For my writing, I use an abbreviation of my initials: M.L. LeGette. Everywhere else, I go by Melissa.
I’m on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mllegette/),
and Instagram (@melissalegette).
My blog is Come What May (https://legettewrites.wordpress.com/)
- Tell us a little about your life outside of the world of writing?
I’m a small scale vegetable farmer with an even smaller flock of sheep. If you’re around the Athens, GA area, stop by the farmers market at Bishop Park and buy some potatoes. They’re wicked good. I’m also a hobbyist photographer (Garden Windows Photography). I love to bake, though I don’t often have the time during the height of farming season, and I’m teaching myself how to knit. Second pair of gloves is underway.
- What has been the greatest influence to your writing? Other authors, life experiences, etc…
I credit J.K. Rowling for opening my eyes to storytelling. I’d been exploring writing before discovering her Harry Potter series, but it wasn’t until I read them that the bomb in my brain went off. Her ability to make every scene as vivid as a film, how she fleshes out the minor characters as much as the leads, her play of light and dark, the balance of serious and silly – it’s these aspects that connected with me the most and have stuck with me over the years.
- Now you have a few books that are already out for sale, can you tell us about them?
The Unicorn Girl is my first full length novel. It’s a fantasy adventure about a young girl who discovers she has a powerful connection with the legendary creatures and must travel across her homeland in search of them.
The Tale of Mally Biddle is my second. I took a step away from magic with it. Mally, the protagonist, juggles working as a servant in a castle full of dangerous knights while trying to find the answers to the questions spinning around the heir to the throne.
- One of your stories, The Orphan and the Thief, you actually took down to rewrite. What was it like going back to work on your story? Considering how often authors complain about simple editing, was this an experience you’ve enjoyed?
I loved it. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed rewriting the story. It helped a lot in that I was spurred on by excellent feedback/suggestions from an agent. I’m not entirely sure if I would have been able to muster up the energy or enthusiasm to take on an undertaking of this magnitude without such outside interest. It also ended up being surprisingly easy. The rewrite happened years after I finished The Orphan and the Thief. I think having such a stretch of time away from the project helped me see the areas that needed improvement. This might be why rewrites are generally so very hard to stomach for writers. When we finish a project, we’re so high on excitement and pride that the prospect of major reconstruction makes many of us want to punch something … or someone. I think the rewrite was also so much fun for me because I’d already gone through the terrible stages of writers block and plot construction. Now, I was exploring. I was fleshing out the story. I was diving deeper into the characters. And that was all immensely enjoyable.
- How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
I like working on one main project at a time, but I’ve got notebooks full of story ideas.
I’m a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl. I like to spend a few days hashing out the general idea of a story: the main focus, the overall atmospheric vibe of the story, the characters most basic motivations. And then I write. I let the writing take the lead. If things start feeling wrong – if the story seems off all of a sudden – I take a step back. I evaluate. I ask myself what exactly is missing/wrong/off, and I make the necessary changes. This process typically repeats many times in the first few chapters. I’m essentially testing the story out. I ended up deleting a large chunk of the first draft of Orphan, because I realized it was going in a direction that wasn’t working for the rest of the story. In the story I’m working on now, it took many drafts of the first three chapters before it dawned on me that the setting wasn’t working.
- What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
I think my greatest strength is dialogue. I like keeping my dialogue exchanges as natural as possible, and that usually comes easily for me. Creating relatable characters is also a strength in my writing. It’s extremely important to create characters that the reader roots for, or is fascinated or terrified by. But writing characters that the readers embrace is difficult and often takes me many, many drafts to get right.
I’m not a plotter, so my storylines are usually very simple. I have a tendency to focus too much on the individual scenes in a chapter and forget about the bigger picture … or forget about deepening my characters. Luckily, this is where rewrites come in.
- While you’ve actually had your books out and for sale for a while now, you’ve recently kind of done a clean slate approach and starting anew with your approach to publishing and marketing. From the way you began and the way you’re going about it now, is there anything you’d advise beginning authors to try or to avoid?
That is a heavy and very good question. As you know, I started out in self-publishing, nudged my big toe up against traditional publishing, and have now ventured fully into serially posting weekly chapters of Orphan’s rewrite online. Honestly, I don’t believe there is any right or wrong. There is only exploration and your own personal desires.
When publishing traditionally didn’t work out, I was both discouraged and relieved. Relieved, in that I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted the pressure and expectations that go along with publishing deals. Discouraged, in that I couldn’t see a clear future for my writing.
Trying to make a living at being a writer is incredibly hard, if not downright impossible, at least for the sort of writing I do — mainly middle grade and young adult. The moment I told myself that I didn’t need to make my books make me money, the pressure vanished. The question then simply became where do I put my writing? For me, writing has always been about sharing. I write for myself, yes, but I also write for interaction. It’s an incredible feeling to connect with readers. I’m posting chapters of The Orphan and the Thief to Wattpad and my own blog, Come What May. My tumblr is dedicated to teasers, excerpts, and painting an aesthetic vibe of the story. When the last chapter is posted, I plan on making the book available on Kindle and as a print-on-demand paperback. When my next book is finished – which will be years from now – I’m going to ask myself the same questions. What do I want? Am I up for another round at the big publisher’s table? Do I want to post chapter by chapter or go straight to ebook? Do I wish to market the book through blog tours or festivals? I don’t expect to be able to answer these questions now, but when the time comes I know the answers will be there.
This is why giving advice is so difficult. We all want different things from our writing. But my big advice points are:
- If you choose to spend money on marketing, and that includes travel expenses to bookstore signings and festivals, have a budget. Most marketing does not work and that is why you must be careful about how much money you spend.
- Have a presence online. You don’t have to be on every social media, unless you want to. I’ve only recently joined tumblr and it is by far my favorite place to be.
- Take your time on your writing. Get it as good as you can. If you self-publish it, know that you can rewrite it to make it even better whenever you want, just as I did.
- If you’re interested in getting a book deal, query before self-publishing. It’s a terrible truth, but many traditional publishers do not want books that have been self-published unless they have already proven themselves popular on the market.
- Most important of all, choose the outlet that keeps you writing. Writing is not about being in bookstores or getting awards or having the six figure advance. Writing is your love and your best friend. Never forget that.