For this week’s Authors & Inspirations interview, I’m thrilled to have Melissa Erin Jackson on the blog! Melissa’s debut novel, The Forgotten Child, was one of my favorite reads of 2018. It’s a paranormal mystery that’s got a little something for everyone: ghosts, serial killers, fantastic female friendship, humor, justice being served, and a great romance. I couldn’t put it down, and also creeped myself out at one point by reading it late at night. Welcome, Melissa!
What artist (of any medium) has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?
I’m often inspired by other writers who are extremely prolific…Stephen King, Rachel Caine, Neil Gaiman, Jay Kristoff, Victoria Schwab. I would love to write books in several genres and seeing the success of others gives me hope it’s possible.
Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?
Yes, but it has to be instrumental. Music with lyrics is too distracting for me. I listen to a whole lot of smooth jazz. Starting to add in some Irish fiddle, too.
What are your all-time favorite TV shows?
Community, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Stranger Things, Mindhunter
What TV shows are you loving lately?
The Goldbergs, The Magicians, Superstore, Santa Clarita Diet, and I just started Killing Eve but I’m very intrigued so far!
Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?
I really love shows with casts of kooky characters, especially ones with complicated and long-lasting relationships. The final scene in New Girl for example had so much wrapped up in it—from the trajectory of the characters’ relationships, to inside jokes—that I was in tears. I hope to create characters who have bonds that strong with each other.
If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?
Superstore or Community! Both of those shows are totally bonkers and I think it it would be great fun to work on a comedy.
If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?
I’d love to see Rosario Dawson or Logan Browning play Riley from THE FORGOTTEN CHILD. I picture Michael like Justice Joslin. Oh, you haven’t heard of him? Google his pretty face right now. I’ll wait 😊
What are your all-time favorite movies?
Shawshank Redemption, Se7en, and A Quiet Place. And because I’m still a kid at heart—Bolt, Up, Fox & the Hound, Wall-E, and How to Train Your Dragon.
Which of your books do you think would make a great movie? Is there a book of yours you WOULDN’T want to see as a movie, and why?
My WIP sci-fi would possibly make a fun movie. It’s an alien invasion novel, but quieter. Think Arrival rather than Independence Day. I have a clear visual in my head of what the alien race looks like and it would be really cool to see them on screen!
Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?
While I was writing my sci-fi project for NaNoWriMo in 2017, I went on a weekend-long writer’s retreat to Fort Bragg here in California. It’s a small town on the coast, and the house we were staying in was a ten-minute walk to the beach. That town heavily influenced the town my MC, Lyra, travels to at the start of the book. I saw a lot of ravens on my walks and ravens became a big part of my book, too!
You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?
As much as I’d like to say somewhere like Paris or Rome, I find that I write best when it’s quiet and I’m a bit isolated. I prefer writing retreats that are somewhere in the heart of nature—near a beach, in the mountains, walking distance from a lake. For a two-week retreat (Isn’t that the dream?!), I would probably want to hole up in a national park. Maybe Yellowstone. Somewhere where I can hike when I need to refill the well, but somewhere remote enough that I won’t get distracted.
Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?
My Favorite Murder is my number one go-to for podcasts. It’s the perfect blend of humor and horrible stories of murder. It shouldn’t work as a combination, but it does!
What authors have most inspired you in your own work?
I love Sarah J Maas’s worldbuilding, Jay Kristoff’s ability to write stuff that’s as weird as it is compelling, Josh Malerman’s creepy, creepy atmosphere, and Deanna Raybourn’s ability to add humor in the most unlikely of places.
What was the last book you read?
I’m currently re-reading Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices trilogy, in preparation for the third one that just came out. I just finished Lady Midnight and immediately started Lord of Shadows.
What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?
Though I read it a year ago, Bird Box by Josh Malerman is still at the top of my recent favorite’s list. I’m so excited for the movie!
What’s a book you’ve loved that you feel more people should be talking about?
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. It’s a somehow incredibly funny historical fiction series, plus it has a slow-burn romance that’ll turn even the most black-hearted into a puddle of goo.
What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?
On one end of the spectrum, I really love scenes with lots of banter. Either friendly banter between best pals, or banter between romantic interests. On the other end, I really love writing darker scenes, whether it’s from the POV of a serial killer, or a scene with a malevolent ghost.
When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?
Because I’m in the car a lot for work, I listen to a lot of audiobooks (usually at least 50 a year). When I’m tapped out on writing my own stuff, audiobooks are one of my main outlets. For some reason lately, though, I get a lot out of watching my boyfriend play Fortnite. I don’t know why this works for me!
What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?
I really wish I could draw. My mom is very talented at both drawing and painting. It was not a skill I inherited, unfortunately.
If you could have a drink/cup of coffee/beverage of choice with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?
Barack Obama (he seems like the coolest dude), Maggie Stiefvater because I love her books and I have a feeling she’s got good ghost stories, and Stephen Colbert.
Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?
In addition to the Riley Thomas mystery series, I’m also working on a paranormal cozy series starring a witch. The first book is titled PAWSITIVELY POISONOUS. I hope to release the first of that series around summer of 2019.
Now she owns her own dog walking business (that’s sort of wildlife related, right?) by day…and afternoon and night…and writes whenever she gets a spare moment. The Microsoft Word app is a gift from the gods!
She alternates mostly between fantasy and mystery (often with a paranormal twist). All her books have some element of “other” to them…witches, ghosts, UFOs. There’s no better way to escape the real world than getting lost in a fictional one.
She lives in Northern California with her very patient boyfriend and way too many pets.
The Forgotten Child is her debut, the first in a paranormal mystery series.
This will be the last Authors & Inspirations post for 2018. I’ll be taking a break for the holidays, and will be back with new interviews in 2019! Happy Holidays, everyone!