We have a very special guest today on Words With Writers! The amazing and fantastic Melissa Grey is here to talk writing, reading, and her upcoming novel The Girl At Midnight.
Let's get right to it, shall we?
Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for being a guest today on Pub Hub. I’m so excited to have you and your upcoming novel The Girl At Midnight! Let’s get started. My first question for you is about writing. How long have you been writing? Have you always known you wanted to be an author?
The first short story I distinctly remember completing was when I was twelve years old. That was about fifteen years ago, but I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pen and understand what those squiggles on a page meant. I don’t recall exactly when I decided that I wanted to make a career out of arranging and rearranging squiggles on a page, but the desire solidified into a plan when I was about fourteen or fifteen.
Awesome! So it was meant to be! Speaking of writing, one of my favorite questions just has to be asked. Who is your current book boyfriend?
Sean Kendrick from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. But Arin from Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse is fighting for my attention, so watch out, Sean.
Nice! Those are two books I have yet to read. I'll definitely check them out. So obviously you like The Scorpio Races and The Winner's Curse. What book do you wish you could have written?
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Her skill with world-building is out of control. Creating entire lands and imbuing them with enough life and energy to feel as real as the town you live in is no easy feat.
What writing tips or advice do you have to offer other writers and authors?
Read. For the love of cheese and crackers, read all the time. If nothing is coming in, nothing is going to come out. And don’t just let your eyes skim over the page. Ingest the words. Savor them like they’re your last meal and you have to make every bite count. Find a quiet place – even if it’s just your bathroom for small snatches of stolen time – and read aloud. Recognize that you can always improve.
If you struggle with dialogue, read conversations written by someone you know is skilled at it. If descriptive prose is your weakness, underline particularly successful passages in books you’ve come across. It’s not enough to merely christen something as “good.” Take it apart. Search for makes it tick. Study how other people do it and ask yourself, “Why does this work?”
Fantastic advice Melissa! Thank you! Speaking of writing, do you have any writing habits/practices? Tea and music? Silence?
I’m guilty of falling a little too deeply into habit sometimes. When you write full-time in your own office, it’s easy to slip into the trappings of ritual. Mine involves turning off all the lamps and lighting enough candles to read my handwritten notes. I have a specific Pandora station I like to play to get me in the mood (MS MR, with Marina and the Diamonds as a back-up plan when I run out of song skips). There’s even a certain teapot reserved for writing time
Oooh! I love the idea of writing my candlelight. I have never written that way but I think I just might have to start. So let's talk a little bit about your book The Girl At Midnight. In it (per Goodreads) the main character Echo is raised in New York City by a race of creatures with feathers for hair and magic in their veins. It sounds so unique and interesting. How did you come up with your story?
There’s no neat answer to that question. I’ve always wanted to write a story about a girl who lives in a library, as Echo does (kind of like From the Mixed-Up Files ofMrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), and this specific story gave me the opportunity to do that.
A few years ago, I developed an interest in the firebird of Slavic mythology and fell down that rabbit hole. I traveled a lot and the book is sort of like a love letter to the places I’ve been: New York, London, Paris, the Black Forest, Kyoto. They’re all in there. Over time, those little seeds I collected grew into something that eventually became The Girl at Midnight.
Interesting! I literally can NOT wait to read this. Now, on to your main character... I love the name Echo. Why did you choose that name?
The full meaning of her name would be a bit of a spoiler, but what I can tell you is that the 80’s were a kooky time, and I was almost named Echo. My father thought it would be a tough name to take out onto the playground, so Melissa happened. I’ve kept that name in my back pocket, saving it for the right person.
Now in your novel, your main character Echo is raised in New York City. Have you ever been there? What is your best memory there?
I was born and raised in New York City (and currently live there), so picking out a single memory is a bit daunting. I do have favorite places. There’s the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue (where Echo lives in The Girl at Midnight) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Do you have a favorite character in your book?
That’s a bit like asking if I have a favorite child. There are bits and pieces of me in each of them. Echo, for example, has my sense of humor and love of good food and good books. There’s another character named Jasper who has hair-feathers like a peacock, and he’s a relentless narcissist. He says the things I think but refrain from breathing aloud because doing so would be impolite.
If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
What Do You Do with a B.A. in English from Avenue Q. My degree is in Fine Art, but the sentiment is the same. Apparently, you write novels about magical feathery people and girls who live in libraries.
Lightning round: Which do you prefer?
Puppies or kittens?
Puppies (I have a cat but kittens are sharp and unwieldy.)
Coke or Pepsi?
Night or day?
Coffee or tea?
Mountains or sea?
Frankenstein or Dracula?
Cookies or cake?
Gandalf or Dumbledore?
Excellent choices! Especially the Dumbledore one. I'm not biased or anything...cough HarryPotterforlife cough. I want to sincerely thank you Melissa for being here today. It was a pleasure to interview you! I cannot express how excited I am to read your upcoming novel! It's so unique and wonderful sounding, I'm already wishing it was 2015!
Melissa Grey penned her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn't stopped writing since. As an ungrad at Yale she learned how to
About the Author
Melissa Grey penned her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn't stopped writing since. As an undergrad at Yale, she learned how to ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, but hasn't had much use for that skill since graduating in 2008. Her debut novel, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, will be published by Delacorte/Random House in spring 2015. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow her on Twitter @meligrey.