I'm so excited to shine the spotlight on Melissa Aylstock today. As I've gotten to know her I've been so impressed with her drive, work ethic and sense of humor. What a great lady. Enjoy getting to know Melissa Aylstock.
I adore the entire process of writing fiction novels. I can think of nothing I enjoy more. I have had two novels published and I completed three additional novels in 2009 which are at various publishing houses and agencies being read. I am currently editing my fourth. I have been able to write this much because I made a commitment in May of 2009 to leave the residential real estate appraising field and write full time with the total support of my husband. These completed novels are a direct result of my ability to stick with book projects I love, and I do love all my books! I believe these novels are also a concrete expression of my commitment to personal and professional excellence, and what I think is my uncanny ability to tap into the hearts and minds of the young women of today.
My non-LDS books are morally conservative, para-normal romances. My LDS books reflect the realistic angst that young adults in teens and young adults in the church feel when they are out of step with their "more active" peers. I grew up in a "less active" family and was "less active" myself in my youth. As my children grew, they too at times strayed from the "iron rod." My first book, CTR's Ring (2005), deals with one of my children's word of wisdom struggles while continuing to wear a very visible CTR ring. My second book, 80 Miles from Nowhere (2006), deals with the issues of not belonging to a “forever family.” As a recent seminary teacher, I am still acutely aware of how much distress is caused by not fitting into a “Molly or Norman Mormon” role.
CTR’s Ring. Utah: Cedar Fort Incorporated. 2005
Cameron Richards, a young Jeep-driving free spirit from the Bible Belt, arrives in California to meet a long-lost branch of his family. Shock awaits him when he discovers that his new family is not only large but also decidedly Mormon—a religious “cult” he has always been wary of. To complicate matters, he finds himself falling for the friend of his cousin, who turns out to be one of the nicest “cult” members he has ever met.
80 Miles from Nowhere. Utah: Cedar Fort Incorporated. 2006
Lance Morris, a young man on the run from himself and his religion, finds himself in Magna, Utah without a car, without a job, and without a friend in the world. But soon he finds himself hiding from more that just his painful upbringing. Lance’s impulsive behavior thrusts him into a dangerous situation. To make matters worse, he inadvertently drags his new roommate’s quirky sister into the mess.
Lauren’s Ring. Submitted
Lauren Emma Smith is a BYU attending young adult from Roseville, CA. While in Provo, she meets and civilly marries fellow student, Joel Vassaux, a recent convert to the church. Lauren finds herself living a fairly idyllic life; she is happily pregnant, attending school and living in student housing. Then a letter to her husband arrives that changes everything.
Nicole’s Nic Nackery. Submitted
Nicole is a recent young single adult convert to the church. Her conversion came at a high price for three reasons:.
• Her parents own a winery she was being groomed to inherit.
• She now has a worthless Master’s Degree from UC Davis in Viticulture and Enology (study of wines and wine making).
• Her one and only budding male/female relationship ended when she started to show an interest in the church.
Life Afterlife. Submitted
A young girl gets help from another dimension in coping with the aftermath of recent tragedies in her life. With voices in her head warning her of imminent danger, she questions her own sanity. A new male friend is intrigued by this girl’s admission of hearing voices, until he hears them as well.
Dead is a Temporary Thing. Being edited.
A single young adult woman gets help with her non-existent love life from her mother—who is dead. This mother from another place and time posts confidential information and pictures on her daughter’s Facebook page. Mom directs a few specifically selected men to contact her confused and perplexed daughter. The daughter, in trying to find out who is behind this apparent hoax, is hampered by having to juggle four males all vying for her attention.
My interview with Melissa:
M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
I’ve always been a writer with my earliest attempt at influencing someone’s opinion through writing coming when I was in third grade. I wrote a letter to the principal, Dr. Papadakis, asking him to give my teacher a vacation because she seemed tired and overworked. Maybe it was that day when I was called into his office to explain, that I discovered the power of the pen.
Now if your real question is: when did I first commit to writing as a complete avocation? That would be in May of 2009 after I already had two books published. It wasn’t until I went to a seminar for real estate professionals—where the speaker insisted you could only be truly successful if you did what you loved— that I realized the only thing I really ever loved was writing. I went home and timidly asked my husband if I could change careers. This would mean no income during the transition period. He was beyond gracious and accommodating. He has always been my biggest fan. I have finished four complete novels since that time. Two of the novels are currently being read at Covenant and Granite and my first non-LDS novel is being read by a New York agency.
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
If not for Kerry Blair (www.kerryblair.com), I would never have gotten my first novel published. She read CTR’s Ring, and then encouraged me to submit it to the major LDS publishers. I now realize what a genuine act of benevolence this was. She was a very busy and prolific author in her own right, with multiple writing projects in the works. Reading an unpublished author’s first attempt is a true act of service.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Of course. I got four letter’s of rejection before CTR’s Ring was picked up by Cedar Fort, Inc. The hardest letter of rejection was the first one, but Kerry Blair was there to hold my hand and encouraged me to send the book out again and again.
M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?
I write like I read, in big blocks of time and until I’m utterly exhausted and can’t keep my eyes open. It is not unusual, when I’m in the “zone,” for me to write until after midnight and get up at five AM and start again. I actually hate the fact that I have to sleep. I ignore, or at least try to ignore, everything around me. I resent meals, cooking meals, telephone calls, IM messages, doctor’s appointments and any other normal, everyday occurrence. I am lucky that my children are mostly grown and out of the house. My husband is very supportive for the most part, but I’ll admit to pushing him right over the edge at times. However, this writing style allows me to finish books in relatively short bursts of time. As mentioned before, I finished four novels between May of 2009 and January of 2010. I can pick up and put down my work a little easier during editing and rewrites.
M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
I attribute my ideas to heaven sent inspiration and perspiration. The truth is, I have an unlimited supply of ideas, more than I will ever be able to write about in my lifetime. I’ve always been a creative person. Presented with any problem, I can almost always offer multiple solutions. This comes in handy when my characters are presented with the various forms of conflict all humans face.
M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
First, don’t even bother if you don’t LOVE to write. Second, find a writer mentor who is not afraid to be truthful with you. Kerry Blair was that for me. To this day, I don’t know why she chose to take me under her wing, but I am eternally grateful she did.
M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
I sit down and write—period. I tried outlining one time and my characters refused to go along. They kept doing what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it. I often have absolutely no control over the characters who take up residence in my head. If I do try to corral them, they get very testy with me. This comes out in choppy, unrealistic dialogue. I then back off and let them play out their own lives on paper.
M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Not usually, as long as I let my characters say what they want to say and do what they want to do the story just seems to write itself. I am often surprised at how well the minor conflicts are resolved as the story goes along. I don’t consciously think of the resolutions but they show up anyway. It’s very, very cool for me to see.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
I MUST HAVE absolute, total, complete, utter, unqualified, unconditional and unlimited quiet. I HATE to be interrupted. If I am writing and you ask me a question, don’t expect me to remember what I said. More importantly, don’t expect me to follow through on what you thought I agreed to. I can guarantee, I won’t remember you even coming in my office. Feel free to query any of my family—especially my children about this subject. My inability to write on a normal schedule, with normal distractions is, in fact, the hardest part of this new career path for my entire family.
M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
I just write what’s in my head. I do however try to keep my head clear and clean by staying 100% active in the LDS church and working at the LDS Sacramento Temple. I think these two things allow for the inspiration I rely on. I also think it helps my characters (even in my non-LDS books) to not go too far out of bounds morally.
M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Recognizing, and being grateful for, where the inspiration comes from and Kerry Blair, my hero.
M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
No, I might if I lived in Utah where there are more conservative writers, but in California the critique groups I’ve tried to be a part of require me to read works of fiction that are not up to my moral code. I don’t like being in that position.
M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?
My favorite book is always the one I’m currently writing. That’s because the characters live in my head. I eat, breath, sleep and play with them while writing. They’re my best friends. Okay, they’re my best “imaginary friends,” which can be scary at times, but I do love the people who populate my books, especially the slightly flawed, vulnerable males I prefer for main characters.
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share
Readers can follow my exploits and stay current with my works in process via my blog at at www.melissaaylstock.com. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share my story!
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
My first two books, CTR’s Ring and 80 miles From Nowhere are available through Ceder Fort (www.cedarfort.com/) and Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) where 80 Miles From Nowhere is also available in a Kindle edition.
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