Today, I bring you an interview with Contemporary Romance author Melody Saleh. Melody is the creator of 'The Unbroken Series'. Readers have described Melody's books as fast paced, exciting, and sexy. Melody describes her books as 'Sex in the City' meets 'Fifty Shades'... (without the Red Room). Lets find out a whole lot more about this author, and her work.
Tell me a bit about yourself
I’m 58-years young and a native Floridian. I live in paradise nine months out of the year; why would I want to live anywhere else?
In April 1998, at the young age of 35, I was diagnosed with Stage II, Triple-Negative breast cancer. I was healthy … a previous bodybuilder and aerobics instructor; it dumbfounded me—I certainly didn’t feel sick. The chemo and radiation changed all that. I lost my hair (I say I went through puberty twice) and that healthy glow. The positive… cancer gave me a serious attitude adjustment. I was a self-employed single mother trying to be superwoman and do everything on my own. I kept my independence, it helped me cope and have hope, but I let friends and family take on some responsibility. I think it helped them feel less helpless with my illness.
I met my wonderful other-half just before my second-year cancer-free milestone. He said he wished he had known me then—he wanted to help me through one of the most challenging times in my life. Be careful what you wish for… in July 2008, just shy of 3-months after celebrating my BIG ten-year cancer-free (YEAH! I’m officially in remission), I was diagnosed with a new primary on the other breast; this one was Stage I, ER/PR+. I knew immediately I would have a double mastectomy with reconstruction. My silver lining … I’d get bigger, perkier ones.
I feel blessed and thankful for the gift of life. I look forward to every birthday—they’re gifts. Twenty-two years ago, I didn’t know if I’d be here today. I got to see my daughter graduate from high school, get married, and fulfill her dream of becoming a mom herself. Meeting and loving my grandchildren have been one of my greatest triumphs. They fill my heart—even when they’re a little bad.
I was so grateful to turn 40, then 50, and now in two-years, 60. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I plan to have zero regrets, enjoy every day is if it’s my last, and take fear out of my vocabulary. Every day my feet are on this side of the ground is a great one. Life is a gift.
How long have you been writing? Full-time, a little over a year. Ever since my Creative Writing class in high school, I’ve loved stringing words together. My executive career days entailed some official authorship, mostly technical stuff, and a few articles. During my chemo experience, I wrote and published a poem, Chemo’s Not For Sissies, in a local cancer magazine.
Do you have a favourite author?
Stephen King is, hands down, my all-time favorite—except his horror novels … I can’t read those. I also love Dan Brown’s thriller novels. I enjoy trying new authors, self or traditionally published, and some greats. I love getting lost a great book.
What do you love about your chosen genre?
I write Contemporary Romance with a bit of angst and am currently writing a thriller. We all love a happy ending. We don’t always get it in life, so if we’re going to escape in a book, I want love to conquer all or the good guy/girl to win. But I don’t want it to be easy. As a roller-coaster enthusiast, I want my novels to have incredible highs, then fast drops with a quick twist before we settle back as the car, click, click, clicks to the top before the next big drop. These are also my chosen genres to read as well.
Can you tell me about ‘The Unbroken Series.’
It’s a mash-up of Sex and the City and Fifty Shades… without the red room. Four best friends, Amber, Debra, Dominque, and Zya, help each other through a myriad of life’s problems, romantic entanglements, and celebrations.
Amber, a successful journalist, can’t get one of her interview subjects out of her head. He teases her in her dreams, night after night. They are perfect for each other—the stars are in alignment—or are they? Every time they get closer, they get pushed two steps apart. Throughout the series, Amber’s vindictive twin sister Brandy comes back to get revenge. However, when Amber finds herself in the middle of a homicide investigation, Brandy may be her only salvation.
Newly pregnant Debra is the perfect homemaker and mother to her young daughter. Her organized life suddenly spirals out of control as she faces tragedy. While in shock and grieving, she finds comfort where she least expects it. Her psychiatrist Brian, and Italian heartthrob, Roberto, who she met while in Milan at Zya’s show, both promise friendship, but they want more. She never wanted to be in the middle of a love triangle; now they want her to make a choice. Does she say yes to the right one?
Dominque struggles to make a better life after being bounced around foster homes as a kid. At sixteen, she fled the abuse of her then father only to find the world was a cruel place wherever she turned. Her long legs and ginger locks got her noticed—but not in the right way.
Modeling was her meal ticket out of the gutter, but at what cost? After struggling with anorexia, her friends finally have an intervention. Zya would never have allowed her to model the wedding gown in her Milan show had she known how bad it was.
As she pulls herself up from hell, one rung at a time, a mysterious stranger enters her life. He’s everything she doesn’t want … but he’s exactly what she needs. What will it take for him to win her heart?
Zya, an immigrant from South Africa, is the next up-and-coming fashion designer. Her business is booming; her beautiful daughter is top of her class—life is great. Until Zya’s ex decides he wants back in her life. She finally lets him go, but not if he has any say in it. And he’s not exactly the kind you say no to. While staying strong to keep him at arm’s length, her daughter becomes the victim of a hate crime. She follows the consensus, “They’ll just go away, eventually,” and ignores her tyrants. Until one day, walking home from school, she cuts through the park… Someone’s life is left in the balance as an ambulance rushes from the very place where the town’s children play. Zya finds love and comfort in the last place she’d ever think to look. Her new confident challenges everything she thought she knew about love and acceptance.
Can you describe your writing process? One day I’ll have a schedule. Maybe…
When I’m writing my first draft, I try to write as much as I can every day to keep the story flowing. If life doesn’t get in the way, I can write a 75k manuscript in 2-weeks. As I mentioned earlier, I like lots of excitement and twists in my stories, so I know when I’m writing that first draft, it will be heavy on those highs and in need of adding more lows. I try to stop around 75k only because I know I’ll add another 10-15k in my first edit round. I’ll see areas I need to fill plot holes, add more emotion, and a bit of backstory. Those places that allow my readers to calm their racing hearts, blow their noses, or take a bathroom break are necessary. My first draft is like watching a movie—it takes everything for my fingers to keep up as it plays in my mind.
During my second round of edits, I go line by line, pulling out all unnecessary words, rewriting sections for better flow, and round out the story. These two rounds of edits take me anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.
My beta readers get it next. I give them 3-weeks to read and review the manuscript. During this time, I try to catch up on my marketing and other responsibilities or begin the next book. I take a few days to make any changes or additions based on their feedback.
Finally, it goes to my editor for copyediting. If I’ve planned everything correctly, she’s ready and eager to get her hands on it and will have it back to me within 2-weeks. Someday when that schedule becomes a reality, I’ll be publishing books every 3-months. Eventually…
What does literary success look like to you?
The New York Times bestseller is what I strive for one day. However, success is having my readers contact me at all hours, telling me they just finished one of my books. They can’t wait to tell me their thoughts. Waking up to texts my readers send at all hours, telling me they just finished—they couldn’t put it down. One reader snuggled in bed with Deja Vu, and the next thing she knew, her alarm was going off. It was 5:30 a.m.—she had to get up for work.
I love to write, but I don’t do it for myself. I do it because it gives others pleasure. Especially in our crazy world right now, I’m so proud to give my readers an escape—even if for just a little while. My books provide them with a chance to forget their troubles. As long as I have readers who want my books, I’m successful.
What advice would you give a new author?
Patience and perseverance are a must. Imposter syndrome will rear its ugly head, no matter how hard you try to fight it. Even bestseller authors struggle with it from time to time. Every piece you write will be better than the one before. There’s no such thing as perfect; you’ll always strive to do better.
You’ll never know which book will be your breakthrough novel. It won’t be your first (extremely rare); it might not even be your eighth. Keep at it—don’t give up.
When you’re ready to publish, make sure your book is the best it can be—remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. A professional cover is a must. Unless you’re a graphic designer, pay for a cover. We can tell when it’s homemade, and it’s a big turnoff to readers. It will scream, ‘self-published,’ and in a world where you’ll be competing with millions of other titles, people choose a book from its cover.
Second, please make sure it’s as free of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors as possible. There are excellent editing software programs to help you. Invest in yourself. I always recommend having a professional editor do a copyedit or proofread. I know they can be expensive, but readers will know when you don’t. An English teacher is skilled at editing term papers; unless they’ve had specific training, they’re not fiction editors. If you want your book to be its best, take the time and make sure it has a fighting chance in the vast sea of competitors.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I’m an avid golfer. I didn’t start until I was 49; I regret starting so late in life. I love being outside and the camaraderie, so I play 3-4 times a week. I walk the golf course in the cooler temps (our summers are brutal), so I get exercise at the same time. I play early in the morning, so I’m home by 1:00 p.m., at the latest, which allows me to write or edit for the rest of the day. My day stops at 6:00 p.m. every night to spend with my husband. We also play golf together two mornings a week. We’re celebrating 20-years later this year—he’s my Prince Charming, best friend, and President of my fan club.
Sundays are for bubble baths and reading … that’s ‘me’ time.
Thanks to Melody for chatting with us, and giving us an insight into her life, and her work. If you would like to check out her books, click on the links below.