How to Write a Good Novel? Ask Melina Lewis
When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter to finish reading a riveting novel? For me, it was Sunday night, for the first time in years. Because once I started reading Melina Lewis’s book, After you Died, I had to keep reading until I was done (which was at 4 am on Monday morning). Melina is a South African Indie Author who can show you how to write a
good GREAT novel, it’s demonstrated perfectly in her first published masterpiece.
If you’ve ever wanted to write and publish a book yourself, this interview is the perfect place to start. (Don’t miss our announcement at the end).
Lauren I’m so excited to talk to you Melina. Shall we just dive right into the interview questions?
Melina OK, cool, perfect.
Lauren Is “After You Died” your first book?
Melina It is my first book, yes.
Lauren So, not even any unpublished books hanging around?
Melina I’m busy on follow-up ones, so unpublished and hopefully to be published. I will publish next year sometime.
Lauren Aah, that’s amazing. So publishing a book was obviously good for you?
Melina Yes, well, I enjoy the writing, I think, more than the publishing to be honest.
Lauren I hear you.
Life Questions in After You Died
Lauren What life questions does your book provoke the reader to consider?
Melina I suppose to look at one’s life and really evaluate if you’ve kind of just slipped into what you’re doing now and who you are and what you’ve become. And if that’s really what you want to be and where you want to be and who you want to be with. I’m hoping that actually comes through in the story. The people that are in my book are forced to re-evaluate their life because of a tragic situation. I hope, sometime, we get the opportunity to re-evaluate our lives without being forced into a situation, you know, through an unfortunate event, something that pushes us to re-evaluate our reality.
Lauren Wonderful, that sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read your book. How did you come up with the idea?
How Did You Come up with the Idea?
Melina We were running, myself and three friends. We used to run in Fish Hoek, in the early mornings. And, running in the dark, sometimes you’ll have a close shave, someone swerves around a corner too fast or comes past too quickly and you kind of think ‘woa, okay, need to stick to the pavements, can’t run in the road.’
And then, I had also heard of a runner here in Joburg who had actually been, unfortunately, killed by a taxi driver.
With each run, the story kind of started to develop within my mind about four people running, and someone is killed… What is the impact of that on the person who is driving, on the three friends who witness this…? And then eventually thinking what if there is someone as a witness who watches this whole thing happen, how does that impact them?
And essentially wanting to understand and dig into how that impacts people’s lives and what do they do with that, going forward in their lives.
Lauren How interesting.
Melina That was really where it started and I had to get it out of my head and onto paper.
Lauren Wow, had you always wanted to be an Author?
Had you always wanted to be an Author?
Melina There’s a part of me that is yes and a part of me that doesn’t know.
As a child I had always loved reading, I’m an avid reader and I’ve always loved books. And my folks used to have one of those old typewriters, with the ink ribbon that gets stuck on the mechanism and all that sort of thing. I used to sit and write little stories on that as a child.
And then, growing up, going to school, you kind of think well, ‘I can’t be a writer if I can’t spell correctly and I can’t if I don’t get an A for creative writing’. I told myself all those things and so I kind of lose that enthusiasm for it but despite that, I’ve always journaled extensively throughout my life and I do to this day and that is a form of just working your way through the thoughts in your head. It’s a form of therapy. It’s a form of peace.
And so I suppose I have always wanted to be an Author but in a roundabout way.
Lauren That is interesting. And that wasn’t even one of the questions, which is why I like to do these interviews live, where we actually discuss things because questions pop up that I don’t put down on paper before we start.
When did you take the decision to become an author? A published author and actually take this book somewhere? Out there.
Melina Well, I’m not sure I have really decided.
Lauren (With a giggle). It’s available on Amazon Kindle – Right?
Melina Right. So, I wrote the book and then I thought well, worst case, you know, my family reads it and we all have a good laugh and yay for that.
So I wrote it and my husband read it and he was okay with it. And then I got a friend and she’s an editor and she read it and she was like ‘no no let’s do this thing.’
And then I put it out to a few friends, we can call them beta readers. And they all read it and were like ‘no it’s good, put it out, put it out’. And so, through the encouragement of friends and family, luckily, I have very nice friends and family, I was encouraged to do this.
And I also listened to a lot of podcasts from the US and UK that were great, inspiring authors that are very encouraging about Indie publishing. And the insights that they provide, they’re just lovely. People like Sarah Jane Warner and Joanna Penn, great podcasters and I listened to those and I was like, ‘ja, ok we can do this’. I know I’m not in America, I know I’m not in England but it’s online, so ‘why not?’. So that was that.
On Indie Publishing
Lauren I only just looked up what Indie publishing was the other day. From my understanding, it’s pretty much the way most writers are going nowadays, not really going to a publisher but self-publishing as well as handling their own promotion? Right?
Melina Right. I think it should grow more and more. Because the publishers, the established publishers and here I speak in terms of South Africa, because that is the market I understand, they have certain genres they are looking for, they have certain languages, they have certain stories, certain areas that they want to focus on and they want to publish in those – they see a need and a gap in the market for that to sell. It’s a business.
Yet not everyone’s stuff fits into that. It doesn’t mean though, that there aren’t people out there who want to read it. People still want to read, they still want to see new stuff, they still want to be exposed to different thoughts. But it may not be in line with the publishers and so this whole online, e-publishing boom affords everybody the opportunity to create work and to put it out there and to share. If you share it with one person, you share it with a million people, it will be consumed by those who are interested. And it’s wonderful to live in a time where you can do this.
Lauren Yes, true, I agree wholeheartedly. Which is why I’ve been meaning to write a book for, like, a million years.
Melina You should just start.
Lauren I know you are right. I’ve started a few over the years, but I’ve never really finished any. So, congratulations to YOU for actually finishing yours. I know it’s a huge undertaking. And I don’t think I’m alone, there are so many Authors who have just never finished books.
Melina I know. And it could be done, it could definitely be done. I think more writing circles and encouraging writing spaces could be a thing of the future hopefully.
Lauren Well there is a writing circle here at Milnerton Library. Which I keep thinking I should join but never get around to joining. They do exist, even in my very area and I’m sure in your area as well.
Melina I’m sure they do and I also haven’t found the time to join them.
Lauren I know, when you’ve got children, Saturday mornings aren’t really an option for you, you’re just busy with their stuff, so yes… but I know that all these things will come in time.
Melina Exactly, exactly, all in good time.
Lauren So, why did you take the decision to become an author?
Melina Oh, I don’t know. Basically, I think, because I needed to get that story out. I just wanted to write it. And in that process, I started to teach myself how to write a book.
I started to teach myself how to write a book…
I spoke to other authors, I read quite extensively, books like Stephen King’s “On Writing“. I went to my local library and I got out books on how to write a book. I went old school.
I listened to podcasts. I didn’t YouTube, I should have, but later I learned you can do lots of that. There’s a whole lot of Book Tubers out there explaining how they write.
I wanted to learn a new skill. And these days you can teach yourself anything, no matter how old you are and I won’t say I’m old. And there was something exciting in that. I’ve been working in communications for a long time and it’s quite nice, you become a pro at your skill and you can afford to expand a little bit here, and a little bit there, but when you dive into something completely new, that you have no knowledge about, you have a desire to learn everything about it.
Lauren Now you see, that’s not the answer I was expecting at all. Because I thought, knowing you are a communications specialist, you would have written the book simply because it gives you so much credibility.
The moment you have a book out there, your communications business is going to go crazy because you now are a published Author. And people respect published Authors. It’s a great thing to add to your CV, it’s a great thing to add on your LinkedIn profile, it’s a great thing to add to every little bit of marketing blurb you have on your website, well… everywhere.
And that’s the kind of answer I was expecting. So, it’s amazing to hear it was pure intention, it was not about business, it was not about marketing. It was just you wanting to get your book out of your head and onto paper.
Melina Yes, it is. I suppose yes but thanks for the heads up on all the other stuff.
Lauren Didn’t that come up in any of the training you did?
Learn the Craft, Perfect the Craft
Melina Well no, the process is quite interesting, in terms of writing you focus on the craft. One of the little things I heard somewhere and I can’t even remember who I learnt it from but the learning was to perfect the craft. If you were a marketer, you would learn exactly how to create the perfect marketing strategy. The same with writing. You learn the craft.
You learn how to cross the t’s and dot the i’s. And how to construct a sentence and when to put ‘said’ and not use ‘got, a lot, and nice’ and all that stuff. And once you’ve done that you think ‘oh OK’, and then you kind of move into this editing processing space.
On Publishing and Marketing
And then you’re learning a new skill and then you kind of go ‘OK, the publishing space, how does one put a book out there onto Amazon? OK, so that’s the next skill I need to learn’.
And then, all of a sudden, you get to the point where you go ‘oh, I must market this thing’. Then you really wake up and then you realise you have issues.
I’m lucky that I’m a marketer by profession. I feel sorry for people who find it very difficult to put themselves out there, to throw themselves into the world and be a bit reckless with their name, you know. Because you have to – you have to do everything yourself in the Indie or self-publishing world.
If you work with a Publisher it’s different, they are doing that for you. But for those of us that go the Indie route you have to do it all yourself.
Lauren Yes, I was taught that as an Author these days you do your own marketing. When I decided it was time to write my first book, I did an online course and it turned out to be more about promoting your book and how you need to have a platform first to promote your book. So I went about everything completely the other way around.
I thought, “Okay, if I have to have a platform to promote my book, I need to create a website”. So I started there and then I just got so involved in the website world that I haven’t got back to the book. (Laughing).
Melina I love that.
Lauren So we will all find out way there in the end, I guess.
Melina Well now you have a heaving platform, now you just need to put that book there.
Lauren Yes, I know, I know it’s time. It’s past time but yes, we’ll get there.
Doing interviews with people like you are just so inspirational for me and for anybody else out there who wants to become a published Author, especially because you are a Mom as well, you’re not just an Author, you found a way to do this AND look after your kids.
So, let’s get into more of the questions, we’ve gone way off topic. Kind of. It’s all on-topic isn’t it?
Melina Yes. It is.
Highs and Lows
Lauren Would you like to share any highs or lows in your career as an Author?
Melina Ah, jeez, pick a day.
Lauren Ups and downs, highs and lows. I get it.
Melina Yes, let me think, so highs, let’s start with highs hey?
Lauren Great, go for it.
Melina So highs are… the recent eTV interview I had was a great high. To be able to access a wider audience of people and make them aware of the book.
I want people to have the book in hand, to read it, to enjoy it, to pass it on. You know, that’s my single aim, for people to read and enjoy. To be entertained.
The opportunity to speak about my book and to share where I’m coming from with it, with people, is a definite high. So, in any shape or form, whether it’s an event or whether it’s on TV or whatever, those are always highs.
Another high is the unexpected feedback that I’ve gotten, it’s been wonderful. When people in Fish Hoek heard about my book and would ask me how they could get a copy and then I would say ‘well I’ll drop it off at your front door’. And then often they would invite me into their homes.
One of the ladies surprised me with, ‘oh thank you, here’s the money for your book and here’s a chocolate’. And I thought that was the sweetest, nicest thing, like ‘wow’.
And there was a lady who owned a wine farm who gave me a bottle of wine, which I was extremely grateful for.
There have been beautiful interactions with people. I think we get so caught up in thinking the world is bad because that is what the media tells us. And it’s so wrong because there are so many beautiful, lovely people who are just trying to get through their lives and who are so kind and invite me into their home, not that they have to, they don’t know me. But they’ll be like ‘I’m just looking for the money in my bag. Come on in’. For me its the most unexpected, divine thing I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying…the humanity of humans and how that is re-instilled and re-ignited in me, and that’s been super, super cool.
Melina And then I suppose, the lows I think would be getting my head around how tightly-knit the publisher-distributor-bookstore relationship is and how closed it is to Indies.
Some stores will allow one or two books – and I mean one or two – into their store and they will pay you when they feel like it, that kind of thing. So, I found it is very unsupportive to Indie Authors.
They would rather have international bestsellers on their shelves versus local good books. Sure, I understand they need to offer their customers all kinds of books and all the books that are most in demand but they could at least offer to share and introduce local authors to the public.
Lauren Ooh, you’ve given me such a good idea. I didn’t know that this was a problem until now. We have some friends in the Book business, let me see whether I can set up a meeting with any of them for you.
An Appeal to Book Store Owners
Support Indie Authors in South Africa
Melina Yes, please. I was saying to someone yesterday,
‘all that is required is a shelf that has Indie published South African authors in the store and then there is an agreement between the Indie authors and the store and they put those books up and they afford the Indies an opportunity to come and do talks etc’
or something like that.
That is all that is required, it’s an opportunity for those authors to be seen.
People in South Africa still want a book in hand. Overseas, where more people are online, more ebooks are sold, but here, not as much.
The Author wants the opportunity to be seen… to sell their books to people and to engage people, people beyond their immediate circle. As Indie’s, obviously, you tell people close to you, your friends and then you try and expand that group out.
Now if you were in a bookstore for a few hours you would engage a number of different people who are not your friends. So, it’s a huge opportunity to gain exposure and it’s a missing part of the puzzle in this new world.
Lauren Aah, that is amazing. Because I can see the benefits to the Book Store Owner as well. And I would think Book Store owners would want this happening because it would be amazing, it creates a buzz, it gets people into the store.
Ooh and I also see an opportunity to get South African books into our Schools as well.
Melina Definitely, definitely, definitely. There is a huge opportunity for Schools, especially in terms of local content that is relevant. There are lots of young African woman making beautiful children’s books. I saw some of them at the SA Book Fair.
Lauren Wonderful, I’m going to see what I can set up for you because it sounds like you’re not just an Author of your own book but you also speak for a body of people, Indie Authors in South Africa.
Melina I would like to.
Lauren And maybe we need set up a website for South African Indie publishers… is there anything like that yet?
Melina I think there might be an Association.
Lauren Well if there isn’t, we must get one going.
Melina Yes, absolutely and it should be something that focuses on making real change and not just connecting people with each other. Do you know what I’m saying?
Lauren Yes, yes, I agree. They need to actually see their sales increasing as we promote them or promote each other… because, you know, we have this whole big Local is Lekker, Buy South African campaign.
Melina But you can’t find books. That’s the problem.
Lauren But you’re not getting it in books. Exactly. How exciting, cool. I’m so on board with this project.
Melina Yay, cool, me too, I’m there. There like a bear.
Greatest Career Challenge
Lauren Okay, back to our interview. What has been the greatest challenge for you to overcome in your own career?
Melina Ooh, wow, so… finding my place, I think, would be one, because I like doing lots of things, once I learn how to do something and then I perfect it, then I’m like, OK, so now I can do it, now what? So that has resulted in a few different careers. My husband often says, ‘don’t show anyone your CV’.
So finding where my happy place is, I guess in terms of career, in terms of going from girl to woman and chasing that thing called a career and then having children and realising wait, what is this career thing, why is it important? Is it really important to me? Is it what I want to be doing? Re-evaluating.
You know children are a fantastic opportunity to re-evaluate one’s self and how you want to live your life and how you want to be a mother.
And juggling everything. And so, I think, in terms of career, it was being okay with being the person who pays my own salary. I do all sorts of interesting work. I do a bit of this and a bit of that.
I teach Yoga and then I walk into a boardroom and I present a marketing strategy. And in between, I’m at a swimming gala or at the netball match. And, being okay with that.
So being a working present mom and finding that this is my place and that this where I am comfortable and being okay with that. I think that has been my journey really.
Lauren How awesome. That sounds very interesting. And do you feel you’ve settled and found a place? Or do you feel you will keep evolving and re-evaluating throughout your life?
Melina I think history has shown that I will probably continue evolving. But for the moment, I think I’m more comfortable. I don’t like comfortable, because then it’s kind of rest-on-your-laurelsish. But I’m at peace with where I’m at. I’m not fighting anything, there’s no more fight.
Whatever I do, I get lots of joy from it and it’s not about the hourly rate.
It’s about just extracting that joy in the work and about then being able to do it as fast and efficiently as possible so that I can spend more time with my children.
Lauren Ah, awesome. I love that. And this is the new way of the world.
Melina I think so.
Lauren Yes, it’s not about the hours. Did you ever read the 4 Hour Work Week?
Melina I didn’t, but I love that idea.
Lauren It put so much into perspective for me. Timothy Ferriss said that when we have an 8-hour working day we generally just fill up those hours because we feel we have to because there are 8 hours to fill up.
Lauren And so we’re stuck in this thing where we have this working day and we just fill up our working day and you know we find stuff to fill it up with but we could have done it all in an hour.
If somebody said to you ‘Okay, now you have to do it all in an hour or two a day and you’ll still get the same pay’ would you be able to do it? And, magically, you would. You’d work as quickly and efficiently as you could and get it all done in record time. You’d let go of all the time wasting tasks.
Melina Ja, you would, you would work super efficiently.
Melina You wouldn’t like, pass the tea station 3 times and make 6 cups of tea and …
Lauren Yup! Which is why Moms are so amazing. Because Moms are doing that, they have to work as fast and efficiently as they can because they know they’ve got so much else to do and, yes, they just want to get it done.
Melina That’s it…
Lauren Which is why Moms are touted as such an amazing workforce.
What has been the number one highlight of motherhood for you?
Melina Oh, wow, just watching these two people become people. These little personalities evolve. Yeah, just being with them and watching them become who they gonna be.
It’s so exciting, it’s like living like you were watching a series – cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger. Every little learning, every little upset, all of those things are building into this person and who they are going to become. And kind of forging them. Their life experiences. And it’s just amazing to watch and be a part of. I don’t usually like to use the word ‘blessing’ but it IS a blessing.
Balancing Work and Home Life
Lauren Awesome. Has it been tricky balancing work and home life?
Melina Oh ja. What a nightmare. And I’ve come to since not believe in balance. I think balance is a misnomer. Instead, it’s just… sometimes you do more of this, sometimes you do more of that.
Sometimes I get to do a full day of kid’s stuff and in the morning I’m helping at school and then I do sport in the afternoon and we run around and we do lots of stuff and then other days I’m in Joburg for a week and I’m doing just work.
And so sometimes it’s more of one and sometimes it’s more of the other and it’s more… we talk about the juggle is real. That’s what it is, it’s just a constant juggle, trying to keep all the balls in the air and hoping your husband still likes you on the other side.
Lauren I hear you.
Melina Remember me, I’m that chick you married a couple of years ago. You still like me?
Lauren Oh yeah. I hear you, very well put. What do you love most about being an author?
Melina Just cranking stuff out. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes it can be edited, sometimes it must be thrown away.
But I love the ability to just throw ideas on a page and maybe they work… and not judge. Not judge or try not to judge too harshly. But rather just enjoy the process of creating.
It’s an art form. Just to create. I think that’s the best part.
I don’t get paid for it. In my day job, the consulting and stuff, I’m constantly judging my work and clients are judging my work.
Is it good enough? Has it ticked all the boxes? Does it meet the hourly rate and what the client is expecting?
All of that is judged and it’s nice to just create and I may judge it, I may not but it’s the process of creating which is the best part.
Lauren Lovely. That sounds awesome. Do you work from home? If so, what does your room or desk look like?
Melina It’s a big fat mess. I’m a messy desk person. I file papers and I shove things in corners… but I’m very happy.
And then if I can’t work in the mess, I pick up my laptop and go to a coffee shop. Which has a nice clean table and a decent cup of coffee.
And I work off the desk in my lounge and I’ve usually got a dog at my feet and a kitten to cuddle at the moment before she grows up. The usual chaos of working from home. Which isn’t quite the perfect office environment but it works and if I’m not enjoying then I move myself off to a coffee shop where nobody knows me, put my earphones on and work there.
Lauren Awesome, we sound so alike. Do you think it’s harder to balance work and home life working from home?
Melina It’s one of the things I’m struggling with it at the moment, working from home. You know, the doorbell rings and then the phone, the WhatsApp groups from school, and then the vacuum cleaner going off… working from home is great but it’s not always ideal. And so, ja, that’s tricky.
Sometimes people want to pop in. And you’re like, ‘um, no, no you can’t’. It is quite a tricky thing to manage, even though I’ve been doing it for years. I haven’t got it quite right yet, not where I want it to be.
I’m quite excited, a few friends of mine who are Architects, once a week, are renting out this big studio space in Kalk Bay that overlooks the sea, above Olympia Coffee Shop. Which has great coffee. And I’m going to hopefully be joining them and I’ll be in that beautiful creative environment. And be able to crank out some good work. Or otherwise, I’ll be drinking coffee and eating croissants and chatting to everyone.
Lauren That sounds like a win-win to me.
Melina Ja, either way.
Are You Living Your Passion?
Lauren Do you feel like you are living your passion?
Melina Yes, finally, finally. Yeah, I do. I do. It’s hard… you kind of think that when you live your passion, it’ll be easy and everyone will think whatever you’re passionate about is amazing too. You know, the grand delusion. But it’s not. Yet how you feel in that space is lovely.
And so you kind of need to let go of how you expect other people to respond and rather just enjoy your own self, where you’re at and then hope, hope the universe will bless you with good things. And it does, but never what you’re expecting, is what I’ve found. But it’s what you need.
Lauren That’s interesting. If you were to die tomorrow, would you be at peace knowing you had lived a full, happy and meaningful life? Or would you feel you were dying with your song unsung?
Melina No, I’d be fine. I would be devastated from a mothering perspective. I would be devastated to leave my children. But for my own self, ja, I managed to write a book. I’ve got more that I want to do but that’s okay.
Lauren Yes, you have a legacy now. It’s amazing. Incredible. And it sounds like the most incredible book.
Melina Thank you.
Lauren Normally I buy everything on Amazon Kindle but this time I really want to get a real copy that I can put on my bookshelves because it just sounds like that kind of book.
Melina Okay, so I think we should have a coffee date and I’ll bring you one.
Lauren We’ll do that yes, I’ll bring the cash & the chocolate & wine. (We had our coffee date this Sunday)
Melina All very welcome, all very welcome.
On being a Mom
Lauren Cool. Is there anything that you know now, that you wish you knew when you first became a Mom?
Melina Oh my goodness, how long have we got?
I went and visited a friend while in Joburg and she’s, well, we’re 40. And she’s just had her first child. And, I had mine when I was 30 and I said to her, ‘you’re so calm and you’re so together. I can’t believe that I had my children at 30. I don’t even know who that person was but she was really a fool, she was clueless’.
And if I could go back to the person who I was, with this new baby, I’d be like ‘just relax, throw the book away, and just be with your child, just be with them as much as possible. Don’t try and want to be something you were, that’s gone, it’s gone forever. Kiss it goodbye and just start re-creating who you are as this mother person.’
And enjoy this little baby as much as possible, even though it’s puking all the time. And just be in this space. You’re never going to have it again. It’s gone. So, give up on trying or wanting to be something that you were, or you think you should be, it’s a waste of time. Be who you are now. And then I would take the baby and say, ‘Now go to sleep, I’ll look after the baby’.
Lauren OK, that’s so awesome. I also had my child at 40.
Melina So you’re a proper, good, solid, chilled out mom.
Lauren Well yes, I think it has really helped me because I certainly haven’t had a minute thinking I wanted to be somewhere else, or back in another place or that I’d missed out on anything in life. It was all done. I can see that there’s definitely a case for having children later in life because it’s been amazing and I’ve loved every minute.
Melina Ja, that’s maturity, complete maturity.
Lauren And my husbands also older, he’s in his mid-50s I’m in my mid-40s and so he also taught me a lot. When the baby cried and I couldn’t understand and I thought it was my fault, that I was causing this somehow, that is was something I was doing or not doing, he would just say, ‘baby’s cry, that’s what they do. It’s not you.’ He was able to give me the wisdom I didn’t have as well. Because you do feel clueless when that baby comes, at any age.
Melina Yes, absolutely. No one can prepare you for that.
But you also to have the wisdom to take a deep breath and go ‘Let’s think about this logically now’ and work your way through it and not panic.
Lauren Funny, if there’s only one regret that I have and that is if I’d started earlier I could have had six. I love being a Mom. But I started so late.
Melina Just think what that’s like. Uh-uh.
Lauren Or at least more than one. Because my husband said that’s absolutely it, no more.
Melina Ja, I know, but it is what it is. So you’ve had a completely wonderful experience as a new Mom.
Lauren Yes. I hope he lets me do it all again. I do have a bonus child as well, she’s amazing. She’s his daughter and she’s 14. She’s stunning.
Melina Lovely. Ja, teenagers, sweet and prickly I’m sure.
Lauren No, she’s awesome, we’ve got it lucky. I hope I don’t eat my words in a few weeks’ time or a few months’ time but she’s an absolute Honey.
On being an Author
Is there anything you feel you gained by becoming an author?
Melina From a working perspective – insight into a completely different industry. And to grow that knowledge and insight in the industry and then be able to share it with people and be able to come in fresh off the boat, able to make comments like ‘ooh, you know, why don’t bookstores do something different’. Seeing things differently. I think that that has been something that has been great.
Hopes and Plans for 2019
Lauren Awesome. What are your hopes for 2019?
Melina Woah, you mean think beyond Christmas lunch?
Okay… I suppose it’s a good time to think about things. I would obviously like to … and this is ooh, putting this down, I’m going to have to live up to it – I would like to publish my teen books, a trilogy next year. So that, finish the books that I’m writing and publish them next year. So, I’ll put that out there.
I’d like to start writing another adult book that I’m thinking about that is brewing in my head.
I would like to continue meeting people and growing the number of people who read my book. I’m loving that. I love meeting people.
And continue marketing to the best of my ability.
And a friend and I are running a women’s retreat in Grotto Bay in October. It will be our first and I think it’s going to be beautiful. And I hope we can do more next year, we’re hoping to do one in February. So, I would love to do another two or three, if we’re lucky, next year.
My friend, Anne-Marie Grieff, is extremely talented as a Life Coach and she incorporates Astrology readings and she’s just fab. And I teach yoga and some of the writing and we’ve got a lovely combination of skills. I think there’s huge value in sharing that with other people and helping people on their journeys or to kickstart their journeys. So, more of that would be lovely.
From a mom perspective, I always want to be more present and less on my phone. So, if I can do that better, I would be grateful.
And then, maybe see my husband a little bit more, that would be nice, I’d like that.
Lauren OK, that sounds amazing, you’ve actually got a lot going on next year. And that retreat sounds incredible.
What Are Your Fears?
Okay, I’m going into, what are your fears?
Melina Ooh, wow, deep and dark. So, the fears are always ever present.
The fear of failure is obviously number one. The fear of not good enough and all those special things.
Fear is ever present in everything one does. The fear of messing up your kids, the fear of not maintaining your friendships as much as you should. I think they’re pretty universal to most people.
The fear of being consumed by fear itself and not being able to create.
Lauren Ooh, that’s a big one. Interesting.
Who helped you write and get published?
Are there any people who have been enormously helpful to you? In publishing your book or getting your book out there or writing it…
Melina So writing it, obviously my husband and my children in terms of allowing me to do this crazy thing. Giving me the space and the time to do it. They were like ‘ok sure, just do it, make it happen, do what you gotta do’. Never for a moment did my husband ever say, ‘this is ridiculous, you should’ … he was just like ‘cool, do your thing’. He is incredibly supportive and gives me the space to be … so ja, I’m very grateful for that.
And my Editor, Lisa Ferguson.
She’s just lovely, she read my yucky first draft. And she was like ‘we can so do this’. She was so encouraging, eight drafts later, still encouraging. It was incredible, she was always gentle, kind, never harsh. Just a beautiful soul of a person. And she worked fundamentally in making that book much better than it originally was.
Melina And then all my friends, all my beta readers, who obviously read and gave feedback. It takes time. And they read through the rubbish second or third drafts and they pushed through and they gave lovely feedback. Amazing.
And my friend, Andrea Hoffman who’s a designer.
Andrea helped me re-jig the design and the layout of the book in order to become a lovely printed book. I can’t thank her enough because I’m really proud when I hand over my book. I don’t for one minute think ‘ooh it’s not that great quality’, I’m super chuffed with what we’ve done.
So that’s from a book perspective. And then my friends, the Moms around me who are just like ‘ah I’ll buy your book’ and who bought it and are kind and came to my little launch at Fish Hoek Library. And there’s that camaraderie, among women and friends that you can’t quantify.
How have Book Sales been going?
Lauren Amazing. Tell me, have you keeping tabs of your book sales?
Melina I have, I’m a spreadsheet nerd. And so I’ve got about 82 Kindle book sales. And then about 200 hard copies – paperbacks.
Lauren 200 paperbacks, wow, you’ve done well already. When did you launch? When was it published?
Melina So as an e-book mid- June, 19th of June is stuck in my head. And then the hard copies were the end of July, I think, I managed to get those right.
Lauren Wow and you’ve sold more paperback books than Kindle books, that’s very interesting.
My Friend, Natalie Hindes has helped promote my Book.
Melina Yes, it’s the South African market. And just to go back to the previous question, it’s because of a friend of mine called Natalie Hindes. She’s been just the most amazing friend in terms of setting up events and promoting my book.
So, everyone else has been up to the point where you have your book in hand and now she’s the person who’s helped me get it into people I don’t know’s hands.
Book Club and Gin Events
Natalie conceptualised with me the Book Club and Gin Events, where we go to someone’s home and they might invite ten or so people to their home and then I come through and I do a bit of a gin tasting.
Lauren Oh, how awesome.
Melina It’s so nice, I know.
Lauren That is so much fun.
Melina Such fun. And then we sit down, and we talk and I read from my book and then we just chat and ask questions and then the Book Club can continue after that, or I can stay for dinner. It depends on how well I know the people. And Natalie’s been amazing and she’s put me in touch with so many people and come up with lovely ideas. So she’s been fantastic from a promotions perspective. She deserves a medal, for just giving.
Lauren That sound fabulous, absolutely fabulous. I love that approach.
So, we’ve definitely got to get it into some book shops though, hey? And get you there, doing your readings.
I went to one at Exclusive Books in Constantia by Jodi Piccoult a few years back. She did a little book reading and that was really nice, so if the Book Stores are doing that for overseas authors why they not doing it for us?
And I love this book club idea. If we set up a website and created a community we could promote the Book Club idea. Or maybe there is a website already where people have their Book Clubs because they are quite organised nowadays, aren’t they?
I’m getting excited about getting Indie authors out there. I might as well do it before I become an Indie author, because then I’ll have paved the way.
Melina Like you say, it’s about setting up that platform, so that you can step in.
Lauren Exactly. I mean that’s obviously my new thing, get the platform going before you write. Hehe, do everything arse about face. Why not?
So… if there was anything I could help you with, what would it be?
Melina Oh wow, you can help me…yeah, let’s do this Indie thing. That’s what we need to do.
Lauren That will be fun, okay I’m in!
Who are Your Readers?
Who is your target market? If I were to give you a referral, who would I be looking for? Book clubs, readers…
Melina Ja, definitely readers. My book is read a lot by women because I am a woman Author but men have enjoyed it too. Whenever a guy says ‘oh I read your book and it was really cool’, I’m like ‘Oh, I forgot about you’.
My advertising is a push towards women, always, because they are often the people who buy books and men, maybe read the top books in their wives’ Book Club books. Or at least that’s how it is in my house, I don’t know what happens in other people’s homes.
But men don’t just read sports hero stories and autobiographies. They also like fiction. And, it’s quite nice when guys say, ‘no I read it, it’s cool, I liked it’. You know guys will often be like ‘Oh, I liked the racy parts too’.
Lauren Are there racy parts?
Melina Ja, but I promise it’s not … gratuitous sex.
So, I suppose number one primary target market would be woman, I would say 25+.
Older women will also enjoy it, depending on how much they can handle the sex and the swearing. You know Fish Hoek is quite a conservative community so one has to be cautious.
And then, anyone who enjoys fiction set in Fish Hoek, in South Africa that isn’t political or anything like that.
Lauren Cool. Is your market local or international? I see you’re selling more locally right now but I assume you’re going for the entire market?
An Appeal to Expats
Support South African Indie Authors
Melina I would like expats in Australia and the UK to find it and to share it amongst themselves. That would be divine. For them to read South African stuff even though they live overseas.
Some of them are there out of choice but I know that deep inside, all of them, they miss South Africa. And so, so they could also support South African content. And enjoy an insight into the country they no longer live in. I would love that, that would be my best.
Lauren What a lovely idea, expats, yes. Now let’s see how we’re going to target that market. This is going to be so much fun. I’m going to give a lot of thought to this and see how I can partner with you, maybe we can create a revolution in South African Indie Authors. Yeah, why not?
Melina Definitely, why not?
Lauren Create a movement, you know.
Melina Yes, absolutely.
Lauren I’ve always wanted to create a movement but was never should which kind of movement. This could be it.
Melina Now we’ve found one. Yay!
Lauren Yay, we’ve got a movement. Until the next thing that takes our fancy. In five years or so, of course, it’ll be something else. Knowing you and me.
OK, cool, that was such a wonderful interview, is there anything else you’d like to say before we close off?
Melina No, no, it was really just a lovely interview, lovely chatting to you and just rambling on. It was divine. Loved it.
JOIN US FOR GIN AND BOOK CLUB IN CAPE TOWN?
Melina’s second batch of hard copies is now SOLD OUT in South Africa!
We will be hosting a GIVEAWAY and Book Signing Event after her next print run.
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