I associate science fiction writers with scientists, but Melissa Douthit breaks the mold. With a degree in Computer Science and being a former employee of NASA, Melissa writes Fantasy novels. Currently, she has published six books, of which The Return, that is featured in this interview is her latest. I am pleased to present Melissa here on No Wasted Ink.
I began writing as a kid and kept a collection of poems. In grade and high school I wrote some short stories, but then stopped writing when I went to college and studied to become an engineer. It wasn’t until September of 2007 when I learned of the passing of a favorite author that I picked up my pen again and began writing a story for which I had pages and pages of notes already jotted down.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A writer? Forever. An author? I first considered myself an author when I finished a book and saw it selling in the online bookstores.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
My latest release is the third book in a fantasy trilogy about a girl named Chalice and her coming-of-age story, the struggles she encounters in her journey and what she learns along the way. The story is an action adventure with a little romance and humor thrown in.
What inspired you to write this book?
My favorite authors growing up as a kid. I did a lot of reading and always wanted to eventually write a story of my own. When I learned of Robert Jordan’s passing, I immediately began writing my trilogy. In the preface of book one, it says:
“On the morning of 21st of September, 2007, I sat down at my computer with a cup of coffee and clicked a familiar bookmark on my internet browser. The link took me to a website that I knew well. In doing so, I learned that one of my favorite authors had passed away. His name was James Oliver Rigney, Jr., also known as Robert Jordan. The website was www.dragonmount.com. Ever since I was seventeen, I have been reading his epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. I remember buying the first book, The Eye of the World, from a local bookstore and rushing home to read it. Now, three years later, my first novel has been published. It is a novel with both a storyline and a back-ground theme. The ideas for the story were conceived out of a desire to write a fantasy that was different from any other I had read in the past. The entire story required a few years to fully develop, but I believe I have achieved my original intention which is keeping it different. I am hoping that you, its reader, will feel that difference and love it. Thank you for reading my story. I hope you enjoy it.”
Do you have a specific writing style?
I am mostly a discovery writer. I cannot write with outlines to save my life. I’ll get an idea in my head and jot it down in my notes. Then a scene will pop up in my head and I’ll write down what I see. And then it goes from there. The story grows in the telling. There are so many events in the books that I didn’t know were going to happen until I got there and discovered it.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I have no idea. The title just popped in my head out of nowhere.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The story has a green (environmentalist) theme running through it. When the reader gets to the second book and then sees how the third book ends, the message is loud and clear. My views on this subject were shaped by my professional experience as an engineer working for Lawrence Livermore National Lab which is a nuclear weapons laboratory.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think all stories have a little bit of the author’s own life experiences in them. It’s from that wealth of in-formation that authors draw their ideas and visions. For example, some of the characters in the story are either people I know or a mixture of people I know.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
There are so many, but here is a short list: John Steinbeck, Jack London, Frank Herbert, Robert Jordan, JRR Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, and Neil Gaiman. I just find their stories and their life stories inspiring. For example, I visited a bar called The First and Last Chance Saloon in Jack London square in Oakland CA. It is a bar that is over hundred years old with all the original furnishings in it, like the clock on the wall the tables, and the wooden bar. Jack London used to hang out there when he was a kid and do his schoolwork while listening to the seafarers and fishermen who stopped in for a drink. It was at his favorite table in that bar that he penned The Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild (one of my favorite books.) One seafarer he met, Alexander McClean, became London’s inspiration for Wolf Larsen in The Sea Wolf.
If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor?
Right now? I have six of them. Their names are Kevin Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Brandon Sanderson, Dave Farland, Eric Flint, and James A. Owen. They are all instructors of the Superstars Writing Seminar. I attend every year. From their decades of experiences as bestselling authors, they have the best recommendations and advice for new and aspiring writers.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Brielle Porter. I chose her because she’s awesome! She is one of the most talented artist’s I’ve met online. She’s also very nice and patient.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
When you write a book, write as if no one else in the world will read it (so you won’t limit yourself). Then, when you publish it, publish it as if everyone in the world will read it (so that it will be as professional as possible). Then, when you’re done, do it all over again. Always keep writing your next book.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want to say thank you! All my readers are awesome!
Salt Lake City