Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday's Interview - Melinda Clayton

Thanks for the opportunity! Here you go:

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I suppose the existing genre that best fits my writing is contemporary fiction, but a friend jokes that I need to establish a new genre, something like, "psychological fiction." I like for my characters to face obstacles and make tough choices.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

It chose me, definitely. I have a background in mental health, and I love to explore the motivations behind the choices we make. I also love to read books that make me question what I might do if I found myself in a situation like that of the protagonist. I can't imagine writing any other way.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

I don't think it's that I wouldn't like to try other specific genres so much as it's that I don't think I have the right skillset. Romance, fantasy - both are popular genres that I unfortunately don't seem to have an ability to write to.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I love Barbara Kingsolver, Anita Shreve, Anna Quindlen. Jodi Picoult is another one, as is Elizabeth Berg. These authors are some of my favorites for their character and plot development.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing.

I’m an odd combination of psychotherapist and writer. I’ve always wanted to write, so several years ago I began writing on multiple online writing sites. From those, I began selling a variety of articles to print and online magazines on mostly mental health related topics. From that, I decided to branch out to short stories, and then a novel seemed the next logical step.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

Without a doubt, Billy May Platte from Appalachian Justice is my favorite character. I know it’s a cliché, but I really felt haunted by her during the writing process. We spent a lot of time together and she was very real to me.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

There are most definitely villains in my books. The villains in Appalachian Justice are a composition comprised of the traits of many perpetrators of abuse I’ve met in real life through my therapy practice. They’re quite anti-social and narcissistic, with very little conscience or ability to empathize. The villain in Return to Crutcher Mountain was a fun one to write. I can’t say too much about it because I hope the ending catches people off guard.

8. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on my third novel, which is also set mainly in Cedar Hollow, West Virginia but is the story of a different family. It’s tentatively entitled Entangled Thorns, from a verse in the book of Nahum in the Hebrew Bible. It’s full of family secrets, personal demons, and tough questions and choices.

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

My latest release was Return to Crutcher Mountain, and it’s actually a sequel to Appalachian Justice. I had not originally planned to write a sequel; Billy May’s story had been told. But people were worried about Jessie, the young girl Billy May rescued in Appalachian Justice. They wanted to know if she turned out okay. Return to Crutcher Mountain was written to answer some of those questions.

10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.

I’m hoping to have Entangled Thorns ready for publication by Christmas this year, but as you know, the story will only unfold as quickly as it chooses to unfold. Both Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain make reference to the Pritchett family, the local moonshiners. I thought it would be fun to explore the family on a deeper level. Upon reading the first few chapters one of my beta-readers commented, “I see you’ve returned to the dark side. I like it.” And I suppose I have. Entangled Thorns is the story of a family ripped apart by tragedy. In order to make peace, they must uncover the dark secrets of their past. The opening:

Chapter 1

Beth Pritchett Sloan

The sun fades away in the west and I pour myself a second glass of Kendall Jackson Ventner’s Reserve, a pricier chardonnay than my usual selection. We usually save the good stuff for company, but it’s been a rough day. The bottle is slick with sweat, the chill long since faded. This does not bother me; as quickly as I’ll be emptying the bottle, it’s hardly worth rousing myself to trek to the refrigerator between glasses. I’ll drink it warm.

Replacing the bottle on the marbled windowsill with a satisfying thunk, I settle back into my overstuffed chair. It isn’t a comfortable chair, chosen more for looks than functionality, but it’s the only one that affords me the view I want. I have to crane my neck to the left and peer between the sprawling houses across the street, but if I angle my head just so, I can get a glimpse of the western sky.

Vaguely, I wonder when the sunsets became so muted. Dull pink, dirty yellow, in the distance the colors are smeared across the dingy Memphis sky like a stain, and I have a fleeting memory of tattered clothing hanging from a line, blowing in the wind. The air is wet and heavy, dripping with the stifling humidity that rolls across town from the muddy waters of the Mississippi River. The window fogs in front of me, the droplets creating rivulets on the steamy glass. In my current state of mind, the whole world appears to be weeping.

The flaming sunsets of my childhood had stretched across the West Virginia mountaintops as if painted by God himself, the hellfire and brimstone God preached about by Reverend Hudson down at the Cedar Hollow Baptist Church. There are a few things I miss from my childhood, and the sunsets are one of them.

My family, however, is not. The letter in my lap lays like a weight across my thighs, wiping out any comfort I may have found from the wine. With the exception of my sister, I haven’t seen my family of origin in nearly twenty-seven years, not since Luke died. And now this.

Thanks again - just let me know if you need anything else.



Malcolm R. Campbell said...

It's always fun to read about the authors who wrote the books you liked best.


Melinda said...

Thanks for stopping by, Malcolm!

Smoky said...

Billie May is my favorite of your characters, too, Melinda. She was an amazing character, and you made her seem like a real person. I'm looking forward to returning to Cedar Hollow when your next book comes out!

Nicole Morgan said...

Great post Melinda. It was fun reading about your work. By the way, I love the term "Psychological Fiction" :)

Melinda said...

Thank you, Smoky! As you know, I'm a great fan of your work! Can't wait to Skype with you during book club next week, when we discuss The Cabin!

Melinda said...

Thanks so much, Nicole! I thought my friend had a pretty good idea. We need more genres!