Monday, January 23, 2017

Michigander Monday: Heather Smith Meloche

I'm pleased to welcome Heather Smith Meloche to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Heather, please tell us a little about yourself.

Heather:  Well, I thought for sure I would never write a novel. Poetry was my thing. Short, punchy, easy to construct in a condensed amount of time. But then I had kids, and kids change everything! The poems I was writing for my first son over fifteen years ago turned into short stories that turned into picture books, which I was really lousy at, and then that morphed into me discovering my sixteen-year-old voice and writing young adult stories. Now I find that my poetry background plays right into my prose and into the voices of the characters and the tone. My writing wouldn’t be as strong without that poetic base.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

Heather:  Again, because I never thought I was going to really do this whole novel thing, I was really surprised when I went to a children’s writing workshop in Oregon in 2007 and got a lot of excitement about my submission from the agents there. I’d submitted a couple chapters of Ripple, and that agent praise was huge motivation and impetus for me to keep going. At the time, because of the expectations in the children’s writing field, I was told Ripple – a book about the ripple of addiction from one generation to the next and two teens dealing with their own unique addictions -- would be a tough sell even though the writing was strong. And, in fact, it didn’t sell. Paranormal hit strongly right after that and everyone wanted books with a fairy, werewolf, or vampire in them. My edgy contemporary wasn’t very marketable. So I took the basic story and rewrote it in verse as a short story, which became “Him,” that won the Katherine Paterson Prize in 2011 through the literary journal Hunger Mountain at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Suddenly, agents were contacting me again. With the rise of John Green’s novels, contemporary was becoming hot again, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games had blown the doors off the perceptions of what was edgy, and Ripple had a market. I chose an awesome, seasoned agent, Heather Schroder, who sold the book in 2014. It was released in September 2016.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Heather:  I’ve written two novels since getting my contract for Ripple. The first one my agent didn’t love. The second my editor passed on. So I’m plugging away with my next contemporary and hope to have it done by mid-spring. I also consistently work on short stories that are often offspring of the novels I’m working on – like side stories of certain characters or settings.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Heather:  I’m always adding to my schedule, but so far, it looks like this for 2017:
Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?

Heather:  With regard to bookstores, my local Barnes and Noble has been wonderful to me and invites me to do so much in their store. But I also love my indie stores, including Pages Bookstore on Grand River in Detroit that just opened recently, Kazoo Books in Kalamazoo, and The Book Beat in Oak Park, which, magically, has books I didn’t even know I needed jumping off the shelves at my feet when I walk in! ;) When it comes to libraries, I can’t choose! I believe so strongly in libraries and the power of librarians, that every one of them is my favorite. But recently, I’ve had the chance to visit Orion Township Public Library in Lake Orion and Frenchtown Dixie Library in Monroe for some awesome book fairs. Both libraries have an out-of-this-world staff!!

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Heather:  My grandparents built a cottage on Lake Michigan in Cross Village, which is about 20 minutes below Mackinaw City. With my grandparents now gone from this world, my parents own it, and it is my favorite place to be. I write better there than anywhere else. My grandmother was an artist who told my mom when I was younger, “Heather will be a successful writer. I won’t be here to see it, but she’ll publish her work.” I can “feel” my grandmother there, which is inspiring.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend? 

Heather:  There is absolutely NOTHING like a sunset over Lake Michigan. It’s a total moment of awe and Zen every time.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about? 

Heather:  Cross Village has an awesome gallery, Three Pines Studio, that is run by artists and former Wayne State University professors, Joann Condino and Gene Reck. They do some amazing things mixing children’s literature with art. Joann is a marketing queen and has really networked well in Northern Michigan to bring art to so many people. They are wonderful!! Also, my roommate from Michigan State University has gone on to open an emporium/gallery in Sutton’s Bay called Great Goods. She features work by some award-winning jewelry artists in Michigan and worldwide, since metallurgy and jewelry-making was her focus in college. She also features some Michigan authors and other Michigan artists in her store, which is super fun to walk through!!

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Heather:  Seriously, I would never want to live in any other state. I absolutely love it here. The summers are the very best for vacationing all over Michigan – both upper and lower peninsulas, and Michigan winters are huge for skiing, snowmobiling, and sledding. Detroit is having the most amazing resurgence when it comes to tourism and restaurants. Michigan is a state that is so diverse and so beautiful that it would be a shame for non-residents to never visit it. Do I sound like a “Pure Michigan” commercial? I’m totally good with that. 

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Heather:  I LOVE this question! I actually use them both interchangeably. I don’t want to offend anyone ;)

Debbie:  We'll add you to both columns!  Heather, thank you so much for joining us today for Michigander Monday and Michiganian Monday!  :)