Melody Greene: Teaching and learning
Meeting the Rising Writer No. 7
Happy Not-Yet-Halloween! As always, welcome. Every week, I feature a new writer from Authors’ Tale, as well as an excerpt of their current WIP (which is available in the Facebook group only).
Today, I’d like to introduce you to a writer who has been with us for a while now, Melody Greene. Melody is a kindergarten teacher and a writer. Before writing, she was a 2nd-grade assistant and a substitute teacher, prior to that. She has agreed to a virtual interview with me, and I gladly share it with y’all today.
I’ve known Melody, personally, for a while. She’s wonderful, and I have been blessed to know her. I still am. 😉 Now, I want all of you to meet her and get to know her a little better.
Thank you, Melody, for agreeing to this interview.
When did you start writing?
I started writing in college. Since I was a child, I’ve always loved books, especially literature. College was a struggle for me, so I ditched advertising and turned to what I loved, literature. I tried my hand at creative writing and fell in love.
What inspires your writing?
I feel inspired by world culture, the burning fire of youth, and especially the way humans rationalize behavior to themselves.
Do you think your interest in advertising played a role in your view of how humans rationalize behavior?
My interest in advertising spawned more from humor. I love creative outlets, and I am the type of person who turns to humor to escape a tough situation. I built up repertoire of humor and wanted to create humorous super bowl commercials. I just didn’t have the competitive drive for that field. Athletics, I love to win. Trying to beat other people at life? Not so much.
My literary interest stems from not only the literature I was exposed to growing up, but just watching people and trying to figure why they are the way they are. My mother is a psychologist and when I was growing up, she would force feed me these self-help books. I’d try my best to deny them, but that experience, along with growing up in very diverse environments, has led me to able to see things many ways. Understands arguments from both sides. I use that in my writing to tap into my characters.
Which authors inspire you?
Haruki Murakami. He blends the uncanny into real life seamlessly. His balance between fantasy and realism encompassed in the literary framework of the human psyche are a huge inspiration to me.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
I’m currently working on a manga-inspired middle grade novel. I’ve always loved manga and anime and wanted to blend that into some of my writing. I love the stories where some strange girl drops into an unsuspecting boy’s life and turns things upside down for him. I started this project by reflecting on some of my favorite series and isolating what I loved about them. The elements that I often latch onto are unrequited love, coming of age, and self-denial. Life is a jumble of events and emotions, and those teenage years can prove especially tough, so that’s what I went with. I did a few character sketches and played around with some names. I really like to let the character make the final decision on their name. Names have power and they click with personalities. Once that was set, I was able to create a pretty streamlined outline. I let the characters fill in the blanks by telling me how they would deal with their situations.
What do you mean when you say characters choose their names?
What I mean by a character choosing a name is that the sound of the name, how it flows, has to fit the personality. Shy characters take names that sound like squeaks. Penelope, Arty. Characters that are sultry take names with deep, rolling sounds. Adriana, Lorenzo. I imagine when I try to give a character an unfitting name, they rebel and it haunts me until I find the proper, just right name.
What’s the most important thing for you when creating characters?
The most important thing for me when creating a character is probably their conflict. I use it as a guiding light. I’ll decide what I ideally want the character to achieve at the end of the story. For example, say I want my character to defeat a great evil in the world and feel really confident about it. I’d then choose to start with a character who isn’t very confident, and wants to be strong, or maybe not. Either way, I start them as less than I want them to be. I work backward.
Give us insight to your main character. Who is he or she? What is his or her purpose?
Jalen is a typical middle school boy. He’s not especially popular, but he has a good group of friends. He thinks he’s cool (he starts on the school’s basketball team), but he certainly has some shortcomings; he’s definitely not the leader of his pack. Like most of us, he’s figuring things out as he goes along. But then, Noriko comes into his life, and she’s very sure of herself. This pink-haired cutie is stronger, faster, and smarter than him. She also seems somewhat crazy. He thinks she’s his wife. When she tells him they have to take down a mad scientist, he’s not hearing it. Jalen just wants to beat her in a race. But, maybe she can make him see the light.
I’m sure the mad scientist plays a big role in the story. Which of the two (Jalen and Noriko) was your favorite to create? Why?
I honestly enjoy Jalen and Noriko equally. Jalen is my main character. He is the most human. He is the one who I want the audience to connect with the most. So we’re in his head, we’re seeing him experience those awkward years that everyone goes through. He’s real. On the other hand, Noriko is complete fun. She is my manga dream. She’s got pink hair, she claims to be this super spy and is kicking butt. She is independent in America on her own and taking on this crazy mission. What 13-year-old wouldn’t want to be so cool? Both characters are great fun to write.
Where do your ideas come from?
I get my ideas from people. I’ll look at a person or think of one. I’ll check out their clothing or hairstyle and analyze what kind of statement they’re trying to make. For example, if I see a woman wearing three rings, I might think she is a bit superstitious. Maybe she taps them because of a tick. Maybe the rings represent three major events in her life and every decision she makes is a reflection on one of those events. To me, characters and their humanity have always been, and will always be, the heart of any story. Genre or literature.
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I’m in a constant state of writer’s block. I torture myself over every word I write. It takes quite a while to get anything done. I get over it by taking a friend’s advice. She once told me to let the first version be crappy. Just tell myself the story and go back later. I’m the kind of person who wants things to be right the first time, but writing isn’t like that so I have to push through in that way.
Do you research your book? If so, what have you learned through your research?
I believe in research. Verisimilitude is key. I like the events to be believable, and I wanted the audience to make real life connections. This may be through language, through cultural mannerisms, or through symbols. In my last book, I used many Chilean symbols and it really enhanced the setting and superstition in the story.
Are you reading any books right now?
I’m not reading as much as I would like to be. I’m a kindergarten teacher now and it’s taking up much more of my time and energy than I’d like. Before the school year began, I was part of a book club and finishing up Peter Pan. The next book on my list is The Reader, which I’m very excited about. Make time for reading!
Are you interested in self-publishing or traditional publishing?
The lazy part of me wants traditional publishing. Someone else does all the work, you get into big name stores, advertising, it’s the dream, and it’s validating. However, with the flow of “trends,” I’ve found that the literature has to fit a certain profile if you want to go traditional. The quality of the literature doesn’t really matter that much as long as it’s popular. As a lover of literature, that is a problem for me. I’m looking to self-publish once I’ve gotten proper illustrations.
Do you have any favorite books? Favorite motivational quotes?
My favorite book is A Hero of Our Time. I read it in high school for class. It was the first time I really felt the purpose of literary devices. Anti-heroes, flashbacks, stories within stories. After reading this book, I was even crazier for literature. It broke me out of my comfort zone and put me on the path I’m on today.
What/who are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
Of course my mother who supports everything I do. When I finished my first book, she wrote me this sweet glittering card with congratulations, and to this day is my only family member to actually read the novel. My good friend and fellow author Alexis Marrero stood by me every chapter, and even got me back to writing when I was feeling unsatisfied with the direction my life was taking. She gave me the tough criticism when I needed it, and even acted as a pro-bono editor. I could never thank them enough the support and encouragement they’ve given me.
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?
Thank you, Melody, for the interview. It’s been wonderful getting to know you more, even though I have had some time (before today) to get to know you already. I’m glad you’re in Authors’ Tale and although you’re busy with school, I hope things calm down enough so we can see you in the group more often!
Thank you, everyone, for taking time to join in on the interview today. If you have questions or comments for Melody, leave them below and she’ll see them.
Have a wonderful day!
P.S. For those who are subscribed to my blog, I will not be available this Friday to post an article. I encourage you to look at my previous article if you haven’t, or the Group Short Story from Authors’ Tale writers.