Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. An avid reader, she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.
Touch, released in January 2013, is her first published novel. Hope(less), the first book in the Judgement of the Six series released in March 2013, is her second published work.
Review for Hope(Less)
I can't say enough about this series. I'm not normally interested in the werewolf/shapeshifter books, but the author doesn't use these paranormal characters the way that most authors have. It was an unpredictable and original plot, but werewolves are only part of the equation. There are six strong female characters in this series that have stories, powers and soul mates all their own, but the author is able to weave these stories together like you would weave a beautiful tapestry to eventually reveal the entire picture or landscape.
I don't want to give anything away, but I must say that the sexual tension between the two main characters is fabulous. It takes great skill to keep a reader riveted to a page, with their heart in their throat without having to include heavy, sexually graphic material. The sweetness of the love story will get your heart racing just as fast as a full blown make-out session would.
I thought that the love interest, Clay, who is the shapeshifter in this story was a difficult character to develop, but the author did an amazing job. I couldn't believe how attached I became to him, considering he doesn't say a single word until the end of the book. His actions, the authors descriptions, the orchestration of the scenes and the way Gabby is able to react to him and carry the full load of the conversation is pure genius. Any other author might have left readers feeling put out by Clay's silence, but Melissa Haag is able to demonstrate how actions can speak louder than words.
Gabby is strong, willful and determined to have an opportunity to make her own choices without werewolf influences. I couldn't help but root for this awesome character. All in all, it was such a well-balanced look at an original, paranormal werewolf adventure without the normal cliche's and over-the-top mating scenes that generally have me rolling my eyes. Bravo, Melissa Haag.
Now, seriously, when's the fourth one coming out? Yeah, because I've already read the first three. Feeling impatient. It's like my nose is pressed against the doors at Target while I'm mumbling under my breath, "Open, open, open!"
Interview With Melissa Haag
Me: Tell me about your journey toward becoming an author?
Melissa: I’ve always been a reader. In high school, I wrote stories while taking a creative writing class, but I never went beyond that. I’d never considered it as a career until recently.
After I had my third child, I needed distraction and escape from reality (aka laundry, baby talk, dishes, laundry, you get the picture). I occasionally went to the library for books, but more often, I bought the paperbacks I found in the local grocery and super stores. My reading habit became too expensive to maintain (before the birth of the ereader!), and I knew I needed to find another way to get my reading fix. Writing my own story was an obvious choice. However, the idea was easier thought than executed.
It took me several tries and many, many hours to FINISH writing a story (I haven’t published that first book). Finishing that first one allowed me to move on to other projects like Hope(less), Book 1 of the Judgements, and Touch, a standalone book. I spent at least three hours a night (if not more) typing once everyone went to bed. The further the story progressed the more obsessed I became, and my husband insisted I do something with what I wrote since I spent so much time on it. The idea of querying an agent for traditional publishing terrified me. So I started looking at self-publishing. It seemed much easier (not sure if that’s really true, but the results were quicker ;) ).
Me: I’ve done both, Melissa, and I agree that self- publishing pulls in quicker results, providing you know what you're doing or are willing to learn what you need to do. Looks like you've mastered it thus far. What inspired the idea for The Judgment of The Six series?
Melissa: A dream. It’s now a scene in the second Judgement book (in the bar when Emmitt finds Michelle on the dance floor).
Me: I loved that scene, and the next scene, oh, and the one after that. LOL When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
Melissa: I have a good sense of their personalities. By the time they hit the pages, I have their childhoods in my head and their dreams of the future. After all, our past experiences help to define us and our future aspirations help refine us. J
Me: Out of the heroines you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?
Melissa: My sister-in-law and I were debating the female leads so far. They’ve lived in my head for so long, I can relate to them all. They are like my daughters. So maybe I’m the Taupe Lady...
Me: Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
Melissa: I’ve always come by my ideas one of two ways: dreams or mental boredom. Mental boredom is easy enough to achieve. Give me seven loads of laundry to fold and put away. Mind numbing!
Once I have the ideas, I never write a scene right away. I let it cook for a while. Most of the time I build on the initial idea until I start to worry I’ll forget a detail. Then, I know it’s time to write.
Me: What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about being an author?
Melissa: Time management is definitely my biggest challenge. The most rewarding aspect is interacting with everyone who has read one of my books. Hearing their thoughts on the plot and characters, their speculation on what might happen next in the series...it’s all fun.
Me: I noticed in your bio that you are a chocolate addict. I can relate. I simply must know what your favorite chocolatey treat is. It really is that important!
Melissa: If I can choose ANY kind, I’d have to say a truffle assortment from Godiva. (It used to be the Dove Easter egg truffles but I can’t find them anymore.)
After last Christmas, my family went to a nearby mall that had a Godiva store. They had their boxed chocolates on clearance. 50% off. I stared at this box of 50 assorted truffles forever! My husband laughed at me and told me to “just get it.” I held that box like it was a baby all the way home. As soon as we were home, my boys and I went into the kitchen. I opened the box and told them to each pick one. I cut the two they picked in half. I ate a half of each (because they were my chocolates!) and let them have a half of the one they picked. We did that for the few weeks. Two tempting chocolates each day. Best chocolate ever! There is a down side to that much indulgence. After the third day, a huge pimple appeared on my chin. Yeah, that still didn’t stop me. Lol.
If you or anyone else has another favorite chocolate, please PLEASE tell me. I love trying new chocolates.
Me: I can give you a suggestion, Melissa. We have a foreign exchange student from Switzerland living with us and she has introduced Swiss chocolate called Lindt chocolate to us. You should be able to buy it at any grocery store. So yummy. Where is your favorite place to write?
Melissa: I have a room in my house all to myself. My office. For my birthday, my husband bought me an executive desk. I love it. I have space for storyboarding, my graphics laptop, and my writing laptop. So much creative space! Of course, he told me he now expects more creative output, too. ;) I’m sure my readers will agree.
Me: You hubby sounds awesome and supportive. Glad to know you’ve got backing like that. In your bio you stated you haven’t been writing for very long. How did you break into self-publishing?
Melissa: I guess I sort of answered this already but I’ll tell you more. J Self-publishing seemed a little easier to get into as far as getting your book “out there” for readers. I researched self-publishing online, found Smashwords (which distributes books for you), and went for it. But self-publishing is not like the field of dreams. Just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean people will read it. The first few months, Touch just sat there. I did more research, discovered I actually had to market and become active on social media, and invested in a website.
The first six months of publication were a complete learning curve. I was less concerned about sales than I was about understanding what the heck I was supposed to be doing. Plus, I was still too unsure of my stories to know if it was worth pushing toward an audience or not. One review at a time, I learned, much to my relief, it is worth a read.
Me: What marketing strategies did you find most helpful? Any resources you would recommend to other authors or aspiring authors?
Melissa: Marketing is a huge experiment. The biggest thing I’ve learned is what works for one, might not work for another. There are three basic elements needed for success though. A good, well-edited story, a professional cover (trust me!), and motivation.
Me: What inspires you?
Melissa: Chocolate motivates me but anything can inspire a story. Things my kids do, watching nature, folding laundry... lol
Me: What other hobbies or activities do you pursue?
Melissa: I like to take walks when I’m stuck on a plot point, and when I’m not writing, I spend time with my family.
Me: How do friends and family influence your writing?
Melissa: They make it fun through their encouragement and support. I hide little bits of familyisms into my stories for my sister-in-law, my alpha reader. She gets a kick out of that. And my mom and dad both proof read for me when they have time.
Me: What authors have influenced your writing skills and techniques over the years?
Melissa: Stephen King has made me paranoid—I’m sure he’s had that effect on others—about the use of the word was. My editor had to convince me it really is needed.
Me: What projects can we look forward to in the near future?
Melissa: A whole bunch, I hope! After a summer home with the kids, I’m looking forward to a school year full of writing. Definitely the next Judgement book, and hopefully a starter to a new fantasy/sci-fi series.
Me: Do you have any advice to give aspiring authors everywhere?
Melissa: Keep writing. Whether you like your story or not, stick with it and finish it. It’s important to complete projects. You never know, maybe several years from now, you’ll need a story and already have it on your hard drive.
When you do have a story you like, get an editor. There are some very affordable ones out there. I made the mistake of not having my first two books edited and I think it really weighed down their chance of success in the market. All my books are now edited.
Let people critique your story. Open yourself to their feedback, and keep in mind, their goal is to help you make your story shine, not to make you feel bad. It’s okay to ignore advice that feels wrong to you, but if you have a group of people telling you the same thing, maybe you need to listen.
Me: Thank you for joining us today, Melissa. Such a pleasure having you here. Please be sure to download the first book in the Judgement of The Six Series, Hope(Less) right away. It's free!
Connect with Melissa Haag online.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Haag/e/B00B93ID4C/
iTunes buy links: https://itunes.apple.com/lv/artist/melissa-haag/id625063753?mt=11
Smashwords profile: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/MelissaHaag
Barnes and Noble book list: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/melissa-haag?store=allproducts&keyword=melissa+haag