Another beautiful and absolutely fascinating writer I met at my recent Jefferson, Texas author’s event was Melanie Wells. She graciously consented to a short interview. Here is her response to the starter questions I like to use to get to know authors. A photo of Melanie and her book cover is below also. You saw her earlier in an earlier post–she was the fiddle player for Trish Murphy. You can learn more about Melanie at her website: www.melaniewells.com
1. Your favorite author(s) and book(s)
I love Harper Lee and Truman Capote, who, ironically, were childhood friends. In Cold Blood is one of my favorite books ever. It’s just so beautifully written and such a heartbreaking, tense story. I read a book recently called West with the Night by Beryl Markham, who knew Isak Denisen in Africa. It’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. It made me want to go to Africa and fly planes. I also love Anne Lamott and David Sedaris. I love irreverent humor.
As to fiction – I don’t read that much fiction anymore. I do like Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich – I get compared to both of them a lot.
2. What is the most significant thing as a writer that you learned in writing this book?
This was a tough book to write. I had migraines the entire two years I was writing it. And there were issues at the publisher, because during the writing of this book, my publisher Multnomah was sold to Random House, and none of the authors really knew at the time whether that was good or bad news for us. It turned out to be great news for me. I was lucky. But I guess the writing of this book was mainly about perseverance and about letting the story be what it is. I’m always aware that if I think about sitting down to “write,” I can freeze up. It just sounds so daunting. But if I sit down and think, “Okay, let’s tell this pick up the story and see where it goes,” I enjoy the process much more and don’t seem to get stuck.
3. What are your favorite lines in the book? I love the following passage about Peter Terry:
The thing with Peter Terry is, his booty isn’t cash or Social Security numbers or flat-screen TVs. What he’s after is your mind. And your soul if he can get it. But honestly, your soul is just the bonus round. His eye is on your serenity. Your peace. Your sense of safety in the world. If he can lift those precious little items off you and toss them onto his pile, he’s pulled off a job unlike anything you’ve ever read about over a morning cup of coffee or seen at a ten-dollar movie.
Naturally, intensive care is Peter Terry territory. You sit there, staring at your loved one, in the company of strangers who are also staring at their loved ones. And you’re surrounded by the architecture of suffering—monitors, pumps, bags, needles, tubes. You can feel the skin being ripped off your illusions. Flesh covers veins and veins web through organs and muscles and bones. And they’re all stuck together with the fragile, electric sinews of sensation, of movement. It’s the perfect disguise, this farce of wholeness.
And the parts, they all break so easily. When you’re sitting there, staring at your loved one, the one with the broken parts, you can’t believe any of it ever works at all.
And then, as you pace between beeps and alarms and rhythmic whooshes of air, you hear the whispering and the murmuring. You peek around the curtain, where rosaries are fingered with confident intention, where heads are bowed, where hearts are turned upward because it’s the only possible option. And the atmosphere of hope in the place is overpowering.
Then you realize hope is all there is. There’s nothing else to live on. The rest is just parts and a jump-start.
4. News: Recent or future author events?
My Soul to Keep comes out February 5, so the events are just now starting to ramp up. I’ve got a book signing in my hometown of Amarillo, TX on Feb. 16, and signings booked throughout the spring around Texas. I don’t know about out of state events yet. We haven’t started booking those. When you’re from a huge state like Texas, you could do your entire tour here and not hit the whole thing. Watch my website www.melaniewells.com for news and updates.
5. What else do you have in the works?
I’m re-writing a manuscript I finished years ago, called The Permian Game. It’s a great story, but I’m a better writer now than I was when I wrote it, so I’m giving it the spit and polish before I let my agent put it out there. I’m hoping also the Dylan Foster series continues. That will depend largely on how this book My Soul to Keep does out there.
I also own and run a psychotherapy practice – LifeWorks counseling associates, in Dallas (www.wefixbrains.com) and try to play my fiddle as much as I can. I sit in occasionally with my friend Trish Murphy’s (www.trishmurphy.com) 70’s cover band in Austin called Skyrocket. (www.skyrockettheband.com). So I stay pretty busy.