Friday 1 September 2017

Interview with Melinda R. Cordell and review of Those Black Wings

I am delighted to be joined on the blog today by Melinda R. Cordell for an interview and my review of her book - Those Black Wings. Here is a little about Melinda.

My debut book, Courageous Women of the Civil War: Soldiers, Spies, Medics, and More, was published by Chicago Review Press. I earned an MFA in Writing for Children from Hamline University. My fiction and articles have appeared in Cicada, Cricket, Highlights, Read, and The Horn Book, and I’ve written for national gardening magazines such as Birds and Blooms, Grit, and Organic Gardening. My YA fiction includes Angel in the Whirlwind, a short story collection; and Butterfly Chaos, about a ghost and a deadly tornado. My latest is Those Black Wings, about a college freshman who gets into a relationship she wants to leave – but when he threatens suicide, she’s pulled back to his side. An agent said that this is the first time she’s seen a book that deals with emotional abuse in this very subtle way. I’ve also written gardening books about vegetable gardening, roses, and tomatoes, with a book about perennials coming up next. Stay tuned.

And onto the interview:

What made you want to be a writer?
To be honest, I can’t remember back that far. I was reading when I was four. You know, my reading skills got me in trouble on my first day of kindergarten. The teacher gave us different directions than was on the paper, and I followed the instructions on the paper, since I could read them. I came home crying because my teacher had put a frowny face on my paper! Anyway, I was a writer from an early age, too. The earliest book I remember writing was in first grade, and it was about raccoons. Writing and reading was something I was always doing, all through grade school and middle school and high school and college.
For the last several years, I suffered a huge loss of faith in myself. I had been sending out stories for about 20 years. I’d gotten a lot of agents who requested the full MS but in the end, they all turned me down. I’m talking hundreds of rejections. As a result, I couldn’t write anything new because I kept second-guessing myself. What if they don’t like this, is this good enough for the market, is this exciting enough, what if this is boring? I simply could not get out of my own way.
But then I started self-publishing. Now I’m putting all my old books out there, all those books that I’ve worked on for so long, and I’m finally working on new stuff. I’m just writing up a storm, and I love it. Of course, my current list is insanely diverse, with YA contemporary and fantasy novels, and then my gardening books, and then my Civil War books, so that’s a challenge, but right now I don’t even care! I’ve published eight books since September 2016 and I’m going to kick out another one this month. I am just so glad to be writing again.

What kind of writer are you: plan or not?
I know things would go better for me if I planned, but generally I don’t. Let me tell you, this can be problematic when I’m writing trilogies.

How does your average writing time go?
Generally I sit down for about two minutes and then a kid goes “Mommy!”
Lately I’ve been using an Alphasmart Neo, which is this dandy little keyboard that was made for schoolkids, and it has a tiny screen and is harder than hell to edit on, and runs forever on three AA batteries. I just sit down with that little thing and start writing. I can’t look at what I’ve written so I can’t edit it or pick at it. It’s very freeing.

If you had the chance to write anywhere, where would you choose?
Oh, it would be some quiet place far away from civilization and the internet, preferably in the woods, just as long as there weren’t any ticks. Actually, I’d accept a couple of ticks if it were quiet. (Lyme disease isn’t as much of a concern down here as it is up north.)

What attracted you to your chosen genre?
I like writing YA, because high schoolers are more interesting, open to new experiences, and curious about the world than grownups are. They’re a lot more fun, too. High schoolers are coming into their own at this time, too, which is both exciting and frightening. Of course, every morning I have to drag a high schooler out of bed so she can get to school on time, which is always fun, or not. But I also I enjoy her telling me about what’s going on in her life. Her social life is much more complex than mine ever was (I had none, absolutely none), so I find it fascinating. Adults are boring. They’re so settled. So is literary fiction, grown-up fiction, and I’ve read so much of it over the years, but I keep coming back to YA fiction, which has been doing a lot of exciting and interesting things, and it isn’t showing signs of burning out at all. We have a lot of good writers in this field, many of whom are the salt of the earth.

How have other writers influenced your own writing?
E.B. White was a big influence of mine in high school and college. In my early college years, I imitated him endlessly. I tried to read everything he’d written. In 1993, I used to stop on my way home at Conception Abbey because they had bound volumes of the 1930s New Yorker magazine there, and I’d read them, trying to pick out which Talk of the Town breaks he’d written.

Do you prefer to type or hand write?
I used to hand write everything, but after I worked as a reporter, I moved over to typing everything. Now everything is typed. Of course the Alphasmart Neo is a huge enabler in this. Oops.

Do you have a writing playlist? Or do you prefer silence?
Some of my books have a writing playlist. Butterfly Chaos has the Tin Lily album by Jeff Black. Silverlady’s story, which isn’t out yet, had “Frozen” by Madonna, along with most of that album. There’s a Shostakovich string quartet that’s scary as hell that I used to write the climatic scene in Thorn’s novel, also not out yet. And so on. These days, I write with whatever racket is going on around me. Otherwise I’d never get any work done.

Do you have any hobbies?
Right now my hobby seems to be chickens. That one kind of crept up on me! I spend a lot of time hanging out with my hens. Now I have a rooster. He was supposed to be a hen but I guess the chicken sexer at the hatchery was not paying attention. Yes, there is a job called “chicken sexer,” which is where somebody picks up baby chicks and sees whether they are boys or girls. That is not a hobby I am going to get into.

Would you ever like to branch out to a different genre?
This question should probably be, “When are you going to stop branching out in different genres? Geez woman.” I’ve already branched out into Civil War history, gardening books, and I bounce between YA and MG, both contemporary and fantasy. Overall, my books tend to be literary. I need to try writing some of these hot new categories, just to see how that goes. To be honest, I don’t know what will happen next. I said I would never get into self-publishing, and look at me now, self-publishing books like a house afire and never looking back. I like pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I learn a lot of new things that way.

What does your writing space look like?
Right now I’m tapping on my laptop on the kitchen table. My son is eating pistachio nuts in the chair next to me and making little piles of shells, and the little white dog is at my feet. There’s a Pothos plant behind my laptop screen, and a shattered Damask rose in a little vase on my left, and then all my overflowing bookshelves. My daughter is standing on the other side of the table, telling me how she is trying to find pictures of Grandpa on her old phone but noooooooo, the old phone won’t let her get those pictures, and now Apple wants her to buy something so she can get those pictures. So, you know, there’s never a dull moment. 

Kay Bachmann leaps into her freshman year of college, eager to start fresh and be the girl she’s always wanted to be. She meets Carter, who falls for her like a skydiver with a busted parachute. He sweeps her away in a whirlwind romance, and before Kay can think straight, they’re going on dates. But when Kay discovers a family secret, she starts looking at the relationship in a whole new light. And it's not pretty.

Then she meets her old friend Wyatt again – who she’s loved desperately for so long. Kay tries to break free of Carter, but he raises the emotional ante and attempts suicide right in front of her. That act pulls her right back to his side.

Kay knows she cannot stay with Carter. She knows that his next attempt may be fatal. But she wants, above all, to live her life on her own terms – not on somebody else’s.

My review: 5 stars
I freaking LOVED this book! I picked it up thinking it would be a good read and I was floored with just how good it was. I loved the portrayal of an unhealthy relationship and all that went with that. The characterisation was spot on. I loved Kay, and I loved her story and how she went through everything. I was hooked from the first page, and went head-first into a complete and utter adoration of the words in this story. It's something every teen should read, and a lot of adults too. It was amazing and well told and I just can not say enough good things about this book! I'd give it more than five stars if I could! Highly, highly recommended!

You can follow Melinda on Twitter, and Facebook.

Join Joey here on the blog on Fridays for interviews, reviews and guest bloggers. If you'd be interested in doing any of those, you can contact Joey here.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for having me over on your blog, and I'm glad you loved Black Wings so much.

    Just FYI, I also have a very early version of the first chapter, which is called Why Can't My Life Be a Romance Novel, on Amazon. It's kind of a goofy little story. *waggles eyesbrows* Enjoy!