Melanie Schwapp, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I love life . . . the good, the bad and the messiness of it. I love the fact that we are all here bumbling our way through, and that each of our messes are the lessons that help to straighten out the jumbled lines. I live my life as such – I think that perfection is over-rated, so I do the things that make me happy, albeit imperfectly. I was never formally trained in landscaping or interior design, yet these are the occupations I’ve chosen because of my sheer love of plants, nature, sun, dirt, and families. The best part is, at the end of the day, I get to write about perfect imperfection.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A mother. I dreamt of the day when I would hold a tiny little being in my arms and build a home around it.
What books have had a lasting impact on you?
A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford), Good Grief (Lolly Winston), Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad), Green Days by the River (Michael Anthony) . . .
Why do you write?
It is my breath . . . I need it to live.
Your advice to new writers just starting out?
Read, read, read. Think of it like having conversation – when someone speaks, you think, you search your thoughts, you answer. In the throes conversation, you find your voice. It is the same with reading – when you listen to other people’s written voices, your own voice is given momentum and great volume.
As an author, what are you most proud (or embarrassed) of writing?
I’m thoroughly embarrassed about writing about topics my parents would quake at – It is so funny, but this was a factor that hampered much of my creativity at first. As a child in Jamaica, we were brought up to respect our elders, never use bad language, and certainly to never speak of sex in a vulgar manner. Being ladylike was something that was drilled into us girls. However, writing sometimes needs an essence of vulgarity to be impactful and truthful, and I had learn to remove my own persona from my writing in order to allow the full development of my characters.
What is your biggest failure?
Not being more aggressive in promoting my writing. For a long time when I was turned down by publishing house after publishing house, I began to believe that I was just not meant to write for anyone other than my own private release.
Your views on success?
To do what you absolutely love and to be able to earn a really good living from it.
What are you working on at the moment?
My second novel – my first took seven years to complete, so I’m hoping that this time around my writing voice will have gained not just volume, but some serious momentum!
Your views on book publishing?
Publishing is like dating – you may go on many, but when the right one comes along, you just know it. This chemistry, this belief in each other, is the factor that brings forth great marketing and sales.
Your views on how new technology has (or has not) changed your writing life?
I love to journal, and because of that I am emotionally attached to old-fashioned pencil and paper. My children laugh because my car seat and my desk are all covered in eraser dust. I write down everything that stirs me emotionally, whether it be sadness, joy or annoyance. I like to think of these jottings as the ‘skeletons’ of my writing. What technology has allowed me to do is to lay these skeletal frames before me, in any order I choose, and then to connect the dots and tendons so as to add the ‘flesh’. Editing has become a breeze with new technology, and certainly this lack of stress has allowed my creativity to flow.
Your views on social media?
I love social media, mainly because it opens up the world to me. I appreciate the honesty of life that is revealed, for make no mistake, even those who try to present an image that may be fake, cannot help but reveal a truth in the sheer need for pretence. I use much of this analysis and insight as fodder to develop my characters. I also love the use of social media to promote my work and to investigate other people’s work.
Do you enjoy reading ebooks?
I’ve just really started to read them. For a long time, my attachment to pencil and paper was also tied to a tactile attachment to books. However, my children have slowly but surely been winning me over to the ebook phenomena by sending me a few that I’ve quite enjoyed.
If you could go anywhere in time for one day, where would you go and why?
I’d go back to the day that my first child was born so that I could speak to myself as that young mother and tell her that the baby was not going to break, and she should stop panicking and enjoy every messy moment because the time goes just too darn fast.
Who are the five people, living or dead, you’d invite to a party?
Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis, Michelle Obama – Oh how I would absorb their strength, their grace, their ability to stand for their beliefs in a tenuous environment without publicly losing their courage or dignity.
Which characters in history do you like the most?
He’s still in history, but I absolutely love the philosophy and style of Justin Trudeau. He stands for what I believe in the most – that we are all citizens of the world, that we all belong here, and that we all have something to contribute. I believe in his policy of inclusion and peace, and his effort to quell the hatred and violence that is stemming in the world.
Which characters in history do you dislike the most?
Those like Donald Trump who spew discord and intolerance and promote the removal of the dignity and rights from other peoples and cultures.
Your idea of happiness?
Digging in a garden with rich soil and the promise that I will be sitting to write later that evening with a glass of red wine by my side.
Your greatest unhappiness?
My children’s unhappiness.
Your bedside reading?
I LOVE culturally rich novels like Find Me Unafraid (Kennedy Odede), The Space Between Us (Thrity Umrigar)
Your greatest achievement?
Believing enough in my novel Dew Angels to take the final step of self-publishing after being turned down by several publishing houses and then gained the attention of HopeRoad and now slated to be re-published May 2016.
Your favourite motto?
My country Jamaica’s motto – “Out of many, we are one”. I wish we all understood the essence of this statement, and the extreme circumstances of discord that must have led to the necessity of coining such a phrase. For years this motto has existed, and instead of moving closer to the ‘one’, we are shattering more into the ‘many’.
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