Monday, December 5, 2011

Melissa Bourbon: Make Characters Real With Flaws, Problems And Conflict

 I met Melissa Bourbon, AKA, Misa Ramirez when she gave a lecture on goal, motivation, and conflict and the Hero's Journey. Her ability to explain the concepts made it very clear she had teaching ability. Then I read her book, Hasta La Vista Lola and I saw she also had writing ability.
Thank you, Melissa,  for joining our blog to talk about writing. What is this journey like for you?

Thank you for having me! I love that you asked about the writing journey because it is exactly that. There are so many ups and downs, moments of doubt, success, and everything in between!

People often think of writers as having “overnight success”.
 I started writing with an idea of publication about nine years ago. My youngest son was just a baby and at first I wrote just to keep my sanity (with four other kids at home, the oldest being ten years old). I’d taken a leave of absence from teaching middle school and eventually realized how much I loved every part of the writing process (even the dreaded revisions, which I actually like the most!). I truly didn’t think I’d ever actually sell my book, but I kept at it. Now I firmly believe in Mark Twain’s statement that the difference between those who succeed and those who fail is the ones who succeed never give up. I never gave up. And as long as I continue to enjoy the writing process and have stories to tell, I’ll continue to work at it.

Could you share a bit about PLEATING FOR MERCY, your newest book, and the characters?
Pleating for Mercy is book one in A Magical Dressmaking mystery series published with NAL. It centers around Harlow Jane Cassidy, a descendant of Butch Cassidy. All the female descendants are charmed, but Harlow hasn’t discovered her gift yet. She’s a fashion designer who’s returned to her hometown of Bliss, Texas, after she inherits her great-grandmother’s little red farmhouse just off the square.

She opens a custom dressmaking boutique. Meemaw may have passed, but she’s still hanging around the farmhouse, as Harlow soon discovers. She’s playing matchmaker, as well as helping Harlow solve the mystery behind a murder that happens in her front yard.
The cast includes Harlow’s mother, Tessa, grandmother, Coleta, Will and Gracie Flores, the sheriff, Hoss McClaine, and an old friend, Josie Sandoval.

What inspired you to write a cozy mystery? Was it difficult to provide the right amount of mystery mixed with the quirkiness of some of the characters.
I grew up loving mysteries. I spent most of my high school lunch periods in one classroom or another reading Agatha Christie. When I first decided I wanted to write, a mystery was logical...and inspiring. The Lola Cruz mystery series was born (Living the Vida Lola, Hasta la Vista, Lola!, and Bare Naked Lola--April 2012). From there, the cozy mystery series came along. I love the small town setting, the strength of family, and the mystery elements helping to move the plot forward.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them on?
The characters developed authentically. I imagine who would play them as actors, and that helps keep them clear in my mind. Making them real, with flaws and real problems, building conflict into their lives, and making sure they have triumphs along the way, helps to make them real. Characters who are layered, consistent, and who grow are the most interesting to me; I try to build those elements into the ones I create.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you tried to build emotional bonds between the characters?
Sometimes, if I’m really busy or distracted, I can’t quite “find” the characters’ voices. That’s frustrating! But again, when I visualize who I think would play the characters, and keep their core personality traits front and center, that helps me. Making sure that each character has his or her own conflicts and motivations, and making them have conflicts with each other, keeps the tension building. Building emotional connections can be more difficult, but to me, the key is still conflict. Even when you’re showing people developing feelings for one another, you have to throw obstacles in their path.

Do you have a favorite character in this book?
I love Harlow. I think she has the strength and tenacity to carry the story. Meemaw is another favorite because she’s like the comic relief.

Do you have a favorite scene, you can share with the readers.
I love the scene when Harlow walks into the farmhouse and discovers a man (Will Flores) there. She realizes during the scene that Meemaw is playing matchmaker from beyond the grave.

Which is more important in your stories character or plot?
Characters! The plot is always changing, but without the stability of a solid cast of characters, no one will care about the plot.

Do you outline before you write a series?
I do a proposal and have a general outline, but I’m not a big plotter. Big picture, yes, but the details come to me as I write.

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?
I love the whole process, as I’ve said, but the best part is holding that finished book in my hands. It’s so satisfying! Receiving ‘fan’ email is also such a thrill. When someone takes the time to write to you and tell you how much they love your characters, story, book, etc, it’s very meaningful.
The most disappointing is probably the stress of waiting for sales reports and worrying if the publisher will think you’re selling well enough to keep your contract going.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
Never give up!

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
Telling instead of showing. It’s the difference between summarizing a story and really drawing a reader into it.

If you could have a beer, coffee, tea or wine with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
Wow, this is tough! I’d have coffee with Margaret Mitchell, I think. Gone With the Wind has always been a favorite. To hear her speak of Scarlett, Rhett, Atlanta, and the rest of the cast would be inspirational.

What’s next for you?
I’m wrapping up Deadly Patterns, book 3 in the series. A Fitting End comes out in February. I’ll be plotting book 4 very soon!
Bare Naked Lola comes out in April, then it’s onto the next Lola book.

Finally, where can we buy your books and find you on the web?
They can be bought anywhere books are sold! Below are the Amazon links:

Pleating For Mercy

A Fitting End

Living The Vida Lola

Hasta la Vista, Lola!

Thanks so much for having me here today!

Follow me on and

Friend me on and

Find me on my website:
Melissa, thank you so much for sharing your writing journey with us. And readers if you have a question for Melissa please scroll down to comments and click. And by all means, do come back for an excerpt on Friday.


Anonymous said...

Keep working, nice post! This was the information I had to know. said...

Thank you so much for the depth of the answers you provided in this blog interview. I carried away very useful information. I look forward to some of your classes.

Ruby Johnson said...

I'm looking forward to your book. I've read the Lola Cruz series and liked them. Thank you for visiting our blog.

Misa said...

Thank you, Thorne! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. It was fun to answer the questions.

Misa said...

Ruby, thanks so much for inviting me! I hope you enjoy Pleating for Mercy and the rest of the Magical Dressmaking series. And the 3rd Lola Cruz mystery! I loved speaking to the Keller writers.

Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...