It’s time for the next interview & book giveaway! This week, popular f/f romance author Melissa Brayden took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.
Melissa has just published her fourteenth romance novel with Bold Strokes Book, and she’s giving away an e-book copy of her small-town romance Beautiful Dreamer, so don’t miss the giveaway at the end of this post.
Welcome, Melissa. Please tell us a little about your latest release, Beautiful Dreamer.
Oh, I’d be happy to! Beautiful Dreamer can best be described as a small-town, homecoming romance. Devyn is a big shot corporate real estate broker in Philly. Elizabeth is the owner of an odd-jobs company in the tiny town of Dreamer’s Bay on the shoreline of South Carolina. Devyn, who rejects her past as a closeted, overly popular head cheerleader, is forced to return home to “The Bay” for a family emergency. She and unassuming Elizabeth connect in a big and very unexpected way! Expect fireflies (lightning bugs), town carnivals, lots and lots of kissing, and a little drama on the side. Did I mention the cute dog named Scout?
Beautiful Dreamer is set in the quaint little town of Dreamer’s Bay. I’ve never heard of it, and neither has Wikipedia, so I assume it’s a fictional town? How did you come up with the name?
It *is* a fictional town. You are correct. I went in that direction because it afforded me a lot of creative freedom. Kind of a like an unmanned playground all to myself where I can make up the culture, the vibe, and the feel of the town’s inhabitants. As for coming up with the name, I struggled a bit. I had a few other town names I was working with when I started the book, but they didn’t feel authentic to the setting I was constructing. Then one day, I took a look at the title of the book, and the already designed cover, and it hit me like a two-by-four. Dreamer’s Bay fit perfectly (The Bay, for short), and I never looked back.
Some of your other novels, including Strawberry Summer and How Sweet It Is, are set in small towns too, and they also deal with returning home. What’s the appeal of small-town romances and the homecoming theme for you?
You do your research! I love, love, love the trope, and I have a feeling you’ll see it from me more in the future. First of all, the small towns. I think there’s an element of romance already built in to a slower-paced lifestyle that comes with them. In a small town, there’s not a lot of glitz, glamor, or flash. There’s also not a ton to do. In essence, people have to focus on each other more, and that lends itself to characters connecting on a deeper level. Plus, the quaint quality of old buildings, mom-and-pop businesses, and everyone knowing everyone else’s business adds to the charm. Second of all, the homecoming feature is another fun element. I’m a big fan of the “There’s No Place Like Home” motif. I loved it in The Wizard of Oz, and Home for the Holidays, The Family Stone, and every one of those films where the main character is reminded of the beauty of where they came from. They can go off into the larger world and learn so much, but their heart remains with their family, their original home, and that just warms my heart. It speaks of loyalty and love. I never tire of those kinds of stories.
You have a family, including the cutest little boy, Everett. How did having a child change your writing routine?
Oh, thank you! I think he’s pretty cute, myself. This week he began saying “Mama” with intention, rather than just babbling it. *End of Mom boasting*
Yes, I would say having a little one certainly had an impact on my job and my writing life. Because writing became my full-time job in 2016, I was used to a certain amount of freedom when it came to hitting my word count. I could write a little, play around outside, write a little, shop a little, write a little, and so on and still make my goal. Not the case anymore! Everett goes to school for half a day so during that time I have to force myself to buckle down and get serious to achieve my word count because once he’s back, it’s the Everett show until bedtime. Sometimes that means I have to have some firm words with myself in the mirror. They might involve pointing and finger shaking and a little talking back. But that clock is ticking, and I have to be the toughest boss I’ve ever had and implement a firm structure to my writing day. I write, lately, in three sections. Today for example? I need to write 1,850 words before 2pm and will shoot for 620 words a session. Each session is generally around 45 minutes. I need to get going! LOL.
Your books regularly make it onto recommended reading lists for mainstream (m/f) romance readers. Why do you think your books appeal to such a broad audience, and do you have any tips for LGBT+ authors who want break into the mainstream market too?
I wish I knew! Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see that inclusion happen, and I do hear from lots of straight men and women who read the books, in addition to my more standard LGBTQ audience. So, while I know those readers are there, I don’t know how they came upon my books. I do think I lean more heavily to standard tropes, and in the end, as humans, we all respond to basic things like love, humor, and a happy ending. Maybe that’s me staying in the safe lane and not experimenting too much, but those are the kinds of themes and stories that I grew up reading, and I guess I just wanted to see similar themes play out with two women and explore how those kind of stories change and shift (because of course they have to be based on the characters). Women are more emotional and forge very strong person-to-person connections, which is so different than the aloof alpha male featured in straight romances so often. I feel like I’m off topic. HAHA. Welcome to Melissa. In short, looping back, I think I present some very comfortable tropes and themes that are universal and recognizable. Maybe? Possibly? I’m not sure.
Unfortunately, biphobia and bi-erasure are alive and kicking in our society, even within the LGBT+ and the lesfic community. Do you ever address this issue in your books?
I have a couple of times, yes. As a bisexual woman myself, I just had to. The first was in Just Three Words on Samantha’s journey. In one scene, even one of her closest friends in the world (Hunter, a lesbian) takes a shot at her sexuality in a moment of anger. I’ve had that happen myself and think it’s such an important topic. Strawberry Summer, also deals with sexual fluidity in the character of Courtney, who is attracted to who she is attracted to, but prefers to avoid labels. That particular choice was inspired by my niece and her friends in their early twenties, who while very confident in their sexualities, reject being labeled. I think we’ll see that more and more as younger generations come up.
You’re not “just” a writer; you also star in plays. Recently, you’ve been in The Little Foxes. Does your stage experience influence your writing in any way?
While I do have a lot of onstage experience as an actress, I’ve swapped caps to director in the past decade (I directed The Little Foxes earlier this year), and honestly those two things (writing and directing) are so very similar. To break it down, they’re both storytelling. I think my directing experience influences the pacing of my novels quite a bit, as well as understanding character objectives and tactics. Having that foundation before ever writing my first book truly helped steer me in the right direction in crafting a more interesting story. At least, I think so.
I know you love wine, and somehow, you seem to also have a reputation for enjoying donuts. If you were a wine, what kind would you be and why? If you were a donut, what kind would you be and why?
This is the best questions ever, and I fully accept this reputation with pride! I adore both things! Wine: I’ll go with Pinot Noir. It’s mellow, but a little fruity (translation, fun). It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is the most accessible red, even to those who don’t drink wine. (I think I’m pretty approachable). Donut: Oh, I’ll take glazed with chocolate frosting. Glazed is classic, and I think I’m pretty much an everyday, girl next door type. I added the chocolate because I hope I’m whimsical enough to seize the day on occasion, and c’mon, I can’t resist chocolate…ever. Now I need both!
What types of books do you like to read? Any favorites you can recommend?
I love to read and lament strongly that I don’t have more time for it. I grew up reading like crazy. The Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins were my favorite. Did you know they recently released a Sweet Valley Twins novel where they’re adults? Blew my mind! I enjoyed seeing how their lives panned out so much. Spoiler: there was a twin rift! Sigh.
I stay pretty solidly in the romance lane, when reading. My first love. But I veer on occasion to general fiction and intrigue. Some favorite lesfic books include Playing the Role of Herself by KE Lane, Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran, and Starting From Scratch by Georgia Beers. For straight romance, simply anything by Judith McNaught. After that, Jill Shalvis, Nora Roberts, and Kristan Higgins. For intrigue: Anything by Chevy Stevens but start with Still Missing because that one rocked my world and had me cowering in a corner.
When’s your next book coming out, and what are you working on right now?
Great questions. At any given point I have my hands on four different books. One in pre-writing, one being written, one being edited, and one being marketed. So, I always stop and scratch my head when asked that question and get my tiny little ducks to march in a row. Aha! The answer is Back to September is next out in November – making its debut at Women’s Week in Provincetown. It’s about a bookshop owner who falls madly for a very famous romance author.
I’m currently writing To the Moon and Back – the story of an actress and stage manager at a regional theatre in Minneapolis.
Where can your readers find out more about you and your books?
For news on what books are next and what appearances I have ahead, check out my website at www.melissabrayden.com. Social media is big for me, too, if you want to get to know me outside of the books. So, if you’d love to see what writing struggle I’m in the midst of or what my child’s crazy hair looks like today, hit me up on one of those platforms. I’d say I’m most active on Instagram (@mbraydenbooks) and Facebook (Melissa Brayden) – but I’m trying to be more present on Twitter and tweet and retweet and reply and get into GIF wars whenever possible. All the appropriate things. You can find me on twitter at @melissabrayden.
Melissa is graciously giving away an e-book copy of her new release, Beautiful Dreamer.
Anyone can enter. To be entered into the drawing, leave a comment on this blog post.
Entries close on Thursday, August 1, 2019, 10 a.m. CET, when I’ll draw the winners using a random numbers generator. I’ll notify winners via email. Your email address won’t be used for any other purpose.
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