I want to welcome Melanie Nowak to Books R Us. Melanie is the author of Almost Human ~ The First Trilogy . Thanks For stopping by.
What is Almost Human about?
Melanie: ALMOST HUMAN puts a venomous new twist on the classical vampire, and blends elements of many genres. It has drama, humor, romance, some action, and a pinch of horror and even a touch of science fiction in the 2nd trilogy.
The story begins with a vampire who found that in losing his life, he gained his faith and a purpose. He now spends eternity trying to teach younger vampires to exist without hurting humans – working the will of God among the undead. Enter a young college girl in danger, the beginnings of an ill-advised love affair, and a few vampires who aren’t eager to follow the advice of an elder, and you have the opening of the ALMOST HUMAN series. At the start, it may seem like a familiar story, but as readers become involved, it reveals itself to be an original new experience, immersing readers in fresh insight. The books can be read as fun and light, to a certain degree, but they also lend themselves to deeper contemplation.
For me, the driving force behind the series is the emotional connections of the characters. I do not have black and white villains and heroes in my books, although different characters fit those roles from time to time. I have a core group of realistically evolving characters with different motivations, making choices throughout the story. Each reader will connect with the characters differently; some they’ll love, and some they’ll love to hate. Some readers will agree with the character’s decisions, and some won’t, but hopefully all can understand the characters on an empathetic level. The story prompts the reader to ponder what they would do in similar circumstances.
I am not in the habit of quoting from reviews and things, but I recently received a fan letter from a reader who described what I was striving for beautifully:
“I fell in love with the characters and your wonderfully descriptive use of language. There was something different about your books, some element that put me right into the storyline, giving a fantastic dramatization of what was unfolding before me. Almost as if while reading, I was inserted into a vivid dream-like representation of not only the plot, but the characters feelings and emotions as well. Your books are so much more than just vampire novels. You are writing about real people, who have real emotions.” Alison Irvine.
(I hope she doesn’t mind my quoting her, but I so greatly appreciate her letter, and want to give her credit for her own words!)
It is so rewarding to know that what I feel in my heart as I write, actually does get transcribed to the paper in a way that strongly resonates with readers. I don’t think I can describe the books better than that. It is a story of vampires and humans, interacting in circumstances that can be fun, exciting, romantic and scary at times, but most of all, hopefully they will stimulate your mind and touch your heart.
Can you tell me who or what was the inspiration for the book?
Melanie: A few things came together to bring ALMOST HUMAN to life. I’ve always been interested in bats. Vampire bats have a anticoagulant in their saliva called “draculin” (named after Count Dracula!) that keeps blood from clotting. I had the idea that such a thing would be useful for vampires as well. It would also be useful if they had something to keep the victim calm, like a drug.
I always wondered about a vampire’s ability to put victims in thrall. In old movies, vampires are always able to hypnotize people, and it’s never really explained. People are just ‘under their power’. I always wondered – why? How does it work? I put those questions together with the anticoagulant/drug idea, and took it further. What if vampires could inject their victims with venom – like a snake? Only the venom would not be deadly poison, but a combination of drugs that kept blood from clotting, kept the victim calm and even willing, and also could mark territory for the vampire – leaving a mark that other vampires could see. The vampire could then use the existence of this ‘drug’ in their victim’s system, to put them in thrall as well.
The idea of venomous vampires seemed so logical to me, that I assumed for sure that someone else had done it already. I began searching my library for a book like that, so I could read it! This was probably in the early 90’s and there weren’t very many vampire books around at that time. I never found what I was looking for, and I filed the idea away. It never occurred to me to write it myself, LOL.
In the late 80’s, I had discovered Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles and absolutely loved them. That was the first time I read something from the vampire’s point of view. The way that she captured emotions and described surroundings was mesmerizing to me, and I really connected with her story. I’m also a huge fan of the T.V. series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Joss Whedon is a genius! That said - towards the end of the show, I started disliking some decisions the writers made. I understood their vision, but I also saw missed opportunities. I would have done things differently.
That started me thinking of my own storylines and my own characters, incorporating my venomous vampire idea. None of this was written down, just daydreamed during housework. Then one day I realized that a lot of the ideas I had were really good, and it depressed me to think that it would all just be forgotten. So, I sat down one night at the computer, to write out a few things so I wouldn’t forget, and could look back at them one day. The scenes just came pouring out and before I knew it, I’d been up writing almost the whole night! That’s when I realized that I had a real story to tell, and wanted to write it all out from beginning to end. That is how my ALMOST HUMAN vampires were born.
How long did it take to write the book, and how long did it take to get the book released?
Melanie: That’s not an easy question for me to answer, because I did not start out writing a book that I planned to publish. Bored with housework and lacking a creative outlet, I began making up a story one day, using my venom idea, just for my own entertainment. I had no aspirations of relating it to anyone, I just didn’t want to forget it. So one night, I sat at the computer and decided to just write it down for myself, so I could look at it again one day.
Before I knew it, I'd been writing for hours! It just came pouring out! I never planned to publish it, I just had fun writing it. The story was very long but I knew just where I wanted it to go, and what I wanted to happen. I knew it was too long, so I decided to break the story into 3 parts and make it a trilogy. I still wasn’t sure what I would do with it, but it was nice to feel the accomplishment of finishing the books. I wrote all 3 books in 2 years (I was completely obsessed, I wrote every free moment, staying up until 2 am most nights). Then I spent the next year polishing them up, editing and such. I let a few people read it; family and friends insisted my books were better than many others they'd read, and should be published, so I decided to try.
I first tried publish my series back in 2004, and as it is for most authors, it was a long and difficult endeavor. I spent a few years trying to get published by traditional methods. I researched the whole process and jumped through every hoop. Unfortunately, most publishers and agents are swamped with inquiries these days, and are unable to give each submission the attention it may deserve. I got numerous rejection postcards without a single request to actually read my manuscript.
As a busy wife and mom, I wasn’t able to attend conventions or camp out on door-steps to be read. I was earning my Masters Degree to be a school librarian, when a professor mentioned that Amazon would accept previously unpublished books for the Kindle. I knew that once you self-publish, most traditional publishers will not consider your work, but no one was considering my work anyway. After some research and deliberation, I decided to publish on Kindle in 2008, because it was an effective way to share my stories with the public. I could have closure, feeling like I'd done something with the books, and be able to move on. I wanted to begin writing the 2nd trilogy for the series, which had already been playing out in my head, no matter how I tried to focus on other things.
After my series began to gain Kindle readers, I got many requests for print copies of the books. To try and make that happen, I shopped around again for agents & publishers in January ’09. This time I had verifiable sales to show them – but it didn’t help. There is still a stigma against ‘self-published authors’ (although I believe that is slowly changing). They didn’t like the fact that my books were already out in e-book format, even though they had never been printed. Again I was constantly rejected without even being read first. I finally decided to publish in print independently, because I was more interested in sharing the stories with readers, than waiting for a publishing house to back me.
There are quick and almost instant methods to publish, but I wanted to be very thorough in doing everything myself, and owning all rights and my own ISBN numbers. I handled every aspect from editing & formatting, to cover photos (that's me on book 1). It took a lot of time, research, learning what needed to be done, and finding the most cost effective way to carry it out. I chose a printing company that allows me complete control, and I learned what was involved to become Independently published in print. In April of 2009, WoodWitchDame Publications was born. Word-of-mouth through readers has helped spread the addiction of my venomous vampires, and I’ve been blessed with many devoted readers. I am very happy with the success of my series being Indie published.
Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
Melanie: Being asked to choose a favorite character, is like trying to pick a favorite child. I can’t choose one among the others. Honestly, I really am all of the characters in this book! It may sound strange because my characters are pretty diverse, but it’s true. Each of these characters has been taken from the seed of something within myself. I have been lucky enough in my life never to have been sexually abused or addicted to drugs - but everything that goes into making up the personalities for my characters, how they feel and react to things, has come from some little grain of dealing with something in my own life - magnified. At some point in my life I have totally identified with and "been" these people. Even if it didn't outwardly show - this is how I felt and wanted to react.
I wondered a little at first, whether I would be able to write a believable ‘guy’, but when you come down to it, we are all just people. I take care to really examine his motives throughout each scene, and to try and observe and notice things the way I think a man would. It’s actually rather fun writing for my guys Cain and Ben, and stepping into the male perspective.
Outwardly I’m sure my friends and family would say I am most like Felicity. Physically, I have modeled her after myself; intellectually and emotionally she is very much the girl that I was at that age. I was usually pretty quiet and shy, constantly reading my fantasies rather than trying to live them out. Because of that, I identify very closely with Felicity, but I have to admit that it’s often more fun to write for my other ladies, Allie and Sindy. Allie is much more sassy and daring than I have ever been in life, and Sindy… well let’s just say it; She can be an evil bitch – and who wouldn’t think that was fun to write?
Do you have any tips for a young writer starting out?
Decide why you are writing. Is your ultimate goal to be on a bookstore shelf, or to tell an amazing story? If you just want to see your name on something, that is an entirely different path from someone who wants to truly express & share feelings and ideas. If you are passionate about your writing & want to share your story with readers, here’s my advice:
1st - If you have a story inside of you yearning to be told, then be unafraid to really give in to it and write your true thoughts and feelings. The passion will come through! You cannot write while worrying about who might read it or what they will think. First, be true to that inner voice and write the story that you want to write.
2nd – Edit – a lot. You’ve poured your heart out onto the page and it’s a moving and wonderful work. Now you need to look at it with a critical eye for grammar, story structure, continuity, and make decisions about what you’re comfortable sharing with the public. If you’ve bared your soul (writing can be wonderfully cathartic) you have to decide if anything should be kept strictly in the “author’s edition” rather than shown to the public. I made the decision to keep everything I’ve written in the original story – but that isn’t right for everyone. Do not write “down” to your readers – it is important to be sure they can follow the plot and understand the story, but don’t be afraid to write something that will make people stop and think. Proper grammar, spelling and punctuation is so important I have to say it again. If you’re unsure about something – look it up! EDIT!
3rd – Believe in yourself and be strong. Getting published is HARD. Even if you have the best book ever, getting the right people to read it will be even harder than writing it – you have been warned. I was rejected over 200 times without anyone even being willing to read my manuscript! Do not give up!
4th – If you want to share your story, you will find a way. Traditional publishing isn’t for everyone – neither is Independent publishing. You have to figure out what is right for you. Large publishing companies will be hard to reach without connections. It’s not impossible (but close). Be aware - larger publishers often want you to edit your work to fit their image. There are many small presses that are more open to accepting new work without many changes, you just have to find the right one for you. Otherwise, Independent publishing is also a good option to keep your story true to your own vision – but be prepared to put in the effort.
5th - Decide how you will define your success. If to you, success = money, quit now, LOL. To me success is the feeling of accomplishment and the swell of excitement I feel when someone tells me they read my book and it really resonated with them. In my experience, take care of the emotional success and the physical success will follow. I concerned myself with telling a good story, putting in tons of work to research certain elements, refine and edit it to the best of my ability, and learned what was needed to publish and promote it. I make myself accessible to readers and view it all as a labor of love. Through that sincere effort with no help from paid promotion, I have earned approx. 7,000 readers in 2 years. That number may seem small by traditional publishing standards, but for an Indie, it’s more than I ever expected! Now writing is my full time job and I can pay my bills with it!
What was some of your favorite books when growing up?
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
Split Infinity by Piers Anthony
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
WitchDame by Kathleen Sky
The Secret Country by Pamela C. Dean
Ariel by Steven R. Boyett
Wolfwalker by Tara K. Harper
Those were (and still are) some old favorites.
I would sincerely like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to introduce everyone to my venomous vamps. The ALMOST HUMAN series is available in ebook and paperback, online and in your local bookstore – if it’s not on the shelf – ask for it!
Also available through the authors website, where you can read free sample chapters:
And on Amazon:
~ Melanie Nowak
Check out my review of Volume 1- Fatal Infatuation and check back for my review of Volume 2- Lost Reflections coming soon.
And Now for the contest-
Enter to win a signed set of Almost Human- The First Trilogy (All three books)
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Contest ends 12/18/10 at 11:59pm EST