Also on this sunny Saturday I have a fabulous in-depth interview on Meet the Author with Melanie Nowak….AND you can get some of her books FOR FREE this weekend only, so make sure you read to the bottom to find out how! She’s also tells us more about her characters and they came to have their names, meeting her favourite author (and maybe having a little cry!) and her inspiration to start writing……
Paranormal Romantic Fantasy
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am a happily married mom of two boys (and one spoiled Doberman). My husband and I moved our family from the beaches of Long Island NY, to a mountaintop forest in upstate NY about 6 years ago, and we love it here! I hold a Master’s Degree in Library Science, with a BA in Education, but my absolute passion is creating complex characters and taking them through adventures of emotion, action and magical mystery!
What inspired you to start writing?
I have been making up stories for as long as I can remember, however, I did not start writing them down until 2003. A few things came together to bring the ALMOST HUMAN series to life…
I’ve always been interested in bats. Vampire bats have an anticoagulant in their saliva called “draculin” (named after Count Dracula!) that keeps blood from clotting. I had the idea that such a thing would be useful for vampires as well. It would also be useful if they had something to keep the victim calm, like a drug.
I always wondered about a vampire’s ability to put victims in thrall. In old movies, vampires are able to hypnotize people, and it’s never really explained. People are just ‘under their power’. I always wondered – why? How does it work? I put those questions together with the anticoagulant/drug idea, and took it further. What if vampires could inject their victims with venom, like a snake? Only the venom would not be deadly poison, but a combination of drugs that kept blood from clotting, kept the victim calm and even willing, and also could mark territory for the vampire – leaving a psychic mark that other vampires could see. The vampire could then use the existence of this ‘drug’ in their victim’s system, to put them in thrall as well.
The idea of venomous vampires seemed so logical to me, that I assumed for sure that someone else had done it already. I began searching my library for a book like that, so I could read it! This was probably in the early 90’s and there weren’t very many vampire books around at that time. I never found what I was looking for, and I filed the idea away. It never occurred to me to write it myself, LOL.
In the late 80’s, I had discovered Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles and absolutely loved them. That was the first time I read something from the vampire’s point of view. The way that she captured emotions and described surroundings was mesmerizing to me, and I really connected with her story. I’m also a huge fan of the T.V. series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Joss Whedon is a genius! That said – towards the end of the show, I started disliking some decisions the writers made. I understood their vision, but I also saw missed opportunities. I would have done things differently.
That started me thinking of my own storylines and my own characters, incorporating my venomous vampire idea. None of this was written down, just daydreamed during housework. Then one day I realized that a lot of the ideas I had were really good, and it depressed me to think that it would all just be forgotten. So, I sat down one night at the computer, to write out a few things so I wouldn’t forget, and could look back at them one day. The scenes just came pouring out and before I knew it, I’d been up writing almost the whole night! That’s when I realized that I had a real story to tell, and wanted to write it all out from beginning to end. That is how my ALMOST HUMAN vampires were born.
How many books have you written and published?
At this point I have published 29 titles for my ALMOST HUMAN series. There are 6 full novels (2 trilogies), which are quite long and were later broken up to also be published as 21 novellas. The first trilogy of novels is available in an Omnibus Edition as well.
I recently released another novella UNITING VAMPIRES– part 1 of my next upcoming novel, VAMPIRESS REIGNING. There are two more novellas on the way, then all three of those novellas will be combined for the release of the full novel.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
That is like asking if I have a favorite child! All of my books follow the same characters through a progressive story, and each novel has something special in it that I get very excited about. If I had to choose, I think my favorite novel is the last: DESTINED FOR DIVINITY. That novel has the most action and intrigue, being the culmination of many devious plots and seeds sown through the other books. There were some sword fights and magical battles that were very fun to block out and create! There are also a few ‘aha’ moments that I was really tickled to write.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
Oh my goodness, I love this question! I see some authors holding contests and posting on facebook to ask for suggestions for character names. I realize this may be fun for the readers, but I could never do that! Each of my character’s names is very carefully chosen for special significance. I had a fun chat about this with readers on my website forums – I’ll repost my explanation of my names for you here. It is a bit long, and may contain minor spoilers for the story, as some characters don’t appear until later books, but nothing that should really ruin anything for new readers. I think it is a really fun insight into my character’s names.
Reader: I loved meeting Ben’s father in the last book, and that you named him Bernard! Not sure if you knew, but that name means strong and brave – so perfect for him! Is there special meaning to the names of other characters, or did you just make them up?
Author, Melanie: I’m so glad that you recognized that! I actually put a lot of thought into my character names, and they are each very meaningful to me in some way that affects the character’s personality or role in the series. I actually planned out most of this story (all 12 projected novels) from the beginning, so I know where the characters are going, for the most part, and who they will be in the end. (Although, they often insist on taking me on unplanned detours along the way…) That allows me to foreshadow, shape and evolve them during the story, knowing who I want them to be in the final book – that includes how I name them.
Bernard does mean “Brave/Bold/Strong as a Bear”, and I thought it was perfect for his bold, self-assured personality. I was hesitant to use it at first, if only because it breaks a writing rule: never give main characters similar names that start with the same letter. However, it suited him well, and his son’s name “Benjamin” means “son of my right hand”, which I thought would be perfect – and it’s shortened version, “Ben” means “son of my sorrow”, which seemed appropriate, considering Bernard’s betrayal of marital trust and the loss of Ben’s mom.
An explanation of some of the others:
Cain/Christian – his name is the most obvious, chosen almost as antonym’s due to their biblical associations, and the character’s struggle to balance good and evil within himself, not to mention the very literal associations between the story of Cain and how our Cain had ended up killing his brother.
Felicity – is a “Virtue” name (a Puritan given name, derived from one of the Christian virtues) and it also means “Happiness”. I thought it was a good representation of Cain’s desires.
Sindy – Her real name is Cynthia, which is Greek, and literally means “Woman from Kynthos” – an epithet for the “Greek Moon Goddess, Artemis”, who is also the goddess of the hunt. A “Moon Goddess on a Hunt” sounds just like Sindy to me! She chose the nickname “Sindy” for herself to be representative of “Sin”…both instigated by her and inflicted unwillingly upon her.
Ashley – This name wasn’t born of researched meaning, so much as the fact that just about every popular, clueless, and perhaps snotty girl I have known, seems to have this name, LOL. No offense – I’m sure there are smart and lovely Ashley’s out there!
Arif – means “Wise and Knowledgeable” in Arabic – this makes more sense when you remember that this was not the name he was born with, but one he chose for himself. I have actually met 2 Turkish men named Arif in my real life. One was my dentist, who is a great guy, LOL. But the first Arif I ever met made a strong impression on me as a very controlling, self-centered, and slightly creepy, although attractive man. He would not know me – I barely knew him, he was a parent in a school I worked at, but he (and the fact that he would sometimes be accompanied by his mistress instead of his wife) inspired the character of Arif.
Lorelei – “Temptress”
Elric – “Noble Commander” (Although originally from Cameroon, West Africa, Elric was educated in Germany and uses the very fitting name he was given during that time).
Kieran – “Little Dark One” (although he has a light countenance and fun personality, he does have a dark sense of humor)
Khalon – “Strong Warrior” A Swahili name very fitting for this immigrant vampire from Africa. I also like that it is very similar to the name “Kalong” which is the proper name for the large bats more commonly known as flying foxes. I actually met a man named Khalon once, and after I asked him the meaning of his unique name, I told him that I needed to name a character after him and that he would be a strong vampire coven leader 😀
Maribeth – “Sea of Bitterness” Once you know Maribeth, this is quite appropriate!
Mattie (Matthew) – “Gift of God”. Mattie has a very important role to play in steering the fate and future of many people…hopefully in a good way, as an “instrument of God”. I see him as being the voice of conscience for Allie, which becomes more and more important as the story progresses.
Allie/Alyson – I saved Allie for last because her name origin has the longest and coolest story, if only because it seems more like she orchestrated it than I did (she’s independent like that sometimes, LOL). When I first started writing…I’m talking about the first hours of inception…I knew all about Cain, Felicity, Ben and Sindy, and I thought to myself “I need another human friend for Ben to talk to when he’s complaining about Cain and Felicity”. I decided it should be a female character, and knew that personality-wise she should be very different from Felicity and Sindy. I came up with the idea that she was secretly in love with Ben’s dead friend Mattie, who was now a vampire, she would someday become a vampire herself, and that I was going to make her very powerful to eventually skew the story in a more epic-urban fantasy direction.
Since she was a best friend to Ben, suddenly another, very different character came to mind: Willow Rosenberg from Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love Willow’s character! She is very different from my Allie, but she began as a best friend to the main character, who seemed (forgive me) deceivingly inconsequential, and then evolved to be arguably the strongest character (magic-wise) in the series. The parallel to what I wanted to do seemed very cool to me, so as a nod to that character, I chose to name her Alyson, after the wonderful actress who portrayed Willow, Alyson Hannigan, and I spelled it the same way she does. I learned that Alyson means “Of Noble Kind” which was absolutely perfect for my purposes! So, Alyson was born.
Now, here’s a twist… early on, as I wrote, I found that Alyson’s hair and attitude began to remind me of the music artist P!NK. I love P!NK’s music and how she alternately shows the tough, fun-loving, and vulnerable sides to her personality in her songs. P!NK is often good inspiration for me when I’m in “Allie-mode”. Somewhere along the way, I found out that P!NK’s real name is Alecia…another version of Allie. Wow, kind of cool! Then P!NK had her first child, a daughter. You know what she named her baby girl? Wait for it… WILLOW… the original inspiration for Allie’s name in the first place. Talk about coming full circle!
I hope you enjoyed reading about my character’s names – I love sharing those insights!
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Hmmm… Obviously being with my vampire Cain would be lovely – handsome, comforting, intelligent, strong, and always a gentleman! Ben is a man with many of those qualities as well – but can be very stubborn (like me) and I think we would butt heads too much! Felicity would be all right to be stranded with, but I’m not sure we’d survive, LOL. The vampiress Sindy would complain the whole time and then probably end up draining all my blood! While I would more enjoy spending the time with Cain (for obvious reasons!) if I really had to be stranded with someone, I think Alyson would be my pick – she would have the best chance of finding a way to rescue us, and we’d have a lot of fun in the meantime!
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
I love fantasy, horror, and paranormal stories, and have many favorites! I think I would have to say that Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles hold the most special place in my heart, because the book Interview with the Vampire was the first story I ever read that was told from the perspective of the vampire. I read it as a young teenager, and the way that Anne captured emotions and described surroundings was mesmerizing to me. I really connected with her story andcharacters. A few years ago I was invited to her annual Vampire ball in New Orleans, and do a book signing at UndeadCon. I was able to meet her, and tell her what a wonderful inspiration she has been to me. (Not going to lie – I may have cried a little, LOL)
Other authors I enjoy are Jack L Chalker, Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Piers Anthony, Pamela C. Dean & David Eddings.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I wrote my own “Choose Your Own Adventure” book when I was in 6th grade. I was really into those books where you flip to different pages based on choices you get to make for the story. Mine was called “The Quest for the Golden Unicorn”. I still have it somewhere – it’s not bad!
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
Let’s see…in my teen years I worked the register for a home improvement store, a catalogue outlet store, and then McDonald’s. During college I worked the deli counter in Buttercup Dairy – I held the record for remembering and accurately filling the longest deli order given at one time (16 items), LOL. Then I did ear piercing at Topkapi in the mall, and sold candles at Wicks-N-Sticks.
Since earning my Bachelor’s degree in education, I have been a pre-school teacher and eventually was the Director of a PreSchool/private Kindergarten. I then got my Master’s degree in Library Science and was poised to be a school librarian. Through a series of unfortunate health events, I found myself unable to follow the path I had chosen. Luckily, another path had already chosen me – my career as an author!
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
I’m not sure – I would enjoy checking out the past as research for my books – and other countries as well for that reason. I am a bit curious about the future, but really I’m pretty happy where I am.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I would love to have an in-depth conversation with Joss Whedon about character development – he’s always been an inspiration!
What are your favourite things to do?
Reading was always my first love, but I also really enjoy acting and singing. When I was younger, I dreamed of being in musical theater. I am an actress at heart (perhaps the reason I can embody my characters so well – I speak aloud every single word of dialogue and practically live each scene!) These days, the closest I get to a stage is the rare occasion that I am out for karaoke (and good luck getting me back off the stage! LOL)
As far as everyday life – I love walking in the forest, enjoying wildlife and nature. 6 years ago, my husband and I were finally able to realize a long-time dream and bought a house on a mountaintop in upstate NY. We have 5 1/2 acres bordered by 600 acres of state forest. I walk with my dog through those woods almost every day. I love to sit on my deck while writing – we’ve seen deer, foxes, turkeys, and even wolves and coyotes! It’s very inspiring <3
I also love board games, and have been known to be a bit of a video game addict – Diablo II by Blizzard is my absolute favorite game 😉
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I’ve had quite a few strange experiences in my life. I do believe in spirits – whether they are ghosts or other entities of some sort. I have had many ‘encounters’ in my life – mostly small but undeniable: doors opening or slamming shut, books falling (or flying) off the shelf for no reason, lights going on and off, etc. I consider myself fairly perceptive: I’ve read tarot cards for myself that were frighteningly accurate, and had a couple of premonition dreams that came to pass. I don’t allow myself to become too caught up in those types of things though – they are just a small, unexplained part of reality to be acknowledged and accepted.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
Believe in yourself and be strong. You need to have patience, a very thick skin and an incorrigible spirit. Be unafraid to pour true emotional passion into your writing, because it truly touches more readers than you realize.
Name one book you think everyone should read?!
I don’t really have an answer for this – every person has their own tastes and wants to get different things out of reading. My advice would be – be unafraid to try something new – you might like it! Don’t be ashamed to read what you like, despite the opinions of others! Reading can be a very personal thing 🙂
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
My most recent novel is Destined for Divinity– BUT the ALMOST HUMAN series must be read in order, so I am going to give you the information for the series as a whole 😉
I currently have 2 trilogies in my venomous vampire saga. While both follow the same characters chronologically, you can begin the Second trilogy without having read the First – but why would you want to miss out on all of the juicy backstory?
ALMOST HUMAN – The First Trilogy, set around a small upstate college town, is a paranormal romantic fantasy of drama, angst and action. An elder vampire struggles with his faith, his crusade to mentor others, and his attraction to a young college woman, who is trying to navigate the hurdles of dealing with her peers, her job, vampires, zombies, and…college.
ALMOST HUMAN – The Second Trilogy has more of a paranormal urban fantasy feel, still filled with drama, action and romance, the viewpoints broaden to include more of an ensemble cast of vampires and humans who have traveled beyond college to navigate adulthood, and discover paranormal abilities previously unknown. They must learn to master the difficult nuances of balancing thirst, power and…marriage. Oh, and they may just have to save the world.
There are two different ways to read my venomous vampire series ALMOST HUMAN. There are 6 full novels (2 trilogies), which are quite long, and they were later broken up to also be published as a series of 21 episodic novellas for Amazon’s KU program.
Unless you subscribe to KU, I would normally recommend reading the novels. Novel #1 is FATAL INFATUATION, and it is available on most book websites and in bookstores worldwide.
HOWEVER – I currently have a special FREE deal going on!
Friday Sept. 13th through Monday Sept 16th
you can get Novellas 1, 2 & 3 of the first series
(the equivalent of Novel #1 Fatal Infatuation)
for FREE on Kindle!
You can also get the first 4 novellas of the 2nd series
(the equivalent of Born to Blood, Novel #1 of the 2nd trilogy)
For FREE on Kindle!
I love to connect with readers on social media – please like my page and feel free to send me a friend request!
You can also learn more about the series and read free sample chapters on my website at: www.MelanieNowak.com
A massive thanks Melanie for this fabulous interview! I’ve learned so much about you and your characters, I can’t wait to get reading!! I’m literally off to download the books now – thank you so much for arranging this in time for my wonderful readers!
EVERYONE – make sure you go and download your free books NOW!! Don’t miss out!!!
Have a wonderful day reading!