I was born in York, Pennsylvania in 1963. I missed being born on Jane Austen’s birthday by one day. One day! I feel that has defined my life in many ways.
I don’t know about you, but it made me fall in love with Melissa Wyatt – just a little bit! Honestly, reading her whole biography makes me grin. She has such a sense of humor.
Melissa is the author of the NerdsHeartYA nominated book Funny How Things Change (my review) and Raising the Griffin – the story of 16-year-old Alex Varenhoff, who suddenly finds out he’s a prince and must return home to rule the country when he knows nothing about ruling anything! I was not the judge for Funny How Things Change, but lucky for me, I got to interview Melissa instead!
Capricious Reader – Congratulations on your NerdsHeartYA nomination! How did you get the idea to write Funny How Things Change?
Melissa Wyatt – Thank you! It was truly an honor to have a book nominated among such great company. I got the idea for Funny How Things Change on the loooooooong drive back to Pennsylvania from West Virginia. My husband’s family is from Welch, WV and we travel there every other year for a family reunion. At first, I didn’t like it very much. It’s so alien to the suburban life I know in south central Pennsylvania. The town of Welch was a prosperous county seat during the coal boom but with the closing of the coal mines, it is now slowly dying. Even so, a couple of thousand people hang on, and I always wondered why. Why did my father-in-law want to move back so badly?
Questions–especially the questions that won’t go away–are a great way to start a book because they get you thinking about motivations, why people do the things they do. So I started thinking about a teenager who was pulled in both directions, wanting to go and longing to stay.
CR – Remy is one of the most well-developed characters I’ve read in awhile. How did you go about creating Remy?
MY -I fell in love. Simple answer. For me, developing my main character is like those first months when you are suddenly, desperately, head-over-heels in love with someone. You want to know everything about them. Everything they do fascinates you. You could just sit and watch them sleep, you adore them so. It’s unconditional love at first, so they can get away with anything in the first draft. But after awhile, you have to temper it and correct them when they get annoying. And not be afraid to let bad things happen to them or allow them to get hurt. With Remy, I wanted to write a really good guy but had to be careful not to let him be too unbelievably good.
CR – How about Dana?
MY – Dana was tough! Even though her character really sparked the start of the novel, the outsider coming in to stir things up. But I admit I really struggled with her in the first draft and throughout revision. I think because she initially existed as a plot device, the thing that would shake Remy up and make him think about what she was doing. There was one scene in particular, after she kisses Remy, and I knew it wasn’t working. Something was horribly wrong. It was Dana. I wasn’t allowing her to behave like a normal 19-year-old girl would behave after kissing a very hot guy. She was acting like his therapist. It allowed him to say all the things I wanted him to say but it wasn’t natural. I had to back track and rethink the scene from her point of view. How would she feel? How would she react? No teenaged girl would have been as sympathetic and analytical as I originally wrote her. I had to be her for awhile. Fall in love with her, too.
CR – Who is your favorite character in this story? Would you be surprised if I said mine was Remy’s Dad?
MY – Oh! I am absolutely delighted! He’s my favorite, too. I have a thing about dads in my books. Not sure what a therapist could do with that!
CR – Did you grow up in West Virginia? Reading this made me think you have just as much love for those mountains as Remy.
MY – Nope. I grew up right here in south central Pennsylvania, where I still live. (Though it’s beginning to get boring.) And I have to truthfully say that I’m not in love with the mountains. I still find it claustrophobic, visiting there. So I am absolutely not of the “write what you know” school. I don’t even fully embrace “write what you love.” I think you need to understand why your characters love the things they do. To do that, you have to find the core commonality, and with Remy, that was the impact of the things we identify with most strongly.
CR – Did you always think you would be a writer? What do you love about it? Is there anything you hate about it?
MY – I’ve wanted to be a writer since eighth grade. Took me awhile. The best thing about it is the act of creation, bringing characters to life through words. It’s an amazing high when things are rolling along. The worst part is getting stuck and not being able to figure out why. Horrible feeling!
CR – What are some of your favorite YA books?
MY – My favorites from when I was a teenager (and yes, there were YA books way back then) were by a British writer named K. M. Peyton: the Flambards books, The Team, Pennington’s Heir, The Right Hand Man. More recently, I’ve loved The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson, Impossible by Nancy Werlin, Repossessed by A. M. Jenkins and Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books. I am also among the throngs of fans impatiently waiting for Mockingjay. (I’m a Gale girl myself.)
CR – What are you working on next? Will there ever be another book about Remy?
MY – I think Remy will find what he needs now to be happy and happy people don’t make for very interesting books. So instead, I’m working on a big, fat, fluffy, historical novel about a castle, three sisters, a curse and a ghost who might not be a ghost. (No dad in this one. Hmm.)
Thank you for asking such thoughtful questions. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed answering them!
Thank you for your wonderful answers Melissa! And I can’t wait for the new book; it sounds right up my alley! Please check out Funny How Things Change, it’s a wonderful book. And stay tuned, my NerdsHeartYA reviews and pick to go on to the next round will be up tomorrow.