Today, I bring you an interview with author Melanie Tillman. Melanie is a writer of Christian Romance. Melanie strives to create female characters who are genuine and flawed, and love stories filled with hope and healing.
Let's get to know Melanie a little bit better.
Tell me about yourself
I’m from the Atlanta area, born and raised. I’m a former English teacher, and I now
homeschool my three kids who are twelve, nine, and seven.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was eight years old, really! I remember my first story was about a friend and I falling
down a rabbit hole into Wonderland. My father was so proud of it, he showed it off to
everyone at church. My dad thought I was a huge talent, but most other adults laughed, and I distinctly remember being angry about that! My dad’s belief in me, however, was a constant.
I think that’s when I decided I wanted to be a writer some day. But as a teacher, I was far too busy to write. Then, when I quit working to stay home with my kids, I thought I would
devote time to writing. Ha! Little did I know! When my kids were very small, there was
barely any time to read books, much less write them, and I thought my dream had died. My
last two kids were born just twenty months apart, and I was just exhausted all the time! Then, about four years ago, I decided to give writing a try again. I would write for an hour at a time while the kids napped. First, it was just short stories and some fanfiction. When I realized, “Hey, I’m still pretty good at this!,” I decided to start on my first novel.
Do you have a favourite book?
I have so many beloved books, it’s difficult to choose! The one that always sticks out,
however, is the novel 'Julie' by Catherine Marshall. I spent New Year’s Eve when I was
seventeen reading that book and crying my eyes out. I barely noticed when the clock struck in the New Year!
Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your work?
Catherine Marshall, who I mentioned above, as well as Francine Rivers are the two authors
that have probably influenced me the most. I love faith-based romances, but I detest when it’s preachy and overly sentimental. Marshall and Rivers both write characters who are so flawed and believable instead of picture perfect “good church people.” They also don’t shy away from tough topics or sex in their books (and I mean sex as enjoyable and a gift from God). I don’t think I could ever reach their level of genius, but it’s the bar I always strive for.
What do you like about writing romance?
I am a self-professed romantic, first of all. I believe in true love and soulmates, probably
because I’m married to my best friend, and absolutely love doing life with him. Human
relationships are far more fascinating to me than mere plot, and I think romance novels -when done well - can be incredible character-driven journeys.
Tell me about ‘The Front Row Series’ and the inspiration behind the books
The Front Row Series follows the life, faith, and great loves of the women who sit on the
front row of Community Fellowship in the fictional town of Lightport, Massachusetts. I grew up in church, and I am now a pastor’s wife, and I know who always sits on the front row: the pastor’s wife, the associate pastor’s wife, the daughter of the pastor, the worship leader - all the people that everyone sees up front all the time. Because of that, everyone thinks they know these women, but there is so much more that people don’t see! People also have a tendency to assume they have lived some sort of sheltered, perfect life, and that is just never true. Everyone has a journey, and everyone - even the pastor’s family - has made mistakes. I wanted to show them as the complex women they actually are.
Can you tell me about your writing process?
I’m definitely a planner. I start by brainstorming the main concept and making a chart of who the characters are. Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but I always create an outline. I usually write chronologically according to that outline, though there’s usually one key scene that comes to me in a burst of inspiration first. For 'What Hindered Love', it was the final climactic scene that I wrote first. For 'The One Who Sees Me', it was the love scene (which I then lost when my computer crashed - that was NOT my finest moment! I was a hot mess.) That’s basically my writing process, but it’s way messier than that in practice. And there’s always that point halfway through where I get writer’s block and think that the whole thing is a mess!
What advice would you give a new author?
Just start writing. I know that sounds so cliché, but it’s true. If you want to start with
something that’s purely fun, like fanfiction, then go for it. Whatever gets your juices flowing. Not everything has to be for publication. Also find a story that you are passionate about. I actually started a novel about a group of teacher’s first, and it was awful and so cheesy. I was trying to write what I knew, but it just didn’t excite me. So I would say instead of “write what you know” - “write what excites you.”
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read! I have been a voracious reader since childhood. I am usually reading two books at a
time, plus some fanfiction. I also am really busy with my kids. Part of the reason I
homeschool is that I genuinely do enjoy their company, and I know this season when they are home doesn’t last forever. I want to be present and in the moment when I am with them, so I have to put the books and devices FAR away during school hours or when we are enjoying family time. (Although another favorite part of homeschooling is all the books I read with my kids!)
Thank you to Melanie for sharing the inspiration behind her work with us. If you would like to check out her books, click on the links below.