Today's Author Interview is with a young writer at the beginning of her career, Melika Dannese Lux. She published her debut novel, City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier, last year.
Welcome, Melika. How long have you been writing? What or who compelled you to start?
I have been writing stories since I was very young. I think what compelled me to start writing was the desire to share stories I myself would want to read. I believe in transporting the reader to a different place and time and letting them get lost in someone else’s story or life for a while. I also write to tell a story which I wish I would have been a part of had it been real. I want my readers to actually feel as though the characters are people they would like to be friends with or know in real life—except for the villains, of course. ;)
City of Lights is your first published book?
Yes. It isn’t my first novel, per se, but it is my first “completed” novel. I started working on an action/adventure/sci-fi novel when I was 14, but it got put on the backburner. Someday I will go back and finish it, though. :D
What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?
Planning is key for me. But I also do fly by the seat of my pants sometimes. It depends on how firm the story is set in my mind. Right now, the novel I am working on has been germinating in my mind for five years. It required a lot of research and planning, plus lots of thinking and several stacks of notes/outlines. I usually start with a character and/or setting for a story and go from there.
How do you choose your characters' names?
That’s the most fun part! I love researching surnames and the meanings of names, so I usually set my stories mostly in Europe and different parts of the world based on what characters I have in mind. I have several notebooks full of character names I have used and have yet to use in stories and/or novels. Ilyse is unusual because I had given my French “Dolls of the World” Barbie that name years ago. I always knew that name would come in handy. ;) I actually made up the name “Rakmanovich” for Sergei after hearing the name “Radmanovic.” Sergei is also my favorite Russian male name, so it was a natural choice. McCarthy is actually my paternal great, great grandfather’s surname, so I put in a little family link there. ;)
What is your daily schedule like?
I try to get at least 6+ hours of writing done a day. Sometimes this is not possible, but I strive to meet this goal on a daily basis.
How do you handle life interruptions?
I just take the situation as it comes, deal with the interruption, and if there’s still time left that day, head to my computer and write. Sometimes life interruptions have a way of jogging the writing juices, too. I’ve often done my best writing on days where I only had a couple of hours left after a full day of activities.
Do you write with music playing? If so, is the music likely to be songs with lyrics or only instrumentals?
I used to write with music, but then it became too distracting. I would find that I was singing along with the song and not writing! ;) A huge inspiration for me when I was writing COL was Lifehouse’s “Hanging by a Moment.” That song just typifies what Ilyse and Ian mean to each other so perfectly. If COL ever becomes a movie, I am going to get the Lifehouse boys’ permission to use that song in the soundtrack. ;)
For the novel I’m working on now, I do listen to music, but not while I’m writing. When I am taking notes or just letting my mind think about the story, I listen to anything brooding and dark and also anything minor by Felix Mendelssohn, Max Bruch, or Phillip Glass. They know how to do brooding, let me tell you. ;)
What food or snack keeps the words flowing?
Hmm...I’m not much into junk food or munchies, but if I had to pick a food, I would have to say cheese! I know that sounds very strange, but I’m big on cheese, especially mild cheddar.
What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?
What I love most about writing is being able to get lost in a different world. I also love creating characters and their stories. It is such a joy when characters develop so fully that they essentially start to write the story themselves.
Probably what I like least about writing is the time it takes me to finish a novel. I have a deadline set for my next project to be finished by December of this year, so I have planned out that I will need to write 6 chapters a month to meet this goal. It’s achievable, but sometimes it’s difficult to be patient.
Tell us about City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier.
City of Lights is first and foremost the story of Ilyse Charpentier, a young singer in 1894 Paris who has never experienced love because of the stranglehold her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, has placed upon her life. All that changes when she meets Ian McCarthy, a dashing, young English expatriate. Needless to say, the count is not at all pleased with this new obstacle. Ilyse has also been estranged from her younger brother Maurice, who blames her for letting the count drive them apart. Things are complicated further when the count sees a way to use Maurice as leverage to get Ilyse to agree to his demands. Without giving anything else away, Ilyse must use her wits and determination to overcome the many odds the count has created in order to possibly find the love she has always dreamed of.
I believe Ilyse’s story offers something for everyone. I’ve had readers from 10 to 80 tell me they’ve loved it and could identify with the characters.
What is your next project?
I am currently working on a Gothic/Vampire novel, entitled Nocturne, which I plan to finish by December of this year. I’m very hopeful it will garner the attention of agents and publishers, especially since it’s a new concept that has never been done before. It really is my “magnum opus” and so much fun to write! Vampires have always been my favorite monsters/creatures, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I wrote a story about them.
What is your advice for other writers?
Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from writing the story you know you were born to write. I know a few writers who let themselves get discouraged by critics and/or had bad experiences with agents and they let that get them down. That is a huge mistake. If you believe in yourself, no one can stop you *but* yourself.
Has other work of yours has been published?
To date, none of my other writing has been published. I hope to change that in the new year with the publication of my next novel, though. Wish me luck!
Here's good luck! Thank you for the Interview.