Friday, September 30, 2011

Feature: Author Interview with Marliss Melton, author of The Protector

I can't believe it is already Friday!  I'd like to say that I'm glad it's the weekend, but working at home and being a stay-at-home-mom means I pretty much work 24/7, so I don't get much of a "weekend" most of the time. ;-) 

Today's guest author is Marliss Melton who wrote The Protector and a whole slew of other great books.  She's a mom of five, a military wife, a teacher, a writer, and who knows what else?!?!?  So, she definitely understands what it is like to never have enough time in the day!!

In case you missed it, you can find my review of The Protector HERE.  

Now, let's stop chatting (okay, so I'll shut up) and get to know more about Ms. Melton...

Author Interview
Marliss Melton

GL:  Everyone has to give us an introduction first ;-).

Marliss:  Greetings! My name is Marliss Melton. If given only three words to describe myself, they would be eclectic, creative, and blessed. I was so lucky to have grown up in a large family that lived all over the world…museums in Paris, trekking through the rainforest in Thailand, climbing a volcano in Ecuador. These terrific memories help me to create rich, realistic settings for my book. I knew that writing was my destiny, but I became a teacher first, teaching high school Spanish and Linguistics at the College of William and Mary, my alma mater. I’ve raised five children and juggled a lot of projects over the years. In the next decade, I look forward to more “me-time,” traveling and reading in order to refill the well of creativity inside of me.  

GL:  And, tell us all about your book…

MM:  The Protector is the prequel to my upcoming Taskforce Series. Featuring a former Navy SEAL, it brings readers of my Navy SEAL series over to my Taskforce Series, where the heroes won’t be Navy SEALs, but they will display the same kind of professionalism, daring-do, and devotion to our country’s security.

Here’s a short summary:  Former Navy SEAL Ike Calhoun grapples with personal demons in his remote, mountain hideaway. Being tasked to protect the Commander's daughter from terrorists not only disrupts Ike’s solitude, it pulls him back into the war he just wants to forget. Eryn McClellan isn’t any ordinary woman, however. Charmed by her genuineness and healed by her faith in him, Ike soon finds himself waging a one-man war in her defense while striving to be worthy of her love.

GL:  What was your inspiration for this book?  Where did the characters come from?

MM:  I got the idea for this book while watching the movie Taken, starring Liam Neesen. It got me thinking about the lengths a father will go to in order to protect his only daughter. The father in my book is General Stanley McClellan, head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. When his daughter, who teaches ESL in Washington D.C., is nearly abducted by two Afghani strangers, the General suspects that  terrorist are avenging him. The FBI jumps in to help keep Eryn safe, but it looks like they are using her as bait. Stanley does the only thing a father can in his position: He assigns Eryn a protector he KNOWS can keep her safe, former Navy SEAL Ike Calhoun.   

GL:  What other books have your written?  Do they all follow the same genre?

MM:  My first published novels were medieval historical romances, written under the penname Marliss Moon. Though they won me some awards, my reading audience was limited. I felt called to write something that appealed to a wider audience, something I knew a lot about and that was romance and the military. My first husband (deceased) was an Army officer. My current husband served 20 years in the Navy, giving me lots of fodder for my Navy SEALs series. Many members of my large family serve the government in some capacity, which is one reason why I’ve chosen to write about an inter-agency Counterterrorism Taskforce.

GL:  When did your writing career begin?

MM:  I wrote my first romance when I was thirteen. All through high school, college, and into my twenties I wrote for pleasure, with the eventual goal of getting published. By my 30’s, I had gotten really serious with query letters and submissions. My first sale finally took place in 2002 when Berkley bought Danger’s Promise, a medieval romance and a RITA finalist for Best First Book.

GL:  I’m going to have to check this out.  I love historical fiction… 

GL:  What made you make the change to self-publishing? 

MM:  Despite my excellent sales record, my publisher, Grand Central, told me, “No more Navy SEAL books.” They wanted me to come up with something different. But I had the story of The Protector in my head, and it wasn’t different enough for them. I tried to find another publisher, but with Kindle putting a huge dent in the trade paperback industry, no other publisher bought my proposal.  (This was before SEAL Team 6 took out Osama Bin Laden, making them hugely popular again). Meanwhile, my readers were clamoring loudly for another Marliss Melton book. I couldn’t let them down, so I took the plunge, and self-published.

GL:  Well, I, for one, am glad you did!!! J

GL:  Which do you prefer, traditional publishing or self-publishing?  Why?

MM:  It’s really hard to make that call. I love the fact that I am finally making the money I deserve. Throughout my 7 years with a New York publisher, I never earned more than a pittance. It was so little money that my job was hard to justify to my family, especially when I held a master’s degree and could have made three times as much by going back to teaching. With self-publishing, I sell fewer books, because The Protector is not in most chain bookstores, but I just made in one month what I used to make in a year with my old publisher. Shocking, isn’t it? I have to say I miss the prestige associated with being a NY-published author. You don’t get the same respect when you are self-published, regardless of how much money you make. But I don’t miss giving up all the rights to my book and not having any say over the title or the book cover. All of those decisions still rest with me, and I can still sell The Protector to a publisher if I want to.

GL:  How do you know so much about the military and the FBI?

MM:  My father was a foreign services officer and a former Air Force JAG officer. His strong character inspired my fascination with a man in uniform. When I was the wife of an Army Captain, I learned the ranks for the Army and how to hobnob with the other officer’s wives. When I married into the Navy, I had to learn a whole new set of ranks, and I endured endless months of waiting while my husband went to sea, followed by delirious happiness upon his homecoming. I’m lucky enough to live near the East Coast Navy SEALs. I have befriended some of the widows of SEALs who died in Operation Redwing. As for my knowledge of the FBI, I knew nothing before I made contact with a retired Special Agent in Charge. Contacts are key. It pays to know people, which is why I’m always quick to forge connections. Someone out there has the answer to my questions!

GL:  Who is your protector?

MM:  Hmmm. That would have to be my husband of 12 years, Alan. He’s always been the kind of guy to walk on the street-side of the sidewalk, in case some car swerves out of control. Alan went through a lot with me this past year when I had to get my right hip replaced (shallow hip-sockets; who knew, right?) When my new hip popped out of joint ten days after surgery, you should have seen Alan’s agony at not being able to help me. My hip is all better now, and I’m getting back into regular exercise. Alan wants to get a bicycle built for two. That way, if we take a tumble, he can do some kind of wild flip through the air to cushion my fall. Yep, he’s my protector.

GL:  Ouch!!!  Glad you’re on the mend and have such a great guy to watch out for you!!

GL:  What do you enjoy in your “me-time”? 

MM:  My what? I’m not sure what that is, exactly, though now that four of my five kids have left the nest, I’m starting to remember. It involves something called reading—I love that stuff. Then there’s singing. I take every Wednesday night to myself to go to choir practice. (Yep, I could’ve been an opera singer but practicing is tedious). I love to exercise at the Navy bases, where I get in free. Not only does it feel good but the view is nice, too. What else? Languages. I love anything to do with language. I speak Spanish, a little French, Turkish, and Thai. I’d love to learn them all better and to travel the world again.

GL:  I don’t know what me-time is either, but I hear it is really nice…

GL:  You are mom-of-many J.  Do you have any advice for writing moms?

MM:  My advice for writing moms is to build a room on the opposite end of the house where your kids can go crazy and leave you alone. Carve out time for yourself. Carry a laptop or a notebook and write/edit wherever you go. Invest in earplugs. (If you can’t hear them, they’re not really there.) Find another desperate mother and trade off kids! It is extremely difficult to write and raise young ones simultaneously, but I am proof that it can be done.

GL:  Yes…by the time I can afford that padded, soundproof playroom with an external lock, my kids will be too old to use it…haha!

GL:  What do you like to read?  Who are your favorite authors?

MM:  I tend not to read romance any more, though I want to, but there’s that time issue, still. Because my time is still limited, I read nonfictional autobiographies, written by Navy SEALs (The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens) or other military heroes (Until Tuesday by Ricardo Montalvan). I read for purposes of research and inspiration. When I do indulge in fiction, I do so to increase my knowledge of how the military or government agencies operate and the kind of people who serve. As for fiction, Vince Flynn novels were popular with me last year. Right now I’m reading Jeffrey Wilson’s The Trateur’s Ring, which you reviewed two weeks ago. It’s about a Navy SEAL with magical healing powers, so of course I love it!

GL:  Jeff is great!  I’m so glad he “introduced” us…

GL:  What is your favorite romantic movie?

MM:  I just loved the movie Love, Actually, also with Liam Neesen (Him again, but who doesn’t love Liam Neesen? He always plays a kick-ass hero with a sensitive side.)  I tend to get into the action flicks more than romantic comedies (probably why I write romantic suspense), so Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchette was right up my alley.

GL:  Chocolate or Caramel?

MM:  I want to say “Both!” but an honest answer would have to be “Neither, thank you.” I tend to monitor my calorie intake very closely, and so I’m going to save those calories for the wine…

GL:  White or Red Wine?

MM:  Red, red, red , and more red! Give me a spicy, bold Shiraz or Cabernet and I’m in heaven.

GL:  Favorite Season?

MM:  Autumn. I love the vibrant reds and golds and oragnes. I love the bite of cooler air. Autumn invigorates me, possibly from all my years of teaching and the excitement of starting a new school year. These days, it’s just the excitement of sending my kids off to school so I can finally write again.

GL:  Autumn is my favorite too!  I wish we could just skip summer and winter and have spring and autumn all year!!

GL:  Favorite Holiday?

MM:  Christmas, definitely. I love to sing…every carol I can think of. I love decking the Christmas tree with holiday music in the background. I love buying people gifts, wrapping presents, and singing “Silent Night,” at midnight with a candle in my hands. I love the sacredness of Christmas and the message of hope that it brings.

GL:  Toddlers or Teenagers?

MM:  This one is tough, what with the memory of four teenagers still so fresh on my traumatized brain but…I’ll have to say teens. After all, I did teach high school for a reason. I enjoy kids when they are almost-adults, excited about life, chafing to get out there and fulfill their destinies. Their enthusiasm is contagious. That’s not to say that they don’t lie straight to your face at that age and do all kinds of things you really don’t want to know about, but they’re fresh. Invigorating. I enjoy their ability to articulate thoughts about the purpose of life and their role in the world. You can’t do that so much with toddlers.

GL:  You make it sound so nice.  I’m still not sure I’m looking forward to those years ;-)… 

Marliss, thank you so much for stopping by and chatting with us today!  I am definitely going to be checking out more of your novels, and I look forward to all you have in store for us in the future...