Author Spotlight: Melanie Milburne

1. Congratulations on your Ruby Award at the 2011 RWA conference! How did it feel to win such a prestigious award?

 It was an amazing moment, more because I really didn’t expect to win that category. I thought I was there to make up the numbers or something. My voice in both my Presents and Medicals is sexy, not Sweet/Traditional, however in that book there was a slightly softer touch on the level of sensuality. I was stunned and humbled and for the first time ever- almost lost for words!

 

 

2. Can you tell us a little about your latest release?

 His Poor Little Rich Girl is my latest Presents release. It is a story about a man who is trying to keep out of the public eye while he deals with a devastating health crisis, and a very determined young woman from his past who will not stop until he agrees to meet with her face to face to help launch her fashion label in Europe. It is a revenge plot with a twist. My hero Alessandro Vallini would love to have a chance to humble the spoilt and willful socialite Rachel McCulloch, who rejected his heartfelt proposal five years ago, but not right now!

 

3. As an author of many published books, what do you think are the key ingredients for longevity in a writing career?

 I am working on Book number 44 right now and I can tell you writing gets harder not easier. The challenge to stay fresh and put new twists on those well-used archetypal themes is constant and at times terrifying. I think reading widely is really important. I also love writing craft workshops, in particular screenplay structure. The more I learn about the art of storytelling the more I realize I don’t know. It shocks me how ignorant I was when I started. I just wanted to write and I did, but it wasn’t until I had written and published thirty books that I decided to analyse what I was doing so I could do it better.

I think a lot of writers are frightened of messing with their voice or ask: why fix it if it’s not broken? To some degree those concerns are real. But for me, I really want to become a better writer and the only way for me to do that is to constantly challenge myself.

 

4. What do you love most about being an author?

 I would have to say I love the actual process of writing. This may sound a bit weird but I really don’t think about the readers or the publishing side of things when I sit down to write. I only think about the story I want to tell and the characters who will bring it to life on the page.

But I do love hearing from readers. I get a huge thrill when a reader contacts me to say a book really spoke to them or touched them.

 

5. How do you keep coming up with new ideas and storylines?

 I have always had an overactive imagination. It keeps me awake at night, which is annoying! Ideas seem to pop out at me all the time. It can be from newspapers, magazines, books or movies, conversations, people I’ve met and spoken to on planes, trains etc. It can even be from dreams. Most of my ideas formulate while I am exercising. I am an exercise junkie. It’s how I control my anxious personality. The further I walk or swim, the more writing I get done, at least in my head. It’s my processing time and I guard it fiercely.

 

6. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

 I had no idea there was so much business attached to writing. It’s even crazier now with Facebook, Twitter and blogging. I wish I had been better prepared for it. I think for people who have top- notch IT skills it takes less time. For me, although I am not totally clueless, if I have a problem it takes ages for me to solve it and meanwhile my stress levels go through the stratosphere!

 

7. Do you write detailed character profiles before starting a new book, or do you find the characters come to life as you write?

I have a theory on the pantsers/planners thing. I wonder if pantsers are actually planning but they’re doing it on a deeply subconscious level. When it comes to writing it down it just flows because it’s been percolated inside their head.

 I used to think I was a total pantser. I would just dive into the writing and wait to see what happened. But now, after studying the craft and of course, written a lot more books where I’ve had to revisit some archetypal themes, I do a lot more planning. Having said that, I looked over a detailed plan I made on my current work in progress a couple of weeks ago and it’s nothing like the story is now! I think I move between the two processes depending on the story idea. Some books seem to need more of a plan, others more or less write themselves.

 

8. Since everybody needs a break, even when doing something they love, how do you like to spend your time away from writing?

 I read and watch movies. I have a massage. I go for long walks with my dogs. I swim and have coffee with friends. But to tell you the truth, I’m still writing when I do all of that. If anyone can tell me where a writer’s off switch is, could you please let me know?!

 

9. Describe yourself in three words:

 Passionate, energetic and enthusiastic.

 

10. What are you working on now?

 A Presents duo. It’s a twist on a twin story, in that my heroines Gisele and Sienna didn’t know each other existed until a chance encounter in a department store.

Book One is about what happens when the truth comes out. It is one of the most emotional books I have ever written. Gisele and Emilio’s wedding was cancelled two years ago just days before the ceremony when he mistakenly believed Gisele had betrayed him. To find out he was wrong (it was actually Sienna in the compromising sex tape) is devastating and he learns that sometimes there is nothing you can do to make amends. You have to start over with what you have now, not with what you had then.

Book Two is a marriage of convenience between two sworn enemies. Wild child, full of sass, daughter of a housekeeper Sienna Baker locks horns with the very determined and deliciously sexy French/Italian billionaire Andreas Ferrante. It is the prince and the pauper on steroids! They are tied (against both their wills) in a six -month marriage in order to inherit property and a fortune. I love the dialogue between them. Sparks come off the page!

 

 

11. What advice would you give to aspiring romance authors out there?

 It is said so many times but it can’t be said enough: read, read, read. But I would add to that and say write, write and write. It is the actual process of writing in which one learns how to construct a story. Books can tell you the theory, and I thoroughly recommend you read them and attend workshops, but only by putting those fingers on the keyboard will you actually learn the craft. It’s like exercise. The first time you go running or swimming you can barely go a few metres, but with practice you build strong muscle memory and endurance. Another thing I would advise is to analyse the books you love to read. What did you love about them? What stayed with you? What made that story unique for you?

 

 

Weblinks:

Visit Melanie’s website: www.melaniemilburne.com.au

See Melanie’s blog posts at http://authorsoundrelations.blogspot.com/ and http://www.iheartpresents.com/

Melanie’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Melanie-Milburne/351594482609

Thanks for being part of the Author Spotlight, Melanie!

 

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12 Comments

  1. Congrats on your RUBY win, Melanie 🙂

    Lovely interview, and I appreciated the reminder to “read widely” — any excuse to read suits me 🙂

    Reply
  2. Great interview Melanie. I did your workshop with the Pretty Woman snippets at a conf and LOVED it. I too am really interested in writing craft and find other people’s processes fascinating. Congrats on 44 books – that’s awesome. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Cath Evans

     /  October 26, 2011

    Hello Melanie,
    Lovely interview. I find it amazing that after 44 books you still feel there’s so much to learn. That’s reassuring for someone starting the learning process and feeling swamped!

    And I agree with your pantser theory. That’s how I work – it has to be nutted out in my head before I can get to the next part of the story. But if I start writing notes, I bore myself. So I just let things swim in my head, then off I go again.

    Thanks for a lovely interview.

    Cath

    Reply
  4. Congrats on your RBY, Melanie. Fantastic that after sooo many books you still have fresh wonderful ideas!

    And absolutely had to agree that a writer’s brain never switches off… Some days I wish if did….

    Lovely interview Juliet 🙂

    Reply
  5. Wow, congrats on being up to book 44. That is very impressive. And congrats on the RBY win.

    Reply
  6. 44 books! What a wonderful achievement Melanie. I’m looking forward to reading His Poor Little Rich Girl. And congrat’s on the Ruby win.

    Reply
  7. Juanita Kees

     /  October 26, 2011

    Congratulations on your RBY win, Melanie. And wow, book 44! What an achievement. Thanks for the advice to new writers. It’s very reassuring to know that even multi-published authors are still on a learning curve. Looking forward to adding all 44 to my TBR list. That should keep me out of trouble for a while 🙂

    Great interview, Juliet and Melanie. Thanks

    Reply
  8. Congratulations on your RUBY win Melanie and thank you for sharing your writing advice.

    Reply
  9. Thank you all for your lovely comments and congratulations. It was a pleasure doing the interview. Juliet had some great questions.

    Reply
  10. Thanks Melanie, it was a pleasure getting to know more about you. And thanks everyone for dropping by, I’m sure you’ve learned a few tips… I especially like the one saying to read, read, read. Sounds good to me!

    Reply
  11. Great interview, Melanie. I’m encouraged that afterwriting so many books you recognise the fact you are still learning. I picked up a copy of my first published book a few days ago and shuddered at the mistakes in it I am now trying to encourage new writers to avoid! I did plan that book out carefully too but over the years since, I’ve decided I am a mixture of a plotter and a pantser but I really like you thoughts about planning on a deeply subcomscious level.

    Reply
  12. Hi Mary! Lovely to touch base with you.
    Yes, I’ve thought a lot about this just lately. The whole writing process is a mystery, isn’t it? I wish I could rework some of my earlier stuff but I don’t think there’s a writer, alive or dead, who wouldn’t want another chance at reworking their book/s.
    The writer’s subconscious is something I am just starting to understand. I’ve often found a set up in one of my WIPs and wondered how it got there so I could pay it off later. Now I realise it’s been done on a deeply subconscious level. It’s an intuitive thing and we should make the most of it and not be so hard on ourselves when we need that little bit extra time to think things through. Long walks are brilliant for that!

    Reply

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