MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MELISSA ERIN JACKSON
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
My name is Melissa Erin Jackson and my books areparanormal mysteries.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
My debut, THE FORGOTTEN CHILD, is a paranormal mystery starring a reluctant medium who meets the ghost of a young boy who encourages her to try and solve the decades-old mystery of his death. Odd as it sounds, I didn’t start writing this book with any plan in place. I’m a Murderino who loves ghost stories, and after years of writing fantasy, I needed a break. I decided to write something that included all my favorite things. Three months later, I had the draft of TFC.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre(historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I’ve always loved mysteries. The series that got me most into the genre was one my mom read—the “Cat Who…” books by Lillian Jackson Braun. They’re cozy mysteries, so they’re more light-hearted, despite the fact that someone is murdered in each book. It was fun to try to unravel the puzzle of whodunnit. Most things I write now have some underlying mystery in it.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Oh, the weird wormholes I went into for this book. I researched paranormal investigation equipment, I read firsthand accounts from people who claim they’ve seen ghosts, and I got sucked into a very disturbing thread of the kooky things that have happened to people who have used Ouija boards. For the mystery side of things, I looked up everything from dates that DNA started to be used as evidence in cases, to guerilla mail services, to statutory rape laws in New Mexico. I also read a non-fiction book about John Hunter, who was an inspiration for the serial killer in my book—though he was an inspiration for him for all the wrong reasons!
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I’m a dog walker and pet sitter for my day job, so I’m usually out and about all day. I wrote most of my debut on my phone using the Word app while walking pups. When you sometimes work 12-14 hours a day, you have to make time where you can! I don’t have daily writing goals, but when I’m deep into a draft, I usually write anywhere from 1k to 3k words a day.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
Yes, I’m also working on a cozy mystery series starring a witch. The first book in the series is called PAWSITIVELY POISONOUS.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
I can’t start writing a book until I know the main character’s name. That’s always where I start. The names rarely have any special meaning to them, but I can’t move forward until I have the one that feels right.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I’ve got one I’m about 2/3s done with that’s a sci-fi. I’ve never written a sci-fi before, and as much as I enjoy writing this one, I’m constantly wondering if I’ve made a horrible mistake by attempting this genre. Sci-fi is hard!
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
It depends on the project, but often the hardest part is the drafting stage for me. Every once and a while, a story will pour out of me—like what happened with TFC—but usually it’s like pulling teeth. The sci-fi mentioned above is a good example of that. I know that once the draft is done, I can really get in there and start revising, rearranging, etc. But I have to actually finish the thing first. Some days, a writing day is just sitting in your chair spinning in circles and wondering why you ever thought it was a good idea to write books.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Getting TFC out into the world. It took so many steps and hours of research to get her ready. I’m so happy I stuck with it. I just recently got the paperbacks of the book and it was so great to finally hold it in my hands. It’s a real book out there for people to find now! It’s pretty cool.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
I love hearing from readers who say they couldn’t put the book down. I’ve had a few people tell me they started reading it in the morning and were done reading by the evening. I love the idea that something I’ve created is able tohold people’s attention like that. I’m also working with a friend (who used to work in radio) on the audiobook. She sends me outtakes from her recordings and samples of her testing out voices and it’s such a fun experience.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would love to be writing full time in ten years. A job where you can be in pajama pants all day? Sign me up!
Have you always liked to write?
Yes, though I didn’t really try my hand at fiction until my freshman year in college. I was majoring in Wildlife Biology and found myself missing the papers I had to write in high school. For some reason I got the idea to write a book “just to see if I could.” Six months later, I had a complete contemporary fantasy novel. It was horrible but I was hooked and have been writing ever since.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Finish that draft! So many writers never finish their books, usually because they’re so caught up in making what they have so far “perfect” before they move on to the next chapter or scene. Problem is, even after you edit your book within an inch of its life, it still won’t be perfect. Just finish the draft. Then revise it. Then find writer friends who can help you improve. Then revise again. But you can’t ever take your book to the next level if you never finish it in the first place.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
Yep, I read all the ones I can find. I’m sure this is not at all healthy. Ha. I try not to respond either way. If I do, it’s mostly just to thank the person for taking the time to review it. As for the bad reviews, I try to take what I can from them to help improve later. The reality is that once your book is officially out there, it’s not really “yours” anymore. People are going to have a wide range of opinions and not everyone is going to like the book. And that’s okay. I’m just grateful I have the opportunity for it to be out there for people to read at all.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Figuring out the marketing side of things was hard for me. There’s still so much to learn.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on edits for PAWSITIVELY POISONOUS now, and will hopefully start on the follow-up to THE FORGOTTEN CHILD in January.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
One of my favorite recent reads (though it was a year ago) was BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman. If I can somehow infuse that constant sense of unease into my sci-fi, I will be delighted. I can’t wait for the movie for this one to pop up on Netflix!
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favouriteand why?
Probably Jazz from one of my YA fantasy novels. She’s a witch and pirate and operates a bit in the gray area, as she acts first and thinks about consequences later—even if those actions initially get people hurt. She’s a bit of a mess, but that’s what makes her fun to write.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Depends on the day and the project, ha. There are days where I’ve written over 3k and could keep going, but it’s 3am and my boyfriend is glaring at me to go to bed. Other days, it could take the entire day to squeeze a mediocre 1k out of me and then all I want to do is take nap.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I mostly just try to write what I’d like to read, and just hope it’s something that others want to read too!
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
All the Naps She Didn’t Take
Where can your fans find you and follow??
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️
Thanks for having me!