Buck Off’s very first Writer’s Round-table is delighted to have a moment with writer Melissa Mui as she is embarking on a journey to writing a novel (what we call madness, but a glorious madness!). Editor-in-Chief S. McClory had the pleasure to Q&A with the ambitious writer.
Q: First thing’s first, what is your all-time favorite book? What books did you read that inspired you to become a writer? When did you decide to become a writer?
A: My all-time favorite book is easily Stardust by Neil Gaiman. It is my go-to book whenever I’m in the mood for a beautifully crafted story. There are a lot of books that shaped me as a writer. Most notably would be the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Those were the first books that made me want to write. From those books I started to write my first fan fiction stories! Other series that I fall back on to guide me as a writer are the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, and of course The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m not sure that there was ever a time when I really decided that I wanted to be a writer; I honestly feel that writing chose me. Even as far back as middle school, I could never pay attention in any of my classes; I was always too busy writing poems and song lyrics: it was the only thing that would hold my attention.
Q: What is your story about and how and where did the idea spring into your mind?
A: My story is set in a fictional land called Solara. There, humans live in complete ignorance of the vampire race that live in the Forest Mordin just beyond their borders. Unbeknownst to them, a civil war is brewing between the civilized vampires of the kingdom Faegon and the rebellious Rouges who feel that the human race should serve as slaves to the obviously superior race. I was actually inspired by a Harry Potter fan fiction, which was about human-vampire relations. At first I started to write a Harry Potter fan fiction of my own about how I viewed the two races intermingling in that world and before I know it, it had grown into something so very different and I knew I had enough ideas to create a world of my own.
Q: What is the genre of your book and how much research went into it?
A: It is most definitely a fantasy novel. A lot of research went into things like the climate of a dense forest, what kind of trees would grow and what animals could live in that habitat. I didn’t realize how much of the real world you have to understand to build a fictional world!
Q: Where do your ideas come from?
A: I’m not sure that I get them from anywhere specific. Mostly my ideas just sneak up on me when I least expect them. I suspect that other writers know what I mean when I say that the best time for ideas is when you have absolutely no way of writing them down. The places where I find that I have my biggest ideas are mostly while I’m driving, in the shower, or just about to fall sleep. It just means that I have a small notebook in my bag, near by bed, and notes in my phone so I can remember them for later.
Q: Tell us about your main character. Hero, villain, both?!
A: There is no single main character in my book, I’ve written in much the same as the A Song of Ice and Fire series in that ever chapter is a character’s point of view. I can say that the characters are very diverse. I don’t believe that any one of them is a true hero or even a true villain. My hopes in writing this story is that every character is relatable and all of their actions, whether they are ‘good’ or ‘evil,’ are justified by their character and the lives that they have lived.
Q: Tell us the progress you’ve made from idea to where you are. The challenges, the benefits, everything!
A: This project started way back in January 2012 and I’m pretty proud of how far it has come. I worked mostly on the world building in the beginning. I had to figure out what kind of place my characters were living in and how it shaped them into the people that I wanted to write about. From there I figured out the plot for the first book. I knew going into this that it would be a series, I couldn’t imagine such a huge world without knowing that there were going to be too many stories to tell in a lifetime. When I knew where the story was going I began to write. It took me a long time to get a flow going when it came to actually writing. I was still trying to figure out if I was going to write a chapter at a time and edit as I went or if I was just going to shoot for a rough draft and then edit the whole manuscript in one go. One thing I learned about myself is that I can’t edit as I go. I ended up obsessing over the first four chapters, rewriting them over and over again until I started losing site of the story and instead I was getting frustrated and I didn’t want to write any more. Now I am working on chapter twenty-three of forty, so I think that’s pretty good progress.
Q: How much do you write in a week?
A: Honestly? Not as much as I would like. I aim to write at least twice a week, but with a stressful full time job, it doesn’t always happen. Hopefully with things changing in my professional life I will be able to write every day, so here’s to hoping!
Q: Do you have a working title yet?
A: The series is going to be called In Shadows while the first book is most likely going to be called Born in Shadows.
Q: Is this your first novel attempt? If not, what other books have you written?
A: This is my first novel attempt that has gotten this far. In the past I have started more stories than I can count. I think the thing that they lacked which I found in this story is that I truly fell in love with my characters. I am really trying to finish a screenplay as well. It’s been an idea I’ve had since I was in high school. It’s about a man who has just lost his wife. The movie would open with him walking into the bank where he is about to open a safety deposit box with his three children that his wife had taken out without his knowledge. In the box are mementos for their children and a vintage portable DVD player with a stack of DVDs that are meant just for her husband. The man takes them home to watch them and realizes that they are video diary entries documenting their life together. The movie would be told in present day where his children are trying to get him to get out of the house while he stays in his lonely home every day to watch another DVD. I won’t tell you how it ends; one day I hope to have this story told, but until then it remains an idea amongst the many.
Q: Biggest challenge while writing this book? Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you combat it?
A: I would say writer’s block has been my biggest challenge when it comes to writing in general. Mostly I have multiple projects going at a time. The story is very heavy and emotional at times, so when I hit a wall where it all becomes too much I put it down to write something else a little happier. When I get back into a good writing groove I return to the story. But as far as writer’s block, all the time! I wish I could say I have it less than more, but I can sometimes go long stretches of not writing before I find myself writing obsessively for a few months and then I go back to not writing again. It’s a very bad habit. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing though.
Q: Is the book part of a series or a stand-alone piece?
A: This is a series; I even have an idea of a prequel, but I don’t want to get to ahead of myself!
Q: Can you reveal some conflict within the story or a grabber?
A: Sure! So in the vampire Kingdom Faegon there are houses that are ruled by a ‘king’ or ‘queen’. They all report to the King of Kings Zentarion who rules by fear. Out of all of the vampire houses there is one that has just recently returned to the kingdom after being exiled for over a century. The queen of that house, Queen Reagan of House Lunaries, plays a much larger role in the civil war than she’s letting on and she and her people are trying to find their place back under King Zentarion’s rule. There is a lot of tension in Lunaries because of this and it drastically affects many of the point-of-view characters.
Q: Favorite quote or scene from the book so far?
A: Pretty much any scene involving two of my characters Cody and Decker are my absolute favorite. Cody is a human bounty hunter and Decker is a vampire outlaw and they start as enemies and quickly become allies. They’re a fun duo that really makes no sense as partners until you see them in action and then it’s fun to see them play off each other.
Q: Do you have a writer’s habit? Some need sugary sweets near them, or coffee or some ritual before putting pen to paper (or keyboard to screen). What’s yours?
A: I need to have a hot cup of tea and a candle, preferably a fruit scented one. I love to handwrite and type. Right now I am typing the rough draft, but I intend on printing it out and hand editing the manuscript.
Q: Do you have an editor or self-edit?
A: I have yet to find a reliable editor so right now I purely self-edit.
Q: If your book went from pages to the silver screen, what actors/actresses would you like to see?
A: Oh man, well, I already have this idea in my head on half of my characters and who could portray them. I would want AJ Cook from Criminal Minds to play Reagan. Bradley James from the BBC show Merlin would play Reagan’s first in command, Cohen. Reagan has a lover named Anya and I would want Natalie Portman to play her. Kira Knightly could play the Rogue leader. I could honestly go on and on! This is something I think about probably more than I should!
Q: Do you have a writer website? If so, tell us so we can share it! (FB, WordPress, twitter etc).
A: When I first read this question I thought, you know I used to, but I never did anything with it, but then I realized that it wouldn’t be that hard to start again, so I went and made a website. There isn’t much on it and it’s a bit more than writing because I also do a lot of crafting, but it’s something!
Q: Ebooks on a tablet or a good old fashion book in your hand?
A: This is a tough question. I read ebooks more often because I am always on the go. I love old fashion books and would prefer them, but for the convenience of carrying so many books in my bag with me, I would have to say ebooks.
Q: When you finish your novel, what’s next?
A: The next in the series! I have so much planned for this world and I can’t wait to share it!
Q: Anything else I haven’t included?
A: I just wanted to thank all of the hard working people at Buck Off for this opportunity! I love writing and I love that other people are interested in the writing process. It’s different for everyone and I learned so much from other writers. I hope someone reading this might find something helpful for them too!