The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw. Havelock Ellis

Melissa Haag Interview Published on: 25, Nov 2017

What town/city did you grow up in? Do you or your parents still live there? If not, how often do you visit (if you do)?

I’ve always lived in Wisconsin but moved around a lot as a child. I spent my grade school years mostly in southeastern Wisconsin and my middle school years in northwestern Wisconsin. In high school, we relocated to another area in southeastern Wisconsin and stuck to Washington/Ozaukee county since then, where my parents still live. Since we’re only fifteen minutes away, we visit my parents often.

Do you remember the first time you got an idea for a book? What was that idea and how old were you?

My first ideas came in tenth grade English. I may not have been good at grammar, but I excelled at making up stories. My first one was about a girl in the woods with a mother who was abusive (I would like to note, my mom is amazing, and this story did not mimic my life in any way.). Since I’d discovered my mother’s romance books when I was eleven (she always took them away when she found I had them), I’ve been in love with romance novels. So, of course, that first one I wrote for school was a romance.

Who was your first reading audience? What piece of writing did you show them and what was their reaction?

My mom. She’s always supported my writing. She wrote stories too, as did her mother. Neither published at the time because the industry was a lot harder to get into back then. But it was neat to discover my imagination and desire to write was passed down from my grandmother.

What is one of your favorite things to bake?

I love baking in general but usually go for something sweet. I tend to be a bit obsessive about perfecting recipes and, at one time, was asked to please stop baking cinnamon rolls. I’d baked 5 batches in 2 weeks.

What are some things you learned while writing the Judgement of the Six series? Which girls inspired the characters Gabby and Michelle?

The Judgement of the Six series was my very first series. I learned a lot about publishing and marketing with those books. And I learned that I really love writing paranormal romance. I can’t say any real-life girl inspired Gabby, but I put a lot of personality traits from my daughter into Michelle and Bethi (book 3).

If you could steal one of the girl's abilities from this series, whose would you pick?

Michelle’s! I’d be telling my husband stock market tips every time it popped into my head. Charlene’s would be a close second, but I could see myself going to the dark side if I could control people. Lol

Why did you decide to write the Judgement of the Six 'Companion' series?

The companion series was due to reader demand. They wanted to get inside each leading man’s head. It was fun to write from their point of views and twist the stories into something that often didn’t mesh with the girl’s point of views. It felt more true to life that they weren’t as in sync as they thought they were. I’ll be honest, though…I shouldn’t have invested so much of my heart and time into them. The male point of view books never do as well. It was a lesson I learned after I’d already committed to the Companion series.

For your fantasy novels, how do you get into the right headspace and write from their point of view when most of the things you write about don't exist in our world?

Usually, I need to do some mundane task (like dishes or laundry), then the “movie” of the story just starts playing in my head. My imagination is vast and, sometimes, out of control. It’s great for writing stories but not always so nice for a good night’s sleep.

Does your book "The Runes Universe" follow any mythological tale or was it all made up from your head?

Destined Souls is part of the Runes Universe Kindle World developed by my good friend, Ednah Walters, based on Norse mythology. She’d asked me to write in her world to help promote it. If you haven’t read the Runes series, I would highly recommend it. Ednah, who recently passed away September 2017, had an amazing imagination and brought her stories to life in the Runes world. Destined Souls takes place in the past, long before the first Runes book, and can be read independently. I loved researching the Norse myths for this book so much that the series I’m working on for 2018 will also be mythology based.

What was your experience like writing "Reap the Shadow Slay the Light", seeing as though it's darker than most of your work?

HAHAHA! While I was working on the JoS (Judgement of the Six) series, I would often hit a bump in the plot or character development. Instead of letting that stop me, I would work on a “brain-break” story. "Reap the Shadow, Slay the Light” was the first of three such stories. Most of them were because a close fan would say something like, “I would love to read a scary story from you” or “have you ever written anything with warlocks?” So, I ran with those prompts as a surprise to them. All those stories were fun to write. I like seeing what I’m capable of doing well.

Of all the fairytales to rewrite, why did you choose Beauty And The Beast for your A Beastly Tale series?

I love Beauty and the Beast. It’s my all-time favorite. However, it always sat wrong that the enchantress would condemn him to a life of ugliness just because he didn’t like her haggard appearance. Sure, he was shallow, but was that enough to curse him for a lifetime? Not just curse but to say he would die if he couldn’t find love by the time the last petal fell? The punishment seemed overly harsh for the crime. So, when I wrote my Beastly Tales, I made him BEASTLY. His backstory is one he should be ashamed of. He truly lacked any seed of redemption…until beauty comes along. He learns what it is to be kind and caring because of her. It’s not all roses, though. The Beastly Tales resonated with readers so much so that I’m planning more fairy tale retellings in that world.

How do you think your book "Demon Ember" compares with Isaac Marion's "Warm Bodies"? Though following a similar theme, what are some ways in which both books are different? If your book were to be made into a movie as well, which actors would you want to play the characters?

There are not too many similarities, in truth. Warm Bodies is an amazing tale about the decay of society and how love can redeem someone lost to that decay. I loved reading the book and loved the movie just as much, which is often rare in book-to-movie conversions. Warm Bodies and Demon Ember are similar in that they both involve zombies, end of the world survival, and romance. Demon Ember starts out before the end of the world, which is not something all dystopian books give the reader. The reader gets to experience the world as it’s falling apart and the fear that the characters feel living through it. Although I wouldn’t categorize it as horror, it does have a creep/thrill factor to it. Demon Ember is romance at its core, as are the following books, Demon Flames and Demon Ash. I couldn’t begin to pick actors (I don’t want to jinx anything!). But, any actors playing the demons would need to be large, well-muscled, and comfortable without their shirts.

If money and opportunity were available, what is a dream you hope to accomplish?

This is a hard one to answer, mostly because I’m constantly setting goals and working toward achieving them. Some of those goals include fulfilling dreams as they pop up. I wanted to go to Disney (I’d never been) because of my love for fairy tales and my plans to write more. It took a year of planning, budget cuts (mostly in grocery items) to save, but I made it happen just this fall. My new dream will be to get to either Ireland or Iceland. The more I see and learn, the more I can put into my stories. My ultimate dream would be to reach readers on the level of Cassandra Clare or Stephen King. I’ve always wanted to share my stories and imagination and to leave my mark on the world.

How is your day structured?

After the kiddos are off to school, I check my email, do any administrative tasks that need doing, then I start to write. I try not to let social media distract me until lunch when I take a small break before going back to more writing.

Have you ever had a really bad idea for a story? If so, did you come to the realization yourself or did someone have to tell you? How do you sort out the good stories from the bad ones now?

I have lots of ideas floating around in my head that would make terrible stories. Most I recognize for what they are. Some I’ve started writing to realize within a chapter that the story wouldn’t work. I sort through them by asking myself if it was something I’d want to read. If not, I toss the idea aside and move to something else.

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