Some of Melanie Atkinson's happiest memories are from the summers she stayed with her grandmother at her home on the cliffs of the Oregon coast. Many of those experiences show up in her writing and still spark her imagination.
When she isn't writing stories (something she realized she loved to do at the age of eight) or dreaming of living near the ocean, she's caring for her four children, sewing dresses from vintage patterns, or playing in Photoshop.
Sea Dweller is her first novel.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I'm not sure if I remember the first story I ever read but I remember the first story that had a huge impact on me. I was really young- probably about seven or eight- and I had to read Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner for school. I've never forgotten most of the details of that book and how involved I felt in the main character's plight. When I got to the end of the book, I remember sobbing for a long time and feeling like I had personally lived through everything I'd just read. I can't recall if I knew I wanted to be a writer at that point, but I do believe the emotional response that book incited has stuck with me through my life and made me want to create stories that deeply involve readers and give them a reason to care about the characters.
How do you approach cover design?
Before I was brave enough to start putting my stories out there, I spent about a decade working as a professional photographer. I really hate that word "professional" whether it's tied to photography or writing because a part of me still feels like I'm pretending to be a professional, but I owned a legitimate, licensed business with a decent list of clients. I discovered early on that, while I was fairly good at photography, I just didn't love it. But, during that time, I was able to get the equipment I needed and gain the skills I needed to understand and work in Photoshop. Even though I've stopped doing photoshoots (with a few exceptions), I'm able to photograph for my own covers and manipulate them in photo editing programs. I usually start out with a general idea of what I want the character to be wearing and a few scenes in the book I want to focus on. Also, I need to keep it simple. I don't have the talent to use programs like Painter 12 to their fullest extent, so what I create can't be too difficult. I like to sew so I make the costumes for my covers, choose my model (I've had some wonderful volunteers who are willing to help me out with this), and pick a location. After I set up multiple scenes and photograph them, it's just a matter of putting it all together in photoshop. Often, I have to change the lighting, add elements from another photo, and use brushes to create certain effects. Also, I use a lot of layers and textures. I start with an idea for a mood (usually I'm going for "mystical") and go from there. Finally, if there's something I'm not sure how to do, I can usually find a quick video tutorial online that will explain. I'm not sure how my covers come across to people but I personally like that they're original and came from my own efforts. However, I wouldn't recommend my methods for anyone who doesn't already have a background in photography.
In Book Two of the Birthstone Series, Aylen realizes she must return to the mainland to learn how to control her gems before they consume her. To ensure Sai's safety, Aylen insists he stay behind. Sai takes matters into his own hands and journeys across an ocean to follow the girl he loves. Without eachother, they must rely on their own strength and work to save a kingdom in peril.
Sixteen year old Aylen has been an outcast on the island of Vairda her entire life until she discovers a glowing jewel that gives her the ability to breathe underwater, thus starting a chain of events that will change her life and the entire island nation forever.