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Interview with Melanie S. Hatter, Author of The Color of My Soul and Let No One Weep for Me, Stories of Love and Loss

Author's Bio: Melanie S. Hatter is the winner of the 2011 Washington Writers' Publishing House Fiction Prize for her debut novel, The Color of My Soul. Her short stories have appeared in The Whistling Fire, Defying Gravity anthology, TimBookTu and Diverse Voices Quarterly, and her short story, Obsessed with Claudia, won the First Annual Romantic Tales Writing Contest. Her short story collection, Let No One Weep for Me, Stories of Love and Loss, was released in May 2015. Melanie is a visiting author with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation's Writers in Schools program. She received a bachelor's degree from Hampton University and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. She has a background in journalism and corporate communications. Born and raised in Scotland (UK), she now lives in Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

What inspired you to write your book?
The Color of My Soul came out of my experience being biracial and growing up in Scotland, a predominantly white country. My mother is Scottish and my father is African American. When I came to the States, I was quite naïve about race and culture and had a lot to learn. I studied at Hampton University and became a newspaper journalist in Southwest Virginia. I wrote some news stories about the Native American culture and through all of these experiences, I came up with the story for the novel. I was fascinated by what it means to be black, white, mixed or Native American in this country.

My short story collection is comprised of stories I’ve written over the past 20 years or so. When I pulled them together for a collection, I realized this theme of loss in all of them – something so many of us can relate to in one way or another. I decided to try my hand as an indie author and released the collection myself earlier this year.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Yes. I’ve always been an avid reader, and one of the first books I remember reading that had a profound effect on me was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I was enthralled by the story (from the perspective of a horse) but especially enamored by the author’s ability to create a world that felt real. That book definitely made me want to learn to write fiction.

Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
The Color of My Soul is my first published novel and it took more than 10 years to complete. I finished what I thought was the final draft only to learn that writing a novel involves many re-writes, so it took me awhile to get the story to where it is now. A lot happened to me in those years, and much time passed when I wasn’t writing. But something about this story kept pulling me back to it until I was able to get it finished. Then it took about a year of submitting to agents and publishers before I finally sent it to the Washington Writers’ Publishing House, a local non-profit press, which selected the book as its 2011 Fiction Prize finalist.

Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I flow organically, although I was accepted into a four-week writing program in Bali, Indonesia, in November (I’m so excited) and the goal is to complete a first draft in the four weeks, and I’m required to write an outline. So I’m interested to see how this helps or hinders my writing process.

Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
Not when I’m actually writing, although sometimes songs will get me thinking about a particular character or a scene and can help me think it through. I don’t usually have a particular song for the whole book, though.

What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
I’m not the best person to ask. Reaching the public is a challenge because there are so many books out there competing for readers. I try to stay in touch with readers through newsletters and social media, and then attend book events when I can. It’s not easy maintaining balance between the writing process and marketing your books. I’m still figuring it out.

What advice would you give to new authors?
My biggest advice is to read – read A LOT. Especially in the genre you want to write in, but read everything and anything. This will help you find your own voice as well as what you like and don’t like; it will help you hone your technique. I also tell writers to learn the mechanics of writing. Grammar, punctuation, sentence structure – for many this part of writing isn’t fun, but these basics are important and can make or break your writing.

How about sharing excerpts from your books?
You can find an excerpt from The Color of My Soul on my website (http://melanieshatter.com/books/the-color-of-my-soul/), so I’ll include here a story from my collection. This is the opening of Taking the Shot.

A hood drawn roughly over my head made the night darker. The coarse fibers scratched my cheeks; the stale suffocating smell filled my nostrils. My vague sense of danger became real as the steps outside my hotel disappeared in a moment of chaos, filled with voices of Colombian rebels, their firm hands shoving, pulling. The dizzying whirl from sidewalk to truck disoriented me. A nightmare come to life.

They thought I was important, a member of the media, a figure to garner money. My disjointed and muffled pleas battered unconvinced ears.

“I’m not what you think. I’m no one. Just taking pictures for a book.”

“You work for an American newspaper in Washington, D.C.,” the man said as he hustled me into the back of a van. “They will pay to release you.”

“No, no! They won’t. I’m just a freelancer — I’m not employed by any one paper. No one will give you money for me.”

I had heard of the FARC, but full of typical American bravado, I had believed nothing would happen to me in Colombia. What would anyone want with me, a freelance photographer working on a coffee table book? My new companion, Rita — secured through a friend of a friend — served as my travel guide. We had spent the day exploring the beauty of the Parque National Natural Chingaza. 

Exhausted and content, we’d eaten dinner at a quaint restaurant and planned tomorrow’s adventure in the Amazon after a good night’s sleep. Just one more day to explore before I flew back to the States, back to my regular life.

What’s next for you?
I am doing some re-writes on a second novel and hope to get some interest from an agent for publication. As I mentioned, I will be heading to Bali in November where I will be working on a third novel idea. Wish me luck!

Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
·         Website: www.melanieshatter.com
·         Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Melanie.Hatter
·         Twitter: https://twitter.com/mshatter1
·         Book buy links: www.melanieshatter.com, www.amazon.com

It’s been a pleasure having you here with us today. I know my readers will enjoy getting to know you and your work.






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