It’s amazing to me that I haven’t interviewed anyone on my blog since 2014! Today I have the remedy for that shortfall.
It’s my great pleasure to introduce to you Canadian author Melanie Florence who wrote Missing Nimâmâ – the award-winning picture book that I reviewed on April 25. See my review HERE.
Welcome to my blog, Melanie, and thank you for doing this
interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’M NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY! THAT’S ALWAYS THE HARDEST QUESTION. UMMM…I’M A FULL-TIME WRITER. I LIVE IN TORONTO WITH MY FAMILY. I LIKE HARRY POTTER AND DOCTOR WHO AND I CAN NEVER FIGURE OUT HOW TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION. 😉
Good answer, though. The questions get easier as we go along. 🙂
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?
I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A WRITER. I WROTE STORIES WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL OR WOULD TAKE A STORY I HAD READ AND REWRITE IT SO I WOULD HAVE A PART IN IT AS WELL. I THOUGHT I’D GO LIVE BESIDE STEPHEN KING AND TRADE IDEAS AND WRITE GREAT BOOKS THAT PEOPLE LOVED TO READ.
Now, that’s impressive – rewriting stories you’d read and writing yourself into them, I mean. You’ve proven you don’t need Stephen King as your neighbour to write great books. 🙂 As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?
OF COURSE! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE HARRY POTTER SERIES. I’VE ALSO READ J.K. ROWLING’S BOOKS THAT SHE WROTE AS ROBERT GALBRAITH AND LOVED THOSE AS WELL. I’M A STEPHEN KING FAN. I LOVE NEIL GAIMAN AND KENNETH OPPEL. BASICALLY ANYONE WHO CAN WEAVE A WONDERFUL STORY THAT I CAN DISAPPEAR INTO.
Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?
ABSOLUTELY. WRITING IS HARD! I’M REALLY NOT SURE WHEN I COULD COMFORTABLY CALL MYSELF A WRITER – BUT I STILL DOUBT MYSELF SOMETIMES. I ALWAYS WONDER IF I’LL SELL MY NEXT BOOK. OR TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHICH IDEA IS THE RIGHT ONE TO WORK ON NEXT. ANY JOB WHERE YOU HAVE TO RELY ON SOMEONE ELSE IS TOUGH.
Do you have a favourite motto or quote or Bible verse that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?
NOT REALLY. I FEEL LIKE I SHOULD COME UP WITH ONE NOW! MAYBE “But you know, happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
I had to Google that quote … Albus Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame. It’s a good quote.
What do you remember about the very first time you were published? How did that come about?
OH MAN. WHAT A CRAZY TIME! I HAD ACTUALLY SENT IN A GRANT APPLICATION FOR A YA NOVEL I WAS WORKING ON AND HAD AN EDITOR CONTACT ME ABOUT IT. ALTHOUGH I WAS WORKING ON THAT, THEY ASKED IF I HAD ANY INTEREST IN WRITING A SPORTS BIOGRAPHY ON AN INDIGENOUS ATHLETE. I SAID YES AND DECIDED ON JORDIN TOOTOO. WITHIN A WEEK, THEIR SISTER COMPANY ASKED IF I WAS INTERESTED IN WRITING A HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE AND RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS AND AGAIN, I SAID YES. SO I SOLD MY FIRST TWO BOOKS WITHIN A WEEK. I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW EXCITING IT WAS TO SEE MY NAME ON A BOOK FOR THE FIRST TIME. IT’S STILL KIND OF EXCITING ACTUALLY.
WOW!! That’s amazing! Many writers would love to be in that position.
What have you had published thus far, and of those what have you most enjoyed writing?
HMM. MY SECOND PICTURE BOOK IS COMING OUT IN SEPTEMBER. MY THIRD NON-FICTION BOOK IS COMING OUT IN…ALSO SEPTEMBER, I THINK. AND MY…FIFTH??? NOVEL COMES OUT IN MAY. I ENJOYED WRITING ALL OF THEM. 🙂
Congratulations for taking the writing world by storm!
What process do you go through when writing and perfecting your work?
I DON’T THINK IT’S EVER PERFECT IN MY OWN HANDS…THAT’S WHAT MY EDITORS ARE FOR. I TRY TO CREATE A GOOD OUTLINE (I DIDN’T OUTLINE MY FIRST COUPLE OF BOOKS. IT’S MUCH EASIER TO OUTLINE THEM.) AND WORK FROM THAT. I TRY TO JUST SIT DOWN AND WRITE WITHOUT OVERTHINKING OR GOING BACK TO FIX THINGS. THAT HAPPENS LATER.
What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?
NOTEBOOKS! I HAVE A TON OF NOTEBOOKS THAT I’VE BEEN JOTTING IDEAS AND WRITING BITS AND PIECES IN FOR YEARS. IT’S HARD TO FIND THE RIGHT ONE LATER THOUGH. SOMETIMES I TYPE THEM INTO MY PHONE FOR LATER TOO.
You do better than I do. My ideas are definitely in need of better filing.
What inspired you to write Missing Nimâmâ? And why a children’s book?
I WAS READING ABOUT MMIW – OR TRYING TO – AND NOT FINDING MUCH. I COULDN’T BELIEVE THAT IT WASN’T BEING COVERED IN THE NEWS. NO ONE SEEMED TO CARE ABOUT THESE WOMEN OR THEIR FAMILIES. THEY DIDN’T HAVE A VOICE AND I WANTED TO GIVE THEM ONE. SO I WROTE MISSING NIMAMA. I REMEMBER SITTING IN MY EDITOR’S OFFICE, LOOKING AT THE STAMP COLLECTOR (WHICH SHE ALSO EDITED) AND SAYING “SOMEONE NEEDS TO WRITE A BOOK LIKE THIS ABOUT MMIW”. WE KIND OF BRAINSTORMED FROM THERE. WHY A CHILDREN’S BOOK? I DON’T KNOW. I HAD ALREADY WRITTEN A YA NOVEL ABOUT THE ISSUE. SOMEHOW I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A BEAUTIFUL STORY AS A PICTURE BOOK IF I COULD TELL IT THE RIGHT WAY.
For our readers: MMIW stands for “missing & murdered Indigenous women.”
You definitely told it in the right way. Did you have to do much research? Was it hard to write? If so, how did you stick with it and why? How did you come up with that title?
I HAD ALREADY DONE MY RESEARCH FOR ANOTHER BOOK ON THE SAME SUBJECT AND I’M A MOM. SO I WROTE IT FROM THAT PLACE – BEING A MOTHER AND CONSIDERING THE EFFECT IT WOULD HAVE ON MY DAUGHTER IF I WASN’T HERE ANYMORE. IT WAS INCREDIBLY HARD AND EMOTIONALLY DRAINING. BUT I REALLY FELT IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR ME TO WRITE IT. I THINK I CAME UP WITH MISSING MOTHER AND MY EDITOR THOUGHT USING THE CREE WORD FOR MOTHER WOULD BE BETTER. SO WE CALLED IT MISSING NIMAMA.
You said earlier you found your first publisher when you applied for a grant. How did you go about finding an editor? and do you have an agent?
I WAS ALREADY WORKING WITH MY EDITOR, CHRISTIE, ON ANOTHER PROJECT. ACTUALLY, I THINK WE WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT A POTENTIAL PROJECT. SHE LOVED THE IDEA OF THIS BOOK BUT THE PUBLISHER SHE WAS WITH AT THE TIME DIDN’T PUBLISH PICTURE BOOKS. SHE KINDLY OFFERED TO LOOK AT IT AS I WROTE AND GIVE FEEDBACK AND HELP ME FIND A PUBLISHER. WITHIN A FAIRLY SHORT TIME, SHE LEFT HER JOB AND STARTED HER OWN COMPANY, CLOCKWISE PRESS. SHE CONTACTED ME AND ASKED IF I WANTED TO WRITE IT FOR HER. SO THAT’S HOW I FOUND MY EDITOR AND PUBLISHER. 🙂 I DO HAVE AN AGENT IN THE U.S. NOW, SO THE PROCESS FOR ANYTHING I WORK ON NOW IS MUCH DIFFERENT. I FOUND MY AGENT THE GOOD OLD FASHIONED WAY – I WAS ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR AN AGENT AND SUBMITTED TO A BUNCH. I GOT OFFERS FROM A COUPLE AND PICKED ONE I FELT I COULD WORK WITH BEST.
What a fortunate string of events!
Did you have to change this story much for it to be accepted as a children’s book?
NOT AT ALL. I HAD A GREAT EDITOR WHO WANTED IT TO BE AS IMPACTFUL AS POSSIBLE, AS DID I. WE DIDN’T WANT TO SUGAR COAT IT. WE WANTED IT TO BE AUTHENTIC AND I HOPE THAT’S WHAT WE DID. GRIEF ISN’T SOMETHING THAT JUST OLDER PEOPLE EXPERIENCE. CHILDREN EXPERIENCE IT TOO. AND FINDING THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES IN BOOKS IS IMPORTANT.
Missing Nimâmâ is a beautifully told story about a very sensitive issue here in Canada, and also in the United States. You have brought attention to a tragic situation on a level for children to understand. Please tell us, what honours has this book received thus far?
THANK YOU! WE WON THE TD CANADIAN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE AWARD AND IT’S SHORT LISTED FOR THE FOREST OF READING GOLDEN OAK AWARD. WE WERE A BEST BOOK FOR KIDS AND TEENS WITH THE CCBC. I KNOW THERE’S ANOTHER BUT I’M DRAWING A BLANK.
Okay, I went searching. It’s quite a list! The ones you didn’t mention are: 2017 Storytelling World Resource Awards winner, Stories for Adolescent Listeners category (if this isn’t the same as the best book for kids & teens with CCBC); 2017 Notable Books for a Global Society Award winner; 2016 OLA Best Bets Honourable Mention.
How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals .. daily? weekly? monthly? long-range?
OH MAN. I HATE TO ADMIT IT BUT I’M WILDLY DISORGANIZED. I SHOULD HAVE A WRITING PLAN OR GOAL BUT I DON’T. I WORK GREAT UNDER DEADLINE BUT NOT AS WELL WITHOUT ONE. I THINK THAT WILL ACTUALLY BE MY GOAL. TO SET UP A CONSISTENT WRITING PLAN! I ALWAYS HAVE A TO DO LIST GOING. THAT HELPS.
To-do lists are great. What other interests do you have for a change from writing?
MOSTLY, I JUST HANG OUT WITH MY FAMILY AND DO MOM STUFF. I’M A BIG DOCTOR WHO FAN AND SO IS MY DAUGHTER, SO WE’RE WORKING THROUGH THE SERIES TOGETHER. MY SON LIKES IT ALSO BUT HE DECIDED TO WATCH FROM A DIFFERENT POINT.
Do you have other projects in the works? If so, can you give our readers any hints?
ALWAYS! I’VE GOT A NEW MIDDLE GRADE (HOPEFULLY FUNNY) NOVEL HALF-WRITTEN, A NON-FICTION MIDDLE GRADE OUT ON SUBMISSION WITH MY AGENT AND I’VE GOT A COUPLE OF OTHER IDEAS RUMINATING.
Thanks for sharing about your books to look for later. 🙂
Is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be?
ABSOLUTELY. I LOVE WHAT I DO!
And finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?
WRITE! SIT DOWN AND WRITE. EVEN IF YOU DON’T THINK IT’S ANY GOOD, KEEP WRITING. AND READ. READ AS MANY BOOKS IN THE SAME GENRE YOU WANT TO WRITE. AND OTHER GENRES. READ GREAT BOOKS. TAKE A WRITING CLASS. FIND OTHER WRITERS TO CRITIQUE YOUR WORK. JOIN CANSCAIP!
* CANSCAIP = Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators & Performers
Thank you, Melanie, for that excellent advice! This has been a fun and informative interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this in the midst of preparing for a book tour.
Now, as if all this has not been exciting enough, I am thrilled to be able to offer someone a copy of Melanie Florence‘s picture book!
Readers, now it’s your turn. If you would like to have a chance to win a copy of “Missing Nimama” by Melanie Florence, please leave a comment about anything you found especially interesting or helpful in the above interview. Huge thanks to Melanie’s publisher, Clockwise Press, who has generously agreed to send one of you a copy of Missing Nimama – anywhere in Canada or continental USA.
You have until 6:00 PM EST on May 13 to enter the draw. Then one name will be selected using the “random name picker” tool. The next morning, Mother’s Day, May 14, I will post the winner’s name – so check your email Saturday night because I will be contacting the winner for a mailing address.
Don’t delay, comment today! And please pass the news on to your friends, post on Twitter or however you communicate with the world.
Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂