Melissa K. Magner ~ Author Interview

Today, I’d like to welcome Melissa K. Magner, author of The Underground Moon, as my guest.

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Let’s start by finding out a little bit about you…

  • What is your name and do you write under a pen name? My name is Melissa. I use my full name (Melissa K. Magner) for my official author name. 
  • Where do you call home? I grew up and currently live in Saratoga, California. Pretty soon, though, I will be making the move to San Luis Obispo, California. 
  • Obviously, we know you are an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Right now I’m attending Pepperdine University Graduate School to get my masters in clinical psychology. My goal is to be a therapist who works with children and adolescents. I’ve always been passionate about mental health (especially when it comes to kids – I feel like they are often overlooked), and this has been a dream of mine since middle school. I worked with kids part-time throughout college as a princess at birthday parties, and I currently work with a small group of kids as a tutor to help them out with distance learning in the pandemic. I really love children – they’re such a light in life and so much more complex than we give them credit for. I’d love to work with them in a way that allows them a safe space to grow, learn, and confront their struggles in a way that feels comfortable for them.
  • What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing? I’ve been writing since I was four or five. Of course, the first few “books” I wrote didn’t make much sense at all! It was really my grandmother who inspired me to get more serious about writing. She was a writer herself who passed when I was 14 years old. I came across all of her old writing and absolutely devoured it. One of the short stories she had written – “Jinx” – resonated with me so much that I rewrote it and published it under both of our names as a “debut” novel of sorts. That was what really jump started my passion.

Let’s shift somewhat and talk about your latest story

  • What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or fewer words, what would you say? My most recent book is titled “The Underground Moon.” It’s a dark urban/YA fantasy that explores trauma and loss of childhood innocence through a supernatural lens. 
  • How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book(s)? I’ve had the pleasure of working with Bespoke Book Covers for both of my books (and I plan to work with them in the future). The process mostly involves me sending Peter (who designs the covers) art I like and a synopsis of my book. He takes it from there. He and his wife (Caroline) run the company, and I am blown away each and every time with the professionalism and creativity of their book covers. 
  • Did you listen to any particular songs while writing your book(s)? I listened to a lot of Justin Hurwitz (“First Man”) when writing “The Underground Moon.” The soundtrack is haunting and sad at the same time and really helped me orient myself emotionally when writing. For “Jinx,” I listened to the movie soundtrack from “Coraline” – it’s creepy and almost otherworldly, which resonated with the plot of my own book. 
  • How did you come up with the title for your book(s)? For my debut novel, “Jinx,” the title was my grandmother’s idea, so I stuck with that. The title is a bit of a play on words, because while it’s the main character’s nickname, it exists more as a reference to curses and dark magic. The title for “The Underground Moon” popped into my head at random one night back in 2019. I had watched Pan’s Labyrinth and was in the process of brainstorming for my next novel, and for some reason “underground” and “moon” merged together. 
  • Tell us about your book trailer! Yes! All current trailers are available on my YouTube Channel, which is under my name – “Melissa K. Magner.”
  • In your latest novel, who is the lead character and can you tell us a little about him/her? Rosella is the lead character in “The Underground Moon.” She’s a fifteen-year-old girl who is struggling for responsibility with her seven-year-old sister (Hettie) and her severely depressed mother. As a person, Rosella (nicknamed “Ro”) is mature for her age (perhaps as a facade, but also because she views herself as more of a mother than an older sister). She’s a bit hard on herself, but at the end of the day is a truly loving person who strives to bring normalcy to her family despite the trauma they’ve shared. 
  • What are your character’s greatest strengths? Ro is incredibly resilient. Resilience amongst teenagers was a trait I wanted to explore in greater depth, and Ro allowed me to do just that. She bounces back from truly traumatic events with determination to care for and protect her sister.
  • And what are his/her greatest weaknesses? She’s a worrier, and her anxiety often manifests in “bossiness” (which Hettie often accuses her of) or coming across as overly-mature, uptight, and sometimes even a bit rude. At times, her attitude is her way of regaining agency in situations where she feels like she’s lost control, but it certainly grates on her younger sister (as well as some other characters). 

Let’s talk now about your writing process

  • What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter? I’m a total pantster. Writing is an intuitive craft for me. I’ll have a vague idea of the story and themes, but my first draft is entirely organic and intuition-based. Sometimes I’ll make notes while I’m writing to remember where I want to go, but I lead by the heart more often than not. 
  • Have you come across any specific challenges in writing or publishing? What would you do differently the next time? I think the biggest challenge overall is orienting myself in the realm of publishing in general. There are so many avenues – each one with pros and cons – and choosing the best route for me was a process that took nearly half a year. I wanted to have a solid understanding of types of publishing (traditional, indie, hybrid, etc.) before I released my book. I wrote lists, read books, spoke to other authors…it was a lot of work! I’m still learning and growing in the industry, and as such, there are always things you learn after you publish, but I’m doing all the research I can and trying to stay on top of an ever-growing industry. 
  • If you’re a self-published/Indie author what made you go that route instead of the traditional publishing route? I had a feeling from the get-go that I wanted to go indie. I think a lot of people are surprised to hear that I never queried or looked for agents because that route is chosen less often when it comes to publishing (although, I would say in recent years, the popularity of indie publishing has been growing, which I love to see). There were a couple of reasons I chose to go indie (and will likely stay that way for the long run). First off, indie publishing offers a lot of creative freedom and control. Writing is a hobby and a passion for me – not a career choice. Because of that, freedom and control mean a lot to me. Having the ability to choose cover designs, hire my own team, and maintain the rights to my work is incredibly important to me. I also tend to blend genres – i.e. “young adult” and “dark fantasy/horror” – and going indie allows me the freedom to write within my own unique niche without being pushed to conform to market trends. For example, I tend to subvert the traditional YA trope of romance (simply put, I don’t include it at all). That’s pretty rare in traditional YA, but indie publishing allows me to do just that. At the end of the day, writing (for me personally) is something I do out of love for the craft itself. Understanding my motivations and goals was paramount in my decision to take the indie route, and it’s offered me the creative liberation I need to continue doing what I love on my own terms. 
  • What’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing? Don’t get too hung up on perfection. Writing is a constantly changing craft, and you will always have learning and growing to do as an author. Writing, like most forms of art, is subjective – what you write won’t be “perfect,” and there’s no way everyone will like it. Getting hung up on pleasing everyone is the best deterrent to writing – so make a conscious effort not to do it!
  • What advice would you give someone who wants to start writing? More often than not, you have to be passionate about what you’re writing. There are some authors who will specifically alter the content of their work to conform to the market, and for some people, that works perfectly! Personally, though, passion is my driving force. If I am not passionate about what I’m writing, I won’t write well. I won’t put in the needed time to edit, re-write, edit again, (and so on). So my advice – based off of my own experience – is that finding your passion will ignite the flame needed to burn the midnight oil and do the best writing you possibly can.
  • Where can your readers follow you? Please list links to any applicable websites and/or social media accounts. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissakmagner/ , Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18506292.Melissa_K_Magner

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