Guest Blog: Author Melissa McClone

I’m pleased to welcome best selling author Melissa McClone to my blog. Melissa has published over forty romance novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group and has been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. When she’s not writing, Melissa can usually be found driving her children to various activities. (I can relate!) Her latest novel is The Valentine Quest (Love at the Chocolate Shop Book 5). You can find links to all Melissa’s books on her website. I like her idea of writing the last chapter near the beginning of her writing process. I may try that myself just to see what happens. Anyway, welcome, Melissa!

Knowing the End by Melissa McClone

When I decided to try writing a romance novel, I was a die-hard romance reader who was working full-time during the day as a mechanical engineer and taking classes toward an MBA at night. I was left-brained to the max. This, however, served me well with plotting those first stories.

Forty-odd published works later, I’m still a plotter, but over the past two decades (my “call” from Harlequin to buy my first book came in November 1997 when I was pregnant with my first child who is now a freshman in college), my process has changed a little.

What’s the same?

I like to have an outline or synopsis to get a general feel for the story. I use this to make sure I don’t forget anything I should have. That means when I’m ready to outline, I pull out one of my plot/structure books/worksheets and decide which one I’d like to use. I wish I could say I found the perfect plotting tool or method that I use with each project, but I haven’t. These, however, are my go to resources:

My outline/synopsis is never set in stone. It’s just so I know where to start and have an idea of where I’m going. Next, I write the first three chapters. This is where I get to know my characters. Often there’s too much internalization and backstory in the first draft, but I don’t worry about that. That’s what revisions are for.

What’s different about my process now?

With a couple published novels to my name, I decided to try something different with how I wrote. After I’d drafted the first three chapters, I wrote the last chapter of the story. When I did that, something clicked in my brain. Something good, so that’s what I started doing and have been doing. I used to write only the last chapter, but lately (I forgot exactly when), I’ve been writing from the black moment to the end.

During the revision passes (I’m a draft writer), I’ll add more detail and description, and of course, clean up the writing, but the scenes don’t change much. The only significant rewrites have happened when I changed a character’s internal conflict, but I can’t remember ever changing the actual setting of an end scene.

Some of my writer friends don’t get this at all. We’ve had some interesting discussions about my process. I don’t know if it’s my left brain or what, but I need to know the ending to know how to get there. Writing the end first doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of writing the rest of the story. If anything, I can breathe easier and enjoy the journey to get there.

A friend once encouraged me to write the story linearly just to see what that was like. She felt I was missing the discovery that happens as you write from start to finish. I’m always up for experimenting, so I gave it a try with a novella.

The result?

A total mess and lots of tears.

D-I-A-S-A-T-E-R!

The bright side of the experiment, however, led me to completely embrace my process. When others tell me that they could never write the way do what I do or they’d never need to write the book if they knew the end, I just smile and continue doing as I’ve done. The way I write works for me, so why switch things up?

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Melissa’s uncredited coauthor.

Julieann Dove Blog Tour

I’m pleased to feature Julieann Dove‘s new contemporary romance The Secret He Keeps on my blog today. I’m doubly impressed by her work because she’s managed to juggle writing five books this year with raising five children. Read my Q and A with Julieann below along with a excerpt from the book. Then go out and buy it so you can curl up with a good romance on a cold winter’s night.

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What the genesis of The Secret He Keeps? How did you come up with the story idea?

The story came from an idea of what would happen if a shut-in, grieving woman was saved by an electric repairman. I was driving down the highway and passed a cherry picker repair truck, and poof, there was the idea! I never know where I’ll find my next idea.

You’re a prolific author, publishing five books in 2016. How do you keep up the momentum?

I have to put a lid on my mind sometimes. It wanders to all kinds of places and situations that I could write about for hours. Writing is one of my favorite pastimes! I do have to get up from the computer and come out to the light of day, though, or my family might forget what I look like.

You say you like to write about messy people encountering love. Why are messy people so interesting?

I try never to write in a box. People are more complicated than boy meets girl and falls in love after overcoming a hardship. I include the hardship, but spotlight the imperfections of people, too. We all have them, and the more I include in my books, the more relatable my characters are to readers. Waking Amy astounded me with the reviews by women who identified with Amy’s insecurities. I feel my job as a writer is to take the reader on a journey of self-discovery through my characters. The problems they encounter are only a part of the story. Messiness makes it more believable.

Where do you find inspiration for the characters you create?

A lot of my characters have pieces of me in them. Elise, in A Reason to Stay, represented my inability to commit to a guy, and the hardship of not having a relationship with my father. Amy, in Waking Amy became a little reflective of my best friend, who, after the first book was published, was left by her husband. In the third book, she was someone I used as inspiration. It was very important to give her a happily ever after—even if it was in fiction.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

From other authors telling me I can’t possibly please everyone. Reading poor reviews hits me in my soft spot. I realize what I write is not the taste of every reader. Not everyone is going to agree that the heroine is imperfect. “The Secret He Keeps” has made a few readers a bit upset with me. Reading is subjective, and I have to keep that in mind!

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Her neck was flawless, almost angelic. Soft and white, with tiny curls at the nape. His hands began to shake and he couldn’t fit the clasp together. He moved in for a closer smell while she was unable to see what he was doing. It was faint, but it drew him in for a better whiff. He closed his eyes, imagining he was able to do more than just inhale her.

“Are you having trouble?” She turned her head sideways to ask him.

“No, I got it.”

She turned back around and showed it off. “How does it look?”

His eyes never left hers when he answered. “Simply beautiful.”

He must have said something wrong because she kept quiet and walked to the mirror. “Thank you again. I really love it.”

He shouldn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. He never used to have a problem with that. In his younger days, he rotated women—he didn’t even know their last names or occupations. But Rachel was different. A different class of her own. She didn’t let him get by with anything. He grew to like it. By the time he knew he loved it, along with her, she was engaged to his best friend.

“Well, I’m glad. I guess I’ll get going. Do you have any plans for tomorrow? It’s Christmas, Rach.”

She put her hand in her back pocket and leaned against the wall. “I know that, Dane. I don’t have anything pressing, no. I’m sure Mom will call and put me on speakerphone for the family to all wish me Merry Christmas.” She raised one of her fingers. “Which brings me to a favor.”

“We are all caught up on favors, Rachel. No more dates.” He was at the door, pulling up his boots. He figured she still felt uncomfortable with him hanging around, and the snow was coming down pretty hard.

“No, it isn’t a date. It’s a mission of mercy. I have to go home for New Year’s and Mom is planning to parade all the single men in the fifty-square-mile radius to our house. She promises she’s not, but I’ve been fooled before by her.”

“How could I help?”

“You could fly with me, all expenses paid, to Savannah, Georgia and pretend to be interested in me.” She quickly added, “Not like wildly interested, just like smile at me and seem fond. No, that’s a better word. Fond of me.