The marvelous Melanie Fishbane and I are back. And so are you! Great! Let’s get this party started! But first: If you’re brand-new to the blog, you may wish to know that this is part 2 of the interview. You can jump over to part 1 here and get acquainted with Melanie’s work in progress. (Or, if you’re like Kay Thompson’s irrepressible character, Eloise, you can skibble over to part 1.)
El Space: Aside from your work in progress, you’re working on some academic papers. Please tell us about those and how you came to write them.
Melanie: I love breaking things down and analyzing them, because it is a way for me to have a conversation with myself about what I’m thinking. Essays (and answering questions for a blog post) are a great way to do that!
I returned to essay writing in 2008, when I was inspired by the way teens were responding to Edward Cullen (Twilight), Darcy (Pride and Prejudice), and Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables) online. I considered how there was a similarity in the way that these characters were constructed that made teens fall in love with them and then wondered about my own literary loves—Gilbert Blythe and Almanzo Wilder in case you were interested.
El Space: I am! Mainly because I’m nosy.
Melanie: Well, in that case, you should check out this blog post where I talk about it.
El Space: Read it! Great post.
Melanie: I’ve been working on the Perfect Man Archetype for about four years now (it was my critical thesis) and hope to put my literary findings into a book one day.
El Space: I’d love to read that! And I could say something about finding the Perfect Man in general, but let’s move on!
Melanie: YA is having such an interesting growth and I think by tapping into this archetype, I’ve been able to connect to our literary heritage.
The other essay I’m working on is how L. M. Montgomery used writing to help her deal with loss, specifically what I see as her grief narratives: Rilla of Ingleside and The Blythes Are Quoted. I came to this, because I wanted to explore how Montgomery wrote about grieving and the process of grieving.
El Space: How do both worlds—your academic subjects and your novel—meet?
Melanie: Well, for the Perfect Man Archetype I’ve been able to look at how I construct the love interests in my novels and how I might subvert them. I want to create characters that I hope my readers will fall in love with, but will also, hopefully, surprise them.
For the Montgomery essay on grieving, I came to this because my novel is also a grief narrative, as my protagonist is recovering from the sudden death of her father and I hoped to gain insight into how to write this with authenticity.
El Space: If you were to write an academic paper on a current heroine, not including your own, who would you choose? Why?
Melanie: Good question! You know, I don’t know. The first character that came to mind was Katniss from The Hunger Games, mostly because she has inspired a stream of strong willed, hurt, emotionally detached characters in YA. I wonder if maybe it is because I remember being so emotional as a teen but don’t think that I even understood what was going on or why I felt the way that I did. In a way, that is being disconnected, going into the head, not the heart. Come to think of it, my novel deals with this a bit, too.
El Space: What advice would you give to a teen about writing?
Melanie: Write things that inspire you and don’t worry about being bad. You will be, but that is okay. I would also suggest keeping a journal, because it will allow you to safely work with your own story and emotions. Then if you see a writing workshop at your local library, take it. And don’t take the feedback too personally; you aren’t a bad person or a bad writer if the sentence is bad; it is just that the sentence is bad and that can be fixed. I wish someone had told me that as a teenager. I might not have waited ten years to go back to writing fiction and poetry.
Wow! Thanks, Melanie, for being such a great guest. (She also picks up after herself and doesn’t leave coffee mug rings on the table. Nice.)
And thank you for stopping by. If you have questions for Melanie, you know what to do! Please comment below!
Eloise illustration by Hilary Knight found at truetostyle.com. Gilbert Blythe photo from sjaejones.com. Almanzo Wilder photo from Wikipedia. Rilla of Ingleside cover from lmmresearchgroup.org. Other book covers from Goodreads.com. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss photo found at graphic-engine.swarthmore.edu.