MELISSA LENHARDT: STILLWATER STARTED AS A MODERN DAY RETELLING OF JANE AUSTEN’S PERSUASION
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Melissa Lenhardt made the big break in the literary world with her novel Stillwater. The book was published in October 2015. The story received a lot of positive feedback with the readers giving an average of 4.5 Amazon stars. Melissa will have a very busy year, because two more novels by her are waiting for their premiere.
It’s a great pleasure to speak with our next guest for her amazing debut. Let’s welcome Melissa Lenhardt.
– Melissa, what is your book Stillwater about?
– STILLWATER is the story of an ex-FBI agent who takes the job as Chief of Police in small-town East Texas thinking it will be a nice, easy gig, but who ends up investigating two murders, fifty years apart, that share a surprising connection that will rattle the town to its core.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– It originally started as a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Only the town and the main female character, Ellie Martin, remain. It evolved into a mystery one year during National Novel Writing Month. I have no idea why or how!
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The biggest challenge is definitely the mystery. Dropping clues without giving the killer away too early, making sure the killer’s motivations are understandable and make sense. I stared at the wall of my office for weeks gaming out the mystery and its resolution.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Jack and Ellie? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– Not particularly. As I said, Ellie was inspired by Anne Elliot from Austen’s Persuasion. Jack is purely a figment of my imagination.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I started writing the original, abandoned story in 2005. I came back to it and turned it into a mystery in 2010, but I didn’t finish it and submit it to agents until 2013. We sold it to a publisher in 2014 and it was published in 2015.
– Why you waited so long before publishing your first novel?
– I wasn’t a good enough writer to be published.
– Who are you?
– I’m a stay-at-home-mom living in suburbia who started writing as a way to distract myself from poopy diapers and temper tantrums and to keep my mind sharp. Getting published never entered my mind.
– What are your writing habits?
– Poor. I procrastinate too much and waste time. I get serious when the deadline starts to make me wake up in the middle of the night in a panic.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your book?
– I’m not dissatisfied, but I want more.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Social media, Q&As such as this one, attending conventions, participating on panels at the conventions, and book clubs. Social media is useful and critical, but I think the best way to sell a book is by meeting people and connecting with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if more books are sold by word of mouth recommendation than anything else.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– The second Jack McBride mystery is titled THE FISHER KING and will be released in November 2016. It takes place six weeks after the end of STILLWATER and centers on the city council election, the local drug war and the investigation of two double murders.
– You are part of several writers’ organizations. What are the benefits for new authors to be part of such society and how they may benefit for being in touch with their colleagues?
– The two primary groups I’m associated with are very different. The DFW Writers’ Workshop is a read and critique group. They have helped me develop as a writer. Sisters in Crime North Dallas is part of a huge national group and has been critical for networking and meeting other writers. Publishing is a networking profession. An author’s success can be boiled down to three things, talent, luck and connections. Talent gets you invited to the party. Luck gets you in the door. Connections buys you a drink, or if you’re really fortunate, a steak dinner and a decadent chocolate dessert.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be?
– Q: You write in two different genres (historical fiction & mysteries). Do you prefer one over the other? A: I love them both for surprisingly the same reason: I learn something when I write them. In mysteries, research is critical to creating a contemporary mystery that respects law enforcement and the process by which they solve crimes. Research is critical for historical fiction so you respect the time the story is set in. Historical fiction if probably more difficult because I have to be very careful I’m not giving my 19th century characters 21st century sensibilities. But, I love them both and hope I can continue to write in both genres throughout my career. (Sawbones, my first historical fiction novel, will be published digitally on March 28, 2016.)