Between the Covers with:
Melissa Ford Lucken

Melissa Ford Lucken
Copyright © 2001, Mid-Michigan Mirror, and reprinted with permission from the January 2001 issue.

       Melissa Ford Lucken lives in the rural area surrounding Lansing, MI, with her husband and two boys. She started her writing career by selling a story to True Confessions way back in 1991. That was her first and only quick success.

       Since then, she has taken every possible small step toward the sale of her first novel. Along the way, she began teaching fiction writing at Lansing Community College and through local community ed programs. She's also on the Board of GDRWA. Although the journey has been long and difficult at times, she claims to have loved every minute of it. THE KEEPER, a YA e-book from Starlight Writer Publishing, was followed with three more sales to Starlight and Hard Shell Word Factory.

   When did the fiction bug bite, and what got you focused on getting published?

       Right after my first son was born, my mom bought me K. Falk's book HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE AND GET IT PUBLISHED. I read it cover to cover and thought, Hey, that sounds like fun. About a month after that, I cleaned out our extra bedroom, painted it pink, then told my husband I was going to be a romance writer. Here I am, nine and a half years later.

   What made you decide to take a risk with e-books?

       The opportunity came to me at RWA National in Chicago. I met with an editor from Starlight, she liked my story, and asked me to send the whole thing.

   THE KEEPER will be released in paperback soon. Will that be a different kind of thrill? How will that change how you promote it?

       It's no secret writers love books. We love the feel of them, the smell, even the way they weigh down that bag from the bookstore. Being a writer, I'll be happy to see my book in paper, but I was excited to see it in CD form, as well.

       I'm so new to the promotion game, I don't know if there will be a difference in promotion. One advantage E-books have is a long shelf life, so whatever strategy I use does not have time constraints.

   You've got a lot of different irons in the fiction fire. Young Adult, romance, suspense: Why so many directions? And the different names?

       I should have a five-year-plan type answer to why I write what I write, but I don't. I write the stories as they come to me, then worry about selling them. HA! Maybe that's why it took me so long to sell. Using my middle name gets me six letters closer to A <G>. Seriously, I just like the sound of Ford. My YA suspenses will be published as M. Ford, my romances as Melissa Ford.

   You're a teacher as well as a writer. What lesson do you wish beginning writers would learn? Which was the hardest for you, yourself, to put into practice?

       The hardest thing to teach and one of the hardest to understand is that the author's goal is not to write a book but to tell a story. Telling a story makes making the events happen inside the reader's mind. One thing that took me a while to figure out is that the writer must tell a story others want to read. I tell my students "write a story readers already want to read, not the story you want them to read."

   How do you emotionally balance a 4-1/2 Star review with that infamous RT 1-Star? How do you prepare yourself for industry criticism...or can you?

       The 4-1/2 Star rating from Scribes World was my first review. It was a huge thrill. Not so much because she "liked" the book, but because she said the book kept her up at night. I felt so sorry for that poor lonely RT Star. It looked so sad and lost, I bet it wished its points would turn into legs so it could run off the page. My opinion: THE KEEPER is a well written story bound to bring out an emotional response in the reader. The story takes some odd turns and some people just don't get it. That doesn't bother me. I didn't write the book to please adults.

       The advantage of getting a review like that right out of the gate is that it's over with. Once I got over the shock and decided my career was not over, I read the review to my son, Walt. His comment, "Face it, Mom, she thought your book sucked but so what?" put things into perspective. As far as preparing for criticism, I guess a writer just has to know that if she takes a chance with her work people are going to react.

   Your husband's a former youth pastor. What does he think about his wife writing "those" books?

       Papa Walt looks forward to the day when his daily chores involve toting my luggage from one fancy hotel to another and taste testing the wines of each lobby bar along the way. His personal note: Hotels in exotic foreign locations preferred. He has always been supportive of me.

   Do you use a critique partner? Does your older son critique your YA books?

       I have not used a critique partner. My son Walt was the first family member to read THE KEEPER. He read it in one sitting, so I took that to mean he enjoyed it even though the most I got out of him was a vague comment about POV shifts (yes, poor Walt is a victim of "my mother is a writer and won't shut up about things like character arcs and internal conflicts") and a general statement about it being pretty good. He read the first draft of THE PRETENDER, its sequel, and was not shy about pointing out "the boring parts." His assessment: "I didn't like it that much, but all the thirteen year old girls will." My younger son Collin assures me that "when I can read all those words" he'll read my stories.

   Did being a Golden Heart Finalist help you get that first sale?

       I loved being a GH Finalist, but being a finalist did not help with any of my sales.

   What's next for you and your writing?

       I'm always working on more than one thing at a time. Right now, I'm working on three: a romance, a suspense, and a romantic suspense.

Books by Melissa Ford:

THE KEEPER, Starlight Writer Publications, 10/00
SECOND CHANCE COWBOY, Hard Shell Word Factory, 2/01
FOUR WEEKS, Starlight Writer Publications, 4/02

Read Melissa's newsletter article, The Five Questions of Sue Grafton's "Kick Butt Motivational Seminar"

Copyright © 2001, Mid-Michigan Mirror, and reprinted with permission from the January 2001 issue. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without written permission of the editor of the Mid-Michigan Mirror.

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