MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR MELANIE NOWAK
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
Hi – thank you so much for having me! My name is Melanie Nowak, and I write the venomous vampire series ALMOST HUMAN. I’m excited to introduce you and your readers to my vamps – they love new blood 😉
I suppose my books would be considered a blend of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. They are also a bit more introspective and theological than some – there is plenty of action and some romance, but for me, the characters really drive the story. I love taking a journey with the characters, sharing their emotions and seeing how they evolve through their dark circumstances. Oh, there are also some zombies…can’t forget the zombies! LOL
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)? Where did you get the inspiration/idea for your series?
As I said, my writing is very emotional and character driven. Each of my characters has been taken from the seed of something within myself. Vampires are a great outlet for feelings of loneliness, or being outcast, and exploring religion and spirituality. They are also a wonderful metaphor for addiction and abuse. I have been lucky enough in my life never to have been sexually abused or addicted to drugs – but everything that goes into making up the personalities for my characters, how they feel and react to things, has come from some little grain of dealing with something in my own life – magnified. At some point in my life I have totally identified with and “been” these people. Even if it didn’t outwardly show – this is how I felt and wanted to react. Giving voice to these personas is very cathartic!
As far as inspiration for the mechanics of my vampires are concerned, I’ve always been interested in bats. Vampire bats have a anticoagulant in their saliva called “draculin” (named after Count Dracula!) that keeps blood from clotting. I had the idea that such a thing would be useful for vampires as well – and what if they had something to keep the victim calm, like a drug?
I always wondered about a vampire’s ability to put victims in thrall. In old movies, vampires are always able to hypnotize people, and it’s never really explained. People are just ‘under their power’. I always wondered – how does it work? I put that question together with the anticoagulant/drug idea, and took it further. What if vampires could inject their victims with venom, like a snake? Only the venom would not be deadly poison, but a narcotic combination of drugs that kept blood from clotting, kept the victim calm and even willing, and also could mark territory for the vampire – leaving a psychic-aura mark that other vampires could see. The vampire could then use the existence of this ‘drug’ in their victim’s system, to put them in thrall as well.
The idea of venomous vampires seemed so logical to me, that I assumed for sure that someone else had done it already. I began searching my library for a book like that, so I could read it! This was in the early 90’s and there weren’t very many vampire books around at that time. I never found what I was looking for, and I filed the idea away. It never occurred to me to write it myself.
I’m a huge fan of the T.V. series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Joss Whedon is a genius! That said – in 2003, towards the end of the show, I started disliking some decisions the writers made. I understood their vision, but I also saw many missed opportunities. I would have done things differently.
That started me thinking of my own storylines and my own characters, incorporating my venomous vampire idea. None of this was written down, just daydreamed during housework. Then one day I realized that a lot of the ideas I had were really good, and it depressed me to think that it would all just be forgotten. So, I sat down one night at the computer to write out a few things so I wouldn’t forget and could look back at them one day. The scenes just came pouring out and before I knew it, I’d been up writing almost the whole night! That’s when I realized that I had a real story to tell, and wanted to write it all out from beginning to end. That is how my ALMOST HUMAN vampires were born.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
I love doing research! Before becoming an author, I got my master’s degree as a teacher and school librarian, so research is right up my alley! I have done alot of research into vampire mythology, and used elements of old vampire legends around the world to shape some of the vampires my modern vampires have, and then added my own original and unique twists to them as well.
Different powers and aspects of my venomous vampires are revealed slowly throughout the 6 novels of the series – the first trilogy focuses on introducing you to my vampires and their venom, while the second trilogy explores some of the more sensational supernatural powers as the story progresses. Vampires of old boasted skills in shape-shifting, turning to mist, thought control, manipulating the weather, and even flying!
I also do quite a bit of research to provide full backgrounds for my characters. Some of it is never used overtly in the books, but it helps me shape who my characters are and where they come from, which has a large impact on their personalities. I have a few characters from different countries and cultures – especially in the later books. Right from the beginning, we met my main vampire character, Cain, who was born in 1600’s England and became a colonist here in the states. The second novel, Lost Reflections shows quite a bit of his past, and I did meticulous research for the details of his story.
Can you tell me about your Series?
ALMOST HUMAN was originally written as two trilogies of long novels. Recently it was also broken up and republished in parts, as a series of 21 novellas, for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited library program. The novellas are in KU while the novels are available worldwide. Both the novels and novellas are the same story – it is just a matter of preference – do you like to read your stories as a big feast, or in bite-sized pieces? Pick your poison!
I have recently begun writing a third trilogy for the series. UNITING VAMPIRES is the part 1 novella of my next upcoming novel, VAMPIRESS REIGNING. There will be two more novellas coming out this year. Then all three of those novellas will be combined for the release of the full novel.
ALMOST HUMAN ~ The First Series
Part 1: Captivating Vampires
Part 2: Tempting Transgressions
Part 3: Venomous Revelations
Part 1: Persistent Persuasion
Part 2: Telling Tales
Part 3: Battles and Bliss
Part 1: Ecstasy Unleashed
Part 2: Stakes and Sunshine
Part 3: Evolution of Love
ALMOST HUMAN ~ The Second Series
BORN TO BLOOD
Part 1: Vampiress Rising
Part 2: Exceeding Expectations
Part 3: Coping with Chaos
Part 4: Vampire Vertigo
DESCENDENT OF DARKNESS
Part 1: Determining Desires
Part 2: Undying Devotion
Part 3: Emotional Maelstrom
Part 4: Crossing the Line
DESTINED FOR DIVINITY
Part 1: Home of the Bloodthirsty
Part 2: Enemies and Allies
Part 3: Vicious Survival
Part 4: Divining Destiny
ALMOST HUMAN ~ The Third Series
Part 1: Uniting Vampires
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
That is like asking if I have a favorite child! All of my books follow the same characters through a progressive story, and each novels has something special in it that i get very excited about. If I had to choose, I think my favorite novel is the last: DESTINED FOR DIVINITY. That novel has the most action and intrigue, being the culmination of many devious plots and seeds sown through the other books. There were some sword fights and magical battles that were very fun to block out and create! There are also a few ‘aha’ moments that I was really tickled to write.
Was it always meant to become a series?
I can’t help but think grand-scale when I am creating my story. When I began the first book, I already knew the story for the entire first trilogy, which I then wrote out as an outline for myself. I like knowing the future, so that I can use foreshadowing, and plan the story arc and emotional growth of my characters.
That said, my characters do take on a life of their own while I am writing, and many a time they have done things that were completely unplanned and screwed everything up for me, LOL, but I know that is who they are, and the choices they would make in that moment – no matter what the outline says, so I just go with it. I follow their lead, and we make our way back to the outline eventually, even if it changes a few things along the way.
ALMOST HUMAN is plotted to be a succession of four trilogies total to complete the full story. Each trilogy has its own focus and ‘flavor’, but follows our same beloved cast of characters through their journeys.
While the first trilogy seems to focus on two main characters: a young human woman named Felicity, and an elder vampire named Cain, the story really does fully involve a full cast of about six main characters. So although the chapters alternate telling the story between Cain and Felicity’s perspectives, it is truly an ensemble cast. When writing the second trilogy, I decided to broader the viewpoints to hear chapters from other character’s points of view as well, because the plot of the story itself is a bit grander and needed to be told from other perspectives besides just Cain and Felicity.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I think my writing methods are probably much different from those of other authors. Because I write an outline, and know the full story before I actually begin to write, I do not write in linear order. I skip around and write whichever scene I am feeling passionate about that day. I really immerse myself in each scene, speaking all of the dialogue aloud (complete with accents, LOL) and often acting things out as I go. I was a drama geek in high school and college, and I love playing all the parts 😉
I don’t have a set routine (although I probably should). I have been blessed with a wonderful reception to my series over the past decade, and am lucky enough to be writing full time at this point, but I am also a wife and mom, and family often pre-empts writing time. Since I am so engrossed in becoming my characters as I write, it is something I like to do when I am home alone.
I do not like to set word-count goals, or participate in writing competitions. Writing is a very personal and creative process for me, and quality trumps quantity! I am a slow writer, probably because I ‘live through’ each scene so many times, and I am also a bit of a perfectionist (it’s the school teacher in me!). When I try to set deadlines, it just makes me feel pressured and that I may disappoint if I am not done in time, so I just try to go with the flow.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I am currently writing the part two novella of my next upcoming novel, VAMPIRESS REIGNING. I hope to have it out in a few months, and finish part three and release the full novel by the end of the year.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Oh my goodness, I love this question! I see so many authors holding contests and such to ask for suggestions for character names. I realize this may be fun for the readers, but I could never do that! Each of my character’s names is very carefully chosen for special significance. I had a fun chat about this with readers on my website forums – I’ll repost my explanation of my names for you here. It is a bit long, and may contain minor spoilers for the story, as some characters don’t appear until later books, but nothing that should really ruin anything for new readers, and I think it is really fun insight into my character’s names.
Reader: I loved meeting Ben’s father in the last book, and that you named him Bernard! Not sure if you knew, but that name means strong and brave – so perfect for him! Is there special meaning to the names of other characters, or did you just make them up?
Author, Melanie: I’m so glad that you recognized that! I actually put a lot of thought into my character names, and they are each very meaningful to me in some way that affects the character’s personality or role in the series. I actually planned out most of this story (all 12 projected books) from the beginning, so I know where the characters are going, for the most part, and who they will be in the end. (Although, they often insist on taking me on unplanned detours along the way…) That allows me to foreshadow, shape and evolve them during the story, knowing who I want them to be in the final book – that includes how I name them.
Bernard does mean “Brave/Bold/Strong as a Bear”, and I thought it was perfect for his bold, self-assured personality. I was hesitant to use it at first, if only because it breaks a writing rule: never give main characters similar names that start with the same letter. However, it suited him well, and his son’s name “Benjamin” means “son of my right hand”, which I thought would be perfect – and it’s shortened version, “Ben” means “son of my sorrow”, which seemed appropriate, considering Bernard’s betrayal of marital trust and the loss of Ben’s mom.
An explanation of some of the others:
Cain/Christian – his name is the most obvious, chosen almost as antonym’s due to their biblical associations, and the character’s struggle to balance good and evil within himself, not to mention the very literal associations between the story of Cain and how our Cain had ended up killing his brother.
Felicity – is a “Virtue” name (a Puritan given name, derived from one of the Christian virtues) and it also means “Happiness”. I thought it was a good representation of Cain’s desires.
Sindy – Her real name is Cynthia, which is Greek, and literally means “Woman from Kynthos” – an epithet for the “Greek Moon Goddess, Artemis”, who is also the goddess of the hunt. A “Moon Goddess on a Hunt” sounds just like Sindy to me! She chose the nickname “Sindy” for herself to be representative of “Sin”…both instigated by her and inflicted unwillingly upon her.
Ashley – This name wasn’t born of researched meaning, so much as the fact that just about every popular, clueless, and perhaps snotty girl I have known, seems to have this name, LOL. No offense – I’m sure there are smart and lovely Ashley’s out there!
Arif – means “Wise and Knowledgeable” in Arabic – this makes more sense when you remember that this was not the name he was born with, but one he chose for himself. I have actually met 2 Turkish men named Arif in my real life. One was my dentist, who is a great guy, LOL. But the first Arif I ever met made a strong impression on me as a very controlling, self-centered, and slightly creepy, although attractive man. He would not know me – I barely knew him, he was a parent in a school I worked at, but he (and the fact that he would sometimes be accompanied by his mistress instead of his wife) inspired the character of Arif.
Lorelei – “Temptress”
Elric – “Noble Commander” (Although originally from Cameroon, West Africa, Elric was educated in Germany and uses the very fitting name he was given during that time).
Kieran – “Little Dark One” (although he has a light countenance and fun personality, he does have a dark sense of humor)
Khalon – “Strong Warrior” A Swahili name very fitting for this immigrant vampire from Africa. I also like that it is very similar to the name “Kalong” which is the proper name for the large bats more commonly known as flying foxes. I actually met a man named Khalon once, and after I asked him the meaning of his unique name, I told him that I needed to name a character after him and that he would be a strong vampire coven leader 😀
Maribeth – “Sea of Bitterness” Once you know Maribeth, this is quite appropriate!
Mattie (Matthew) – “Gift of God”. Mattie has a very important role to play in steering the fate and future of many people…hopefully in a good way, as an “instrument of God”. I see him as being the voice of conscience for Allie, which becomes more and more important as the story progresses.
Allie/Alyson – I saved Allie for last because her name origin has the longest and coolest story, if only because it seems more like she orchestrated it than I did (she’s independent like that sometimes, LOL) . When I first started writing…I’m talking about the first hours of inception…I knew all about Cain, Felicity, Ben and Sindy, and I thought to myself “I need another human friend for Ben to talk to when he’s complaining about Cain and Felicity”. I decided it should be a female character, and knew that personality-wise she should be very different from Felicity and Sindy. I came up with the idea that she was secretly in love with Ben’s dead friend Mattie, who was now a vampire, she would someday become a vampire herself, and that I was going to make her very powerful to eventually skew the story in a more epic-urban fantasy direction.
Since she was a best friend to Ben, suddenly another, very different character came to mind: Willow Rosenberg from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love Willow’s character! She is very different from my Allie, but she began as a best friend to the main character, who seemed (forgive me) deceivingly inconsequential, and then evolved to be arguably the strongest character (magic-wise) in the series. The parallel to what I wanted to do seemed very cool to me, so as a nod to that character, I chose to name her Alyson, after the wonderful actress who portrayed Willow, Alyson Hannigan, and I spelled it the same way she does. I learned that Alyson means “Of Noble Kind” which was absolutely perfect for my purposes! So, Alyson was born.
Now, here’s a twist… early on, as I wrote, I found that Alyson’s hair and attitude began to remind me of the music artist P!NK. I love P!NK’s music and how she alternately shows the tough, fun-loving, and vulnerable sides to her personality in her songs. P!NK is often good inspiration for me when I’m in “Allie-mode”. Somewhere along the way, I found out that P!NK’s real name is Alecia…another version of Allie. Wow, kind of cool! Then P!NK had her first child, a daughter. You know what she named her baby girl? Wait for it… WILLOW… the original inspiration for Allie’s name in the first place. Talk about coming full circle!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my character’s names – I love sharing those insights!
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
For me, the hardest part of writing is just the fact that I work at a slow pace. I hate feeling as though I am disappointing anyone by not spitting out books quick as you please, LOL, but I am an artist above all else. Writing is a very personal and creative process for me. I refuse to force it, because I know that if I am just putting down words on the page for the sake of moving forward, it will not seem genuine and will not do my characters justice. Thankfully, my readers seem to be very understanding of this, and tell me they are excited for each installment of the story, but would hate for me to rush rather than deliver the kind story they have loved so far.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I have toyed with the idea of producing a book trailer, but have not actually pulled the trigger. Honestly, I would want to be very hands-on with it, and I cannot take time away from writing to do that right now. I am not sure whether readers look for trailers, and choose books based on them, but they are kind of cool.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Personally, I feel my greatest accomplishments are in how I have touched readers. In this age of easy social connection through the internet, I have been hearing from readers who write to tell me that I’ve helped them in their real lives, and it is such an amazing blessing to me. I’ve received emails about how my characters have helped guide readers through difficult times.
I received an email from a woman dealing with her husband’s military deployment, telling me that my books were the only thing keeping her sane because she was so very engrossed in my world and could forget to worry for a while. (That email inspired me to join Operation ebook Drop, which is sadly no longer operational, but was a platform to send ebooks free to soldiers overseas to read during their down time – I gained many grateful readers that way and was happy to hear their stories as well.)
Another woman wrote to tell me that she read my books every night while visiting her baby in the neonatal unit at the hospital, and my character Cain’s faith in God helped her to remember her own.
I’ve connected with many readers who just want to let me know that my stories make them forget their troubles and that my characters are like real friends to them when they feel alone.
I began reading as a child to escape bullying and to have friends in my books when I felt like I had none in life. To know that my books can touch other people and make them feel better, the way books have for me in my own life – that is my greatest success of all.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
By far the coolest thing about being an author (other than the awesome feeling of actually bringing the characters to life) is being able to talk to readers. I currently have readers in dozens of countries, and get to hear from people all over the world to talk about the books. It is so rewarding to hear that my words have touched someone so deeply that they felt they had to tell me about it. I get to talk to people who connected with what I had to say, and we can discuss the different variables and emotional motivations that drove the story in different directions. I love a good book talk!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully, home at my house on top of the mountain, sitting out on my deck overlooking the wild forest of upstate New York, while happily daydreaming and writing the hours away! While I would love to become a very famous best-seller, with movie deals, etc; in my heart, I truly just want to keep telling my stories, with full control over my characters, sharing their emotional journeys. If other people enjoy those journeys too, that’s great! But I really write for myself and my characters.
Have you always liked to write?
Believe it or not, I never did want to become a writer. I have always been an avid reader of sci/fi, fantasy & horror, but although I did very well writing papers for school, I had never used writing as a creative outlet before I began this series. I loved to pretend as a child and make up stories, but I wanted to live the stories, not write them! I was always involved in drama throughout school, and in singing solos while acting in the Christmas Cantata for my church. I didn’t have aspirations of being a published author with a book in the book store when I began this series – that wasn’t my initial goal. I began writing only because I wanted to tell this story. At this point, I am so incredibly emotionally invested in this story, that I have a great need to follow through transcribing it for readers until it is at the point where I feel it’s done, (I currently have 12 books planned in all). The characters are a part of me, and I can’t imagine ever abandoning them! Writing has become my favorite passionate obsession!
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Decide why you are writing. Is your ultimate goal to be on a bookstore shelf, or to tell an amazing story? If you just want to write but aren’t as emotionally connected to it, that is an entirely different path from someone who wants to truly express & share feelings and ideas; the difference between writing articles or informative observation pieces, and writing a novel. If you are passionate about your writing and want to share your story with readers, here’s my advice:
1st – If you have a story inside of you yearning to be told, then be unafraid to really give in to it and write your true thoughts and feelings. You cannot write while worrying about who might read it or what they will think. First, be true to that inner voice and write the story that you want to write.
2nd – Edit – a lot. You’ve poured your heart out onto the page, now you need to look at it with a critical eye for grammar, story structure, and continuity. Understand the story structure of different genres and where your story will fit. It’s alright to blend genres, but labels such as YA and Adult fiction need to be discerned more carefully. Sex and language are not the only determining factors between YA and Adult. Also consider the complexity of plot, reading level of the vocabulary used, and the intellectual focus of the story as it relates to age. Do not write “down” to your readers – it is important to be sure they can follow the plot and understand the story, but don’t be afraid to write something that will make people stop and think. Proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation is so important that I have to say it again. If you’re unsure about something – look it up! EDIT! No one is perfect – sometimes you really need a fresh set of eyes to help you look over your work as well.
3rd – If you want to share your story, you will find a way. Independent publishing isn’t for everyone – neither is Traditional publishing. You have to figure out what is right for you. Large publishing companies will be hard to reach without connections. It’s not impossible (but close). Getting traditionally published is HARD. Even if you have the best book ever, getting the right people to read it will be even harder than writing it – you have been warned. Also be aware that larger publishers often want you to edit your work to fit their image. Offers I received required me to add sex scenes and things that I felt were gratuitous to the story; others wanted me to cut out much of my story. Some authors may be alright with such changes, but I strongly felt that I should be unwilling to compromise on some points and chose another route. There are many small presses that are more open to accepting new work without many changes, you just have to find the right one for you. I did some research and found that the small presses that were open to publishing my work, did not feel like a good fit for me. I already knew how to handle much of the process myself, and the percentages they wanted to take seemed inflated for something I could do on my own, so I opted for Independent Publishing. Whatever publishing path you feel is right for you, do not give up!
Independent publishing is also a good option to keep your story true to your own vision – but be prepared to put in the effort. If you do not work hard to help your target audience find your book, and if your book is not of professional quality when it is read, your sales and reputation as an author will suffer. Make sure your book is the best it can be, and then find a way to help others find it!
4th – Believe in yourself and be strong. Publishing Independently can be frustrating and difficult at times. You need to have patience, a very thick skin and an incorrigible spirit. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to gain an audience who appreciates your work. Your audience deserves a professional quality book, and when you are working independently it is often more difficult to see your work with a discerning and unbiased eye. Almost all books get a negative review at some time or another. It is important to truly analyze the review to see if there is criticism in there that can help you improve. Decide whether your story came across as you intended. If it seems that it did, and the reader just didn’t enjoy or agree with it, then that is their prerogative. If the reader seemed to miss your intent, then perhaps it wasn’t clearly expressed in the writing and you should consider toning it a bit.
5th – Decide how you will define your success. If to you, success = money, quit now, LOL. To me success is the feeling of accomplishment and the swell of excitement I feel when someone tells me my book really resonated with them. In my experience, take care of the emotional success and the physical success will follow. I concerned myself with telling a good story, putting in tons of work to research certain elements, refine and edit it to the best of my ability, and learned what was needed to publish and promote it. I make myself accessible to readers and view it all as a labor of love. Through that sincere effort, I have earned more loyal readers to my series than I’d ever expected. Now writing is my full time job and I can actually pay bills with it!
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
In a fantasy world, I would love to be an actress doing musical theater. That was my first love, and I think I am pretty good at it, LOL, but I chose a more practical life focused on family.
Before becoming an author, i was a school librarian and i love that job too – introducing children and teens to new worlds in books is a great way to earn a living!
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I currently have 623 Amazon reviews for the ALMOST HUMAN series (and counting! That is all books combined), and yes, I have read every single one of them! I am proud and happy to say that no book has an average below 4 stars, and most are closer to 5, but of course I have gotten my share of bad reviews mixed in with the good. Not every book is for everyone, and I respect that. I have responded to some, but usually only to correct a misconception the reader may have had, to clear things up.
Good reviews are (of course) really fun to read. I love seeing how a reader views my characters and how everyone gets their own different spin off things! While bad reviews can sting, I respect when a reader has passionate feelings about something and backs up their rating with a true explanation – hopefully not too hurtful or insulting, but if we just disagree about our views, that is fine. (Yes, I am sensitive – I might cry, curse, or freak out, but then I calm down, re-read, and truly take the criticism to heart – some I can dismiss as just differing opinion, but if it is something helpful I can learn from, I take note).
One reader criticized a scene (a human scene) as being utterly unrealistic. I just had to laugh, because that was one of the few scenes in the book that I had actually taken truly straight from a personal experience in my real life. Yes, it did happen like that, whether you think it could or not! Ha!
I have had readers rant and rave in a bad review about something a character did – but at least other new readers can see the person was invested in the story! What I cannot stand is when a reviewer just says something like “This book sucks”. Why? What didn’t you like? Did you actually read it, or is this just troll spam? Ugh!
One time, on Goodreads, I got a few 1 & 2 star reviews for a book I HADN’T FINISHED WRITING YET! I had revealed the cover before release and someone made a Goodreads page in anticipation of the book. It wasn’t published, no arcs were given out, not even a sneak peek, because it wasn’t done. Many people simply put the book on their Goodreads TBR shelf (great!) but a few people gave the book very bad reviews just because they were impatient that it wasn’t out yet! I contacted Goodreads but they wouldn’t take them down. How frustrating and disheartening to have the review average as 1 – 2 stars right out of the gate 😦
I highly encourage readers to please leave reviews. This is an ongoing series… First of all, if no one reviews new books, it is harder to attract new readers and keep the series successful enough for me to keep writing. Secondly, i really do read every review and take people’s criticisms seriously. I do not plan to alter my set outline for the series, but i do change little things throughout when i see readers all talk about them. I will show more of a side character that becomes a favorite, or I may slightly change the story if people really seem to be upset about its direction – it’s my story and my call to make, but I do listen to what my readers have to say!
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
I am proud to be a completely independent author – that means that I handle every single step of creating these books on my own. Not only do I write them, I also edit, format, publish, market, and do cover design as well. Being that I have degrees in teaching and library science, with a strong art background, and that I have done a great deal of research over the years, I feel I am better prepared to deal with many of these aspects than most, but it does take an extensive amount of time and effort to do it well. I think my least favorite part of the job is marketing. Advertising my books is an unfortunate necessity. There are a multitude of new authors emerging every day, and part of the battle won is just to get new readers aware of your books amidst their vast sea of choices! I am usually a bit quiet and shy though, and I do not like to feel pushy! Paid advertising never yeilds the results expected and I do not like to use such services, so I do most of my marketing with good old fashioned time and effort, reaching out and making connections through social media, library talks, book signings and conventions. These methods are somewhat fun at least, but difficult for someone who can be shy at times.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
I’m afraid that if I include a snippet from my newest work-in-progress, it will contain spoilers for readers who are new to the series – the characters all evolve so much and I would hate to give anything away! Instead I will include a snippet from FATAL INFATUATION: the first novel of ALMOST HUMAN – The First Trilogy. Enjoy!
Excerpt from FATAL INFATUATION:
Novel #1 of ALMOST HUMAN – The First Trilogy
by Melanie Nowak
She studied the vampire for a moment as he read the inside jacket cover of the book. He looked like an ordinary guy. Okay well, maybe not ordinary. He looked like an extremely attractive guy. Early twenties probably, broad shoulders, very nice build. How could she be expected to fear someone so achingly gorgeous? His hair fell down into his eyes as he looked at the book and he absently swiped it aside, although it fell back again almost immediately. He was a little pale, but he certainly didn’t look supernatural. He looked up from the book to find her staring at him. She quickly searched for something to say. “I suppose you’ll be taking it over to the café?”
“Mr. predictable, that’s me.”
“Right.” She had an odd thought as she swept the change from the counter into her pocket. “Do you actually drink coffee, or is that just for show?”
He seemed to find her inquiry amusing. She supposed such a direct question might be considered rude, but she couldn’t help wondering. “I can drink what I like.”
She came out from behind the register and began walking him over to the café. She noticed Ben staring, but ignored him. The presence of the man beside her commanded her full attention. “So what do you do besides drink coffee and read?”
He looked a little sobered by the question. “Fight.”
“Other vampires?” she asked quietly.
He paused in walking, his gaze travelling over her seductively. “Temptation mostly.”
She wasn’t sure whether to melt or shudder.
Where did your love of books come from?
My mother is a voracious reader! She is someone who can devour a novel in an evening or two! As a child, I saw her reading and thought it must be a very special activity if she loved it so much. I began reading books on my own at a young age and was instantly hooked! I have always been strongly imaginative, and being able to visit other worlds within books was very appealing to me. I also endured a lot of bullying in school. Books gave me an escape – I could be someone else for a while when I was hiding within the pages of a book. I could have friends and be strong and special, no matter what happening in real life. Even at times when you feel no one understands you, and you have no friends to lean on, you always have a friend within a book.
Two of my favorite quotes:
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles W. Eliot
“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
I love series! Once I get invested in a world, a premise, or certain characters, I am usually insatiable in my pursuit of more of their story. I also really like books that are a bit morally ambiguous; I like to be challenged to make my own decisions about the characters. I like imperfect heroes, and villains you can empathize with. I also tend to stick with authors that I like, and read almost everything they write. Some of my favorite authors and their ‘stand outs’ for me:
Anne Rice: Vampire Chronicles series
Jack L. Chalker: Well of Souls series, Dancing Gods series
Michael Crichton: Jurassic Park series, Congo
Piers Anthony: Xanth series, Apprentice Adept series
Douglas Adams: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series
Stephen King: Pet Semetary, The Shining
Pamela C. Dean: The Secret Country series
Steven R. Boyett: Ariel
Elizabeth Marie Pope: The Perilous Gard
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I cannot pick one favorite – I love them all so much! As I mentioned earlier, I honestly am all of the characters in this book! It may sound strange because my characters are pretty diverse, but they all live within me.
I wondered a little at first, whether I would be able to write a believable ‘guy’, but when you come down to it, we are all just people. When writing from a male perspective, I take care to really examine his motives throughout each scene, and to try and observe and notice things the way I think a man would. It’s actually rather fun writing for my guys Cain and Ben, and stepping into their shoes.
Outwardly I’m sure my friends and family would say I am most like Felicity. Physically, I have modeled her after myself; intellectually and emotionally she is very much the girl that I was at that age. I was usually pretty quiet and shy, constantly reading my fantasies rather than trying to live them out. Because of that, I identify very closely with Felicity, but I have to admit that it’s often more fun to write for my other ladies, Allie and Sindy. Allie is much more sassy and daring than I have ever been in life, and Sindy… well let’s just say it: She can be an evil bitch – and who wouldn’t think that was fun to write?
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing definitely exhausts me. I am too emotionally invested not to have it be draining. I’ve heard an expression: No tears in the author = no tears in the reader. I believe that, to an extent. I am not manipulatively crafting something designed to bring out certain emotions in my readers – some authors write that way, but I just don’t; it’s not me. I am telling a story from my heart that can alternately make me happy as can be, or an emotional wreck sobbing my eyes out and hoping I don’t short out my keyboard.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
When I first began writing my books, the only vampire books I had ever read were Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. There just weren’t many modern paranormal books in my library back then, and I wasn’t really aware of Paranormal Romance or Urban Fantasy as genres. I read straight Fantasy books and some Horror. When I wrote my own books, I wasn’t trying to fit a genre, they just unfolded in their own way.
I did not actually publish my first novel until early 2008 when the entire first trilogy was finished, but I completed and copyrighted the first novel in 2004 and spent a few years shopping it to publishers. It was at that time that I became aware of the growing popularity of supernatural books.
Over the years I have received a few negative reviews accusing me of trying to copy other authors. I was hurt and bewildered when this first occurred! I had never even heard of these other books, much less read them. I politely invited these reviewers to check the copyright dates and to please note that in all cases, my books were written at least a year or two before the others which they were claiming I stole ideas from were published.
That did start a practice in me that I still follow, though – I do not read books in my own genre. Honestly, I don’t have much time to read these days anyway, but many readers tells me that they find my writing style and storytelling unique, and I would hate to lose that quality. I am afraid that if I delve into the work of other paranormal authors, their writing will end up influencing my own, even unintentionally. I do watch television and movies as a fix for my paranormal cravings, but I do not pick up those kinds of books.
I think my books are a unique blend of traditional elements of vampire and other supernatural lore, mixed with my own completely new creations of magical rules and abilities.
What is one thing you want your readers to know about?
To my current readers: I feel so blessed that you have found my books, and felt the story and characters connected with you in some way! I am truly thankful to each and every one of you for taking a chance to try the work of an author you did not know, and I am so happy to have you taking this journey with me!
To all of the prospective new readers out there…I write my story because I have such love for it, but it’s hard for me to describe to others. If you want a story that may start out seeming familiar but then takes you down a rabbit hole of imagination to be different from all the other vampire books out there, with characters who resonate with emotion and a story that keeps you thinking, even after you’ve read the last page, then you may enjoy my ALMOST HUMAN series. I hope you’ll check it out!
What is the best way for readers to find you?
I love to connect with readers on social media – please like my page and feel free to send me a friend request!
Personal Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/melanie.nowak.127
Professional Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Melanie-Nowak-Author-of-the-Venomous-Vampire-series-Almost-Human-222988781051662/
Readers can find my books in many ways. The ALMOST HUMAN series is available in paperback in bookstores worldwide – if it’s not on the shelf, ask for it!
Many online retailers list my books as well. You can visit my Amazon Author Page at: https://www.amazon.com/Melanie%20Nowak/e/B002BRGYWS/ref=la_B002BRGYWS_st?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_82%3AB002BRGYWS&qid=1519527951&sort=review-count-rank
You can learn more about the series and read free sample chapters on my website at: www.MelanieNowak.com
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤
Thank you, Amy, for allowing me to chat, introduce my books to your readers, and share my experiences. Best of luck and happy reading!