Friday, January 27, 2012

Melanie Cusick-Jones Guest Post

Who is Melanie Cusick-Jones? (Here's a text written by her!)

"Are you animal -- vegetable -- or mineral?" the lion asked Alice.

Who am I? It probably sounds like a weird question, but as soon as you start doing interviews or telling people about yourself and why you wrote a book, it definitely needs some thought. And it’s not that easy to answer. 

I’m sure potential readers don’t want to know that I prefer dogs to cats, drink tea not coffee, can tidy but not clean…or maybe they do? Perhaps it would give some perfect insight into my writing. Then I have to decide on whether to go with *serious face* professional author interview or something lighter…am I funny, or is that only in my own head?

You can see from the number of questions I have – I’m really not sure who I am when it comes to writing about myself. I think everyone has so many personality facets it’s hard to decide which ones are relevant when you’re asked to write about yourself. It gets even harder when you’re used to focusing on what characters do and how they behave, rather than yourself. I’m sure of my characters, less so of myself it seems.

So maybe I’ll move away from who I am – which is obviously rather confused – and focus on what I do. If you haven’t already guessed, I write J and at the start of 2012 I released my debut novel Hope’s Daughter, a lightly sci-fi YA story. I’ve been writing for a long while now (not including the awful mock Agatha Christie-style play I wrote at school, A Dirty Deed, which is certainly worth forgetting) and it definitely hasn’t been as easy a process as I thought it would. Ideas come easily and quickly…it’s everything else that takes time and hard work.

When I look back at my very early attempts at writing (which are seriously cringe-worthy to read now) you realise that it takes time to get into your stride. It can be very clunky when you begin with lots of repetition and lack of depth in your scenes (sights, sound, smells). Probably one of the hardest things is ensuring that the internal world of the book makes sense, especially once you start describing places and people: I remember in my first book the main character was four different ages within the story at different points, simply because my various references to him didn’t tally correctly. Continuity fail J

I originally began writing really to see if I could do it. After finishing uni I’d read so many books – some great, some not so great – that I wondered if I had what it took to write my own. I had a rough idea of a story and a character and just started tinkering away. Like I said, the first stuff is pretty bad when I look at it now, but it was a first step and I can see how just ‘doing it’ helped me to get better.

Over the last few years, the more I’ve written, the easier it has become: my first attempts flow better, there’s less repetition and I find myself always thinking about the ‘world’ the characters are in, trying to give it texture. Completing your first book is also a big step in itself: it means you’ve created something with a start, middle and ending, that makes sense and ties together. I love writing one-shots for characters and they’re a great way of putting scenes together, but they don’t give you the same challenge as building an entire book does. I suppose its two different skills: one to look at the overall picture and the intricacies of the story to ensure that all the threads run properly through the narrative; the other being able to ‘zoom in for a close-up’ and write the detail of dialogue, thoughts and scenery.

So…here it is…my first novel. Obviously I like it J I just have to wait and see if anyone else does!

Hope’s Daughter

Hope's DaughterLife should be simple for Cassie. 

For the small population of Earth survivors who live on the Space Station Hope everything they do is planned and scheduled, down to the cyclical food menus, their roles in the station, even how many children they have. 
Despite rigid controls directing her life, Cassie feels more out of synch than ever and worries she won’t find a place for herself within the station community. Perhaps that’s because she’s hearing things inside her head that can’t possibly be real. Or maybe it’s the regular elopements of her peers, heading off to a romantic future in the Married Quarter of the space station, whilst she’s never even been attracted to a boy – no matter how hard her best friend Ami pushes them at her. Then there are the odd questions her work placement partner Balik keeps raising. His questions are just as troubling for her as his distracting smiles and eyes that seem to see inside her.
As Cassie draws closer to Balik she finds that everything else in her life begins to shift. He tells her things that call into question the system they live within. She can't believe he is right, but at the same time she finds it hard to deny the sincerity of his ideas. Could there be a connection between Cassie’s problems and Balik’s questions? The truth will drag them both to a terrifying and deadly conclusion beyond anything they could have imagined. 

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