Melissa Smith Gets Jack’d

This time around, Get Jack’d features paranormal romance writer Melissa Smith! Let’s all give a ghostly, angelic welcome!

JW: Paranormal. Paranormal’s the new mystery and I have to say I am quite honored to have a writer of the paranormal romance who is getting quite a lot of awesome praise for her work. Both of your books, Cloud Nine and Thunderhead are getting great praise. The paranormal writer, I find is a special breed of writer – especially those that add a dash of romance into the mix. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to fall in love with a ghost or vampire or other undead or recently dead hottie!

To that end, I’ve always wondered which piece of that remarkable puzzle is the bigger selling point – is it the romance or is it the paranormal? Or … is it simply the perfect mix of the two together that make the audience want to jump out of their skin with delight in the reading? And also – the audience – I’m fascinated. I always seem to think the vast majority of readers of the paranormal romance are the middle aged women. And, I believe I am correct here, that cross section of readers makes up the largest percentage of readers in all of readerdom.

Can you say “built in audience”? Do you think that is the bigger appeal to the genre, or is it just a natural fit, writer to paranormal? It takes a certain type of writer to write creep. I write creep, but I wouldn’t say the zombie genre fits in well with the paranormal romance … well, unless you’re into zombies. 😉

MS: I haven’t written creep, as you say :), since I was in high school. My youngest son is all over me to write a zombie book. I asked him why zombies and he said, “Because mom. They’re cool. And you can make them do anything you want.” He’s also got a few really good ideas too! Who knows, maybe I’ll give it a go then ask your professional zombie opinion before I hit the publish button!

For me, I like to think it’s the combination of romance and the paranormal that bring my readers in. I like to be able to give you a world that resembles our own real one but with a twist. I also have to agree, most romance readers are middle aged women, although I knew of girls in high school who read them. For me, I didn’t pick up my first romance until just three years ago! Before that I was exclusively Sci-fi fantasy. Sure, some of those had a little romance woven in, but it wasn’t the main thread to the story. It was the action and adventure and all the strange and wonderful worlds you traveled that kept me going back for more.

But for Paranormal Romance, I think anyone who understands and appreciates what it is to be with someone can write a romance. So for me I think it is a good and natural fit. When I sat down to write Cloud Nine, I certainly didn’t intend on writing a romance! It was meant to be a sci-fi children’s book if you can believe it! My characters took over! They staged a hijack and I was taken along for the great ride!

I also like the paranormal side of my romances because like my son said, I can make them do whatever I want them to do. There are no rules except the ones I write for them!

JW: That’s wonderful. I find my books often doing the same thing. When I set out to write the I Zombie trilogy I had no idea where it was going to go. But because chaos was to rule the world of the story, I decided to write the book without a net and just let it go where it wanted to go. That was quite a blessing with that particular story. Of course I don’t write everything on the fly. My thrillers (the Fringe Killer series) always have an outline. But that’s a different beast all together.

Have you found that you’ve truly fallen in love with the paranormal romance? Now that you’ve written two successful novels in the genre, I would assume you are a huge fan? Is that all you read? Before I set out to write zombie fiction I was just a gigantic horror fan in general. Now? Zombies are pretty much my passion. I love a good zombie novel, a good zombie movie…hell, I even like some good zombie music (Groovy Ghoulies had some good tunes – like Zombie Crush).

Is the idea of making characters and stories do what you want a big draw for you? When I started writing the first zombie series I would sit down with my pen and paper and say out loud “What kind of trouble can I put these guys in now?” It was a thrill knowing I was completely dictating the world, but in that dictation the characters would then sort of dictate back by how they reacted. Even though the characters weren’t real, their reactions to the situations I put them in would force me to make changes – sometimes their reactions even surprised me!

MS: I really have fallen in love with paranormal romance, but I still like my sci-fi fantasy stories too! My other novel, The Heir Apparent, is sci-fi with almost zero romance in it. (so far anyway ?) The others to follow will have more, but those are another chat.?

I think letting my characters take over is the biggest draw. I like seeing where they run off to and what they get themselves into!

JW: Let’s talk sci-fi. I’m a big fan myself. What I find fascinating about sci fi is the different sub-genres: hard sci-fi, cyber punk, etc. Do you find yourself drawn to reading a particular sub-genre? What about writing sci-fi? What draws you to writing sci-fi?

And of course … the biggest issue of all – does sci-fi sell? I’m a horror writer and I find that horror always has a tough time getting the numbers. The fans are rabid, but there just aren’t the numbers you will find in paranormal romance. What do you think is the cause of this? Do you think book genres are driven by fads created by Hollywood? Take, for instance, the Twilight Saga. Do you think that series of movies is part and parcel to do with the skyrocketing fan base of Paranormal Romance (especially the YA Paranormal Romance) ? Or do you think this has been a genre that has been building steam for some time now?

And a bit of a deeper, darker question. Many authors have been accused of just riding on the coat tails of the Twilight Saga fame and fortune. Do you think that is a reality? Or is this just a thunderhead that’s been building in the background all the while?

MS: I like time travel and steampunk. On the fantasy side I like epic and sword and sorcery. I think The Heir Apparent runs closer to sword and sorcery with steampunkish elements. I agree with you, I do think sci-fi has a harder time selling because there isn’t as big a fan base. Well, unless you write a Lucas like space opera and gain rabid crazy fans, I think it’s more a labor of love than anything else…at least it is for me.

I really think there are several writers out there that have spun tales that I’ve heard do resemble Twilight to some degree. Not that being lumped in with Stephanie Meyer would be such a bad thing, she has a HUGE following, but I made the conscious decision to stay away from her story format. Not because it was bad, but because I just wanted to write something that was all my own.

So I chose Angels! Complete opposite on the paranormal spectrum and while I used some traditional ideas about them, I made a lot of it up. Because after all, its fiction and I can make them as human or preternatural as I want them to be. And mine are flawed. Not perfect, far from it, but fun as hell!

JW: I have a story in the wings that indirectly has to do with angels, but it puts everything people know into a completely different light. I’m a bit concerned because of how deeply people feel about their understanding and passion for religion. Those are toes I hesitate to step on. Did you find yourself concerned with that same issue when you started dealing with angels in your books? And, in the same vein, do you have topics that are simply off limits for you?

Obviously we only have our own personal view with which to gain perspective, but I would think a writer will tackle any subject so long as they feel passionately about it. And although I hesitate, I know I will write that. In the end I want to have explored every possible path I can follow.

MS: Yeah, I worried those die hard angel people who believe that all angels are pure and wonderful, would find my spin on them offensive. My husband’s uncle is a Quaker Minister and even after reading my blurb, while he never actually commented on my book, he didn’t heap praise on me for my accomplishment of having a published work out there for the world to read and enjoy either. Besides him, (whos gonna get into an argument with a minister? Ahh, not me ?) I had to remind a few people who Satan was. He was an anointed cherub of God. The Morning Star. The most beautiful. He didn’t end up all pure and loving. Not to mention he took a third of the angelic ranks with him. That clearly shows that even according to the bible they (angels) have free will. And with free will comes making decisions. And those decisions can either be right or wrong. Mistakes can and will be made. And not everyone will get along. Opinions will clash causing fights and of course, there will be making up after the fight. When you think about it, they’re really not too different from us puny humans.

As I said earlier, my angels are flawed. Mine use their free will all the time. One of them, so filled with hate, will stop at nothing to get rid of whoever’s in their way. I have no problem writing about them. I like knowing I can let my imagination run. I can explore and sit back and watch where they end up.

I don’t really know how to answer your off limits question. I haven’t given much thought to what I won’t write about because I’m too busy writing all the things I want to write at the moment.

JW: Let’s end it on this simple question. Okay, it’s not really that simple … but it’s a good question. Let’s measure success. To some it’s being able to quit their day job and support themselves on the sales of their books. To others it’s just knowing people are out there enjoying their work. What about you? When you die and possibly hang out with the angels you’ve created (good or bad), what will define you as a successful author?

MS: That I still have readers.


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Thanks Jack! This was a lot of fun! I’m so glad I had the chance to Get Jack’d!