Hi Melinda, I’d like to thank you for joining me here this week. Melinda is the author of Appalachian Justice and Return to Crutcher Mountain. Melinda is kindly offering two eBook copies of Appalachian Justice and one eBook copy of Return to Crutcher Mountain to lucky entrants this week so be sure to read the interview, check out the review of Appalachian Justice and comment here to enter. Then cross your fingers and hope you’re one of our lucky winners.
Melinda, where did the idea for Appalachian Justice come from? What was your inspiration?
Hi Tracy! Thanks for having me. The inspiration for Appalachian Justice came from a couple of different places. My mother’s family is from West Virginia, just outside of Charleston. We used to visit every summer and I fell in love with the culture and the area. When I hear Billy May’s voice in my head, it’s my grandmother’s voice I’m hearing.
The troubling incidents in the book are sort of a conglomeration of different issues I’ve unfortunately come across in my years as a psychotherapist. So many people don’t believe things like these really happen, but they do. I have so much admiration and respect for the strength and tenacity shown by the many people with whom I’ve worked over the years.
How long did it take you to write and publish Appalachian Justice, from first idea until you had the printed or eBook copies in hand?
I’d mulled over the plot for a few months before I started writing. Truthfully, I was a little afraid of the story. I knew it would be disturbing, but I also felt it needed to be told. Once I started writing it took around eight months to complete, and another couple of months for publication.
You published Appalachian Justice with Vanilla Heart publishing. Are they also your publisher for Return to Crutcher Mountain?
They are. I’ve had a wonderful experience with Vanilla Heart and I’m hoping they’ll be interested in my next novel as well.
Which character from Appalachian Justice is your favorite and why?
Without a doubt, Billy May Platte is my favorite character. I know it’s a cliché, but I really felt haunted by her during the writing process. We spent a lot of time together and she was very real to me.
I have to admit I haven’t read Return to Crutcher Mountain, though it’s on my schedule in about ten more days. Can you give us a little of the story to it? Are any of the characters from Appalachian Justice in it or is it merely set against the backdrop of Crutcher Mountain with an entirely new cast of characters?
Return to Crutcher Mountain picks up with Jessie and catches up with a few of the other characters as well. As told in Appalachian Justice, Jessie experienced horrible abuse as a child and she still struggles with some of the fallout as an adult. Jessie wants to heal, but she just isn’t sure how to go about it.
To fulfill Billy May’s dying wish, Jessie built the Platte Lodge for Children on top of Crutcher Mountain. The Lodge is a respite facility for children with developmental disabilities. When Jessie is mysteriously summoned back to investigate a strange series of events, she surprises herself with her connection to the children at the Lodge. As she searches for answers, she has an opportunity not only to help the children, but to help herself as well.
There’s an element of mystery to Return to Crutcher Mountain. What I’ve gotten from readers so far is that it’s a very different sort of story, touching in its own way but not as dark as Appalachian Justice is.
People think places like Crutcher Mountain and its small, West Virginia community only exist in literature, what has your experience been? Are towns and people like those in Appalachian Justice real?
That’s a great question, and I’ve had some interesting experiences since publishing the book. Some people insist towns and places such as those no longer exist, while some people deeply identify because it reminds them so much of home.
From my personal experience, I can say that although Cedar Hollow is fictional, there are many such towns – and people – that still exist in the country today. As a recent college graduate back in 1989, my first job was as the supervisor of case managers at a rural mental health facility in Tennessee. I worked with people who had dirt floors, no indoor plumbing, no electricity and no running water. Some of my clients cooked over a dugout fire pit in the front yard. Some of the abuse cases I worked with were absolutely horrifying and still affect me to this day. We don’t like to think that people in our country still live in such circumstances, but they do.
What has surprised you most about being a published author? Also, what thing were you least prepared for as a published author?
I have to laugh at the question because honestly what surprised me the most is that people would actually read what I wrote! I don’t think I really expected anyone to. What I was least prepared for was marketing. I’m an introvert; I don’t like to put myself out there, so that’s a real struggle for me.
What piece of advice would you like to offer aspiring authors?
One of the most helpful things I’ve done is to join an online writing group. I’ve learned so much from that group. They offer constructive criticism, advice, resources, and an endless supply of support. I look at the stories and articles I wrote for them three or four years ago and I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. It’s really hard to look at our own writing objectively, so it’s very important to seek out helpful critiques from others.
Think fast, quick questions:
Favorite fast food? Big Macs!
Favorite pizza toppings? Mushrooms – yum.
Pepsi or Coke? Coke (diet)
Favorite kind of chocolate: dark, milk or white? Dark.
Which color of M&Ms do you eat first? Blue!
Favorite comfort food? Potatoes in any form (mashed, chips, baked – doesn’t matter).
Favorite genre other than your own? True crime – my dirty little secret.
Favorite fictional character and why is he/she your favorite? The first one that popped to mind is Minny, in Katheryn Stockett’s The Help. I just finished reading it on our fourteen hour trip back from visiting my parents in Tennessee. I loved her chutzpah. She was strong and fierce and loyal, a force to be reckoned with.
Check out Melinda’s blog at http://authormelindaclayton.xanga.com
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Melinda Clayton is a licensed psychotherapist and freelance writer living in central Florida. Her vast experience working in the field of mental health gives her a unique perspective on human behaviors, and she likes to explore this dynamic in her writing.
Melinda has published over twenty articles and short stories in various print and online magazines, and is currently in the dissertation phase of an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration. Appalachian Justice is Melinda’s first novel.
In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, reading, and being the loudest mom at the soccer field.