I adore Melissa Tagg’s books and am so excited to welcome her to Buzzing About Books!
Welcome, Melissa! Please share a little about yourself.
Thanks for having me, Britney! Well, I’m a former reporter turned author and grant-writer and communications coordinator and avid watcher of YouTube videos. I love classic movies, Gilmore Girls and the band NEEDTOBREATHE, and I am convinced I have the coolest family in the entire world. Oh, and I live in Iowa. It’s happy here.
Just for fun, which do you prefer:
Cake or Pie? Does ice cream cake count? ‘Cause if so, cake all the way.
Hotel or Campground? While I am not opposed to the occasional campout, generally I prefer hotels.
Physical book or E-book? I definitely read both, but there’s something about physical books…
Salty or Sweet? I love it all, but probably sweet…no salty…no totally depends on my mood.
Dog or Cat? This one’s easy…dogs all the way. Cats kinda creep me out.
Television or Movies? Generally movies—classic movies. But I have been known to obsess over a few TV shows…
I’m an Iowa girl, so I should probably say country. Actually my favorite is small-ish towns that are located super close to big cities. Best of both worlds.
Fly or Drive? Drive! I’m thankful to be able to get places quickly by flying when I need to, but I loooove road trips.
Homemade or Take-out? If someone else is making it, homemade.
Morning Bird or Night Owl? Both! Seriously. Originally I was a total night owl, but I’ve sorta trained myself to become a morning person in the past few years. Now I love early mornings.
When did you decide to pursue writing and eventually publication?
I got serious about writing in 2009 when I attended my first My Book Therapy retreat. Hands-down the best thing I ever did for my writing! Susan May Warren is an amazing writer and a master storycrafter so learning from her through MBT was amazing. In 2010 I attended my first big writing conference and started pursuing publication. And then all the doors flung open in 2012.
What is your writing process like? Do you write daily? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
How much I write and when really just depends on the time of year and when my deadlines. I do generally write at least something every day—but it’s not always fiction. Sometimes it’s a blog or an article. When I’m deep in deadline mode, I tend to get up early to write before work and then also squeeze in a couple hours in the evening. I do a LOT of Saturday writing.
But my favorite is when I can set a long weekend aside for writing marathons…that really works well for me.
I’m right in between plotter and pantser. I always come up with the main plot pieces and spend a lot of time getting to know my characters before diving into the book. And then usually I plot about a third of the book at a time…but I’ve found that if I try to get too detailed in my plotting, I hem myself in and end up frustrated later when the characters suddenly do what I didn’t expect. So I’m learning to be much more flexible with my stories while holding on to those core story elements.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I write all over my place, actually! I do have a room I use just for writing and when I’m in a serious spurt, I write there. But I also love to sit in bed and write…or at my kitchen table…or on my comfy couch. I’ll camp out at coffee shops sometimes.
But my absolute favorite place to write is my mom and dad’s sunroom. They live about an hour away from me and they’re so gracious to open their home to me whenever I need a writing campout.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
My very favorite…finishing the book. LOL! I love that “whoa, it’s done” moment. My favorite part of writing itself is dialogue. I looooove writing character dialogue. And of course, I adore hearing from readers’ once the book is out there in the world.
Least favorite is probably the blank page…that can be scary sometimes. Too, deadlines can feel pressuring. Actually probably the hardest thing I deal with writing-wise is the temptation to compare myself to everyone else or constantly worry I’m not good enough. That’s something I’m guessing many writers have to battle throughout their careers.
How much of yourself do you see in your characters?
Sometimes much more than I’d like! In my first two books, my main characters definitely had pieces of me in them. In this third one, Kate Walker is so, so very much like me. And that’s probably why a) the story felt so hard to write and b) I was much more nervous about sending it out into the world.
I actually wrote a blog post just recently about all the ways Kate Walker is like me.. http://www.melissatagg.com/from-the-start/five-times-kate-walker-is-me
Please tell us about your latest novel, From the Start.
From the Start is about a jaded scriptwriter of romantic movies and an ex NFL quarterback. They both end up in Iowa working on a writing project together…and of course, there are sparks. 🙂 It takes place in a fun little made-up town with a train depot, a cool historic bank building that’s been turned into a restaurant, a river running right through the middle of town. It’s hugely real in my mind. LOL!
Like my other books, it’s a romantic comedy, but I think it delves a little deeper as it deals with issues of Colton’s painful past, foster care, cancer and calling.
What inspired this heartfelt romance?
Truthfully, on this one I honestly don’t know. In my first couple books, I can really pinpoint the thing that first sparked the story in my mind, but this one just seemed to evolve in a really disjointed way, to be honest! I do know I loved the idea of writing about a romance writer who didn’t believe in romance. 🙂 And I wanted Colton’s career to be something big and lofty and in-the-spotlight.
Other than that, I think the issues I was wrestling with personally last year really inspired and influenced the story. And my love for classic movies also found a way in.
Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share?
I have several favorite scenes! But definitely one of my very favorite scenes is early in the book when Kate and Colton first meet…in Kate’s childhood bedroom. And I’ll leave it at that.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
In From the Start, both Kate and Colton have a very clear picture in their heads of what their lives should look like. And every decision they make in the first half of the book is an effort to make those pictures in their heads a reality. But they both learn, slooowly and at times not-so-smoothly, that God might be weaving together a completely different picture.
I think that’s a theme we can all connect with…because I have a feeling no matter how wonderful our lives may look on the outside, we probably all have that pesky unfulfilled dream or that nagging voice whispering that we’re missing out or a failure we can’t seem to let go of. And so we push back and try to make our dream come true on our own or do ALL the things so we couldn’t possibly miss out or strive and strive for success to cover up that one failure…we try to paint our own pictures and we get frustrated when they turn out smudged and imperfect. And all the while, God is there, saying “Give me the paintbrush, Melissa. Give me the paintbrush and you’ll see what a beautiful picture I can paint with your life.”
Which is my very roundabout way of saying I hope readers take away that sense or understanding that God is at work…that we aren’t living on our own. There’s such peace and confidence in that truth.
What will you be working on next?
I’m just beginning rewrites on my fourth book—woohoo! It’s called Like Never Before and it’s the second full-length novel in the Walker Family series. It features political speechwriter Logan Walker and newspaper editor Amelia Bentley, both of whom appeared in From the Start.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Oh I should mention: If people would like to get a taste of the new series before committing to a full novel, they can check out my free novella, Three Little Words. It takes place in the same town as the whole series and you’ll get an early peek into the Walker family.
Where can readers connect with you?
Pretty much anywhere and everywhere online. 🙂 But here are my favorite hangouts:
Thanks so much, Britney!
Thank you so much, Melissa, for answering my questions! It’s a pleasure to learn more about you and your writing process!!
About the book:
Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn’t kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays…until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.
Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend’s hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he’s lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he’s never really done normal before.
While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it’s like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn’t part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that’s ever happened to them?
Read my review of From the Start: