Behind the Book with Melinda Curtis
This week I bring you an interview with American Romance writer and USA Today Bestselling author, Melinda Curtis!
Liz - So, in another life, you were a junior manager for a Fortune 500 company. That sounds like it would have been quite an intense job. Can you tell us about it?
Melinda - I was on a new product development team for a very large alcohol beverage company. It involved high heels and 80 hour work weeks. I’m more than happy to work in my socks nowadays.
Liz - Even as someone who’s a terrible flyer, I still think it’s cool you got to fly on a private jet—though I have no idea what a jump seat is? Can you tell us about these flights and why this seat was yours?
Melinda - Small private jets have 2 seats in the cockpit, 6 main seats facing in the middle, and a toilet stall (no sink) with a curtain you pull across for privacy. The commode has a lid and a seat belt. This is where junior staff flew. After awhile, I learned to fall asleep back there.
Liz - What was the pivotal moment that led to you leaving the corporate world for the career of a full time writer?
Melinda - First, I realized that I could leave and become a consultant. I’d already sold a few books to Harlequin at that point. Being a consultant allowed me more time for self-care, family, and writing.
Liz - What was the first story you wrote that was published and how did this come about?
Melinda - I met a Harlequin editor at a writing conference and pitched a book. I rewrote that book 3 times over 2 years. She finally bought the book, which was published as Michael’s Father.
Liz - Had you always intended to write romance novels or did you dabble in other genres before deciding?
Melinda - I had dabbled in paranormal before settling into romance. I am a huge reader of all genres.
Liz - Congratulations on your title of Award Winning & USA Today Bestselling Author! Can you tell us what titles led to this achievement and what inspired them?
Melinda - Prior to the introduction of the Kindle Unlimited program, readers were avid for affordably priced digital reads. I was part of the initial wave of boxed sets that broke onto the USA Today list and were ranked #1 in sales on Amazon. These were romance collections, like A Heartwarming Christmas and Sweet Christmas Kisses. I hit with seven different collections.
Liz - You have an impressive portfolio with over 60 titles either published or sold. Is there a standout or highlight amongst this work?
Melinda - The joy about writing is that you can play to your strengths in different areas. For example, I’m very proud of my Sunshine Valley series of small town rom-coms (Dream a Little Dream is the latest in the series). But I also write the Mountain Monroe series for Harlequin that has some fun moments but with a few more teary moments (The Littlest Cowgirls is the latest installment).
Liz - A book you published with Harlequin books called Dandelion Wishes was made into a TV movie last year – congratulations! What were you doing when you heard the news?
Melinda - I received an email from Harlequin that they’d sold the entertainment rights. It came out of the blue and was very unexpected. My husband was in shock. I think it took me reading the email three times to him.
Liz - Did you have any involvement in the process of turning it into a TV movie, and what was it like visitng the set?
Melinda - I was giving the initial draft of the script and invited to submit input, which I did. I think it’s very hard to translate a book into a movie. They did a great job. My husband and I were on set for two days of filming. You have to be very quiet. Everyone was so welcoming. Amber Marshall is such a fabulous actress. It was a pleasure to see her work.
Liz - You’ve also written a book called Creating Unforgettable Characters. What led to you sharing your knowledge?
Melinda - I was using some psychology in my writing, mostly as I developed characters and character arc (how they grow and change throughout a book). My critique partners asked me to explain this to them. It turned into a talk to my local writing chapter. And then I took a big gulp and wrote the book, which includes over 100 movie and TV examples. That was the key that brought the dry material to life. LOL.
Liz - What would be your number one tip on creating an unforgettable character?
Melinda - When someone says write what you know, I find it most beneficial to write the emotional journey that I know. We’ve all been bullied or experienced unrequited love or been abandoned in some way. If you’re a brave enough author, you can explore those feelings in an entirely different context.
Liz - Beyond your own scope of work, who is an unforgettable character for you?
Melinda - Kobe Bryant stands out to me. I might not have understood him early in his career, but as I aged and he aged, I came to see him in a different light. And in the years after his retirement, he grew and changed even more. I was unexpectedly hard hit when he died. He had such a strong will to reach for his dreams even if they didn’t fit the traditional sports hero archetype.
Liz - Can you tell us a little bit about the Blackwell sisters round table and what that was like?
Melinda - I have written two of the ten books in the Blackwell series. First came the Return of the Blackwell Brothers, and then the Blackwell Sisters. I came up with the idea for a multi-author continuity and then picked four friends to jump on board with me. Together, we developed the idea of an old rancher who had alienated his family and pitched it to Harlequin. They’ve loved the series and we hope it goes on to Blackwell cousins.
Liz - You have not one, but two new releases coming up this year! That’s fantastic. Can you tell us about them?
Melinda - This is actually a slow year for me. I have six releases planned. Last year, I had fifteen, which meant in 2019, I was writing at an exhausting pace (do not recommend). This year, two releases are coming up in February – The Littlest Cowgirls and Dream a Little Dream. The Littlest Cowgirls is a story about an action movie star who unexpectedly learns he’s about to be a father to twins. And in Dream a Little Dream, my matchmaking widows believe a former rodeo bull rider should get back together with his high school sweetheart.
Liz - What else will you be working on this year?
Melinda - I’m completing Book 9 in Harlequin’s Mountain Monroe series. I’m also shopping a new romance series and a cozy mystery series. I also have a series I publish myself and I promised readers Book 3.
Liz - Do you have any advise for any of our readers looking to leave their day jobs behind and embarking on a writing career?
Melinda - First off, write because you love to write and learn about the craft of writing (even if you decide to break the rules). You might be a one-hit wonder. But most of us aren’t. My love of writing was why I spent hours I should have been sleeping writing and Saturday mornings at writer meetings learning from other writers. My writing craft got me through hard times when I had contract obligations, like when my parents passed away. But if you love it and you are disciplined to push yourself through the crappy middle of the book (we all experience that), then you should keep at it.
Liz - Lastly, where can our readers follow you and find your work?
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