Friday, November 23, 2012

Every Other Friday - Melanie R. Meadors

Melanie R. Meadors spent her formative years never truly deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now that she is an adult, she continues to defer that choice by living vicariously through the characters in her stories. Her short stories have appeared in several magazines over the years (here's one written under a pseudonym), and have earned placements in a number of contests. In the past year, she has shifted her concentration from speculative fiction to historical romance. Her novel His Roman Heart's Desire has consistently been a finalist in many regional RWA contests. She lives in central Massachusetts with her family, dozens of roses, two guinea pigs, and four neurotic rescue rabbits.

Tell me about His Roman Heart's Desire.
His Roman Heart's Desire is a historical romance set in the time just after Caesar's assassination. Before now I have mostly written science fiction and fantasy short stories, so the new genre and length took some getting used to, but I'm having a lot of fun working on it.

What drove you to write His Roman Heart's Desire
I studied Classics in high school and college, and always found the disparity between the Romans we "see" (the rich patricians) and those Romans who remain invisible (the slaves, freedmen, and plebeians) fascinating. History is written from the point of view of the winners, and I often wonder about the other side. How did the actual majority of the people experience life, versus the rich politicians? I explore this in my book, as well as the concept of neighbors helping each other, people using their resources for the greater good.

Who did you write it for? 
I wrote this book because the story made me feel good. These characters have problems, and by working together, they improve life for many people (and they fall in love, as an added bonus!). I love ancient Rome, and wish there were more romances set in that time period. So I wrote it for myself, but I hope that others will appreciate it, too.

What were your biggest obstacles?  
When I started this book, I really worried about the book being accepted by publishers.  Historicals not set in England, or that don't feature Highlanders or Vikings, etc. are harder to sell to a publisher. I struggled with whether or not I should set it in a different time period/location, so much that I ended up blocking myself. 

Eventually, I decided that the book would not be as good if I sacrificed one of the main things about it that I loved. There are so many options available in publishing now that I feel like writers are more able to follow their dreams rather than forcing their dreams to fit someone else's mold. 

The other big obstacle was just finding the time and energy to write. My son has some special needs (listing them kind of looks like alphabet soup), and so we decided to homeschool him. I'm very glad we made that choice, but the days can be exhausting, leaving me with little energy at night to write!

What are your productivity tips?
Don't fight your life. Sculpt it to be what you want, but don't try to force it, because you'll just become depressed. What really worked for me was making a life plan, a chart with about four concrete goals (in all areas of life--family, finances, work, etc.) for the next five years on it, and then listing some steps toward those goals. 
When I am faced with a decision, I ask myself, will this lead me toward accomplishing one of those goals? If not, I say no. This allows me to focus my energy/time/money on the things that are really important to me. 
I also write up a schedule that has every member of the family on it, so I don't accidentally plan to write during a time my son needs me, and also so other members of the family know what to expect. Then I hang it up so everyone can see it. 
This backfires sometimes, like when I want to slack off and my son says, "Mommy, aren't you supposed to be writing now?" It kind of increases accountability. And I always make sure I schedule in some down time. I literally have a time slot every morning that says, "Veg out," because I need that!  I think everyone does. 
Make your schedule work with your life plan. Make sure you are doing the things that are important to you, that fulfill you.

I love that you post your schedule for all to see. Do you have any questions for me? 
What's your pet peeve excuse people give as to why they can't write?

What advice would you give to someone who sets a goal, but is unable to fulfill that goal? For example, if someone realizes that there is no way in heck they are going to complete NaNoWriMo or another such challenge, what would you say to them?

On the first question, I actually am pretty accepting of excuses if people are trying. An excuse that doesn't seem to be very strong is often a placeholder for something else -- like the terror of sharing fiction or avoidance of an emotionally difficult scene. The only thing similar that gets under my skin is when someone who has never written declares that he or she could easily write a novel. Or, worse, when they disparage someone who has. Finishing a novel is hard work, and i represents unusual if not extraordinary discipline and dedication.

 External goals are great -- commitments to writing partners, deadlines for contests and requested submissions, NaNoWriMo -- they all provide an impetus to get to work and finish a set amount every day. But the truth is that your development as a writer and your faithfulness to the story you're telling are what matter most. If those are being taken care of, the rest is secondary. 


  1. Great interview, Melanie. Good luck with your book.

  2. Nice! You've keep me in the game this month! (ikemiker)

  3. I love that you set aside and schedule your "veg out" time. I try to get out for a walk every day or exercise 3 times a week, but my work ethic cringes and tries to tell me that I should be writing instead.All the more so when I sit down to have a cup of tea (not in front of the computer). I've had to learn to be gentler with myself and allow those down times, creating room in my life for other things besides my writing. Somehow, scheduling those things seems like a great way to give yourself permission. Best of luck with the manuscript and keep following your heart:-)

  4. OOo I've recently discovered stories with that period too (books by Ruth Downie and Lindsey Davis) and am glad to see more books set in that era.

  5. As someone who took Latin for 4 years in high school, I would love to read romances set in ancient Rome! I really like that you put your writing into the family schedule. I think too often we try to squeeze writing into whatever time is left over instead of giving it equal weight.

  6. You'd be surprised how many great ideas come while you are relaxing a bit and not thinking directly about your story! Of course, you also have to be in the habit of carrying a notebook or something around to jot the ideas down (I still haven't mastered that one!).

    The best thing I have ever done was have the paradigm shift that writing is my career, it's what I do. My husband has his time that he must spend on his career every day, and my writing is treated with equal weight. The tricky thing is that you have to see it that way yourself first, and really believe it, before anyone else can see it that way.

    Of course, I have my mother, who calls at all times during the day, and I MUST answer the phone, if you know what I mean ;). But there are always obstacles.

  7. Melanie, I love this interview. Best of luck with your novel about ancient Rome, which is dear to my heart, as you well know. I'm so glad I met you at the Emerald City Conference!

  8. Great interview! Melanie, I'm so glad that you're following your heart and writing the book *you* want to write. Writing well is hard, but writing what we love makes it easier.

  9. I really enjoyed this interview, Melanie! I especially liked that you explained your planning/scheduling process in such detail. I also really like your point in the comments that your writing and your husband's career should be weighted equally and the paradigm shift necessary to make this happen. Claire Dederer writes in her book, Poser, about how this was a challenge in her family even though both she and her husband are professional writers. I guess that last point doesn't directly relate, I just found it encouraging (perversely, perhaps) that it happens even when spouses have similar careers and not just when one spouse "stays at home" and the other "goes to work."