Melanie Lageschulte shares the inside scoop on the writing process
Where did you get the inspiration for these novels?
There’s a saying, “write what you know.” That’s where it all started. I was laid off from my newspaper job in late 2014. It’s devastating, as anyone who’s been through it knows. The uncertainty of being unemployed can be as tough to deal with as the lack of income. What happens when times are hard? You live more simply, focus on what’s really important, consider big life changes. While I’ve lived in urban areas for twenty years, I grew up in the country. I started to kick around ideas for a novel that would combine the two worlds. The main character in these novels gets to do what everyone wishes for at one time or another: she breaks away from her everyday life.
What surprised you about the process?
I really didn’t know what to expect. I just started at the beginning and somehow kept going. I had an vague ending in mind, but it took time to sort out exactly how to get there. It became a balance between creating scenes of action, and then having moments where nothing much is happening on the surface but the characters are still evolving. Getting the words off my laptop and into readers’ hands, for both digital and paperback editions, was more complex than I expected. I couldn’t afford to hire any help, so I took my own cover photos, designed the covers and paginated the interiors, and signed up for a DIY service to create a website.
Animals are a large part of the plot. How did that come about?
Your pets and your livestock are such a big part of living in the country. That, and the weather and the seasons. So it was important to include those themes in the novels. Our pets are part of the family, and I had plenty of material to draw on for the animals in the books. But as I built those animal characters, they became more than just part of the plot. I could see Melinda’s personal growth reflected in how she interacted with the animals around her. And here I thought they would just be cute additions to the story!
The “city girl-goes-country” idea isn’t new. What makes Melinda Foster stand out?
I didn’t want her to be this sheltered airhead who can’t do anything for herself. I wanted readers to laugh “with” her, not “at” her. Melinda, and her circumstances, needed to be as realistic as possible. No one in her situation would have the cash, or could even get a loan, to purchase property. Her life’s collapsed around her so she’s got some emotional baggage. And she had to have a job off the farm to pay her bills, she couldn’t lounge around all day in the porch swing.
How does self-publishing compare to traditional media?
There are some obvious differences. Fiction writers create the entire landscape, the characters, the scenes. I even drew maps of the town of Prosper, and of the farm, to be consistent in the book’s details. But my years in newspapers served me well. In the media world, you always ask: Why is this story important? Why does it matter? It was the same with this writing process, deciding what drives the storyline. It all comes back to everyday people living their lives. Everyone has a story to tell.