Author Interview: Manuel A. Meléndez

Welcome to our Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I am very pleased to welcome Manuel A. Meléndez. 

Manuel A. Meléndez is a Puerto Rican writer, who was born on the island and raised in East Harlem, N.Y.  He is the author of two mystery/supernatural novels, WHEN ANGELS FALL, and BATTLE FOR A SOUL, five poetry books, OBSERVATIONS THROUGH POETRY, VOICES FROM MY SOUL, THE BEAUTY AFTER THE STORM, MEDITATING WITH POETRY, and SEARCHING FOR MYSELF.  Two collection of Christmas short stories, NEW YORK CHRISTMAS TALES, VOL. I and II, and IN THE SHADOWS OF NEW YORK: TWO NOVELETTES.  The novel WHEN ANGELS FALL, was voted by The LatinoAuthors.com as the Best Novel of 2013, while BATTLE FOR A SOUL was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards for Mystery Novels.  His short story A KILLER AMONG US was published by Akashi Books in SAN JUAN NOIR anthology.

New Manuel Melendez

Welcome, Manuel!

Which book are we chatting about today, and what is the genre?

The book I would like to talk about is a collection of supernatural/mystery short stories I’m currently working on called “Wicked Remains”. The supernatural genre is one of my favorite genres not only to write, but to read, as well.

Please describe what “Wicked Remains” is about.

The collection is an assortment of tales, from the typical old fashioned werewolf and vampires stories, to the demons who invade your dreams, turning them into nightmares.  And then, to the twisted, criminally insane killers.

Thanks for sending the illustration by Henry Simon, which will appear in your short story collection.

Manuel Melendez photo

How did you come up with the title?

I played with many different angles to come up with a title I felt was able to capture the many themes of the book and its eclectic collection of stories.  “Wicked Remnants” is what haunts you after the nightmare.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Yes, many of my characters have some of my DNA twisted somewhere in their personalities.  You can’t help it.  I’m sure many writers use their own experiences, pain, laughter, and tears to blend into their fictional creations.

So true; it’s hard for most writers to not weave something personal into their character or story. What inspired you to write this collection?

Even though the majority of my writing involves poetry and novels, short stories have always been the format I’m most drawn to.  The challenge of creating rich tales complete with conflicts has always fascinated me.  I believe to quickly deliver the full arc of the story to the reader makes you a better novelist…and poet, as well.

I agree with you. What is your favorite part of writing?

Taking a deep breath, having an idea that will launch a story and give it flight, and then allowing the voices to take over your creativity. Then just let it flow. Forget the basic concepts of grammar, spelling, run-on sentences—just write and write non-stop.  Those voices are not going to stop because you want to refer to your reference books…that comes later. At the beginning it is all freestyle. It’s like a street fight with no rules or referee!

That’s a great description! I research my book idea for a few months, write furiously for six months, and then the rewrites and deeper research begin, which can take up to two years. The first few months are very exciting.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Coming up with something new, something that has never been done or written about.  Which seems impossible, but creatively makes you dig deeper, or soar higher, it’s there you just have to find it or expose it.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes”, the first of a trilogy.  I’m a big Stephen King’s fan, and the interesting thing about this book is that it is unlike most of his books, which are supernatural. This one is strictly a detective story with a team of three very diverse characters.  Very enjoyable, not one of his best, but still a good read.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Too many to put on paper, but obviously Edgar Allan Poe must lead the parade.  Followed by Stephen King, Piri Thomas, Pete Hamill, James Clavell, Frank Herbert, Vicente Blasco Ibañez, to name a few.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Edgar Allan Poe for introducing to me the short story format.  Stephen King for teaching me how to developedbelievable characters, and Piri Thomas for allowing me to dream at the age of 13 that Puerto Ricans from El Barrio could be writers, as well.

Puerto Rican writer Esmeralda Santiago inspired me to try my hand at writing after I read the now-classic memoir, “When I Was Puerto Rican”. Like you, I love Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Any place I get inspired, but my favorite places are the subway trains, parks, and a place that I discovered to be a beacon to my creativity, underneath the elevated tracks of the subway line in my neighborhood.  I need the chaos and noises of the city. If you put me in a quiet place, like up in the country, my voices refused to speak!

I find it so interesting where people write and find inspiration. I need total silence in the country for my voices to be heard.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Two of my favorite things are drawing/painting and cooking.  The activities allow me to relax and think about the plots or characters I’m working on, and it’s a form of meditation.

Very true. Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

Writing can be very liberated. Through my writing, I have an outlet for my emotions; regardless if they are happy, sad, angry, or even mean-spirited.  The publishing process is too much of a business that I’d rather not get involved in, but it’s also part of the game. I need to work a bit more on the publishing process. One thing for sure, do your research before signing anything, and especially do your work before agreeing with promises, that may be broken and not fulfilled.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

To be entertained.  To be moved, to be afraid, and sometimes to be informed about things they never knew. Lessons may be learned through stories.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

The writing part is actually the easiest. Somehow the plots, characters and situations come pretty easy and are extremely rewarding.  The marketing aspect is what I need to work on, especially being a shy person who’d rather let his words on paper be his voice.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Well, it’s not so much what didn’t work, but more of what I need to do to make it work, and that’s to be more involved and let people know I’m here with a lot of stories and poems to share.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

First work on that story, and don’t be lazy.  Revise that book as much as it needs to be revised.  Get an excellent editor, not a friend, but a real editor, who is not afraid to tell you what works on the story and what doesn’t.  If you write 400 pages, don’t be afraid to cut down as many pages as you need to cut.  Don’t fall in love with a whole paragraph or even a sentence, or a character because if it doesn’t move the story, but rather slows it down, you need to delete it. After your book went through every cycle, and it’s the best thing you have written, then it’s time get it out there.

Good advice.

Website and social media links?

www.manuel-melendez.com

Manuel A. Melendez’s Books on Facebook

Where can we find your book, Manuel?

Amazon.com, or feel free to contact me if you’d like an autographed copy.

What’s next for you?

For the second time, I’m doing the 30-30 Poetry challenge.

I’m also working on two novels, one is a supernatural tale and the other one a more crime/human drama.  And, I have two other stories, which I wrote about 20 years ago that must be revisited.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Manuel. I wish you continued success with your writing! 

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico. Eleanor’s adult children are out in the world doing amazing things.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

Let’s Talk About Writing Host Marsha Casper Cook

MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND JOIN US TOMORROW!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2015/08/13/lets-talk-about-writing-host-marsha-casper-cook

Join Marsha Casper Cook on August 13 at 4PM EST 3PMCST  2PM MT 1PM PST- When she welcomes Jack Remick and Eleanor Parker Sapia. Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, novelist and a frequent guest on the World Of Ink. He has contributed to the show by bringing wonderful authors to the network and with each visit he is appreciated that much more.

Jack has brought to the network Eleanor Parker Sapia, a Puerto Rican-born novelist, poet, and artist, raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Her life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker, and refugee case worker inspire her passion for writing.

Marsha is a Partner of the World of Ink Network, Award-winning Script Writer, Novelist, Writing Coach, Media Release Specialist, Blog Talk Radio Host and Founder of Michigan Avenue Media. Marsha is the author of 11 published books and 11 feature-length screenplays, a literary agent with 15 years of experience and the host of BTR’s World of Ink Network shows: A Good Story Is a Good Story, and special editions of The World of Ink Network.

Call in number (714) 242-5259

For more info   http://www.worldofinknetwork.com

            http://www.michiganavenuemedia.com

 

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Julia Park Tracey

I’m very pleased to welcome author and poet laureate, Julia Park Tracey to The Writing Life.

Julia Park Tracey pic

Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning author, journalist and blogger. Julia was the founding editor, and later, publisher, of The Alameda Sun. Her work has appeared in Salon, Quill, and Thrillist. She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, and holds a BA in journalism and MA in English.

Her published work includes the novels Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop, Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News (Booktrope), and Tongues of Angels; two biographies, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen and Reaching for the Moon: More Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen; and Amaryllis: Collected Poems.

Welcome, Julia!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop is the first in a chicklit mystery series about a 20-something newspaper reporter trying to fight the good fight.

Veronika book cover

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Veronika Layne. Sassy, tattooed, twenty-something newspaper reporter. Never saw herself working for the “man.” When her small weekly is swallowed up by Singh Media Group, that’s exactly where she ends up. Stuck writing fluff pieces that might as well be ads, how can she resist digging into rumors that a real estate developer is destroying native burial grounds? Warned away at every turn by her editor, she worries whether the story will see the light of day? And, dazzled by her sexy rival-turned-coworker, what is she going to do about her love life?

How did you come up with the title?

Veronika is a good Greek name (she’s Greek) that means True Image. Lois Lane was a female reporter (in Superman), so I put the two together for Veronika Layne. Getting the scoop is getting the story first, getting the inside information. She gets it – but not how she envisions it.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I am a poet and lit-fic writer, as well as a working journalist. I put some of those pieces together and came up with the character, and wrote a lighter, fun story using my mad skills.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Finishing. Reading what I wrote and feeling satisfied.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Getting started. I have to have a deadline to light a fire under my feet.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Jane Austen (she’s a perennial favorite…but I just love her narrative arc.) I also love the domestic novels of WW2 and the first half of the 20th century – Monica Dickens, Dorothy Whipple, and DE Stevenson – I love these women and their fortitude.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

I learned a lot about chicklit and the sassy shorter form from reading Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. I learned how to include multiple POVs from Jane Smiley. I learned the sweeping arc from Austen as well as from Nevil Shute.

Favorite place to write?

Best place to write poetry is when I’m on vacation. On the deck of a cabin or at the beach. Best place to get longform writing done is at my desk. No joke – business gets done there.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I almost became a forest ranger instead of a journalist. I am very interested in eco-living, recycling, sustainable living, and other green topics. I have never lived in a redwood tree but we have a house in a redwood grove, and that’s close enough.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I kept the tone light. When I get too ponderous (too poetic), I have to remember that I’m not writing an essay or a sonnet. I’m writing New Adult fiction – it’s joyous and playful. I need to cultivate that side of me.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

There is no easy way out. You have to do the work. No one publishes the first draft – it takes many times to get the words right. Be willing to learn and open to critiques, and just keep writing. It won’t write itself, you know!

Website?

www.juliaparktracey.com

Where can we find your book?

Any bookstore can order from Ingram; Amazon has it right this very second.

What’s next for you?

A second Veronika Layne novel is on its way to bookstores, with a drop date of June 1. That novel, book #2 in the Hot Off the Press series, is called Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News. More hijinks for our sassy heroine.

And later this year, I have a contemporary novel called Whoa, Nellie that is heading for publication as well.

Thanks for a fun interview, Julia! Best wishes with Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and the Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

A DECENT WOMAN available on Amazon 

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Book Review – Satori, poems by Jack Remick

satori book

 

 

 

 

 

In Satoripoems, Jack Remick grabs our hand and leads us on a breathless, mystical, raw and relentless coming of age journey from boy to man to poet in search of satori, a spiritual awakening. There is no stopping once you read the first lines of this book. You will run from one poem to the next, rushing by vivid descriptions and captured details on a wave that makes you wonder if you have ever actually seen the world and question how much you’ve missed.

From the first lines of breathless, “I took first communion on the steps of the Jazz Cellar too young to buy my own booze, too dumb to steal it…” we are breathless and follow young Remick, “I grew wiser and pseudo-wise-I created canticles to the monsters of my ego and id…” to The City of Saint Francis where “…I patrolled Grant Street at 2 AM hoping fame still grew like magic mushrooms from the cracks where my heroes ate, read, bled.”

We meet artists of the era, such as Mauritz Cornelius Escher, “Twenty-three years into his death-stream this man still aches his bones down to the asphalt city curled like a lizard writing in rain he still feeds me his mind heat his voice says-build a world of black and white…” and Remick’s mentor, Jack Moodey, “…That head burst open on the slick wet stone in the shower And poetry died…”.

In Midnite and Josie Smells Sweet, we meet brown-skinned Josie Delgado in her white shorts, “…Saturday nite, Josie, another world in those lips that mouth, that hair, that skin-Josie is one hundred percent mine…” who asks, “Will you kill yourself for me?” and then broke hearts by her untimely death.

Youthful lust, raw living, the building of America, and Death Waits, “Death waits at the corner/an old woman for the light…” and from Honey Word of Jesus Christ, “…One Sunday, I grew Old. One Sunday I learned of the Man in Me…”.

Once you catch your breath after reading the last line, you will return to page one to savor the haunting rhythm of Jack Remick’s life and the men and women who taught him what he knows. I highly recommend Satori, poems!

http://www.jackremick.com