NR: Why did you choose paranormal romance?
Melanie Nowak: Paranormal creatures and powers have been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. In literature, 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. I doubt I’ll ever write in any genre that does not include a paranormal element.
Although I always planned for my story to include fantastic elements of the paranormal, I didn’t set out to write in a specific genre. I had an idea for venomous vampires and began to develop characters and follow their lives. My books are actually a blending of genres, being most closely associated with Urban Fantasy, in that they follow an ensemble cast rather than only one couple. There is definitely romance in my series, but I do not write in the typical format that once expects in Romance with only one couple and a ‘happily ever after’ in every book. My series more realistically follows the evolution of relationships between 6 core characters – even though the first trilogy is told through the perspectives of only 2. The first trilogy is really one story told in 3 parts, so that each book is not stand alone, which is more characteristic of Fantasy than Romance. I tend to blend genres and break rules ;-)
NR: Which of your female leads do you relate to the most?
Melanie Nowak: Honestly, I closely relate to all of the characters in my books! It may sound strange because my characters are pretty diverse, but it’s true. Each of these characters has been taken from the seed of something within myself. 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.
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. However, the beauty of writing, is that I can use various past experiences to act out different emotions through all of my characters. If I could not emotionally live through what they go through, and transcribe it to the page, I don’t think the writing would resonate very strongly with readers. That close relationship between an author’s feelings and the page are what gives a story life.
NR: In Volume 3: Evolving Ecstasy there was a romantic twist that surprised readers. Was this planned out or something that came to you as you were putting the book together?
Melanie Nowak: While writing, I always knew how the book would end. I plan out the general outline of my books well in advance of writing a single word. There are times that the story evolves a little differently as I write it, but it never truly strays from the overall outline – I have some complexly intertwined storylines leading from one book to the next, some of which have not even really been introduced yet, but have seeds and foundations sown throughout all of the prior books. To change anything drastically would alter overall plan for the entire series.
Without giving anything away for new readers, I will say that when I was first planning the outline, there was a part of the ending that suddenly came to me as almost a surprise. Sometimes it feels as though I am focusing intently on one section of the puzzle, not realizing that some disconnected part of my subconscious is maneuvering the rest of the puzzle pieces into place for me. By the time I stop focusing on that one small section, I step back to see that everything else just seems to magically fit into place. All of a sudden as I am plotting the story, it all clicks and I think – Oh, that’s why I made this happen, because now it fits well with that! It’s an odd feeling – almost as though I am relating what happened, rather than creating it myself, LOL.
In that same vein, I find myself very against altering a story event once I’ve envisioned it in my head. Sometimes I make a choice because I know that it is what one character would do – but it messes things up for the other characters. To change something feels like a lie – like I am not telling what really happened. So I relate the events as I first envision them. Difficult occurrences are opportunities to show character growth. Things don’t always happen the way we expect them to in life, and we have to learn to deal with that.
NR: Between Cain and Ben, which one would you like to locked up in a room with?
Melanie Nowak: I can’t honestly answer that. It depends on my emotional needs of the moment, and I truly love them both! (Can I have them both?) Luckily my husband has qualities of each :-)
NR: If you could collaborate with any author, who would you pick and why?
Melanie Nowak: Not to sound unsociable, but I couldn’t imagine having to write with another person. Writing is a very personal thing for me, that I pour all of my passion and emotion into. It would be very difficult to accept alterations in the story I envision, based on the ideas of someone else.
I will say that an author I greatly admire is Anne Rice. Her beautifully literary vampire chronicles were my first experience reading something from the vampire’s point of view, and having opportunity to truly connect emotionally with such characters. I also love the writing of Joss Whedon in his Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and television series. His witty dialogue, clever metaphors and intelligent storytelling have always inspired me.
NR: Does music inspire you? If so, what would you say has been the most influential song for the series?
Melanie Nowak: Although my main characters are Cain & Felicity, I do feel the story’s supporting cast are just as important and emotionally involved in the series. The strongest correlation to song is between my character Sindy and the song “How Does It Feel?” by Avril Lavigne. That song seems to voice everything that Sindy feels inside and will not show others. I was writing Sindy’s scenes for the beginning of ALMOST HUMAN Volume 3: Evolving Ecstasy (Chapter 4, Honesty – when she is with Cain), when I realized how apropos the song was to her situation. Most people might not infuse so much emotion into that song, but now every time I hear it, I think of how Sindy must feel and it can make me cry.
A list of songs I connect with my series (it’s a bit eclectic, but so are my characters):
How Does It Feel? – Avril Lavigne
New – No Doubt
This Is How I Disappear – My Chemical Romance
Uninvited – Alanis Morissette
Light In Your Eyes – Sheryl Crow
I’m Not Dead – P!NK
Broken Hearts Parade – Good Charlotte
(Don’t Fear) the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
All That I’m Living For - Evanescence
Lifetimes – Sheryl Crow
NR: How hard was it to become a self published author? Why did you choose this path?
Melanie Nowak: I first tried publish my series back in 2004, and as it is for most authors, it was a long and difficult endeavor. I spent a few years trying to get published by traditional methods. I researched the whole process and jumped through every hoop. Unfortunately, most publishers and agents are swamped with inquiries these days, and are unable to give each submission the attention it may deserve. I got numerous rejection postcards without a single request to actually read my manuscript.
As a busy wife and mom, I wasn’t able to attend conventions or camp out on door-steps to be read. I stopped trying to publish, and continued writing my series for myself, and for the love of the story. I was earning my Masters Degree to be a school librarian, when a professor mentioned that Amazon would accept previously unpublished books for the Kindle. I knew that once you self-publish, most traditional publishers will not consider your work, but no one was considering my work anyway. After some research and deliberation, I decided to publish on Kindle in 2008, because it was an effective way to share my stories with the public. I could have closure, feeling like I'd done something with the books, and be able to move on. I wanted to begin writing the 2nd trilogy for the series, which had already been playing out in my head, no matter how I tried to focus on other things.
After my series began to gain Kindle readers, I got many requests for print copies of the books. To try and make that happen, I shopped around again for agents & publishers in January ’09. This time I had verifiable sales to show them – but it didn’t help. There is still a stigma against ‘self-published authors’ (although I believe that is slowly changing). They didn’t like the fact that my books were already out in e-book format, even though they had never been printed. Again I was constantly rejected without even being read first. I finally decided to publish in print independently, because I was more interested in sharing the stories with readers, than waiting for a publishing house to back me.
I handled every aspect from editing & formatting, to cover photos (that's me on book 1). It took a lot of time, research, learning what needed to be done, and finding the most cost effective way to carry it out. I chose a printing company that allows me complete control, and I learned what was involved to become Independently published in print. In April of 2009, WoodWitchDame Publications was born. Word-of-mouth through readers has helped spread the addiction of my venomous vampires, and I’ve been blessed with many devoted readers. I am very happy with the success of my series being Indie published.
I would still be open to entertaining offers from larger publishers, but not at the expense of my creative control. A larger publisher would have the connections to get my books into more stores, more quickly, and could provide a budget for a promotional campaign, to create better public awareness of the books. However, many traditional publishing houses expect the books they support to conform to a certain genre and format that is associated with their company. My series blends many genres and does not follow set conventions. Staying true to my vision for the characters, and having complete creative control is of utmost importance to me, so I will not publish with another company unless I feel their offer is in the best interest of the series.
I also appreciate the fact that being Indie published means that I can take the time to research aspects of my story, and truly flesh out fully developed and evolving characters. I don’t have to worry about compromising my story, in order to meet a deadline. At this point in time, I may not have a contract with a big bonus or advance check, but every time a reader tells me that my characters resonate with them, and my stories have touched their lives, it is more rewarding than I ever would have imagined! That is what makes Indie publishing the path for me.
NR: Do you plan to write any more books in this vampire world?
Melanie Nowak: I have been thinking about my characters and their story for years, and have already planned their future for many books to come. I have decided to write my ALMOST HUMAN series as a succession of trilogies. The series will continue chronologically with the same characters throughout, but each trilogy will have a new focus and storyline that follows through its three books. Each trilogy is fairly self-contained, allowing those three books to be read separately from the rest of the series, but will be more enjoyable if the trilogies are read in order, illustrating the full history of the characters.
Writing the series as a succession of trilogies gives readers the opportunity to feel a sense of completion during points in the story, even though the series will still continue for many books to come. I have planned 4 trilogies for the ALMOST HUMAN series, meaning 12 books in all, and then I have plans for a spin off novel, which may result in a series of its own.
Currently available books for the series are:
ALMOST HUMAN ~ The First Trilogy
Volume 1: Fatal Infatuation
Volume 2: Lost Reflections
Volume 3: Evolving Ecstasy
ALMOST HUMAN ~ The Second Trilogy
Volume 1: Born to Blood
I am now writing Volume 2: Descendant of Darkness, for the second trilogy, and hope to release that book in 2011.
ALMOST HUMAN ~ The First Trilogy was featured in the New Title Showcase of Book Expo America in May 2010. The series is available Internationally in ebook and paperback, online and in your local bookstore – if it’s not on the shelf – ask for it!
You can purchase ALMOST HUMAN through Amazon at:
Or at a discount through the author’s website, where you can also read free sample chapters:
I would sincerely like to thank Brandi & Lenore of Nocturne Reads for giving me the opportunity to introduce everyone to my venomous vamps! Thanks for having me & happy reading!
~ Melanie Nowak
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