This weekend I have an interview with the self-published author E.J. Mellow! I’ve followed her for a while on her gorgeous Instagram (ejmellow) so I was very excited when she agreed to be on my blog. I hope you enjoy, I loved hearing about her 5 step writing process!
1. Introduce yourself! Who are you? What do you write / what genre? What are you currently working on? Do you have any published works?
I’m the author behind the Contemporary Fantasy, The Dreamland Series. The first two books, The Dreamer and The Divide as well as a novella, The Dreamcatcher, are out now. The third book, The Destined publishes this October 17th, 2016. I live in Brooklyn, New York with no animals, but a lot of plants 😉 and I’m traditionally trained in graphic design. As well as writing fiction I freelance in advertising.
2. When did you first start writing and what motivated you to start?
What inspired me to get started in writing, and keeps inspiring me today, were really other stories and books. When I was little—on top of obsessively reading comics—I dreamed of becoming a Disney animator. Drawing characters and imagining their stories was a large part of my childhood. While the animator thing obviously didn’t transpire, the passion to create worlds and people to fill it stayed with me. In high school is when I actually thought about trying to write a full story, after I took this amazing English fairy-tales class.
3. What inspires you to write? Can you tell us about the inspiration for any specific pieces of writing you have completed / are working on?
It might sound cliché, but almost everything can act as an inspiration for me—music, conversations, seeing something on the street. Living in NYC helps with this and I’m constantly watching and observing the things around me, waiting for inspiration to strike. So yes, life itself, and the people, can be a really rich place to grab from.
The Dreamer, ironically, got started from a dream I had, one that lasted a whole week. With the same characters and the plot continuing on each night. It felt like I was going to sleep and starting a movie right from where I left off. It was so strange. Especially because there also happened to be a guy…and yes, he was very good looking. *Ehem* Eventually, the dreams ended and the absence of them left me a little bereft. After telling a friend about them is when the idea for my book came about.
4. How important is the planning stage for you? Do you like to plan everything before you start or do you simply start writing with a vague idea in mind?
I’m definitely a plotter, though my book outlines are nothing any editors would ever want to lay their eyes on (I try and shield mine from this). They are a complete mess! Ha-ha. Very curt sentences and one-word descriptors to explain a scene moving forward. But even with creating detailed chapter outlines, I do tend to deviate, my characters wanting to go where I didn’t originally plan. But I think that’s the fun part of writing fiction, when your story takes on a life of its own.
5. What is your writing process like?
There are 5 main stages:
- The inspiration concepting stage where my story slowly comes to me. Often it’s like a blurry image and I start writing down what I see—characters, places, colors, feelings etc.
- The visual exploration stage where I do a large image hunt for what this world looks like to ultimately create a mood board. I’m very visual so having this can cement me in a place and time for my world.
- The story outline stage where I list out the story goal, plot arcs, character growths, etc
- The chapter outline stage, which I touched on a little above.
- And then finally writing of the book.
6. What are your writing essentials / what do you use when you write?
Definitely need music, tea, a candle and a nook that I’ll be left alone in for a long time. I enjoy going to coffee shops or writing in my office. I also write on my using Microsoft Word or if I’m outlining, Scrivener.
7. What is your favourite thing to write? E.g. Dialogue, action scenes, saucy scenes…
Hmm, this is an interesting question. I think I’m a fan of action scenes or dialogue when it’s fun banter between two of my characters. I’m currently working on a new book that has a lot of fighting and I enjoy writing the scenes where my characters are fighting and talking. It’s an enjoyable dance.
8. What do you think is the most difficult part of writing?
Hands down, writing. Haha. It’s a very solitary life where you’re stuck in your own head for hours on end. And if you want to output a lot of books in a year, a great deal of your time is going to be spent alone, giving up weekends or nights when you could be hanging out with friends or family. But so far the finished product has been well worth the sacrifice!
At the end of one of Julie Kagawa’s books she wrote something that has always kept me going when I started to feel down or struggling with one thing or another with my writing. I actually have the quote written on my mirror and on my desk, it’s that powerful for me. The quote is…
“The ones who made it are the ones who never gave up.”
9. It is always interesting to know what other writers listen to when writing. Do you listen to music whilst you write? If so, let us know some of the songs which have inspired you the most!
I have to listen to music while I write. It’s a tremendous influence and aid for me to get into certain scenes or really feel what my story is supposed to be. The type of songs all depends on the kind of book I’m working on in the moment. I’d say for the dreamer the top 5 songs that helped were…
- Artificial Noctunre by Metric
- Dark Paradise by Lana Del Rey
- Fantasy by MS MR
- Ashes by Madi Diaz
- Sirens by Fleurie
10. Do you ever struggle with writer’s block? What do you do to overcome it?
Absolutely! I’d love to meet a writer who doesn’t have this issue. I would try to soak in this super power of theirs.
My writer’s block isn’t so much that I don’t know what to write (since I outline my stories), but more that it will take me hours to get into the mood. When this happens, I often reread a lot of what I’ve already written to try and jump-start my gears again. I think the best advice I have for this is to push through until the words start flowing again, no matter how painful. Or talk to someone you trust about what is bothering you with your story. Often times just saying the words out loud can click things into place.
11. How do you go about researching for a new book? Do you have any tips for others who are researching for a book?
This is subjective based on the type of book you’re writing, high-fantasy, steam punk, contemporary, sci-fi, etc. But what I did with my contemporary fantasy that dealt with dreams is I looked at a lot of books and studies done regarding lucid dreaming. I also did a lot of research on wars in our world dating back to before the Common Era and familiarized myself with Latin and the root meanings of words and where they come from (if you read The Dreamland Series you’ll understand why this is important). A lot of my references were found online and maybe one or two from physical books I bought.
12. Where do you find your inspiration for character names and place names? Do you ever name characters after people you know?
I’m definitely picky when it comes to name choosing and interestingly enough names have a huge importance in my Dreamland Series. I made a point to play off of the idea that everything in someone’s dreams can be interpreted. So if readers actually look up what some of my character’s names are, they will get a deeper insight into their personalities and roles in the book.
And so far I have yet to name any characters off of people I know.
13. What are your future plans when it comes to writing or even publishing?
I will keep writing until my fingers fall off or my brain gives out and even then I’m sure I can work around those obstacles;) . I also love self-publishing, having the control and hands on ability with each one of my stories is something I really enjoy (especially with my background in advertising). If I were to traditionally publish, I’d want to find an agent or pub house that would still allow me some of these final approvals. Especially when it comes to my covers.
14. As we all love books I wondered, what are your five favourite books?
Oh Christine, you know this question is impossible for a book nerd to answer! I think for the sake of fairness I’m going to answer this as quickly as I can, based on what I’ve reread the most and what I’ve finished and LOVED in the past month.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
- Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
- Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
15. Can you tell us a little more about your experience with self-publishing? And do you have any advice for others planning to self publish?
In the beginning I started down the track of trying to traditionally publish before I self-published, which I think was a huge help when I finally decided down the latter path. When I came to that decision I knew a lot more about the industry, my book had been read by some of the top agents who gave me amazing feedback on how to make it better and I was deep into writing my second book in the series. Self-publishing is definitely not for the light of heart. It’s hard, non-stop work and you aren’t just the writer. You are the PR team, marketer, art director, social media expert, personal assistant, accountant and, in my own case, cover designer. Some of these roles fall away if you become successful and can afford to hire others, but the thing you want to do most (and is the most important), the writing, can suffer if you don’t organize all aspects properly.
I wish I could give a concrete step-by-step process on self-publishing, but this doesn’t exist. Every self-pubbed author I’ve talked with has done different things to get to where they are, some that have been super successful for them while failing miserably for others. It’s a fickle business. I think my main advice for anyone looking to self-pub is to make sure your product is REALLY well edited and spell-check a million times before clicking publish. You put your heart and soul into it, treat it as such. And also try not to get let down too easily. If writing is something you really want to do, you won’t give up. Perseverance is the best formula I can think of for future success. I mean look at J.K. Rowling, she was rejected over a dozen times before someone gave her a chance and even then they told her “Not to quit her day job”. Ha!
16. Finally, where can we find you on social media?
Purchase Links for The Dreamland Series:
- Amazon – http://amzn.to/1H6Rba1
- iBooks – http://apple.co/1H6RKAI
- Nook – http://bit.ly/1PnGl9h
- Kobo – http://bit.ly/1cDwMkR
- Book Depository – http://www.bookdepository.com/author/E-J-Mellow
I hope you enjoyed this weekend’s interview, I know I did! I espeically liked hearing about Mellow’s 5 stage writing process. I will be keeping that in mind next time I write a book!
I’ll be back with another interview next weekend! Feel free to share or leave a comment, let me know what you thought.