Monday, October 7, 2013

The Reluctant Guardian by Melissa J. Cunningham: Interview and Excerpt


Welcome Melissa! It’s so super to have you visit my blog on the opening day of your book tour.  How did you start your writing career?

I've always loved to write. I remember making up stories in elementary school, but honestly, while I was young, I loved music most. It occupied all of my time, and in college, that is what I studied. First I was a vocal major, then a music therapy major. It wasn't until five years ago that I caught the bug of writing again. A gal in my area was just coming out with her first books, and she was just a normal mom like me. I thought, “I can do that!” So I did!


Tell us about a favorite character from a book.

Well, if it can't be one of my own, it is definitely a character from James Patterson's book, The Jester. One of my all-time favorite books ever. I've read it more than once, which is unusual for me. A book has to be fantastic for me to read twice or more. It's the main character in the Jester who is my favorite, and would you believe I can't even remember his name? LOL I just know I loved him, probably because he was so determined. He had a goal, and nothing stood in his way to accomplish it. He did everything it took and more. I like that. No, I love that. That is the kind of person I want to always be.

Tell us about your current release.

My current release is Reluctant Guardian. It's about a sixteen year old girl who gives up on life, right at the beginning. She expects to rest in heaven, if there is a heaven, and then finds out there is no such thing as rest for the dead! I find this very funny myself. Isn't that how life is? I want it to be easier, and yet, it never is. There is always something before you, forcing you to learn and grow. In my book, this girl, Alisa, is given the chance to become a guardian. That is someone who helps a mortal over some big obstacle in their life. A guardian only stays with that person a short while. Alisa is assigned a super-hot (of course) rebellious boy named Brecken Shaefer. They do NOT get along or even like one another. The main problem being that he can hear and see her, which is not normal. He has gifts. I'm not going to tell you what happens, you'll have to read it, but it was very fun to write, and it took about three years. This version I've published is the forth version I think. I've re-written it many times.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?

I used to write a lot more than I do now. All the time, in fact. Now, I write whenever I can, because honestly, I have to grab the opportunity whenever I have the energy. You see, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease last year. I won't go into how hard it has been, and my writing did take a back burner for a while, but I never gave up. I never let go of my dream to be published, and I never quit going to my critique group that meets once a week. Those people are so dear to me because they never commented on how brain dead I'd become! It's a slow-glowing process, getting better, but I'm slowly coming back to myself. My dream is to publish book after book for the rest of my life. Not only because I love it, but because I need to pay my medical bills!

Where do you research for your books?

I research online. If anyone out there is keeping track of what we do on our computers, I'm sure mine is watched! I've studied demons, how to make drugs, abuses... all sorts of things! You have to know so much to write so little. What I mean is, for your readers to get a feel for what you describe, even if you barely touch on the subject, it needs to feel real. So, as an author, you need to know about what you're writing. I hope the powers that be don't come to my house in the middle of the night and drag me away!


What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?

They love it and are so proud of me, especially now, when my health is a struggle. They cheer my on constantly. When I first started my book, The Eye of Tanúb, which I haven't sold yet, my son would run in after school yelling, “Have you written more yet???” He would immediately sit down on the computer to read what came next. And that is a kid where it's like pulling teeth to get him to read. That felt good! My husband, on the other hand, just hopes I'm the next Stephanie Meyer. We'll see.


Plotter or Pantser? Why?

Definitely a pantser, but I'm trying to change that. LOL I don't think being one or the other is that great. They need to be combined to make you a success, because as a pantser, you'll consistently write yourself into a corner. I've done that too many times to count, because I was impatient to write. I didn't want to take the time to plan and organize like a plotter. I had an idea and I wanted to run with it. Now my publisher wants the sequel of Reluctant Guardian quickly! I don't have the luxury to just write and see where it goes. I Have to get it done and done well! I still shoot from the hip, but with a pattern in mind. :) 


Who are your books published with?

My publisher is Clean Teen Publishing. And here's a funny story. One day, while I was feeling like total crap because of the Lyme treatment I was going through, I was sitting at the computer looking at facebook. I noticed a ton of my writer friends had liked CTP, so I checked them out. They looked great and I liked their philosophy, so I decided to send them my query letter thinking, “What the heck. It can't hurt. What's one more rejection?” Because I'd already had around 45 rejections for this book. I honestly did not expect CTP to be any different. Two days later they wrote back wanting the whole book. Three days after that, they wanted to publish it! I COULD NOT believe it! At first I was scared, thinking the timing was terrible, but I have been working so hard for this moment, that I wasn't about to say no! And now it gives me something to look forward to every day. I makes me get off my behind and write, which I needed. Lyme is not something I ever discuss with my publisher, and I don't intend to. I do not let it interfere with my dream. And CTP was just the thing to solidify that goal.

Title:  Reluctant Guardian
Author:   Melissa J. Cunningham
Published:  September 20th, 2013 by Clean Teen Publishing
Word Count: approx. 82,000
Genre:  YA Mature Paranormal Romance
Content Warning:  Topics such as suicide and sexual abuse implied but not described
Recommended Age:  14+
Synopsis: Guarding Brecken Shaefer—a dark and dangerous rebel—is harder than it looks.
Death was nothing like sixteen-year-old Alisa Callahan thought it would be. Resting on pink, fluffy clouds for eternity with her gram and best friend sounded like a dream come true. After all, enduring one torturous experience after another in her short life deserved some kind of reward, right? Unfortunately, eternal rewards aren’t given out so freely when you take your own life.
Required to pay the debt for committing suicide, Alisa must become a guardian. It sounds easy enough, but not when the boy she is forced to protect has a dangerous secret and wants absolutely nothing to do with her.
Brecken Shaefer isn’t any normal teenager. He has special gifts that are sure to make Alisa’s afterlife miserable. When feelings develop between them, everything spins out of control. Not only must Alisa face her own demons— but to protect Brecken, she must face an evil so heinous that it threatens to destroy their souls completely. Alisa is tired of hiding from her past. When the easiest thing to do is run, can Brecken give her the strength to stay?
Amazon | Amazon UK | Goodreads

I should have realized that suicide was not my best option. But like most teenage girls, I hadn't planned ahead. I never pictured my parents and brothers picking up the pieces of my broken life, or the empty hole I would leave in my wake.
I honestly didn't think anyone cared that much.
The medication I'd been taking hadn't helped matters either. My doctor prescribed it after the death of my beloved grandmother who'd lived with us since I was a baby. Three months later, my best friend Natasha, died from a brain tumor. Nothing could have shattered me more. Not just because Natty and I were closer than Siamese twins, but because we shared a dark, horrifying secret.
Something I'd never told anyone. Not even my parents. Once she was gone I didn't know how to shoulder that weight on my own. I was drowning in sorrow. I'd fallen into a dark pit and had every right to take that antidepressant. My parents thought it would help too.
I should have been more open about my feelings. I should have confided in my mom and dad. Explained that the medication wasn't working. That in reality I felt worse. But I didn't. I didn't realize the drug was affecting me adversely . . . until it was too late.
The only thing I wanted that night was to not feel anymore, to not have my heart ripping in two, and to not cry so hard that my whole body ached.
Would it be painful if I rammed my car into the tall pine at the curve of the road? Would it do the trick or just turn me into a vegetable for the rest of my life?
I gambled. I took a chance and got what I wanted. Death.
Melissa J. Cunningham began writing five years ago when she decided, out of the blue, to enter a community writing contest and won first place. From that moment on she had a new love: Writing. Melissa is a member of the League of Utah Writers. Her past publication experience includes a recurring opinion column called Writing Reality, for her local newspaper: The Leader

Melissa's first novel: Reluctant Guardian, was accepted for publication through Clean Teen Publishing in August 2013.

When Melissa is not writing you can find her spending time with her family and her horses, cats, dogs and chickens or reading. Melissa is also a local music teacher.

Clean Teen Publishing Links:

Giveaway Details:
There is an international tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
GRAND PRIZE: A digital copy of Reluctant Guardian, a bookmark, and reader’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing digital book and a $10 Amazon gift card.


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Kittie Howard said...

Great interview! And excerpt! I love all the family support.

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

Thank you for having me on! And thank you for the shout out! I truly appreciate it!