Monday, June 28, 2010
Guest Author Interview: Melanie Nowak
Please welcome today's guest author Melanie Nowak. Melanie is the author of the venomous vampire series Almost Human which includes Almost Human: The First Trilogy, Fatal Infatuation (Almost Human: The First Trilogy, book 1), Lost Reflections (Almost Human: The First Trilogy, book 2), Evolving Ecstasy (Almost Human: The First Trilogy, book 3), and Almost Human: The Second Trilogy which includes her new release Born to Blood (Almost Human: The Second Trilogy, book 1). Read on to learn more about this amazing author and the Almost Human vampire series!
EJ: When did you begin writing?
Melanie: I never thought I would be a writer - ever! I was always the singer and actress - I always had a creative imagination for stories, but I wanted to act & live them, not write them! ("Let's pretend" was my favorite childhood pass-time) I took plenty of drama classes in which I was constantly asked "What's your motivation?", so now when I write, it is only natural to me, to make sure that everything my characters do would be natural to them. Creating well-rounded, realistic and evolving characters is the driving force behind my writing.
I began writing in 2002. During the day while doing housework, I found myself thinking up ideas for venomous vampires, and a story involving characters I created. It was unlike anything else I had seen or read, and I found it kind of depressing to think that my ideas were really good, and yet they'd just be forgotten. So one night, I sat at the computer and decided to just write them down for myself. Before I knew it, I'd been writing for hours! It started in a sort of ‘screen-play’ format, because I was used to dealing with that in my drama classes, but I soon started expanding on that to add the characters’ thoughts, and I eventually converted it to be a novel.
I never planned to publish it, I just had fun writing it. The story was very long but I knew just where I wanted it to go and what I wanted to happen - it was kind of like writing a whole TV season, with smaller episode arcs along the way. Due to its length, I decided to break the story into 3 parts and make it a trilogy. I wrote all 3 books in 2 yrs (yes, I was completely obsessed, I wrote every free moment & stayed up until 2 am most nights.) But to be fair, it's really more like 3 yrs because then I spent the next year polishing them up, editing and such. I still never thought about doing anything with them, until my mom and a friend of mine convinced me to let them read it all. They insisted my books were better than many others they’d read, and that I should have them published. I decided to try.
I spent 2 yrs trying to get published. I researched the whole process and tried my best. I got over 200 rejections without anyone ever reading my books. You know what they told me? "No one wants to read about vampires anymore - Anne Rice has done it to death!" This was right before Twilight came out - shows what they knew! I was earning my Masters degree to be a school librarian, when a prof. mentioned Amazon's new e-book device. I looked it up and found out that Amazon was willing to accept unpublished authors to put their books on Kindle. I decided to publish on Kindle because then at least my books would be available to the public and I could have closure, feeling like I'd done something with them, and move on. I had ideas to begin a second trilogy for the series.
The books went live on Kindle 7-3-08. After about 6 months they really started catching on and growing a fan base. I began getting tons of e-mail asking when the series would be out in print, because people wanted to buy them for friends without Kindles. I shopped around again for agents & publishers in January ‘09, but they didn’t like that my books were already out in eBook format, and in this economy publishers didn't want to take a chance on new authors right now anyway. Again I was constantly rejected without even being read. I finally decided to publish independently because I was more interested in sharing the stories with readers, than waiting for a big-name publishing house to back me. I handled every single aspect from editing & formatting, to cover photos (that's me on book 1, LOL ) It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it! I kept complete creative control, published my books independently and every time a reader tells me that my characters resonate with them, and my stories touched their lives, it is more rewarding than I ever would have imagined!
EJ: What brought you to the paranormal genre?
Melanie: I have always been into vampires, and a fan of the Anne Rice books & Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV. I think vampires especially are a wonderful metaphor for exploring topics such as faith, addiction, abuse, ethics and prejudice, among other things. Vampires embody the persona of anyone who has ever felt outcast, alone and unable, unwilling or undeserving to find love. I think that is a basic element of why we connect with them on some level.
Paranormal creatures and powers have been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. I believe in ghosts and elemental spirits (having had a few experiences in the past), and I’ve also studied Wicca, which deals with the natural connection between all living things and energies. I’ve just always been interested in exploring things that many other people don’t have faith in or understand. Some of it is real but misunderstood, and some of it is pure fantasy, but all of it ignites my imagination and I doubt I’ll ever write in any genre that does not include a paranormal element.
EJ: If you could be any paranormal or have any one supernatural talent, what would it be? Why?
Melanie: That is a tough question, and I could give a dozen different answers depending on my mood, LOL. However, I think overall, the paranormal talent that I covet most is the ability to shape-shift into another creature. My entire life I have spent countless hours wandering in the woods – I feel at home there. As a child I would spend hours just running through the forest, pretending to be something else, as a way to temporarily escape humanity’s responsibilities and concerns, and just enjoy nature and freedom.
EJ: Tell us why readers will enjoy your new release.
Melanie: My newest release is “Born to Blood – Volume 1 of ALMOST HUMAN ~ The Second Trilogy”.
Born to Blood by Melanie Nowak.
My ALMOST HUMAN series is being written as a succession of trilogies, so that while the series does advance chronologically through each book, following the same characters, each trilogy is self-contained enough to be read on its own. People who have not read my other books can pick up this one and enjoy the story of this trilogy, while old readers will enjoy re-visiting the characters as they enter this new era in their lives. Hopefully new readers who enjoy “Born to Blood” will then want to read “ALMOST HUMAN ~ The First Trilogy” to see where it all began.
All of my books are a blending of genres that span fantasy, adventure, action, sci/fi, light-fun fiction, philosophical literature, romance, and horror. They have a little something for everyone, but each book and trilogy also has its own ‘flavor’ that differentiates it from the others. All the books include romance and adventure, but the 1st was oriented on introducing the world and characters, beginning the story with some action, the 2nd had some historical adventure woven in, the 3rd book was more action based with some slight erotic undertones, and the 4th book has more paranormal powers, and a slightly sci/fi feel to it.
No matter the focus and the fact that the story is told through paranormal creatures with amazing supernatural abilities, at their core, the characters are almost human. I think that readers really connect with the fact that I write each character as a cathartic expression of very emotional things within myself. My characters are not one dimensional heroes and villains – they are people (alive or undead), trying to do what they think is best and making decisions based on their own emotions and agendas. Sometimes you agree with them, and sometimes you don’t, but hopefully you can understand their positions and actions either way. My characters do not do things just for the sake of being ‘good’ or ‘evil’. I think that the strong emotional connections a nd the realistic development of the characters is what speaks to readers and gives the story its heart.
EJ: If your book(s) were being made into a movie, who would you cast for the leading roles? Why?
Melanie: Very soon after writing my books, a friend asked me this question. When I originally wrote the books, I did not have any actors in mind – they were all purely characters from my imagination. As a game of ‘fantasy casting’ with my friend, we began looking for who would play the parts. To me, the most important character to get right was my lead vampire, Cain. I had a very specific idea of what qualities he should embody and express and no one that I had seen or was suggested fit the part.
Then in early 2009 I saw a preview clip for the movie “Terminator Salvation”. The clip showed a split second shot of actor Sam Worthington. I had never seen him before and I think it was the first American movie he was ever in. Something about his eyes drew me – it was like the shock of recognition – OMG – That’s Cain! I searched the internet to find out who he was. I looked at pictures and watched interviews – the more I saw, the more he was Cain to me.
Since that time he has now been the lead in “Avatar” and “Clash of the Titans”. I loved the first and had nostalgic fondness for the second, but in both films what I really treasured was seeing what Sam Worthington could do with such different characters. He is Australian (easily adaptable to having a British accent), and has a look that is approachable, trusting, honest and understanding. He is fairly young, but looks wise beyond his years, very good looking but not “pretty”, and someone that I could see wanting to run to in times of crisis. To me, Sam Worthington is the perfect Cain.
As far as the other characters go – I do not know many young actors, so most actors who come to mind are not young enough to actually play the parts.
For Felicity I see someone similar to Kate Winslet. I know she isn’t the right age, but I love her look. She can be beautiful without seeming aware of her beauty and has a very vulnerable charm to her while still being a strong person.
For Ben, I see Ben Affleck. It was probably the name Ben that first brought him to mind, but he is perfect for the part, although not the right age. He is handsome and sweet, seeming dependable and hard working; but he looks like he could display that angry stubborn streak well too.
To me, Allie should be played by P!NK. She is almost as petite as Allie. P!NK is 5’4”, Allie is 5’2” and both are athletically slender, but more importantly she has that great Allie energy – lively and unapologetically bold, but a loyal friend with a good heart. (She also happens to have the perfect hair, LOL)
While writing a scene involving Sindy in “Evolving Ecstasy”, I happened to hear a song by Avril Lavigne called “How Does It Feel?”. That song seemed to speak of all the things Sindy was feeling in the scene, but would never be able to voice. It was so heartbroken, scared and alone, and yet voiced from behind a strong façade. Now Avril is Sindy to me. She has the right look for the character as well. She is brash, bold and beautiful, but can look so vulnerable and young without make-up on. Avril Lavigne would be a perfect Sindy.
Lastly, I think Naveen Andrews would make a good Arif. I don’t watch “Lost”, but I’ve seen clips and I think he would be good at portraying that arrogant, almost royal attitude as Master of the largest coven of vampires on the east coast.
So… when do we start filming?
Check out the collage of fantasy cast character photos on the ALMOST HUMAN facebook page (lower left of page - under ‘photos’).
I want to thank E.J Stevens for the interview and the opportunity to share my thoughts and the venomous vampires of my ALMOST HUMAN series with everyone here at From the Shadows.
Thank you Melanie for joining us here today at From the Shadows! We look forward to having you visit us again in the future.
For more information about Melanie Nowak and her Almost Human series please visit her website and her Amazon author page.