Despite writing since the 5th grade it wasn’t until 2011 that Indonesian based E. Mellyberry began to publish her work. Her gradual realization that writing was more than a hobby led to the creation of nine picture books and two new adult contemporary novels, My Lea and I Won’t Break. She talks to us about bringing your own voice to your work, real life inspiration and building connections through social media.
How did you begin writing?
When I was ten, my teacher enrolled me in a writing competition. This tiny act had started my obsession with anything writing related. Throughout my school years, I found myself falling in love with writing essays without really knowing why. I always—and I mean always—wrote more than what was required. My friends hated me for this because without meaning to, I’ve set the bar higher for everyone else. When a publisher bought my children’s stories in 2011, I still failed to see my writing as anything other than a hobby. It wasn’t until My Lea did I finally look at my writing as something more. It wasn’t just a hobby. It is me. Writing is who I am.
What inspires you to write?
I tend to gravitate toward family, first love, and self-acceptance as my writing topics. Real events and real people are my true source of inspiration.
There were times in the past when I was so lost, I couldn’t decide what voice I wanted to bring into my stories. In the end, I write the only voice I know, my own. My books will always be about love, which is told from the culture and belief that makes me who I am today. I’m not writing about differences. My goal is to highlight the similarities in us because I believe being human is universal. Love is love, pain is pain, compassion is compassion. It’s the same no matter where you came from.
I’m glad I found enough communities in social media who celebrate #ownvoices and #diversity works. They are invaluable.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read, write, rewrite.
It may not sound much, but those are the main ingredients to be a successful author. You can’t be a writer without being a reader. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write. You won’t have a polished manuscript if you don’t rewrite and rewrite.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
My advice is rather practical. Before approaching publishers or agents, please make sure this is the path you want. Then, do your homework by researching the publishers or agents you wish to query. Look at the books they have on their shelves, browse their client list, and read their submission guidelines. Please keep in mind that there is no right or wrong in publishing. We can go with traditional, indie, or hybrid. Authors have far more choices these days (Yay! Lucky us). Just be vigilant in your research and be honest with yourself before mapping out your next step.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
I keep telling myself this: I can control what I write, but I can’t control how people would accept my story.
With that in mind, I pour everything I have into the thing I can control, which is the writing itself. Once the book is out, I keep a distance between me and my work. I’m getting quite good at sorting out the feedback I receive from reviewers, agents/publishers, betas, and editors. Constructive feedback is necessary to improve our craft. Ignore the ones that are not.
How do you deal with isolation?
Honestly, I love the isolation. Writing is my form of me-time, it does wonder to my mind. I miss the quiet whenever I have to be away from my desk and have to pause my writing for a few days.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
To get the books out and get honest reviews.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
I’m still learning about this too, but I notice that talking about your books all the time in media is the fastest way to fail. Social media is what it is, social. Building connection and communicating with one another is the best approach to marketing. It may be indirect, but it’s effective in the long run.