A high school English class specializing in fairy tales was the impetus for the writing career of award winning author E.J. Mellow. The Dreamer, part of her contemporary fantasy collection The Dreamland Series, won Silver for Best Fantasy/Science Fiction from eLit Book Awards and a Finalist Medal for Best Cover Design from The Indie Book Awards. Her latest book The Animal Under The Fur is a standalone action romance set to publish this March.
Please give us an overview of your background and how you came to be interested in writing.
I grew up in the US of A, Delaware to be exact, but now live in Brooklyn, New York, where I freelance in advertising to help support my writing. I’m traditionally trained in art and design, but have always loved the written word and first “seriously” tried my hand in storytelling after taking a high school English class that concentrated in fairy tales. It blew my teenage mind! And I’ve been writing make-believe ever since.
What made you want to be a writer?
What inspired me to get started in writing, and keeps inspiring me today, were really other stories and books. When I was little—on top of obsessively reading comics—I dreamed of becoming a Disney animator. Drawing characters and imagining their stories was a large part of my childhood. While the animator thing obviously didn’t transpire, the passion to create worlds and people to fill it stayed with me.
In high school is when I actually thought about trying to write a full story, after I took this amazing English fairy-tales class.
What inspires you to write?
Almost everything can act as an inspiration for me—music, conversations, seeing something on the street, etc. Living in New York is perfect for this, allowing me to constantly be watching and observing the things around me, waiting for inspiration to strike. So yes, life itself, and the people, can be a really rich place to grab from.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I have three pieces of advice that aren’t the most unique but I really believe to be true. First, never stop writing, never ever. With every word, sentence, and chapter you will only get better. Second, remember that you’re not alone in this (usually) scaling the side of a mountain type climb of being an author. If you ever feel like a failure, that you’ll never finish that MS, that your story and characters won’t be loved, well, we all have felt this way. We might even be experiencing one of these thoughts at this very moment. So go have a drink, watch a silly show, run around the block, hang out with friends, do whatever you need to do to remove the rain cloud of funk, and then sit back down and keep on writing!
My last piece of advice is READ EVERYTHING! It’s extremely important to learn what’s being put out in the world, all the boundaries you can break and to get inspired.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
If you’re going down the traditional publishing route, before you can even approach publishers you need an agent. Some good advice for getting agents that was given to me is to research other authors that write in the same genre as you and then find out who represents them.
Once you have your long, long list of potential agents check out their company and if they are accepting queries and looking for a story like yours. Some websites that I found helpful with querying are Query Tracker and Agent Query Connect. And remember, 24 literary agents turned down The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, so DON’T GIVE UP!
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
I cry in a corner for a little and then go for a run or chat with a sympathetic friend or fellow writer. Haha. Unfortunately rejection comes with any creative field and as much as we try not to take negative reviews or feedback personally, it’s inevitably going to sting and hang in our memory a lot longer than all the lovely things said about our work.
So I say that it’s okay to get a little sad, but after that I suggest having a wall or folder available that showcases all the positive reviews and fan letters pertaining to your work. Stare at that and remember that you are good, creative and one of a kind, and no matter what, don’t let any of those haters keep you from writing.
How do you deal with isolation?
Yes, this is probably the hardest thing for me as a writer, sitting alone for hours. Getting out to write in cafes help with this, but also allowing myself a break at the end or beginning of the day to be around people. Whether it’s for a quick coffee or a dinner with friends, staying social and not locked into your private world is important not only for my mental health but it often helps if I’m experiencing writer's block or lack of inspiration.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Being okay with putting in more money than you’ll be getting back in the beginning. The phrase, “you’ve got to spend money to make money” is certainly true when it comes to building an audience. The percentage of authors that explode in the market right out of the gate is very low. We all secretly hold onto hope that we’ll be an overnight success, and while it’s okay to keep that little dream nugget close to your chest, it’s best to have a solid plan built for readership reach as well. I would suggest looking for services that send out ebooks to bloggers in exchange for reviews. Having reviews are extremely important to attracting new readers.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Personally, Instagram has been the best media outlet for me in regards to marketing. The Bookstagram community, as we call ourselves, is extremely welcoming and I’m so glad I was able to find them when I first started on this journey. Not only in the “Stories” feature in Instagram great for posting updates and reminders, but I’m a big fan of getting across news in a visually cool way. Being a photo centric platform, Instagram has been perfect for this. It also helps that you can link to your books in your bio.
You can find out more about E.J. Mellow via her Website, Goodreads and social media channels: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Her books are available for purchase on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Book Depository.