Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interview with YA author Melissa Conway

Today I am honored to feature Melissa Conway on the blog! She is the author of four young adult ebooks, the latest of which, Xenofreak Nation, she'll be discussing here today. Melissa is the founder of the book review site Booksquawk. Her website is here, her YouTube channel here, she blogs at Whimsilly and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much for taking the time to be here today! What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?
I’d like my readers to know how much I appreciate that they chose my book. Beginning any book is not only a time commitment; it’s an investment that the reader hopes will pay off emotionally. I strive to produce work that will take them on a satisfying journey, and it’s especially gratifying when they take the extra time to give me feedback.

Tell us about Xenofreak Nation. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?
The story alternates between the two central characters, Bryn Vega, the daughter of the head of the Pure Human Society, and Scott Harding, an Xbestia gang member who is really an undercover agent for the XIA. At its heart, Xenofreak Nation is both a love story and an exploration of ethics set in the near future in a world mired in a deep economic depression where government decision-making has ground to a halt. Authorities have failed to regulate the medical practice of bioengineering animals to be compatible with humans for organ transplantation. Rogue xenosurgeons are responsible for the development of an underground sub-culture derogatorily referred to as Xenofreaks, who have replaced tattoos with grafts of bioengineered animal skin, teeth, horns and even tails and wings. When Bryn is kidnapped as retaliation for her father’s anti-xeno activities, she’s thrust into this frightening world. Scott is torn between his duty and his developing feelings for innocent Bryn.

What have you learned through writing this book?
I don’t know that I learned anything exactly...but certainly the story opened up a way for me to communicate a concept we are all familiar with: that there are two sides to every story. Given the state of the world, it can’t hurt to emphasize cultural tolerance!
How did you get started writing?
My family was poor, so the library was a big source of entertainment. And since I was shy, writing was one way for me to express myself. I wrote a silly poem in the fourth grade that my teacher submitted to a contest in the local paper. When I won, it was the first time I felt as if my writing had merit. I admire teachers in general, but good teachers, the ones who take that extra step to encourage children to flourish, they are my heroes.

What is your writing process like?
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I find it hard to write unless the house is clean and all chores attended to. But I have this great set-up in the living room -- I sit in a La-Z-Boy with my PC discreetly hidden in a cabinet next to it. My monitor is mounted on a swing arm so I don’t have to turn my head, I set my wireless keyboard in my lap, and my wireless mouse rests on the arm of the chair. Very comfy!
I do like to see my characters not just in my mind's eye, so I use DAZ Studio to create them. Then I can put them in my book trailers, too, like the one I made for XN, here.
How do you get ideas for what you write?
My young son, with his limitless imagination, is constantly beginning his sentences with, “What if..?” The other day, I realized that’s how my ideas start, too. A little spark of curiosity about something -- almost anything -- will set my mind on that “What if..?” path, and the next thing I know, I’m actively plotting.

What are some of your favorite books?
I’ve made an effort to give new authors a chance this year and have discovered some great new voices: Rebecca Lochlann’s Child of the Erinyes series and J.S. Colley’s debut novel, The Halo Revelations, to name just a few. 
What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?
First of all, I wouldn’t restrict my advice to young people! Whatever your age, it’s good to have dreams. Learn your craft, set goals, and follow through. Try not to let criticism slow you down too much. Filter the useful from the not-so-much. My personal mantra is: “You can’t please everyone.”

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