Interview with Robert S. Mellis

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I read Old Man and the Sea, by Hemingway as a boy and it held me in its arms and left me feeling the power of words.
How do you approach cover design?
I spent part of my professional life as a graphic artist and graphic designer. So the cover design is the most fun part of preparing a book. This is where I let my imagination soar.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill, Jeff Shaara's The Rising Tide, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn, Old Man and the Sea, by Hemingway, Sailing Around the World Alone by Joshua Slocum. All of them are great story-tellers and their books transport the reader to another dimension.
What do you read for pleasure?
I'm a big fan of historical biography.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
iPad.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Facebook and my personal blog permits me to have my book, Now, We Begin, up front and in view.
Describe your desk
My wife and I live aboard a motorhome so we don't have room for a desk. I write with a laptop --- on my lap!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born and grew up in Scotland. It's a windy and rainy part of our world. I hated school, mostly because of the brutality that passed as discipline. I couldn't wait to escape from school and, two days after I turned 15, I left school. I always have been a voracious reader and my second home was the public library.
What's the story behind your latest book?
As I came to the end of my professional life, I was awarded a fellowship by a Washington foundation. It permitted me to fly to Singapore where I took up residence. I then used Singapore as a base and springboard to fly to such exotic places as Bhutan, Malaysia, Borneo, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.
I'd fly in and spend a week to 10 days teaching and mentoring local journalists. It was an exciting time. But I also found it fairly useless because there was no meaningful follow-through. I told the foundation of my concerns and, six years later, they invited me to go to Africa and spend almost five months working at one newspaper in Namibia. As a result, I was able to work side by side with reporters and editors and photographers. I could reinforce my lessons and ideas on a recurring basis. And I could actually watch the journalists improve. I returned three more times during the succeeding six years. As a result, I made lifelong friends in Namibia.
In 2003, my wife and I were sailing in Maine and I was invited to fly to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to open and lead the Southeast Asia Media Institute. This was a training center for working journalists from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma. My team would work with between 15 and 22 journalists, teaching them how to question authority, investigate corruption as well as human interest stories. Each course lasted four months. I also traveled regularly to cities in Vietnam where I conducted training sessions in that country. We spent a year living and working in Southeast Asia.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love being able to write about positive change. Sometimes, change is difficult and scary. Sometimes I have been scared. But the journey is what life is all about. I try to capture that energy and hope.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love photography and reading. I volunteer as a way of life, working as a volunteer in the National Park system, as well as the Florida State Park system.
Published 2014-04-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Now, We Begin
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 39,080. Language: English. Published: December 12, 2011. Categories: Nonfiction » Travel » Essays & Travelogues
A strategy for baby-boomers to grab life, have fun, and make a difference in our world. The reader is transported to the farthest corners of the world. They are exposed to the tribal and cultural eccentricities of Namibia in Africa, and to the unique cultures of Cambodia, Vietnam and Bhutan.