Today I am happy to introduce fantasy author Melanie Ansley.
What genre(s) do you write in? Tell us about your books.
I write animal fantasy for YA and adults, meaning books that lie somewhere between “Watership Down” and “Game of Thrones”. My first novel, “Theo and the Forbidden Language”, follows a rabbit with the secret ability to read and write, who must team with an axe-wielding bear to save animal kind from the human empire. My newest release, “The Queen and the Dagger,” is a companion novella that follows one of the supporting characters in the lead up to the series.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you fuel your writing?
I fuel my writing by thinking about what would happen if I didn’t write–the story wouldn’t get finished and I would never make that next step as an author. And that usually scares me more than facing the blank page!
I don’t know if it’s different for other writers with more years under their belt, but the process still feels like a mystery to me. One consistent thing I’ve noticed is that I always have to write a really rough draft first. It doesn’t matter how much I think I’ve improved since my last effort, I still have to rewrite at least 80% of my first drafts. It’s like waking up in the morning—you never look your best when you first roll out of bed.
What’s the best part of being a writer?
Spending time in another world. It’s the cheapest form of travel.
Tell us about your main character? What makes him so special?
My main character, Theo, is a timid young rabbit who secretly reads and writes. In a land where these skills are punishable by death, Theo has to keep his ability hidden, even though it may just be the key to saving animal kind from destruction.
I think I chose to write about a rabbit because deep down we’ve all felt small and helpless against the enormity of the forces around us. We all have to learn how we can make a difference, even if it’s in a tiny way.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
Be true to yourself. And treat animals kindly. We are, on a whole, horrible to them.
What do you read? What are your favourite books and who are your favourite authors?
I will devour anything with a good story. My tastes range from historical fiction to horror to SFF to literature and off beat non-fiction. My favourite authors include Lian Hearn, George Orwell, C.S. Lewis, Dan Simmons, and Peter S. Beagle, to name a few.
What’s the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
A friend once told me, and I think he was quoting someone else, “You’re not the worst writer, and you’re not the best. So just focus on becoming better.” Put in that context, I think I managed to quiet the “am I good enough” demons and simply allow myself to not only learn the craft, but enjoy the process.
How do you market your books?
This is perhaps one of the hardest parts of being an indie author. I feel like my background as a film producer helps, but I’m still on a steep learning curve.
So far I’ve been working mostly on a grassroots level. I wanted to start this way because as a first time author I didn’t feel like I knew which paid promotions or marketing services were best, or how I could best get results. So I decided to start small and grow, by targeting reviewers that I thought might have sway over tight knit groups of readers. Only time will tell whether this is working.
How do you get book reviews? Has this been successful?
I canvassed for my first reviews through online writing groups and people I knew would give an honest opinion. Once I had a few reviews up, I could better interest complete strangers in giving the books a read, and so I did a few free promotions. These resulted in thousands of downloads, which in turn generated most of my reviews. I am trying to plan other giveaways around new releases to help attract more readers and reviews.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing or producing films, I read. Every chance I get. While standing in line at the supermarket; I listen to audiobooks in the car; I read while waiting for the shower to warm up.
Thank you Melanie for all of your great insights on writing.
Places you can connect with Melanie:
You can find Melanie Ansley’s books on Amazon:
About Melanie Ansley:
Melanie was born in Windsor, Ontario Canada but raised mostly in China, moving from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Taipei to Beijing. She speaks Mandarin, but can’t cook kung pao chicken to save her life. She has been a screenwriter/producer for over fifteen years, and currently splits her time between Beijing and Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and daughter.