With a last name like Romeo, you’d think that today’s guest was a romance author. But she’s our next spotlight on women who write horror. Melodie Romeo is featured in State of Horror: Louisianna and Paying the Ferryman, both coming soon from Charon Coin Press. Today she’s going to share some of her thoughts on inspiration and how she manages to balance her writer life with her “real life.” I hope she can give me a few pointers in that arena…
What influences your stories?
A writer can find settings, characters, plot, action, and themes for her stories all around her. I have had the opportunity to travel a great deal within the US and spent much time in many locales that have provided me with rich settings and interesting people. But I am an historian and find that I am probably most influenced by history. To me, the most frightening tales, the most horrifying monsters, the vilest villains, are those that were – or are – real. When I set out to write my first work of horror, I looked at history’s antagonists for the most evil sadist I could find. A lot has been written about Hitler, and I wanted to go farther back in time. That is when I came upon Vlad the Impaler, the original Prince Dracula. There is no comparison between Bram Stoker’s fictional vampire and the real life mass-murdering tyrant, so I settled on him as my bad guy. Admittedly, the title Vlad, a Novel is not terribly original, but I wanted people to immediately recognize who the book was about. I also include a part of myself in many of my stories’ heroes, as well as drawing on physical or personality traits of people I know. Sometimes I am influenced by qualities I spy in the works of other writers. I find that the sum of my accumulated knowledge and life experiences influences my stories.
How do you balance writing and the realities of life?
Balancing a writing career with the realities of everyday life can be quite challenging, but you can usually find time to do the things you are most strongly motivated to do. When I was teaching high school, I would always carry the notebook with my current project to take advantage of before and after school as well as planning periods. In those days I never went anywhere without my notebook and pencil (but today I admit have come to depend on the conveniences of a laptop.) Some of my best work was done at the lake where I would go fishing with my partner on Saturdays. Well, I wouldn’t actually be fishing – I would be sitting nearby enjoying the atmosphere, writing away, a pile of reference books within reach. My children always came first, but I quickly learned to incorporate them into the process. Often the “bedtime story” would be a chapter out of one of my novels and as they got older they became a source of inspiration. When working on historical fiction or fantasy, my son would be a creative sounding board, suggesting something more exciting. My daughter is a connoisseur of horror who has been a real inspiration to me in this genre. She says, “You need something exciting or intriguing on the very first page – then later you can add in all that historical background of yours. If a story doesn’t catch my attention on the first page, I don’t read it.” I am also blessed with a remarkable partner who spent many years as a professor’s assistant. She gets in on the action, lending her superb proof reading skills and word choice suggestions as she is the most well-read person on the planet. By always taking advantage of spare time to write and including my family in the process, I have been fairly successful balancing my writing with my professional and family responsibilities.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing or what was the hardest part about writing your story?
Every composer knows that there are only 12 notes in the chromatic scale and a finite number of ways to arrange them. Likewise, with so many millions of stories that have already been told, the most challenging aspect of writing for me is to come up with something original. One of my college professors said, “To be successful you need to say something that hasn’t been said yet, or say it in a different way.” When jotting down various plot outlines for Paying the Ferryman, everything seemed a bit too familiar. So I said to myself, “What can I do that is different?” That’s when the thought crossed my mind that the main character, the dead person, be the villain instead of the hero. I also suffer from being a perfectionist. I have book shelves full of unfinished manuscripts because once I got to a certain point I decided, “This story is so lame.” In short, I find that the most challenging aspect of my writing is creating a finished product in which I can be satisfied.
About Melodie Romeo is a native of Vicksburg, Mississippi. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree in History from the University of West Florida. Ms Romeo is a retired school teacher who currently travels the country as an over the road trucker with Prime, Inc. Her first book, Vlad, a Novel, was published in 2002. She has short stories published in anthologies by Seventh Star Press and Charon Press. The mother of two, she resides in Utica, MS with her partner of 18 years.