Friday, March 16, 2012

TBR welcomes Melinda Clayton

TBR: Welcome to TBR, Melinda. Will you share a little bit about yourself?
Melinda: Hi, and thanks for having me.  Well, I’m a wife and mother, a psychotherapist, and a writer.  Several years ago I stopped working directly with clients in order to focus more on my family.  I had always wanted to write, and that was the perfect time to start.  I published several magazine articles on mental health related topics, moved from there to short stories, and a novel seemed the next logical choice.  It’s been a very fun and interesting ride!

TBR: Tell us about Return to Crutcher Mountain and where it's available.
Melinda: My latest release, Return to Crutcher Mountain, is actually the sequel to my first, Appalachian Justice.  Appalachian Justice is the story of Billy May Platte, a reclusive mountain woman who has some difficult choices to make when the abuse of a young girl comes to her attention.  Return to Crutcher Mountain continues the story of the young girl, Jessie, now an adult, as she strives to make peace with her past and find happiness for her future.  Both are available from Both are also available at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

TBR: Please tantalize us with a story blurb or excerpt.
Melinda: I’d love to! From Return to Crutcher Mountain, as Jessie, the protagonist, unravels some of the mystery of her past:

Smaoinigh sula gniomhu tu, Billy May whispered in the breeze against my cheek, speaking her father’s ancient language.  Think before you act.  And then I knew she was with me.  Billy May had always been with me.  Bí comforted, beag amháin.  Be comforted, little one, she said to me, and I strained to hear more, desperate for her voice.  The signs are all around you, little girl.  Listen to what the universe has to say.

I loosened my grip on the railing and tilted my head back to look at the sky.  The night was clear, and as I always had, I marveled at the stars.  No place on earth is better for star gazing than Crutcher Mountain on a clear night.  Listen to the universe, she had said, and so I did.  I took a deep breath and let the presence of Billy May’s voice clear my head, felt the embrace of her in the wind against my shoulders, and at last I was comforted.

TBR: What inspired you to write about the theme?
Melinda: Definitely my work as a psychotherapist.  For many years, I worked both inpatient and outpatient with children who had survived abuse.  While their stories were heartbreaking, their courage was awe-inspiring.  As a potential love interest tells Jessie, “You’re a survivor.  That’s what you have to remember.  Quit seeing the scars as disfiguring and start seeing them as a badge of honor.  All warriors have battle scars, and you won the battle.”       

TBR: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Melinda: I think I’m sort of both.  I definitely start out with an outline, but it changes along the way.  Sometimes the characters don’t want to go in the direction I had originally planned.  I’m currently working on my third novel, and was stuck for several weeks because a character turned out to be very different from my original plans! 

TBR: How do you develop your characters?
Melinda: What a great question!  I’d love to hear from other authors on this, too.  Character development is one of my favorite parts of writing.  I spend days thinking about each character.  I want to know what they look like, what they sound like, what their mannerisms are.  I want to understand their motivations.  Why do they make the choices they make?  What led them to that path?  We all perceive the world through our own personal filter, based on our past experiences.  Characters do, too.  I imagine a past for my characters, a history that shaped them into being the person they become in the story.   

TBR: Did any music inspire your book? Do you have a playlist?
Melinda: I don’t think there’s any particular music that inspired it, but there is definitely music that, as I was writing, seemed to fit.  I’m a huge fan of Native American flute music, particularly the work of John Huling.  Billy May Platte, from Appalachian Justice, is part Cherokee, and I could hear Huling’s work from Canyon Spirit in my mind as I wrote.

TBR: While creating your books, what was one of the most surprising things you learned?
Melinda: There have been several, but I think one of the most surprising was the amount of research involved.  I’m very careful to fact check before writing.  My mother’s family is from West Virginia, the setting for both novels, so I’m very familiar with the area and the dialect – Billy May’s voice is actually my grandmother’s – but I wanted to be certain if I wrote that a certain flower was blooming, it really was blooming at that time and in that area.  If I included the call of a specific bird, I needed to know it lived in that region and would be there that time of year.

I also researched not only the history of West Virginia but of Huntington specifically.  Billy May used a lot of herbal remedies, and I had to make sure not only that the remedies were true to her heritage, but that the plant life she needed grew in that region.  Some days I spent more time researching than I did writing!

TBR: Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.
Melinda: What I strive for is an emotional connection to the reader.  I want the reader to be emotionally involved in the story, to feel the fear, despair, hope, and joy felt by the characters.  That’s what I enjoy in my own reading, and that’s what I try to provide with my writing.

TBR: What's next for you?
Melinda: I’m currently working on my third novel.  It’s also set in the fictional town of Cedar Hollow, West Virginia, but isn’t a sequel.  Readers may recognize some of the characters popping in every so often, but this novel follows the story of a very different family, the Pritchett family, the “moonshining” family briefly referenced in the previous novels.  The Pritchett family was torn apart by the mysterious death of thirteen year old Luke.  His sister knows what happened, but so far, she isn’t telling.

TBR: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Melinda: The most interesting comments have had to do with Billy May Platte, from Appalachian Justice.  As a young girl, Billy May was attacked when some local boys witnessed an event that called her sexuality into question.  After that, she lived in seclusion for many years.  One older, quite conservative male reader told me that I’d brought her to life and made her pain real for him.  He said that reading about her experiences made him think differently about issues regarding sexuality.  That was a wonderful thing to hear.

TBR: Where can readers find you on the web?
Melinda:  I blog (although not nearly often enough) at And my resolution for this year is to be a better blogger!

TBR: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Melinda: Absolutely!  Thanks for giving me the opportunity.  As I mentioned earlier, character development is one of my favorite parts of writing.  I’d like to hear from readers what they think makes a character believable.  What draws you in as a reader?  

TBR: Readers, Melinda is giving away a Smashwords code for a free ebook, either Appalachian Justice or Return to Crutcher Mountain, winner’s choice. She'll pick a winner next week and announce the winner here.

Thanks for visiting TBR, Melinda. Best of luck to you.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to TBR, Melinda. Thanks for asking such a great question. I'm looking forward to readers' answers.


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