We're talking to Melody Carlson about her book I Heart Bloomberg. What an intriguing title!
I think it’s impossible not to put a little of myself into most of my main characters. But I doubt that anyone (not even my mother) can always pick out which part is from me. I think using “stuff” from my own life is what makes characters feel more realistic.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Quirky, as in weird or strange or unbelievable? Well, I lived in Papua New Guinea for a year as a young adult. That in itself was pretty weird. But while there I spent two weeks in the jungle, helping a Bible translator who liked to swim across the river each day. Naturally, I joined her. What makes this quirky/weird/unbelievable is that the river had crocodiles—and even the locals didn’t swim in it. Would I do that again today? No way!
I have good friends who spent years with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
As soon as I could hold a pencil, I began “drawing” stories, then I added words, then I stapled them together into “books.” In other words, I always loved writing. And although my teachers always told me I was good at it, I took it for granted. It wasn’t until my mid thirties that I realized I had to write—that I couldn’t not write. So, without even knowing what I was getting into, I jumped in with both feet.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I mostly enjoy fiction, and particularly contemporary fiction. I like well crafted stories involving realistic characters with true-to-life problems. I particularly like authors like Elizabeth Berg, Anne Tyler, Barbara Kingsolver, and Rosamunde Pilcher.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Too many to list here. But in the chick lit genre…These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking came out last year, and A Mile in My Flip-flops releases this June. I’ve also done more serious women’s fiction like Finding Alice and soon-to-release The Other Side of Darkness. But I may be best known for my teen series like Diary of a Teenage Girl and TrueColors and soon-to-release The Carter House Girls.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Thankfully, I don’t have to do too much running these days. With grown kids and working at home, I mostly run because I want to get away and do something fun. But I do feel for those who are balancing careers and family and all the other demands. I know what that’s like. The good news is that it doesn’t last forever.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
After around 200 books and more than a thousand characters, it can be a challenge. Sometimes a name will just hit me—it will fit the character and I’m on my way. Other times I go through name after name. Sometimes I use an Internet site with names organized by popularity within the birth year. That can be helpful.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Personally, it would be remaining tight with God for all these years. Although I think God had more to do with that than me. Then it would be celebrating 30 years of marriage this year. Also, sticking with my grown sons through thick and thin—it hasn’t been easy.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I think it’d be fun to be a bird and able to fly on my own power.
What is your favorite food?
It kind of depends. Sometimes it’s anything Italian. But when I’m being more sensible it can be anything involving salmon or spinach.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Like all writers who are starting out, the roadblock seemed to be getting a book contract. But my solution was to keep trying, not get discouraged, do my marketing research, and to continue writing. Eventually that ball started to roll…and thankfully it just keeps going.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
It’s simple. Read lots of good books in the genre you wish to write for. Then go ahead and write-write-write. Allow yourself to make mistakes, but get the words down, because that’s how you learn and improve. Classes, how-to books, conferences, critique groups…are all helpful too. But unless you sit down and actually write, you’ll never be a writer. Get your story down and the editing can come later.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
86 Bloomberg Place is a new series for twenty-something readers, featuring four young career women sharing a house. The first book I heart Bloomberg introduces the unique characters and how they adjust (or don’t) to each other and this new stage of their lives. The question is: Can four very diverse young women really live together under one roof? The answer is: Not without a few problems.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Melody, thank you for spending this time with us.
Readers, check out her web site to learn about other books she's written.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of I Heart Bloomberg.