This month, we talk to author Melissa Savage about her new novel, Nessie Quest. In this interview, we learn about what inspires Melissa and what she would tell her younger writing self.
This month, Melissa Savage has challenged us with a hidden creature writing exercise.
For those of you who have read one or more of Melissa’s books, you know that she loves to write about cryptozoology, the study of hidden creatures. And in each book, you will learn about a new creature. “I love writing about them because we are continually finding new species on our planet every year and I find that fascinating. I love researching and writing about new discoveries – real or imagined. Now I have a creature inspired writing prompt for you.”
PROMPT: Imagine you are watching a live webcam feed of the Mars Rover and in a split second, you see a glimpse of a creature on the screen, but no one else seems to see it and it’s never reported in the news. What did you see? What would you do? Would you doubt yourself or second guess what you think you saw? What if no one believed you? How would you think differently about the world?
Aim for between 350 and 1000 words. Submit your response here. You might be published on our website!
An Interview with Melissa Savage
What inspired you to write Nessie Quest?
Because of my love of the subject of cryptozoology, I knew there would be another hidden creature lurking in there somewhere. Additionally, I have also met so many amazingly talented young writers during my travels and wanted to highlight an enthusiastic young writer’s journey as they search for their story. There is also one very special character in the story who has a disability. Hammy Bean Tibby is blind. He was inspired by someone very special to me, my mom. My mom has been blind ever since I was very young. I’ve learned many things about how people who are blind and visually impaired navigate their way, one being echolocation, which is seeing with sound. Amazingly enough, echo location is also one of the techniques used by researchers in their quest to find the Loch Ness Monster, the hidden creature that is said to lurk in the dark, murky waters of the Loch Ness in Scotland. My mom was integral to my process while I created this very special character. It was important to me to make sure that he was authentic and real. I spoke with others in the blind and visually impaired community as well to make sure that Hammy Bean felt genuine to them. Including introducing some of the adaptive technologies used and also the feelings they voiced about their unique experiences of being treated differently.
What do you do when you get stuck or hit a wall when writing?
First off, I’ve learned what time of day is the best time of day for me to write. I know now that I’m the best writer I can be in the mornings, as soon as I get up. If I pick up my computer at four o’clock in the afternoon, I don’t have any ideas! Paying attention to when I’m most productive naturally has been important for keeping the momentum going.
The other thing that helps me is research. I know research can sound like a boring word, but I think writing research is so much fun, because you’re researching your own story which is exciting. That might mean researching a particular subject matter or time period or more about a character. I actually use YouTube a lot for writing research. If you can move past all the unhelpful things and distractions on YouTube, it can be a great place to learn! My book coming out in January is a mystery about a haunted hotel, so I researched haunted houses and what spirit guides are and what people think about them. Once I got that information, I went back to my story and back to my character, and I was able to have her start talking about those things that I learned. When I’m stuck, research always gets me going again.
Have you ever had to make big changes in a manuscript you were writing?
Yes. Changes happen all the time and they can be so hard to make! With Nessie Quest, I got a little carried away and wrote too many words. My editor came back to me and said, “you’ve got 24,000 words too many. You have to go through the manuscript and cut what’s not necessary.” That was very daunting at first. But after I did it, I found that the story flowed so much better. Sometimes information is placed within the story that actually stops the momentum and gets in the way. You have to make sure everything in your story is there for a purpose and works to propel it forward.
Do you have a favorite writing snack?
Oh, I do. I eat marshmallows right out of the bag… at least on my bad days!
Tell us about a highlight in your life as a writer.
Honestly, I never thought I would get published, and the way I got published was so unexpected. I sent in 20 pages of Lemons to a contest and as it turns out, a literary agent was running this contest. She contacted me and told me she loved my story and wanted to see the whole manuscript! So I sent it to her and she liked it and wanted to sign me on. That was the first unbelievable thing that happened. Then we sold the story to Penguin Random House two months later! It has been an amazing journey and I’m so lucky I get to do something I absolutely love doing, because not everybody gets to say that.
What would you tell your younger writing self?
Never, ever stop learning how to be a better writer. Even though I have my fourth book coming out in January, I continue to read books on the craft of writing and I continue to take classes. There is so much to learn and discover about writing, I will never stop trying to improve my skills. I would encourage all young writers to always be open to learning and never let criticism get in your way. Helpful criticism can hurt, but it also gives us ideas on how to continue to advance our skills. So, keep reading and keep writing and one day soon, I will be the one picking your book up off the shelf!
A special thanks to Melissa Savage for sharing with us! You can find Nessie Quest, and Melissa’s other books here.
Melissa Savage created stories growing up, writing different adventures for friends to read and later completed a Master’s Degree in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University in Minnesota. She was privileged to be able to receive guidance from amazing authors, educators, and fellow writers who shared their wisdom, experience, and support. Melissa’s debut book, Lemons has been recognized by the American Booksellers Association on their Independent Booksellers’ debut picks of the season list, Indies Introduce Winter/Spring 2017. Additionally, Bigfoot, Tobin & Me (The UK/Commonwealth version of Lemons published by Chicken House Books) has been recognized as Children’s Book of the Month with WHSmith.
Melissa has gone on to write The Truth About Martians and Nessie Quest. She is currently working on her fourth middle grade book, Karma Moon Ghost Hunter, to be released Spring of 2021.
Melissa is a writer and a child and family therapist. She has worked with families struggling with issues of abuse, trauma and loss/bereavement. She believes that expressing oneself through writing can be a very healing process when struggling with difficulties in life. In addition it can be a vehicle in which to honor, celebrate, and continue to share the spirits of the special people who have left us too soon. Melissa lives in Phoenix. You can follow her on Twitter at @melissadsavage.