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Interview with Melony Teague

Melony Teague believes everyone has their own unique story to tell and loves to encourage others. She sees laughter as an essential element to navigate the hard realities of life.

Did you picture yourself as a writer at a young age, or did the interest develop later in your life? What sparked that interest?
I always smile when this question is asked. The signs were there but I didn’t see them clearly as a youngster. As a teenager, growing up in South Africa, we have a newspaper journalist board in a room in our home in our small town, and she asked me to do an anonymous gossip column with the target audience being students from the one and only high school. I did that for a while, but didn’t really take it seriously, I just thought it was fun! I love English and English literature, and participated in a Chaucer and a Shakespeare speech contest. Our English teacher was amazing and coached me through it! (Thank you Mrs. Prinsloo)

I got on with my life, met and married my husband, took an interior design course, got my diploma and ran a business from home supplying desserts to coffee shops and restaurants, teaching guitar to students and planning to immigrate to Canada. After having my two beautiful kids I began blogging on—at first I documented my health and weight loss journey and then I started my own blog on blogpost. This was really helpful in helping me create the discipline and habit of writing. Back in those years blogging was the thing to do. It set a good foundation for what I do now. I then began interviewing authors and reviewing books and slowly transitioned away from food and health-related topics into the world of writing.

I began taking a writing career seriously in 2010 and that is when I set up a website and began getting involved in the Christian Fiction and non-fiction community and it was also when my first article was published in the local newspaper. I’ll never forget that moment, seeing my article in print. The articles I’d written at school were a distant and almost forgotten memory, and it was only recently that those memories popped back into my consciousness. Which is why I always smile at this question. Really, I should have known back then. But I have no regrets. I finally found what I was meant to do, even if it took me over 35 years to rediscover it. My curiosity sparked my interest in journalism and biography writing. About three years ago I began the transition from book reviewer to author. And here we are, about to launch my debut in 2020 and I am still pinching myself.

You have experience in diverse areas of writing, from book reviews and newsletters to newspaper editorials and magazine articles. What motivated you to branch out into the field of fiction?
When I first began my freelance writing career I was partially fueled by curiosity. I love human interest stories and documentaries, whether in print or in film. Being able to interview people and ask questions and having access to people I never would have met in everyday life was a gift that writing brought with it. There is no way I’d ever have been on the phone with people like Joe Mantegna, Brooke Burns, Lois Robbins and sports celebrities such as Canadian hockey legends Mike Palmateer, Dave and Ryan Gardner, Mike Murphy, Mike Kitchen, Bob Wall as well as other Olympic athletes.

I’d always dreamed of writing a novel, but didn’t think I had the skills to pull it off at first, judging by the state of my first NANOWRIMO novel. So I used my non-fiction experience to grow myself as a writer and learn the craft. Three years ago I began to set aside time (and intention) to focus on my fiction work. I had to overcome the crippling fear of submitting my work first to critique partners, then to contests, like First Impressions and Genesis Awards. The biggest step for me was writing up a pitch and proposal and sending it out. All that time I was so afraid, when in reality, it really wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I’ve been blessed to receive a few beautiful and kind rejection letters and was able to implement those changes before A Promise to Keep was finally accepted by Anaiah Press. My husband says he wants me to be the next JK Rowling so he can retire—the poor man has much too much faith in me.

Tell us about your debut novel, A Promise to Keep. What is it about and what do you hope readers will learn from the story?
Savannah Du Toit married her high school sweetheart to become Mrs. Nick Sanderson. She is a research librarian who wants nothing more than to escape into her happily-ever-after novels with their larger-than-life fictional heroes. She makes a promise to her husband, Nick, that she will attend their dreaded twenty-year high school reunion. She fulfills her promise after Nick’s death. She never imagined that fulfilling her promise would change everything.

Once a reckless troublemaker, Michael McCann fled town after graduation. Now a professional technical rescuer, he’s back for the reunion, but on his trip down memory lane, he soon comes face to face with unresolved issues, namely Savannah. A pact between these two old friends leads them on an adventure. Michael must confront his past regrets and find the courage to reveal the truth. Can Savannah fly from her sheltered nest and risk her heart on a real-life hero?

I hope readers will be entertained, that they will laugh and cry with these characters. I hope to inspire a sense of freedom to enjoy every day as a gift and savor the everyday moments without regret. A big theme in this book is promises and I hope readers will have a sense of how God keeps His promises, always. I hope readers will be inspired to never lose hope and to love big. One thing that Michael says to Savannah really rings true:

“The things in my life that bring regret are not so much things I did. More like things I didn’t do. Words I should have said. Moments I should have cherished. It’s funny, but in hindsight, I see them all clearly. It’s harder to recognize an opportunity you’re missing while you’re in it.”

What is your favorite part of writing a story: creating the characters, developing the plot, or something else?
I love putting my characters in situation that bring out the best or worst in them. Most of the time these are funny, but sometimes they are more serious. Each situation gives my characters a chance to rise to the occasion and sometimes they do the unexpected and surprise me despite the synopsis they are supposed to be sticking to. To my surprise, I found developmental and content edits truly satisfying. It gave me a chance to give these quirky characters more depth and enhance a few little touches that were there in the first draft, but needed to be brought to the forefront.

What is your daily writing routine?
I get up early-ish (some of you get up at 5 am, I’m not an early bird, so I can’t do that) but we are up in time to get the teens off to high school on the bus. Before they leave, I am usually already on my computer doing my work. This includes checking emails, posting blogs/reviews, client work and editing. I check social media and plan posts for the day or week. Then I try, and usually fail to stay offline, but honestly, I love interacting with fellow authors and readers, so I tend to fight that every day. If I am on deadline, I have to “go dark” and just put my head down and work.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I began my first novel, during NANOWRIMO as a pantser. It didn’t go so well...that story will never be published. But it was a start and it got the creativity flowing. As I have worked on more and more manuscripts, I realized that I wasn’t drawing on my skills as a freelance writer. Journalists and freelance writers write to spec. That means they write what is required or needed with a focus/purpose already determined before writing a word. Why wasn’t I doing that with my fiction work? I figured out it was out of fear and out of insecurity. I just didn’t think I could do it. I got over that fear and figured out what the key elements and hooks were that I’d like to write about and that publishers might be interested in.

When I switched to being more of a plotter, it was a game-changer for me. I wrote out a detailed synopsis for A Promise to Keep. Having said that, there was an element of spontaneity left within that synopsis. For example, Donovan Radcliffe was never in the original synopsis, but he showed up on the page and staked his claim. And I kind of like him. So now I’d call myself a hybrid, mostly plotter with some pantser still lurking in there.

You like to incorporate humor into your life as a means to take the bite out of the hard times. Would you share a time that was difficult for you that became easier to bear with humor?
Having a husband with a great sense of humor helps in keeping laughter in our home. My family background is rich in humor and they all have a well-developed sense of humor. So I grew up just naturally turning to humor whenever challenges arose. I grew up with my grandmother, and she didn’t have an easy life having to raise me. I came to live with her when she was 55 years old and she had to learn to drive. Although she’d had many heartaches in life, losing twins in stillbirth, losing a young daughter in a fire, losing my mother (her daughter) in a car accident and losing her husband when I was seven years old, she always tried to have a positive attitude. She’d always try to make the best of things and part of that was laughing and joking. I remember her quoting the serenity prayer so many times! In my own life, I can’t help but see the funny side of day to day life and when challenges come.

How do you manifest your faith and spiritual life in your writing?
My faith is a part of who I am. As a believer and a follower of Christ, I can’t separate my faith from who I am. It’s my world view, it’s my attitude, it’s my work ethic, it’s the lens through which I see the world.

You are co-author of As the Ink Flows. Tell us about that book and identify its target audience.
I was blessed to be invited to join a local writers group in 2012 which lead to us co-writing As the Ink Flows.

The book was written for Christian writers and speakers, even if all you do is write in a prayer journal. Each devotion has a scripture verse, a reflection and a writing prompt. We felt strongly that we didn’t just want the readers to be inspired and close the book and say “that’s nice” we wanted them to respond and take action. We put in a “your turn” section for that purpose. The 90 devotions are divided into themes: The Craft (of writing), Inspiration, Know Yourself, Well-being, Personalities, and Faithfulness. The book has been used by university professors in their writing courses and at writer’s meetings to kick start their gatherings.

What is your favorite reading material: magazines, newspapers, fiction, non-fiction? What is your favorite fiction genre and why?
I love reading Christian Fiction and my favorite genres are (in no particular order) Historical Fiction, Contemporary Romance, YA (fantasy/dystopian) or general Speculative Fiction and Romantic Suspense. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite out of these genres. I guess it depends on my mood. Occasionally I’ll read general market classics. In the non-fiction department, I prefer books on writing or memoirs.

You were born in South Africa and now live in Canada. What cultural differences did you have to adjust to when moving from one continent to another?
The first thing we noticed that although both countries claimed to speak English, the words we used didn’t always have the same meaning. For example, the trunk of the care in North America would be called the book in South Africa. Also, we had to learn to drive on the other side of the road while sitting on the other side of the car!

Canadians, like South Africans, are friendly people. However, South Africans are quite social in a more casual sort of way, and they are social all year around. There is no making appointments, we just drop around and visit each other. Also, because the winters are milder, there isn’t that tendency to hibernate in the winter. I found it funny that I’d hardly see my neighbors in winter here in the northern part of Toronto, unless we were all out shoveling snow from our driveways at the same time. Then when spring comes, everyone emerges out of the woodwork so to speak.

You are a fan of coffee. What is your favorite coffee drink?
Actually, I only usually drink espresso in a latte, and then when I am not having that, I like Matcha green tea lattes. Believe it or not, espresso has less caffeine than coffee because of the darker roast. Or at least, that is what I have been told by baristas. At home, I drink tea in the afternoon.

You also love your cats! What are your favorite feline antics?
Our female cat has everyone in the family wrapped around her little paw. She loves her human family, although she is fiercely protective to the point that it’s embarrassing. She hisses at my mother-in-law when she comes to visit. She is very affectionate otherwise and hyper-purrs first thing in the morning because she’s so happy to see her humans again. We close all the bedroom doors at night so that we can sleep in peace. Our male cat (they are siblings) is the total opposite and can’t get enough of strangers. They are both almost six years old now and I can’t imagine life without them.

In this age of electronics and social media addiction, especially among young people, how have you inspired your teens to love reading?
Inspiring my teens to love reading began way before social media arrived on the scene. We read bedtime stories to them from when they were babies until they were old enough to read for themselves. Now they are both voracious readers and I don’t really have to do much prompting. In fact, my son will read until 2 am some nights, which is a problem sometimes, but I am reluctant to stifle his passion for reading. Neither of my kids are on social media anyway, they are not really interested in it. Getting them off their phones, however, is another thing…but we don’t allow electronics after 7:00 at night or before 10:00 in the morning.


Patti Shene Gonzales hosts Step Into the Light, a weekly interview-style blog talk radio show, where she promotes those who share God’s love through writing and other ministry outlets. She hosts writers, published and unpublished, on her two blogs, The Over 50 Writer and Patti’s Porch on her website at Patti is published in two anthologies and local publications and has three western novels in progress. When not writing or reading, she is doing volunteer work for her church or attending her only granddaughter’s sports activities. Patti lives in Colorado with her devoted feline companion, Duncan.

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