Authors don’t always publish the first genre they write, and very often the publishing process doesn’t look the way they expected it to. Joy Avery Melville’s journey hasn’t been exactly what she expected, but it’s been fruitful!
What do you write? How/why did you pick your genre.
When I set out to write back in the 70’s, my first full length novel was Historical Romance, since it was my favorite genre to read. I had one full length novel written and had a good share of a second written when God gave me a giant nudge in the direction of Contemporary Women’s Fiction. I don’t even like to read most Women’s Fiction. It is often dark and mostly like to end as dark. Besides, much of Women’s Fiction doesn’t have romance. I enjoy writing romantic encounters and always desire a sigh-worthy or happy-ever-after ending. When God pointed out what He wanted me to write, I stubbornly declined, until His nudges became more and more insistent. I surrendered, but I admit, I begged him for a compromise. I asked if I could write a romantic thread in my story and have a sigh-worthy ending. He gave me His blessing and Meant For Her was written. While writing that one, God gave me the idea of two books to follow it, giving me the Intended For Her Series. Shortly after that He brought something else to my heart and mind in keeping with the Women’s Fiction genre, and Sown In Peace was written right after I wrote Kept For Her (book 2 in the Intended For Her Series) Sown In Peace brought out the possibilities for two more books, giving me a series, Operation Return To Peace. Having written three of the novels in Women’s Fiction, I’m not looking back at what was once my desire to write Historical Romance. God has blessed my obedience, even though there’ve been some spiritual obstacles and hurdles to deal with in the process.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
Keeping the main thrust of the story’s issue/theme uppermost without belaboring it and without taking the fiction out of the novel. Keeping the balance in the work is probably the biggest challenge, but I’m blessed by getting to write romantic threads into my stories, easing the heaviest portion of the books. I also interject some humor throughout my novels via character input.
If you’ve written multiple books, which was the harder: the first book or the following books? Why?
Writing my first book, came easily. Decades later, you could say my first Women’s Fiction genre book was also a first book, because it was so different, and my perspective on life was very different due to a vast array of more experiences. Even though the book took a very different form of research, the writing came very easily to me again.
I consider another type of “first book”, having written series novels now. The first book of each series has been much easier to write than the sequels, due to having to trickle in bits of the first books without telling the entire stories of those preliminary novels in the second ones. I find that to be the largest obstacle in series writing and getting the second book written in such a way to entice readers who haven’t read the first one to go get it, and keep those who’ve read it reminded lightly of what went before in the first novel without boring them with a retell.
What’s your writing day like?
My writing days vary, depending on what I’m doing for whichever novel I’m writing. If I’m at the point where it’s strictly writing, I’m up, thanks to my dog, by 5:30, and after dealing with her, I’m dressed and sitting in my chair at my desk and reading the last chapter I’ve written. Normally, I can dig in and start on the next chapter and its first scene. I usually have everything sitting where I want it in order to just write. My character lists, and any words/terms/phrases specific to characters is with those lists. I also keep my timeline at my other side. It holds a blank calendar of the year(s) the book takes place, and each chapter is listed in pencil on the day it takes place. I say pencil, because I’ve had to change dates upon occasion. Each scene is listed as I write them under the chapter with a very small detail, due to the size of the calendar blocks (usually only character pov is listed with scene number) I write for an hour, get my hubs out of bed, fix his breakfast, spend time with him in prayer, and see if him off to work. I usually grab my coffee and head back to my desk, until Bella-Bindi decides she must go out again. By then, I’ve usually gotten in three solid hours, and my body is ready for a break. My doctors have chastised me for the long sessions at my desk, but my characters are very demanding, and I hate leaving them hanging. I normally take a late lunch, deal with Bella and any mundane things I have to take care of for that particular day and by two o’clock I’m back at my desk for another stint. I don’t usually write after five o’clock, but there’ve been times when I didn’t want to lose a thread, and I go back to it after supper to finish out a scene/chapter.
On days where I need to research, my writing is much more haphazard than the above. I prefer the ones I can just write.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different? Describe your strategy.
The very first thing I do, is determine who my heroine is. Second, I decide what her biggest fear is, her heaviest angst, and what caused them. I get a clear picture of her backstory, often pages of backstory. Then, I determine what is going to challenge her. My second thing is to determine setting, from backstory to present. Next, I set up people she’s going to have to meet to get from backstory to the end of the novel she’s in. Quite often, in the writing, people/characters enter the story, I hadn’t planned on, but usually I have figured out who is going to hold POV and why. Then, I have to plot my poor hero, who has no idea what’s going to hit him. His entire backstory unfolds, and I set him up. From there, I do a synopsis (not one I’d be willing for an agent or editor to see yet) and give myself a preliminary sketch of what will have to happen to get them both from entrance of story to that sigh their sigh-worthy ending with plenty of tension and conflict thrown in. I spend a lot of time on my characters. I’ve been known to spend a full day on digging into the right names… then changing them… if they do something that makes me think the name no longer fits. Crazy as that may sound, I think getting to know my characters, naming them, figuring out why they are the ‘people’ they’ve become, is my favorite part of getting the novel underway. With those types of plotting mechanisms behind me, I’m a pantser. The story unfolds as the characters drive it. There’ve been times, they’ve gone into a place, I’ve had to stop and research, and decide if I really want them doing that or going there, and only a couple times, have I pulled them back out and made them go a different direction. So, that said, I’d say I am a plotter, pantser, plotter to the end of a novel. Lol
If you’re self-published, why did you decide to go that route? If you’re traditionally published, why did you decide to go that route?
I am self-published, or the title most of us prefer using, indie (independently) published. As for why I decided to go that route? I never ever was going to go the indie route. I had a wonderful agent, who worked diligently with and for me. He believed in my story, believed it was a story God had definitely asked me to write, and we both prayed God would put it into the right hands to get it published. While we did that, I wrote the second book of the series, a first book of another, and a first book of yet another. I was offered two different contracts for the first book, but the publisher wanted the Women’s Fiction taken out of the story. They loved the Romance and wanted me to write straight Contemporary Romance. After all the arguments I had with God about even writing the Women’s Fiction genre, I wasn’t going to slap Him in the face and tear it out of the book. When the second first book of a series was pitched, I was offered contracts by those same companies, with the same stipulations. My agent and I prayed so hard about what I should do, and each time he came back with, “If your heart even suggests keeping it in Women’s Fiction, I’m behind you.” There aren’t very many agents who’re willing to let a commission go in order to preserve story. I felt God nudging me into going the indie route, but fear was a big obstacle. I knew nothing about it. My freelance editor has indie published for many years with many books of various genres. She’s a formatting expert, a graphic designer expert, and she offered to do my book covers with me and format my books with me, since I’d been editing books for her for years. I finally prayed, asking God to use my agent again to give me the correct advice. I called him a month later, told him what was on my mind, half expecting him to tell me to wait it out. Instead, he encouraged me to go forward with it, asking that I show him the final cover, blurb, format for approval, even though technically, he’d not be selling it. I went indie. Before the book came out, I got a letter from my agent, dissolving our agreement, releasing me from having to pay him any royalties. I thought God had given me an agent to sell my books, but I firmly believe He gave me an agent for all of the advice, the prayer time he spent on me and my novels, and ultimately to steer me into the indie publishing route.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
The very first thing I do, is hunt out my weasels—overused words—that I just cannot seem to get out of my head once I’ve used them. They vary book-to-book, too. I’m conscious of the ones from my last book, so seem to watch when and how I use them when writing the next one. Then, create new ones in the process. When I’ve finished compiling that list, I work on checking through POV issues, making sure each scene has the right character POV consistently throughout the scene. Then I move on to going through the story itself. I read and reread a chapter, making changes and tweaks as I go. When that’s finished, I double check consistency with setting and character details, sometimes inserting more, sometimes taking out portions. When that’s done, I reread the entire book, often making more changes here or there. Then, it goes to my editor.
What does your revision process look like?
Since my editor and I work chapter-by-chapter, often going through the chapter more than once to be sure every kink is worked out, my revisions take place after each of her edits of a single chapter. Then, when we’ve been through the entire book, I go back and double check for any of those insidious weasels. When that’s done, the book goes to proof reader number one, then I do whatever tweaking is necessary and send the book to proof reader number two. The process has worked fine for the two books that have been through it thus far. We’ll see if that continues to hold true for the next ones.
Joy Avery Melville’s heart’s desire is to be the author God has called her to be by sharing Him with readers in such a way they long to have a deeply committed personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord.
Fully intending to write Historical Romance—had in fact— she had no plans to deviate from that. God had something else in mind for that ‘call’ He’d made on her life back in 1967. A mere eighth grader at the time, she had no clue about the topics she’d be drawn to write about.
Surrendering to the genre God placed on her heart has given Joy new insight into the hearts and lives of those who too often hurt in silence.
The settings of Joy’s books are near where she lives in Schoolcraft, Michigan with her husband of nearly 47 + years and their 21 mo-old Yorkie, Is-A-Bella Bindi, (Is-a-beautiful little girl) who thinks she’s a much larger breed with tomboy tendencies.
Joy loves to hear from readers and will respond!