Welcome! The book lovers are gonna LOVE this because today we have an author on the blog!
Today we’re chatting to indie author Melody Saleh who is a two-time breast cancer survivor. We’ll be hearing a little more about her writing journey.
Grab yourself a cool refreshment (well your drink of choice), sit back, relax and enjoy getting to know the remarkable author Melody Saleh…
Tell us about your journey to becoming an author
Creative Writing was my favorite class in high school. Maybe it was my teacher—or the topic; I think a bit of both. I got married and had my daughter shortly after graduating so writing was not a priority.
In my professional career, I was lucky enough to write a few articles.
Nothing fun like fiction, but it seemed I had a knack for stringing words together. Even the most boring subjects I could somehow make exciting. I genuinely admire non-fiction writers … I’m much better at using my imagination.
I began writing the first book of my Unbroken Series over 30-years ago. I only wrote the first chapter, inspired by a vivid dream I had the night before. The few I allowed to read it wanted to know— “What happens next?”
Then, life got in the way. A cancer diagnosis along with extensive treatments, divorce, and finding and marrying my soulmate, before I pulled that chapter out and added to it. That was in 2001, right after the Twin Towers fell. I spent that winter creating the four main characters—best friends, and their story. I had many pent-up frustrations and emotions that needed an outlet, so I poured my heart and soul into those pages. As I was coming to what I thought would be the end, the story wasn’t finishing; my characters still had a lot to say.
It was then I decided Facade would become the first of a series.
In my newly wedded bliss, I also became a professional volunteer. I loved helping the community and making a difference. However, in 2008, my first draft sat as I took on my new role as a philanthropist and was then diagnosed with a new primary cancer. I spent that year undergoing several surgeries to combat the disease. The next year, with a new lease on life, my priorities shifted again. We slowed down and began spending our summers in Duluth, MN. My view was the stunning Lake Superior, and the bug bit me again. I spent the summer of 2009 completing my first-round edits, which really was a significant rewrite. We all know what those first drafts look like.
When we returned to Florida, we both picked up golf, and my daughter met the man she would eventually marry. My time again became scarce as I added more volunteer duties to my schedule. I wanted to publish my book, but then again … did I, really? Imposter syndrome is very real. Did I really want to put myself in such a vulnerable position? I can talk myself into and out of just about anything. Excuses keep my pages hidden from view on my desk.
Finally, at the beginning of 2017, I decided—it was time. I went through my manuscript again, fine-tuning the structure, filling plot holes, and roughly outlining what future books might look like. By the summer, I was ready to show it to a few close friends and my husband.
I was firmly against self-publishing, so I set the plan into motion to secure a traditionally published deal.
For the next two years, I followed advice and meticulously sent Facade out to a few publishers at a time.
The waiting game—UGH!
After receiving a few very pleasant and positive rejection letters, so I sent it off to the next group on my list. I had yet to receive word from two ideal publishers by early 2019. They had received my book—the computer showed, In Process.
However, after waiting over a year, I decided self-publishing might be the way to go. September 1, 2019, was my deadline. If I hadn’t heard from either publisher, I would withdraw Facade and enter the world of self-publishing.
As a birthday present to myself, I picked 12/31/2019 as my publish date, so I spent three solid months learning everything I could about the business and plan out a dynamic launch. If I only knew then, even after a full year, I’m still learning everything it entails to be a self-published author. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart—it’s a full-time job … plus.
What was the first book to make you cry?
The first book to make me cry is my all-time favorite “When Rabbit Howls”. It’s the only book I’ve reread several times. The brain fascinates me and reading about Truddi Chase, and her over 99 personalities still intrigues me. It’s horrible what she went through for these different personas to feel they needed to emerge and protect her.
But how the mind works—amazing. I still cry every time I read about it.
What is your favourite childhood book?
I have two, Dr. Seuss—the Cat in the Hat and Winnie the Pooh. To this day, Tigger is still my hero.
Do you read your book reviews and how do you deal with the bad ones?
I do. At first, the bad ones crushed me. Even with several 4- and 5-star reviews, one bad one reared that ugly imposter syndrome head. They don’t bother me now; I realize I can’t be everything to everyone. I know who my readers are—that’s who I write for.
How many unfinished/unpublished books do you currently have?
I’m currently writing a thriller, The Job. I’m in my first round of edits, hoping to finish my second by month end to hand off to my beta readers. I also have Memoirs of the C-Word, which I wrote after my first diagnosis. I need to rewrite parts of it and add my second adventure. There were three of us diagnosed the first time, around the same time, then diagnosed with a second cancer just after celebrating our 10-year cancer-free milestones. Marla got leukemia and passed away quickly.
Marie, one of my best friends, was diagnosed with lung cancer and just passed on January 5, 2021. Me, it was breast cancer again, almost thirteen years ago. I like the title, The Three Musketeers, since all our names start with the letter ‘M,’ however, that one might get me into trouble. My goal is to release four books this year; this one may be one of them. An October release sounds good.
Which book did you spend the most time working on and how much time was spent on it?
I think we established that in the first question. Deja Vu, book 2 of the series, I wrote at the beginning of our COVID quarantine March-April 2020 and released it June 23. The finale of the series, C’est La Vie, I wrote in record time—18 days. I published it on December 1. I could have done so much earlier, but it had been announced as a December release.
The Job, is not going as quickly only because life is trying to steal my time once again. I have several obligations finally coming to an end, so that will no longer be an issue. And for 2021, one of my resolutions is learning to say—NO.
How did you come up with your current book title and please tell us a little about the book?
The Job is not the title I was hoping for, but those two words keep popping up so much within the pages—it’s fitting. I need to come up with a clever sub-title; that’s still a work in progress.
The candidate for the job must have a ninja’s skills, a sniper’s patience, and be as ruthless as a mercenary. The job is to ruin the mark—make him suffer. Destroy his reputation and take everything away from him, including loved ones … but he must live. There are two problems; the mark isn’t who he says he is, and the person hired has ethics. The job will need to be revised.
Dr. Leigh Harris’ research will help millions of people worldwide survive lung cancer once her drug goes to market. Nearing the end of her Stage III trials, all is going better than planned. She can’t save her mother, so her goal is to save everyone else’s. Her husband, Andrew, is the mark. After receiving several threats to himself and his family, he hires a team of bodyguards to keep Leigh safe while continuing his developer duties across the globe. Readers will enjoy the roller-coaster as Dr. Harris narrowly escapes one attempt after another to end her.
Her focus is on getting her drug to market—nothing else matters. Who is Andrew Donovan? What is the job? And who is the gun for hire? Could it be someone close to her? Releasing March-April 2021.
How did you go about getting your first book published and what advice do you have for aspiring authors?
The first book published is answered in the first question—advice I would give … patience and perseverance. Very few authors hit bestseller status right away. I think your chances of winning the lotto are better. Even those rare authors that do, don’t right away. Keep writing and when you’re ready, publish.
If you’re serious about selling books and eventually making it a career, you need to look like those traditional books if you self-publish.
Professional covers are a must. I’ve seen too many handmade covers turn potential readers away and make sure they fit your genre. I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we do.
Use editing software (ProWritingAid premium and/or Grammarly Pro are the two I use), and, have your friends who offer to edit or proof-read take a stab at it. They’ll help save you money when you hire a professional editor. If it’s your first book, I highly recommend getting a developmental edit. If you can’t afford one, at least get a manuscript evaluation.
My editor charges $500 for the assessment, and it’s worth every cent.
Once that’s complete, and you’ve made the modifications you feel are relevant from your editor’s notes, have a professional copy-edit or a proof-read done. Your family and friends will not find most of what needs correcting nor will they know what words may offend people.
Are your characters diverse enough or is their dialogue too similar? Is your timeline concrete, fact-checking … trust me, if you’re serious about a career as an author, find the money and invest in yourself.
I spend anywhere from $3,000-$4,000 per book to ensure it looks and reads like one from the top 5 publishers. English teachers are not qualified to edit your fiction books unless they’ve been trained explicitly as such. We’re allowed fragmented sentences—to a degree.
We write dialogue as it’s spoken—it’s not proper English. Your English professor will edit your book like a term paper. If your book looks and reads like it’s self-published, it will turn many readers off. There are millions of books out there. If you’re going to compete—make sure you have a fighting chance.
Join reading groups and engage. Don’t spam everywhere with your books—everyone does that, and readers are complaining. I’ve seen unsolicited book spam in the worst of places. I get it—people are desperate—don’t do it. One of my favorite groups on Facebook is 50BooksTo50K. Lots of great information and motivation.
The #WritingCommunity on Twitter is a great place to ask questions or sit back and gather information. You’ll also find lots of writer’s lifts and people begging for book recommendations to grow their follower count. It was great a year ago; today, it’s saturated.
Be creative with marketing; if you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll get lost in the sea of literature.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
If I get stuck, it’s because something isn’t flowing correctly. I’ll go back and read the few chapters leading up to that point; the part that needs work always jumps out at me. Once it’s fixed, the words will flow again.
I genuinely believe that ugly imposter syndrome has something to do with writer’s block. We second guess and self-sabotage ourselves to the point we freeze up. Doubt creeps in and stops the words from flowing. When that ugly head rears itself, I pull up reviews and it quickly passes. Self-doubt keeps us humble; we just can’t let it take hold and paralyze us.
At what point, in your opinion, can one call themself a writer?
Anyone who takes the time to write and edit their work until it flows exactly right is a writer. An author is someone who has had their novel, novella or short story published, regardless of how it’s available for purchase. It’s vital for anyone who wants to say, ‘Hey, I’m published,’ to think about the problems they’re causing for those who are serious about their career when they throw their unpolished work into the abyss just to say they did it. This is precisely why self-publishing gets a bad rap.
There are some fantastic books written by self-published authors—many better than traditionally published ones. Those sloppy works compete for the same readers on Amazon (mostly) and other book retailers, which is why so many readers turn their noses up at the words.
Many self-published greats struggle to get recognized. I genuinely wish Amazon did a better job of weeding out those less than stellar books. I realize they’re looking at the dollars. One hundred thousand sloppy books, each getting ten purchasers from family and friends, earn them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Maybe if Amazon had a service that only made a paperback for those who want to see their work in print or different tiers based on quality, many of those books would never compete with serious authors. Reviews don’t work for this purpose because I’ve seen many whose friends and family put up 5-stars, regardless. Or they pay for reviews.
Price point could work; however, I’ve seen poorly written ones priced sky-high at $9.99 for digital and fantastic books at .99¢ because they’re trying to get people to take a chance on them.
I’m not sure what the answer is; however, I think it’s a problem, and it’s getting worse—not better. If you’re in for the long haul, sit back and enjoy the ride. I’m sure at some point, it has to self-correct.
Thank you to author Melody for such an in-depth interview, for taking the time to do this interview and for being my very first author featured on my blog. I am truly honored and wish you all the best with your current and future writing projects.
You are such an inspiration to women like me who one day hope to be authors and have their own books published.
Thank you, the reader for taking the time to get to know this author with me.
Show your support and purchase yourself and your loved ones a copy of some of her wonderful books on Amazon books.
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Also, check out the books on my TBR list for the year.
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Chase those dreams and have an incredible day!
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Until next time…