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at the age of five... and I must say that that book was what really got my passion for books going. I wanted to learn how to write like that, and today, ten years later, I still am.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Honestly, I don't read ebooks quite as often; I prefer to read printed books, because I like the touch (and smell) of a physical book. But I usually just go to a library on a free afternoon and don't leave until I've found something new that is likely to match my likings.
What do you read for pleasure?
That's an easy one... Fantasy. I also have a thing for classic fairy tales; the original ones, as un-edited as they can be. Sometimes, I also read my fair share of Science Fiction.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My phone... I don't have the money for a Kindle or a Nook (nor do I see the point, since they both have free apps for my phone). Sometimes, I grab my father's tablet and read them there, but not quite often.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, it's actually quite awkward - back in 2012, I began writing a fanfiction for "Phineas and Ferb". Soon, I had created a fictional world that seemed too big to be just a fanfiction - so I rewrote it, and made it my own.
What are you working on next?
Currently, for the summer, I am taking a break from the Guardian Trilogy to explore the siblings James and Samira further in a story of their own. It takes place in the real world, with real problems. A mystery is about to be uncovered; the mystery around their father's sudden disappearance - and death.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Well, I wouldn't say I am a 'successful' author yet, but the fact that my books have sold over 500 times really makes me happy. It makes me feel as if my voice is being heard by the world, even if it's only a small part of the world. Without Smashwords, I probably wouldn't have been able to do this, so that's probably how Smashwords helped me one step closer to my dream.
What do your fans mean to you?
What can I say? They mean the world to me. They're the reason I'm doing this. I personally think it's selfish for me to call them 'fans', but I am glad that there are so many people that support me and my work.
Published 2016-07-21.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Guardian: Darkness Rising
Series: The Guardian Trilogy. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 64,390. Language: English. Published: July 2, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Once upon a time, not so long ago, the magical world of Lunaria was freed from corruption by the Bond of Light. The Master, who ruled over Lunaria with an iron fist, was defeated, and the Guardians returned home safely after restoring the balance between the Light and Dark. To keep things this way, one simple rule had to be obeyed. But unfortunately, not all can go as planned...
Guardian: Protectors of Light
Series: The Guardian Trilogy. Price: Free! Words: 118,300. Language: English. Published: March 12, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
As you might already know, every fairy tale starts with "Once Upon a Time". And, let me tell you, so does this one. When sixteen-year-old James Riverdale takes home a mysterious book, he and his friends come to a shocking conclusion; the dark fairy tale described in this book is real, and they're playing a part in it.