Name: Melissa Bowersock
This month I get to start taking advantage of Medicare. Who knew?
Where are you from:
Born and raised in Southern California, my husband and I have moved around quite a bit. We spent nine years in southern Oregon, then six years in Flagstaff before moving to Tucson, where we lived for twenty-seven years. Two and a half years ago, we moved to the Verde Valley in northern Arizona and plan to stay here for the duration. It’s beautiful country with great weather. Can’t beat it.
A little about your self, i.e. your education, family life, etc.:
Education was very important in my family, and everyone read almost constantly. Going to college was a given. I majored in Anthropology in college, then switched to Psychology, but like so many of us, got into entirely different fields of work once I was out in the real world. I always had a “day job” and wrote in my free time. Now that I’m retired, I can devote more time to it—that is when my husband and I are not hiking, travelling, exploring. There’re just not enough hours in the days!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My very latest news is that I’ve just finished book #17, The Man in the Black Hat, a time travel story set in Sedona, Arizona. It’s still in the editing/tweaking stage, so won’t be released until probably the end of September or early October. This is directly on the heels of a two-book series I did, another time travel adventure, Finding Travis and Being Travis. What’s special about Finding Travis is that it’s set at Fort Verde, a historical western fort in my home town of Camp Verde, Arizona. It’s about a modern man who gets flung backward in time to the year 1877. Because it’s set in a historic location (and the fort still exists as a museum), I had access to all kinds of information and was able to make the story as authentic as possible. I actually think it’s my best book to date.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have been a storyteller for as long as I can remember. I started writing about bunny rabbits when I was five, wrote my first novel when I was twelve. I didn’t really consider writing for a career, however. It wasn’t until my kids were in school that I got back to writing seriously and began penning novels again.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I have always considered myself to be a writer, but of course there are very different levels of that. For years I wrote cloistered away, no one else reading any of it, but then decided my work was good enough to try for traditional publishing. My first book was picked up by a New York house in 1979, although due to merging and consolidating and whatnot, wasn’t published until 1984. That was probably when I knew I had reached a new and different level, that I was now a published author, not “just” a writer. The same house published my second book in 1988, and I was on a roll.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I suppose the same thing that inspires me now: I get ideas in my head and I can’t get them out unless I write them down. It’s almost as if I have to empty my head out through my arms, down through my fingers. I’ll get the kernel of an idea, it’ll roll around in my head for a few days and then finally it takes over my life until I start writing it down. I think if I didn’t write, if I didn’t clear out those thoughts in my brain, I would go crazy. (Of course some might argue that I’ve already done that.)
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes and no. I write very literally, describing the action I see in my head. That never changes, but the language and the tone of the writing voice change depending on the genre and the gender of the protagonist. If I’m writing an action/adventure story, the writing is more direct, the pacing quicker. If I’m writing a romance, the language is more descriptive and the pacing is slower, more relaxed. I’ve found that the story itself will dictate to me what voice I need, and I trust in that completely.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My series, No Time for Travis, started as the just the first book, of course, Finding Travis. Because the story is about a troubled modern man, his life not going along well at all, who then gets flung into the past, I realized that he spent the bulk of the book figuring out who he was, what he was, how he fit in. Finding Travis was a very apt description of the story line. In the second book, Being Travis, his adventures continue, but this time he knows who he is and how he fits in. He’s still a misfit, a twenty-first century man in the nineteenth century, but he’s better able to incorporate his future knowledge into the primitive practices of the day.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hadn’t planned on that, but you know how books go. They surprise you sometimes. Travis has a much better understanding of environmental issues, where back in the 1800s, no one thought a thing about clear-cutting or pollution or erosion. He begins his own personal crusade to try to make life better in his own tiny corner of the world, and against the suspicions of the people around him.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Well, since it’s a time travel, we can cross off “realistic” right from the get-go, but beyond that, it’s very real and very authentic. I researched all aspects of the fort in the 1800s: uniforms, military duties, medical procedures, dress and customs. I was lucky enough to have several knowledgeable people that I could turn to with questions: what kind of underwear did they have? What kind of weapons? What was the social structure? I truly believe I was able to bring the fort to life the way it was back then.
As for basing it on anyone I know, the answer is no. Travis is his own man. He developed quite naturally as the story unfolded. The one who was a complete surprise to me was Riley, Travis’ stricker (assistant). When I began to write him in, he was simply a secondary character, but he soon took up a very prominent position in Travis’ life. I think Riley is one of the best (and funniest) characters I’ve ever written.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Well, he’s not new (anymore), but Hugh Howey does some really interesting things. While he’s best known for Wool, I actually like some of his other works, like Sand, The Shell Collector, The Hurricane, The Plagiarist. What I like about him is that he surprises me; the stories seldom go where I think they’re going. I like that.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Oh, yes, although not in the strictest sense. I’ve never wanted to depend on my writing for my income because I didn’t want to compromise my storytelling for deadlines or trends or publishers’ whims. I’ve never been crazy about writing on demand. I’d rather let my inspiration grow organically, without having to worry about day-to-day issues like food on the table.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope. I think it’s pretty well perfect just the way it is.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The Man in the Black Hat is, as I said, another time travel, although vastly different from the Travis books. The main character, Clay Bauer, is a second-rate actor filming a western in Sedona when he accidentally passes through a vortex, a dimensional doorway, that takes him back over 100 years in the past. He’s injured in the transition and luckily there’s a woman who witnesses it all, and she helps him both with medical aid and with coming to terms with his new existence. For a man who’s used to playing parts, he’s now faced with a very different role—and it’s for real.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so I don’t do a lot of preparation before I start writing. I might have five or ten bullet points of main action or plot twists, but that’s all. I like to let the story grow organically, so it’s spontaneous and inspired. The down side of that is that I have, on occasion, written myself into a corner that I don’t know how to get out of. Sometimes that may take me a few days to tease out a solution, and I may have to go back and rework part of it to get it going in the right direction again. That’s always a challenge, although I’ve never yet had a story get away from me to the point that I couldn’t bring it back.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not much. With the Travis books, I could drive to the fort for information, but that was only five miles away! Most of my research is done on the Internet, of course. So much easier than breaking away from the writing and hauling my butt down to the library.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My covers were done by Brenda Remlinger of www.coversbydesign.net. She does a great job. She always reads the entire book first, then we both bring our ideas to the discussion and hash it out. We’ll usually go through several iterations before we find one we love, so it’s a process, but the results are wonderful.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Nothing! I wrote this book in five weeks. It just flowed.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
I can absolutely see Keanu Reeves as Travis. Or maybe Johnny Depp. Either one would do a great job.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep at it. Keep writing; keep working; keep perfecting. Writing and publishing is a huge monolith of work, and you just have to keep hacking away at it. I might have days when I only write one paragraph, maybe only one sentence. It’s still progress. Keep at it.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Enjoy the ride! I hope my books give readers a great experience, a fun ride though other lands, other times, other experiences.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m in the middle of editing a couple of books for other authors, so that takes up most of my “reading” time, except for going back through The Man in the Black Hat to tweak it a bit.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My dog makes me laugh. She is an Airedale Terrier, and Airedales are clowns. Terriers in general stay puppies their entire lives, so they are always having fun.
Music makes me cry. I can hear one particular passage in one particular song and it will bring me to tears.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
I would love to sit down and chat with Einstein. I tried to read his book once (no, more than once), and I get only so far and then he starts talking in Martian. He’s really writing in English, but it looks like Martian to me. I would dearly love to be able to comprehend his theories, his brain, how his mind works. I can’t even imagine.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Well, since my plan is to be cremated, that’s a moot point, but if I were buried, I think I’d like it to say something like, “She had more stories to tell than years to tell them.” I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the truth.
Fiona: Other than writing, do you have any hobbies?
I love photography. I never go anywhere without my camera (or two), and find beauty all around. I’ve actually been doing a photo blog for my home town newspaper for a while now. It’s called Western Light. Here’s a link:
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’ve found a new show on the Weather Channel (can you believe that?) called 23.5 Degrees. It’s an interview show that focuses on weather, the planet, climate change and what people are doing to make the world a better place. It’s fascinating and very inspiring. I love Henry Gates, Jr.’s show, Finding Your Roots, as well as Who Do You Think You Are? Love genealogy. I’m also a fan of Inside the Actor’s Studio. I find the interviews with actors very often mirror the storytelling aspects I find in my own writing.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I love Mexican food. I could live on Mexican food. Luckily, in Arizona, there’s a Mexican restaurant on every corner, so I never have to go without.
I love colors that are mixes of the primaries: teal, purple, salmon. I love the fact that teal can be teal blue or teal green. There are degrees, variations. I like things that are changeable.
I have very eclectic tastes in music. I can easily mix Peter, Paul and Mary with Paul Simon and Ennio Morricone. I love Josh Groban and E.S. Posthumous and Hans Zimmer.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I always wanted to go to Mexico and dig up pyramids. While that was never practical in my life, now that I’m retired, I volunteer at my local archaeology center, and I do get to curate artifacts and help with cataloging and record-keeping. It’s all fascinating, and I love holding a piece of pottery that was created 1,000 years ago, wondering who made it and what it was used for.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Bowersock/e/B002BLJON0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1