Did you always want to be a writer?
Yes and no. As a kid, I started out wanting to be an archeologist. That evolved (pun intended) into wanting to be an astrophysicist. Then, in my junior year of high school in an AP Chemistry class, I discovered that I’m not very good at science. I like it. I’m a huge fan, but not a great practitioner. At the same time, I was acting in a play. Not only did I like that, but people told me I was good at it. So, I decided that, if I couldn’t fly out into space for real, maybe I could do it as an actor in some space adventure. So, I pursued acting.
Flash forward a few decades later, and there I was walking on the moon. (True story). I was helping an old man who was having trouble because it’s really hard to walk on the moon. He’s journey there was pretty much the same as mine. He had wanted to go into space, but wasn’t very good at science either, so he got into film. There we were, a couple of scientist wanna-bes, walking on the moon together. His name is Dean Semler ( http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005871/?ref_=nv_sr_1 ) and the moon was on Stage 26 at Universal Studios. He was the Director of Photography, and I was the script coordinator – which is a fancy name for typist – on Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0144528/?ref_=nv_sr_3)
But you asked about writing. All during this time I was writing without even thinking about it. I wrote a stories in 4th grade -- one about Abraham Lincoln, one about a World War I fighter pilot. I don’t know why I wrote them. I don’t know where the stories came from. I somehow talked my teacher into letting me read them in front of the class, which must have surprised them, since I’m dyslexic and HATED reading out loud.
Later, in high school, I’d write 1-3 page short stories about a kid named Tommy who would do insane stuff to the school, usually by accident. I’d carry these around in my jacket pocket and kids would read them. Still, I didn’t think of myself as a writer. Now I realize that, if I were locked in solitary confinement, I’d probably prick my fingers and write stories in blood on the walls. I don’t know who first said, “writers write,” but that could be amended to “writers can’t help but write.”
What inspires you to write?
Breathing and boredom. I can’t go without writing, but if I need inspiration, all I have to do is nothing - aka, watch TV. Eventually, my brain starts making its own entertainment, and then I’m off the races.
Do you have a daily writing routine/schedule?
I wish! I’ve had about a million day jobs which range from insanely busy to the kind where they see I brought a notebook and say, “Oh, good, you brought something to do.” I used to LOVE those jobs. I wrote a whole stage play while working as a receptionist in 1988. Ever since the 2009 crash, those don’t come up anymore.
I’ve also gone through long bouts of unemployment, which you might think were times to get a lot of writing done, but they never have been. Being unemployed does terrible things to one’s brain. I don’t recommend it.
All of the uncertainty between new jobs and no jobs, means I’ve gotten really good at writing in my head. I can hold a several scenes in my mind for days until I have time to do a data dump – aka write them down.
Any favorite authors and/or books that have inspired you in your career?
Being a dyslexic kid, I didn’t grow up with that love of reading that so many other writers have. I was raised in a family of storytellers – so I have a love of stories. I think Larry Niven was the first author I discovered on my own. I loved The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. And, like everyone else, Harry Potter is a big influence. I love me some brain candy!
Any advice for up and coming authors?
Musicians learn to hear. Painters learn to see. Actors learn to listen. A writer has to learn to do all of that. Observe life with all of your senses like a sponge. Then add to that your own intellect and your own heart, and squeeze all of it back out on the page.
And… because I am a total fan girl… what was it like working on XENA?
Xena: Warrior Princess was a blast! I could tell stories all day long about my two and a half years on Xena as a writer’s assistant. It’s hard to believe we’re coming up on 20 years since the show premiered.
I remember one day on the lot at Universal I ran into a friend of mine from back when I worked in Television Information Services. He asked me where I was working. I said, “Xena: Warrior Princess,” expecting him to ask “Oh, is that a cartoon?” For some reason before the show aired, everyone thought it was a cartoon.
Instead, he said, “Oh, I’m doing the website for that show.” So I asked if he would like to meet with the writers.
That meeting lead to “The Xena Scrolls,” which I wrote for the website. In season 2, they did an episode based on my characters, which became the first web-to-television intellectual property.
I also wrote the ADR – aka “looping.” That’s any dialogue that is recorded after the show has been cut together. My two big memories of that when the show won a Golden Reel Award for ADR editing. The Post Production Producer told me she’d rather win that than an Emmy, so I loved that. The other was when fans started quoting their favor lines on the net forum, and some of them were mine! That was cool in the extreme.
Speaking of the net forum, I had a ton of fun monitoring it. This was in the early days of the web, so there was no job description. No one was hired to do it. I just took it on from my desk in the writer’s office. That was my first experience of having an online community, and it was a blast. I was Xenastaff – so if there are any old fans from the net forum, be sure to say hi.
Wow! Amazing! What is the current book you are promoting?
My current book is BILLY BOBBLE MAKES A MAGIC WAND, which comes out in December 2014 from Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. It’s the story of Billy, a 12-year-old kid into quantum physics, and his friend Suzy – who is into microbiology. Together they make a real, working, magic wand.
Of course, they don’t know how to use it…
I LOVE that you wrote for the middle grade audience. That transition between children’s and teens is very important. What made you choose this category for writing?
I’m glad you like that, but coming from television, I try to write for anyone who picks up the book. That means I have to keep it clean. I can’t go over the heads of kids nor under the interest of adults (actually, that’s usually the other way around). But I don’t sit on front of my computer thinking, “I’m writing for a 12-year-old,” and then try to guess what they want to read. Instead, I have a science-fiction action/adventure story in my head that will explode if I don’t put it on paper, so I do.
Other people then tell me what age range they think it should be sold to, and I continue to ask them why they are excluding everyone else.
Of course, I did choose the age of the characters, and you’re right - the transition into young adulthood is an important time of life, which makes it more interesting. As Joseph Campbell would say, 12 is a mythic age.
Can you describe your main characters for us?
My two main characters are Billy Bobble and his friend Suzy Quinofski. They are king and queen geeks of the school, so much so, that they have skipped two grades. They are 12-year-olds in a world 14-to-18-year-olds. On their first day, they have a hard time telling the students from the teachers.
Billy has a troubled past. He has no memory of his father, who left when he was young. His mother is a schizophrenic hoarder who thinks the neighbor’s yard gnomes are out to get her son. (Turns out, she’s right!) Billy, his mom and his 19-year-old former juvenile delinquent brother, Peter, live in a trailer park just outside of a city-sized army base.
Suzy lives on the base, since her father is a big-time general in charge of Special Forces. On the base, Suzy is treated like royalty. At school, she’s just “Suzy Snotski.” Her parents encourage her love of microbiology to the point of building her a lab in the basement. This is where Billy and Suzy hang out after school – until Billy blows it up by mistake with a massive endoplasmic eruption of what they think might be Bose-Einstein Condensate.
It’s sentences like that that get Billy beaten up a lot.
Something that I find interesting in your book is that the characters have skipped grades. What else may surprise the readers about your book?
I think the first surprise will be that it’s not a “silly” book. This is not a cartoon. The characters are well-rounded with deep issues. If I’ve done my job right, readers should start to believe that it’s possible to use science to create fantasy-style magic. The issues run from bullying, to mental illness, to international politics, to how to talk to girls.
And, readers will laugh a lot!
This book sounds GREAT!
Let’s go with Harry Potter.
Pizza, Ice Cream and Pop Tarts.
“If necessity is the mother of invention, then boredom is the father.” (I wrote that in high school… when I was bored).
The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Chevy Equinox that I got to drive for 2 months as a volunteer for “Project Driveway.”
Card Game or Board Game?
Poker. Anything BUT Texas Hold ‘em.
Beach or Mountains?
Beach. I love the water.
Hot or Cold?
There’s no such thing as cold. (That’s a shout out to all of the physics geeks out there – and a theme of the second Billy Bobble book).
Book or Kindle?
I hate to say it, but Kindle.
Shoes or Sandals?
Sandals … except at the dog park. Think about it.
Walk or Ride?
With my dog, walk.
Early Bird or Night Owl?
I’m in transition. I was a night owl, but age tends to make us all Early Birds, I think.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Be excellent to each other.
Where can people find you? Blog, Twitter, Facebook,Goodreads, please list all links
Where can people buy your books? Please list links
Blogs: For Writers, I am part of the team at From The Write Angle (http://www.fromthewriteangle.com/ ) . For filmmakers, I blog for the Dances With Films Festival (http://rsmellette.blogspot.com/ ).
Facebook: Me: https://www.facebook.com/rsmellette My writer’s page is under construction: https://www.facebook.com/MelletteRS