Interview With Author Melissa Bowersock

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I write under my real name, Melissa Bowersock, because I don’t have to worry about being confused with anyone else. I’m pretty prolific—have 48 titles in release now—and eclectic in that I write across many genres: paranormal, action/adventure, time-travel, ghost stories, fantasy, romance, biography, satire and spiritual. Basically anything that calls to me. For the last four years I’ve been writing a paranormal mystery series (Ghost Walk) about Sam Firecloud, a Navajo medium, and his ex-cop partner, Lacey Fitzpatrick, who work to free tethered spirits and often get pulled into murder investigations where Sam can commune with the victims. I’ve just finished Book #31.

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Out of all my titles, I have one non-fiction, and that’s the biography of my aunt, who was an army nurse and prisoner-of-war during WWII. (Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan) It was an interesting experience to write non-fiction, and especially about a family member. I realized early on that I couldn’t embellish the story or make stuff up; I had to stick to the facts. In a way it was easier to write because the story line was already there and I didn’t have to invent it, but it was harder in that I had very little leeway; I had to tell the story as it happened. I went into what I called journalist-mode, and luckily, it turned out pretty good.

I’ve got three books that involve reincarnation (Queen’s Gold, Fleischerhaus, The Field Where I Died). I’m a certified hypnotherapist and specialize in past life regressions. I’ve actually witnessed about 20 of my own past lives, so when I write about reincarnation, I’ve got a good grasp of the process. Some readers might think I’m making it all up, but my novels are based on similar experiences that really happened.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

I would say the two largest mistakes are (1) not being authentic and (2) not keeping your characters authentic. By the first I mean introducing aspects in your story that seem over-the-top or unrealistic, things that make the reader stop and go, “Oh, really?” When I send my books out to beta readers, I tell them to flag anything that pops them out of the story. I want people to immerse themselves in my books, to not even realize they’re reading, but to feel it, live it. Anything that takes them out of the story, anything that breaks that immersion, has to go.

In the second case, once I’ve established a character, he or she has to act authentically. Once I was writing a book with a male main character, and I had in the back of my mind that he was going to have an affair with a woman later on in the story, even though he was married. When I got to that part and the woman offered herself to him, he shocked me by refusing to have the affair. And even though it wasn’t according to my plan, I realized he was right. If I had insisted on going through with my initial thought, it would have been totally out of character for him.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

Bad reviews sting; there’s no way around that. On seeing a bad review, I think there are two immediate reactions that often arise: one is to discount the review and dismiss it completely; the other is to assume it’s valid and think I have to rewrite that book right now. Luckily there’s a third response, and it lies somewhere in the middle. I’ve pretty much learned to take the criticism in, consider it, hold it up against my book and my story, and see if it fits. If it’s a valid point, I may change the book. If it’s not, well, it’s someone’s opinion and nothing more. It’s taken me a while, but I’ve learned I just have to be open to both possibilities. Any author can learn a thing or two.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

My creation process has not altered much over time. I’m a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants. I don’t outline at all. Usually when I start, I have about five bullet points, major plot twists or ideas, and then I just dive in. I very often do not know how the book will end, or if I do, I don’t know how I’m going to get there. It’s all very organic. I am often surprised by the twists and turns that rise up, so I figure if I’m surprised, my readers will be, too. I remember I started one book, thinking it would be a light comedy, and it ended up being a very dark drama. I just never know where the story or the characters will lead, but it’s a lot of fun finding out.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

The best thing was probably selling my first book to a traditional publisher in New York. This was back in 1979 (I know; I’m dating myself) when trad publishers would still take a chance on an unknown, which is not the case these days. Seeing my first book in print was a milestone, and I still get excited when I hold a new book in my hand. That never gets old.

The worst thing was when I had sent a 20-pound manuscript to a publisher (again, ages ago), and it was returned to me with a note saying, “doesn’t fit for us at the present time” or some such. As I leafed through the double-spaced pages, a piece of legal paper fell out, and on it were the reader’s notes. I’m pretty sure they did not intend to send that to me. It eviscerated me. I honestly can’t remember now what exactly was said, but it was brutal. I went through several days of serious depression and self-doubt that only time eased. The interesting thing is that another publisher took that book later on (with no changes from me) and published it. Just goes to show how subjective this whole business is.

The most surprising thing is me writing a series. For years I swore I would never write a series, or even a sequel, because I didn’t want to get stuck in a place where I had to force new ideas in order to keep the series going. Back in 2014, I even wrote a post about this for Indies Unlimited. Then in 2016 that all changed. I wrote my first time-travel novel, Finding Travis. I loved it and loved the characters, and apparently so did everyone else because I got a lot of requests for a sequel. I mulled that over for a time and finally did get what I thought would be a satisfactory story, and I wrote Book 2, Being Travis. That must have set the stage, because shortly after that, I started writing the first book of my paranormal mystery series, Ghost Walk. While writing that one, I was already entertaining ideas about Book 2, Skin Walk, and before that one was done, I had plans for Book 3, Star Walk. I never would have believed I’d get to Book 31, but the ideas keep coming, so I keep writing. It’s been a ton of fun, and I get great feedback from readers.

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I have to write what’s personally satisfying for me. If I’m not buying into the story 100%, how can I tell it so it has meaning? I’ve always written what I like to read, and I’ve been gratified that so many people like it, too. With my paranormal mystery series, I now have a sense of responsibility to my fans, but I have promised myself that if the story line ever runs dry, if I feel like I’m forcing the stories, I will stop. As long as the story ideas keep coming and I believe in them, I’ll write them; if not, I won’t.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

Huge role. If I wrote without emotion, I might as well be writing a text book. Emotion carries the story forward, and the characters; it informs everything they do. And I am as susceptible to my characters’ emotions as my readers are. I remember when I was writing the last chapter of Sonnets for Heidi, a contemporary novel about lost love, forbidden love, and I was sitting at the table writing (I write in longhand), crying, crying, crying, tears streaming down my face. Finally I’d have to stop, take a break, go mop myself up, then come back to it. I’d write some more, crying, crying, crying, stop for more Kleenex, and on and on. It took me a while to finish that chapter, but when I did, I knew it was good and I knew my readers would be as affected by it as I was.

# What are your plans for future books?

Whatever hits me. I never know until an idea gets a stranglehold on me. But once it does, it usually doesn’t let go until I write it out.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I am a space nerd. I love everything space, from the most far-out sci-fi fantasy to the most hardcore real science. My husband and I went to adult space camp some years ago in Huntsville, Alabama, and had an absolute blast (pun intended). In my next life, I want to be an astronaut.


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