Author Series: Melanie Ever Moore
I’m Melanie Ever Moore. I am a writer and photographer (also a wife, a mom and yoga enthusiast) currently based out of a tiny town in northern Alberta, Canada. I am the author of 'Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird' and 'Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning'. I also have two poetry and dance photography collections out in the world, 'Elegant Execution' and 'The Stars Went Out'.
What initially got you into writing?
I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to become a writer. I certainly never told myself “I should write.” It just started very naturally and organically - and early - for me. I had been verbally telling stories since I was three or four and then started writing them once I learned how to print in kindergarten. I started keeping a daily journal of my thoughts at seven years old. I was always a really quiet kid and came from a household where expressing wants or emotions was discouraged, so writing was the safest and most effective voice I had to express myself and my very active imagination.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
Eric Wilson and his 'Tom & Liz Austen' series were some of my favourites when I was young.
I loved the idea of kids taking charge of their destiny and going on adventures without adult interference. I particularly loved 'Vampires of Ottawa', which was one of the first horror stories that I ever read. I always had a leaning towards darker themes - ghosts and the undead and such. It might have been because I spent my formative years growing up in my grandparent’s funeral home in Winnipeg. My grandma would let me hang off the bier when I was three, four years old (the wheeled platform that caskets sit upon), so that I could regale the deceased with my endless stories (they made for the best audience - attentive, captive, non-judgemental, lol).
I was raised in an environment where death was a very natural, though mysterious, part of life. The fact that it scared a lot of people was not lost on me as I got older and it really only made it more alluring. Discovering Stephen King when I was ten years old was a real eye-opener for me. 'Cujo' was the first book of his that I read and it really opened the door for me to begin expressing my interest in darker themes in my writing.
As a young girl, however, this interest was not encouraged by my family or teachers, and in fact, I think it scared them. In the sixth grade, I was chastised in front of the class for handing in another horror story. It disturbed my teacher to the point where he yelled, “stop writing about scary things! Focus on rainbows and butterflies instead!” Despite having a difficult time finding an audience, I figured, as a kid, that if Stephen King could write about all the scary things he could imagine, then why couldn’t I?
My first publication at twelve, followed by being awarded a coveted spot at a young writers summer camp when I was fourteen, sealed the deal in reassuring me that I was on the right path.
Are you traditionally published or self published?
I’m a hybrid. In my early years of writing, before the digital age (god that makes me sound really old, but it wasn’t that long ago), I was published traditionally (poems and short stories) in newspapers and literary magazines across Canada, the US and Australia, where I lived for a year, studying communications at Griffith University on the Gold Coast of Queensland in my early 20’s. I wrote my first novel (a YA book, never published) in Australia and then was mentored for a year through the Canadian Author’s Association by Ishbel Moore, a YA novelist with seven books to her name.
After peddling that book for a few years and getting no interest, I turned my attention to my other love of film and studied it for two years in college, where I ended up meeting my husband. I inadvertently took a decade off from creative writing as I raised my three kids and started my photography career.
When I joined Instagram two years ago, I learned about the indie author community and Amazon’s KDP platform. Having come from a time when self-publishing was viewed as sort of a last ditch effort for writers, choosing to go the indie route over traditional was a real game changer for me. In my early twenties, I had self-published a collection of rejected poetry by other writers (The Rejection Collection) and garnered two newspaper commentaries and a national radio interview on Canada’s venerable CBC as a result because self-publishing was so rare back then.
With the digital age making self-publishing a much more viable, affordable and even mainstream option now, I thought I’d give it a shot and published 'Elegant Execution', my first poetry and dance photography collection in April of 2019. I followed that up with my novel, 'Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird' in May.
Having complete artistic control of my work with being self-published was huge for me, particularly with 'Hope Quest', as it deals with some very dark themes of incest, child abuse and addiction. I knew that the story would be a really hard sell in the traditional YA market because of its content and so self-publishing seemed like the best route to go in getting the story out into the world.
How important is writing as an art form in the world today?
I think it’s just as important as it’s ever been. Writing is one of the most sincere and thoughtful forms of human expression. I believe that people express themselves more genuinely and honestly via the written word and because of that it will always be an important art form to maintain.
Do you have a set process when starting a new project?
No, every project I work on is different and the creative process for each is unique. Hope Quest came to me as a series of dreams when I was fifteen and going through some very difficult times in my life, but I didn’t sit down to write it until twenty plus years later. I spent a year just writing it as it came back to me - and it came all at once as a 550 page monster.
Another project I worked on for a bit in the past year was a co-authored novel. Learning how to “share” creativity, particularly how to meld two writing voices into one, not to mention writing in a whole new genre for me (dark romance), really pushed my creative boundaries. I am a big believer in moving out of comfort zones, scaring myself a little (sometimes a lot!) in order to grow creatively and so it’s important to be flexible and open to however that process occurs.
I draw most of my inspiration from an unstable and unconventional upbringing. I moved dozens of times in my childhood, was always the new kid at school, the outsider; I went through two messy divorces with my parents and lived in five separate family configurations, none of which I belonged nor lasted into my adulthood. I have a very keen sense of being on the outside looking in, of being unwanted and always misunderstood. A lot of the pain and angst of those years goes into my writing, but the real beauty is in the ability to create better endings for my characters. That’s my favourite part about writing, for sure, having that power to create bigger and better worlds and outcomes for my characters.
I do rely on word counts to measure my progress with every project. I like to aim for 500 - 750 words for every writing session. Between running my photography studio, studying for a new career as a reading tutor and caring for my kids, I don’t often get large swaths of time for writing, so if I have twenty minutes in the morning and maybe another twenty in the afternoon, I’ll write harder and faster to hit that target word count so that progress is made on the story. Even if it’s just a little bit of time, a little bit of writing, it all adds up in the end and sticking to my self-imposed deadlines is key, although my husband never understands, lol. He always likes to tease that I have a really mean boss. I think it’s a habit born from being self-employed for fifteen years.
You have to be hard on yourself and push yourself because trust me, no one else will. No one else cares about your goals more than you do and you are the only one who can bring them to life.
What has been your favourite book to write and why?
'Hope Quest', of course! It was a very transformative time for me that truly changed the trajectory of my life. I took the whole year of 2017 to write it. Very early in the year, I felt myself slipping into depression (something I have dealt with on and off for my whole life) and I knew that writing was what had always saved me from that void in the past, so I decided to get serious about it and get creative writing back into my life again.
I removed myself from all forms of social media in order to trade scrolling time for writing time and literally spent every free moment of every day writing the story. Chester Bennington was my inspiration for Blackbird, so I got to watch a lot of Linkin Park videos on Youtube as “research” during the early part of the year (which was absolutely was not a chore as Linkin Park had been one of my favourite bands for years).
Chester ended up committing suicide in July of that year and it was both devastating and painfully poetic in that I was writing (most often while listening to his music) in order to save myself from the void of depression, using him as the inspiration for Blackbird, the character who my protagonist Hope looks to to save her from her own void / blackhole in her heart - and while all of that was going on, Chester lost himself to his own void of depression and addiction. It was an emotional and sometimes difficult journey writing the book and I had no idea would end up being a trilogy when I sat down to write it, but the story just kept flowing and growing over the year and I just stuck with it, despite often ending up in tears over what I sometimes dubbed my “never-ending story.”
Despite it all, finally deciding to sit down and write the story was definitely one of the best decisions in my life thus far and I am excited to see where it may take me in the future.
What genre do you enjoy writing in?
YA is definitely my favourite. I love the energy, the angst and endless possibilities of the teen / young adult years. It’s truly a magical time of life when anything can happen and when we are most open to those possibilities before adulthood and the weight of its responsibilities steal away some of that joy.
Is writing your primary source of income?
I wish it was, but no. I’ve been self-employed as a children’s and newborn photographer for the past ten years now.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue writing?
Like any of the arts, do it for the love of it, do it because you are passionate about it. Don’t do it looking for fame or money or “likes” on social media. None of that matters so much as doing it because it calls to your soul. Be honest and genuine and most of all, brave! It takes a lot of courage not just to create, but to share these stories, these ideas that come from the deepest, sometimes the darkest, part of us. Try not to take the inevitable rejections or purposeful overlooking of your work too personally.
Not everyone wants to be part of your audience (and yes, that might include your own family and friends), not everyone will appreciate or even understand your work, and that’s okay. We all have a unique voice and unique stories to tell and trust me, they are worth telling. Don’t ever give up on the dream. Keep writing, keep pushing, keep putting your words out there and eventually, your work will find the audience it was created for.
What does success mean to you?
That’s a biggie. For me, as a minimalist, as a somewhat-Buddhist, as a mother, success is very much an internal measurement of personal satisfaction in knowing that I have done everything I can, with everything I have, to the best of my ability. Success is showing up, even on the hard days when you don’t want to, and doing it anyway and putting as much heart and soul into the work as you can. In terms of writing, especially with my books, success is having written them!
Yes, I would love to have an agent or publisher and I would love to have enough book sales to pay my bills every month, but I can’t control those things so I can’t and won’t put weight of success into them - I mean, I will never say that I am not a successful writer because I don’t have a publishing contract or a huge following on social media. That is not success to me. Those are the benefits that come with the success of having done the work to write the books in the first place.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am working on two books at the moment: 'Hope Quest book 3: Stardust', which I hope to get out into the world in December of this year and 'Dividing One', a memoir of my parent’s divorce and the loss of my family as a result. I am aiming to get the first draft of it done by the end of the year.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to eventually find an audience for my books, particularly for 'Hope Quest'. The trilogy will be completed this year with the release of 'book 3: Stardust' slated for December and I have both a prequel (The Order, the origin story of the family cult) and a sequel (Hope’s life three years after the trilogy) in the works.
I would love for the series to find some success, be it even a small cult-following of the books in the indie community or even something so big as a Hope Quest movie (the story definitely lends itself to play out in a kick ass way on the big screen - especially book 3!). I feel like the story and the characters are unique and memorable enough to deserve their own place in the world, outside of my head.
Outside of writing, I am finishing up some schooling towards an Orton-Gillingham certification and hope to start up a private reading tutor service for kids this fall. It’s been a dream for the last four years after I spent two years homeschooling my dyslexic son (I helped remediate him from not knowing the alphabet in the fourth grade to now reading at grade level as he enters eighth grade later this month). I’m also looking to deepen my yoga practise with some online training and am kicking around the idea of becoming certified with the Yoga Alliance so that I can teach at some point in the future.
I also hope to continue to inspire my kids to be dogged and determined in the pursuit of their own goals and dreams and to feel confident in the expression of their own voices, especially as they are now getting older and closer to setting out on their own (my oldest is starting grade 12 this month and already talking about moving out next year - and I hope to be strong enough to deal with that reality when it comes!).
Where can people find you?
My writer’s website and blog: www.melanie-ever-moore.com
Goodreads: Melanie Ever Moore
And all four of my books are available on Amazon:
Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird
Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning
The Stars Went Out
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