Writers on Writing: Melinda Leigh

Melinda_Leigh_About_3.jpgMelinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. A life-long lover of books, she started writing as a way to preserve her sanity while raising her kids. Over the next few years, she learned a few things about writing a book and decided the process was way more fun than analyzing financial statements. Melinda’s debut novel, SHE CAN RUN, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She is the winner of the Golden Leaf Award and has garnered three Daphne du Maurier Award nominations.

Melinda holds a 2nd degree belt in Kenpo Karate. She’s dabbled in Arnis stick fighting, studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and taught women’s self-defense. She lives in a messy house in the suburbs with her husband, two kids, two rescue dogs and two shelter cats who clearly run the show. With such a pleasant life, she has no explanation for the sometimes dark and disturbing nature of her imagination.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

Writing is hard work. I used to think that once I got the hang of this writing gig, the job would get easier with each book. The opposite is true. Each new story feels harder. I set the bar higher for each story.

How has this helped you as a writer?

The most important element of being an author is writing the best book I possibly can each time. My readers spend their hard-earned money on my books, and I take that very seriously.

Mac or PC?

Most definitely Mac.MLSTL

Do you use Word of Scrivener?

I switched to Scrivener a couple of years ago and I’ll never go back. When I’m writing on deadline, the organizational features are essential to keep track of my plot and timeline. When I have to switch to Word during the revision process with my editor, I miss the ease of clicking through my outline. I usually end up with my Scrivener draft open on my second monitor so I can refer to the plot points and timeline I keep on Scrivener’s notecards.

Do you write or take notes with an iPad or tablet?

I don’t even own a tablet, but if I’m out of the house and don’t have my laptop with me, I will type notes into my phone when I get an idea (I have a huge phone!!). If I wait until I get home, I might forget.

Do you have any writing rituals?

My best day begins with me in my office by seven or eight, a quiet house, and 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time to get my new words down. After lunch is time for editing, administrative tasks, marketing plans, etc. My ideal day probably happens once a week or less. The rest of the time, I write when I can. My kids are home for the summer, and I want to spend time with them. We often have extra kids around. I count the number of shoes in the foyer if I want to know how many bodies are in my house at any time. We have four rescue animals, 2 dogs and 2 cats, with their own needs. My family lives nearby, and we’re very close (sometimes I have to go over and feed my grandfather’s chickens). Life is rarely quiet or calm in our house. My youngest leaves for college in September, and I have no doubt I’ll miss the chaos.

Do you start by writing or researching first?

Research is a time trap for me. I’m a nerd and could spend weeks, no months, researching. But my time isn’t unlimited. So I begin with some general research to hone my story concept. Then I start writing and fill in the gaps as necessary.

Favorite spot to write in the winter?

My office, covered with the heated throw my publisher sent me. Winter is not my friend. I dream of living somewhere warm.

Favorite spot to write in the summer?

I have a lovely office but I will also take my laptop outside and write by the pool when I need some air. If I’m having a particularly hard week focusing, I might opt for a change of scenery and head for my local coffee shop.

Visit Melinda’s website for the latest news.


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