Interview with Melinda Clayton

Published 2013-09-05.
When did you first start writing?
My first "book" was a fifth grade school project, complete with cardboard cover. I think the end result was about twenty pages long, and within those twenty pages there were dozens of marriages, births, and deaths. The characters didn't do much else.
What is your writing process?
I'm a very slow writer. I tend to spend weeks, if not months, thinking about a story before I ever begin writing it; it's only when the story is fully formed that I sit down to start typing. Once I've begun, I find I write best early in the morning; if for some reason I'm unable to get started in the morning, my writing is pretty much shot for the day. I also do something we're cautioned not to do: I edit as I go. I'm constantly re-reading and changing things as I go along. Half of my writing time is spent re-writing what I wrote the day before. It may not be the proper procedure, but it works for me.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first one (probably because I don't remember ever not reading or being read to), but I do know that Johanna Spyri's Heidi had a huge impact on me. I must have read it a dozen times, and I was torn between wanting to be Heidi, and wanting to write books like Heidi.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love a wide range of books and authors, anyone from Barbara Kingsolver to Stephen King to Anna Quindlen to Ann Rule (I'm a true crime buff). I'm looking at my shelves now and I see William Faulkner, Richard Bach, and Wilson Rawls all mixed in with Sue Miller, John Irving, and Jodi Picoult.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book, Entangled Thorns, is the third in a series based in the fictional mining town of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia. The protagonist grew up in a highly dysfunctional moonshining family and is struggling with not only moving past her traumatic childhood, but also with a family secret she's carried for years.

My mother is from West Virginia and we visited my grandparents there nearly every summer. I've always been fascinated with the history and culture of the area, and I love researching and writing about Appalachia.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I didn't start out an indie author; in fact, until recently I was traditionally published through a small press out of Washington. As my writing career has grown and I've become more comfortable with the process, I've felt the urge to assert more control over the proceedings. I enjoy the ability to play around with prices, track sales in real time, and conduct giveaways, all things I couldn't previously do.
How do you approach cover design?
When I was traditionally published I had very little say in the design of my covers, so when I decided to self-publish I did quite a bit of research on cover design and determined I needed professional help to get the look and feel I wanted. I wish I were artistically talented enough to attempt to design my own covers, but unfortunately the image I have in my head never looks the same on paper; it's best for me to rely on someone else's talents for that.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
My answer to this question may be slightly controversial, but I really prefer paid advertising, as long as it's well within my budget. I do blog, Facebook, and Tweet, but I'm not comfortable spamming people and places with my books. I'm also a fairly private person, so although I enjoy reading posts in book discussion threads, it's rare for me to join in the discussion. I suppose I look at it as I would with any business: When I owned a psychotherapy practice some years ago, I didn't walk into the shops and restaurants along the street and ask people to come and see me; I maintained an advertising budget that depended on what I could reasonably expect to make during a given time period, then paid for ads in local papers and yellow pages.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords gives me the ability to sell through various outlets and distributors I wouldn't be able to reach on my own. In addition, I love the coupon codes I can generate through Smashwords. I've used these numerous times, both when sending books out for review and when building interest and marketing my books through giveaways.
Describe your desk
It's a very frail antique oak that lists slightly to the right. Aside from the expected computer/printer, it's also holding a mug of coffee, a jar of pens and pencils, two writing tablets, a handful of paperclips, a wadded up napkin, and a saucer full of toast crumbs.
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Books by This Author

Making Amends
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 57,010. Language: English. Published: March 22, 2020 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
On a beautiful fall evening, in the middle of a game of hide-and-seek, five-year-old Bobby Clark is kidnapped by his estranged father, a shiftless man with a history of domestic violence and drug abuse.
A Woman Misunderstood
Series: Tennessee Delta Series. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 55,600. Language: English. Published: January 3, 2017 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
On a sweltering July morning in rural Tennessee, fifty-year-old Rebecca Reynolds visits the family farm, where she literally stumbles across the dead bodies of her parents and younger sister.
Shadow Days
Series: Cedar Hollow. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 57,930. Language: English. Published: January 3, 2017 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Struggling to make peace with the death of a husband who’d been lost to mental illness, Emily Holt vows to drive to the end of the road, which, she’s surprised to find, is just outside the tiny mining town of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia.
Blessed Are the Wholly Broken
Series: Tennessee Delta Series. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 60,460. Language: English. Published: October 18, 2013 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
In her latest novel, Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, the award-winning author of Appalachian Justice weaves a harrowing tale of a family in the midst of self-destruction.
Entangled Thorns
Series: Cedar Hollow, Book 3. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 63,930. Language: English. Published: July 4, 2013 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
(5.00 from 1 review)
Beth Sloan has spent the majority of her life trying to escape the memories of a difficult childhood. Born into the infamous Pritchett family of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, she grew up surrounded by homemade stills, corn liquor, and an impoverished family that more often than not preferred life on the wrong side of the law. Just when she thought she'd finally escaped, she's been called home.
Return to Crutcher Mountain
Series: Cedar Hollow, Book 2. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 71,100. Language: English. Published: July 4, 2013 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Historical » USA
(5.00 from 1 review)
As recounted in Appalachian Justice, Jessie is an adult survivor of horrendous childhood abuse. At the age of thirteen, she was rescued by reclusive mountain woman Billy May Platte. Now forty-seven, Jessie is outwardly successful but inwardly struggles to reconcile the broken pieces of her past.
Appalachian Justice
Series: Cedar Hollow, Book 1. Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 74,080. Language: English. Published: July 4, 2013 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian, Fiction » Historical » USA
(5.00 from 1 review)
In 1945, three local boys witnessed an incident that called fourteen-year-old Billy May Platte’s sexuality into question. Determined to teach her a lesson she'd never forget, they orchestrated a brutal attack that changed the village of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia forever.