Another Author of the Month at MyShelf.Com

Author of the Month
Melissa S. James [October 2004]
Chosen by reviewer Janet Elaine Smith, MyShelf.Com

     Melissa S. James is a traveling nurse, and her book Stolen in the Storm is a great mystery, very much in the tone of Mary Higgins Clark. She lives in New Mexico with her adopted daughter Sarah, her husband Will, and a whole menagerie of animals. Her other book, American Woman American Strong, is reminiscent of the events surrounding 9/11. Both books have been reviewed at MyShelf.com.


Interview

Janet: Can you tell us who Melissa S. James really is? What makes you “tick”?

Melissa: Melissa S. James is Jamie Elizabeth Smith, a 50-year-old nurse, the mother of a 12-year-old daughter, the wife of an old farmer. Just the everyday, run-of-the-mill neighbor who will bake a pie for you if you're having company or your dog died, or will watch your horses or water your yard if you've got to be out of town. I get really agitated over abuse. Doesn't matter if it's abuse of children, the elderly, or "the system". I seldom meet a stranger, and I want to know your life story within an hour of having met you. I applied for a job recently, and one of the two nurses interviewing me said to the other "I think with this woman, what you see is what you get." I think that sums me up, Janet. I'm not fancy. I'm just me.

Janet: How long have you been writing, and what got you started?

Melissa: All my life! I remember having a collection of stories I wrote as early as the second grade. My younger sister still tells of our long walks to school during which I would entertain her with my "dreams" which were really stories I made up as we went along! I sold my first story in the 7th grade to a rag called "Scholarly Scribbles" for fifty cents, and rejoiced because I was a paid, published author!

 

Janet: Your first book, American Woman, American Strong, is very different from Stolen in the Storm. Which did you enjoy writing more, and which type of writing do you plan to pursue?

Melissa: Oh Janet, both those books are so near and dear to my heart. American Woman American Strong was my response to 9/11/2001. I couldn't sleep for days after the attack and finally found peace when I started walking Arianna through it! My dear Aunt Freda recognized that I wrote Stolen in the Storm to help me (when I was already a grown woman in the later half of her life!) deal with the abuses of my childhood, the abuses of my first marriage, the death of my daughter, and the adoption of my 2nd child. Both American Woman American Strong and Stolen in the Storm were therapeutic for me. The other books I have written have been written because I've discovered the storyteller in me NEEDS to live. They are more like Stolen in the Storm because they are romance novels with more than a hint of mystery to them. I have discovered I love writing the mysterys!

 

Janet: Who do you consider your favorite author? Do you have a writing “mentor”?

Melissa: Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb (ha ha one and the same), Mary Higgins Clark, and Sharon Sala. (I've only read one book by Sharon Sala. I loved it.) Yes, I have a writing "mentor". I don't even know if she knows she's my mentor. Her cheery little emails lift me when I'm feeling low. She has called Barnes and Noble stores on my behalf to encourage me when she knows I'm a little low. Thank you, Janet Elaine Smith, for taking me under your wing!

 

Janet: I read Stolen in the Storm and it was spellbinding from the first page until the last page. I know you are a traveling nurse. How much of the book was based on your own personal experiences in your career?

Melissa: Thank you for those kind words, Janet! I'm so glad you found Stolen in the Storm spellbinding. I would have to tell you that about 30% of the book was based on my own personal experiences in my career. Unfortunately, no handsome doctor ever swept me off my feet and helped me solve all my problems!

Janet: What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Melissa: Oh Janet, my biggest challenge has been overcoming my own low self-esteem! I was married for 25 years to a man who would say "Why would anyone want to read anything you could write?" when he would catch me writing. I bought everything he told me I was. (Stupid, fat, ugly to name a few.) Six years ago, I married my old farmer. One day he found me looking at a manuscript. "I've always wanted to write a book," I very shyly told him. That day he went out and bought me a computer.

 

Janet: And your biggest reward?

Melissa: My biggest reward was the day my daughter (then eleven-years-old) called me at work. Now, I've been writing all of Sarah's life (sometimes clandestinely). The proof copy of my first book had arrived in the mail that day. Sarah called me and said: "Mom! Guess what? You're an author!" The awe in her voice filled my heart, and that particular bubble is still there! There has been no taking that first proof copy from that child. Her pride in me has made every struggle worthwhile! My husband cried (tears of joy) for me when I got the first review (Nina Osier wrote that review) on American Woman American Strong. Their pride in me is my biggest reward.

 

Janet: Stolen in the Storm has a very Mary Higgins Clark feel to it. Do you ever get nightmares while you are writing a book like that? Or do you stay awake so you won’t?

Melissa: I don't have nightmares. I adopted my daughter while I was working as a travel nurse in Corpus Christi. My mother called me up and said "I just want to know if any part of this story is true." I said "Mom, writers write what they know!" "Oh my God!" she said. I think my Mom still expects the FBI to come knocking on my door looking for my daughter. They won't.
I adopted her all nice and legal!

 

Janet: Has your family been supportive of your writing?

Melissa: My writing has brought a new relationship to my mother, one of my sisters and myself. I sense a pride that they have never had in me before. My husband and daughter have been extremely supportive. A couple of my husband's nieces have been absolutely wonderful. But, of course, there are those who, for reasons I cannot understand, whisper that I'm never going to make it as a writer.

 

Janet: What has surprised you the most about the book industry since you have entered it?

Melissa: I don't think anything has surprised me, Janet. I knew it would be a tough, competetive business.

 

Janet: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?

Melissa: No, I don't! In fact, my brain is always working overtime and I have more cards with story ideas than I will ever get the books written. I have heard of writer's block, and I suppose one day I may suffer with the affliction. If I do, I will be calling my mentor, and after a good laugh, I'm sure I'll move on.

 

Janet: When you have a “down day” in the book business, what do you do to get over it?

Melissa: I go out and sit in a swing and watch the sun sink over the mountains across the valley from my home. I remind myself that the sun will come up in about twelve hours and we will have another opportunity to start over. No use whining or sulking. Whining and sulking won't sell any more books than looking for a new opportunity will. (Scarlett O'Hara and I have that in common. We'll worry about it tomorrow.)

 

Janet: What is next from Melissa S. James?

Melissa: I am so glad you asked! I have an exciting book called Solomon's Choice which I am ready to send to the publisher. This is the story of a woman who loses custody of her child to an abusive ex-husband who takes the child to New Zealand and she doubts she will ever see her again. She vows that one day she will have a child no man can take away from her. Through many twists and turns, she meets a man who is in a vegetative state in a nursing home. (A jealous husband arranged a car bombing in which he was hurt, but not killed). Every day Solomon "spanks the monkey". Hailey takes some of what he discards and artificially inseminates herself. Just about the time she finds out she's pregnant, Solomon wakes up! The judge decides that the custody of the baby will be up to Solomon.

And I have a book about 7/8 finished called Daddy's Angel. It is the best of my stories, but I'm not ready to talk about it yet!

 

Janet: Any words of advice for new authors?

Melissa: If the going gets tough, look inside yourself. I know I set up roadblocks to keep from being successful for a long, long time. When someone finally believed in me, I broke the chains and I'm running now!

 

Janet: What would you like to tell your fans about yourself?

Melissa: Saying "If I can do it, you can do it" sounds so trite, Janet. I want to tell my fans that I'm just an average woman (maybe with an overactive imagination). I love to hear from my fans. I keep scap books, and I read and re-read every e-mail very often. I like horses, miniature animals, roses and chocolate. I hope that I can always create books that everyone will find as exciting as you found Stolen in the Storm. Also, I'm going to be in New Mexico signing books in July. Waldenbooks in Farmington on July 16th and Hastings in Albuquerque on July 24th this year. I'd love to see any of my friends then!

Janet: If you could wave a magic wand over your books, other than making the New York Times bestseller list, what would you wish for?

Melissa: E-mails from people who have read my books. If my books can brighten a day, or take someone from 'hum-drum' to magic, I will know I have been successful. Of course I want to make the bestseller list, but more than that I want to make a difference, if only for an hour, in someone's life.

 

Janet: Thanks much. I look forward to your next book. Keep on writing. Mary Higgins Clark, look out! Melissa James is on her way!

Melissa: Thank you, Janet! And Mary Higgins Clark, it is an honor being compared to the woman who used to be my mother's favorite author!


Reviews

Stolen in the Storm
By Melissa S. James
PageFree Publishing, Inc
Feb. 2004
ISBN: 158961142X
Trade Paperback
Mystery / Romance
Buy a Copy

Reviewed by Janet Elaine Smith , MyShelf.com

    Karissa Carpenter, travel nurse, is working at the nursery in a hospital in Corpus Christie when a baby is missing. When the detectives find her watch in the missing baby's crib, Karissa becomes the prime suspect, especially when they find out that babies had disappeared in three other places where she was working.

      Karissa has many skeletons in her closet, including a husband whose suicide attempt turned him into a vegetable, a baby of her own who died under suspicious circumstances, and strange clues that keep turning up. All of the catastrophes involving babies took place during storms, including her own baby's death.

     Dr. Braden Marcison comes to Karissa's rescue, first convincing her that he believes in her innocence, and then convincing her that she is still capable of loving and feeling. He eventually recruits his parents, who are top-notch lawyers, to help her in her pursuit of the truth.

    The problem is that Karissa is not sure that she is innocent. Could she have had some form of amnesia and have actually taken the babies? If so, what did she do with them?

    This book is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat read from page one. While Melissa James is a new writer, she could give Mary Higgins Clark a real run for her money. She keeps you guessing, through numerous twists and turns and a variety of secondary characters that are as endearing as the primary ones. There are more suspects than there are chapters in the book.

    This is one of the most engaging mysteries I have read in a long time, and the end has a definite twist. You will fall in love with Karissa and Braden, and you will be as supportive of her as Braden was. Highly recommended.

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Booklist -AmazonCom-
Stolen in the Storm [review]
American Woman American Strong

2004's Honorary List

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