Author Interview: Melissa Bowersock
An Interview with Melissa Bowersock
I am Melissa Bowersock and my latest book is a non-fiction biography called Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan. It’s the true story of my aunt who was an Army nurse and prisoner-of-war during World War II. (You can see the write up on Marica Gates: Angel of Bataan right here on first750.com).
Why did you write your latest book?
I actually didn’t want to. I’m a fiction writer first and foremost, but my aunt’s story was very compelling. I knew very little about her (she and all her generation are gone), or the details of her time in the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. One Veteran’s Day I began thinking about her and wondered if I could find out more information about her time of service. I began searching and found out the Wisconsin (her home state) Historical Society had in their possession two scrapbooks that were kept by my grandmother while my aunt was overseas. I was able to download pdfs of both, and found them a treasure trove of information. They contained letters, telegrams, photos and newspaper clippings from 1941 to 1945. I realized right then that this story needed to be told, to be out in the world and available, not shut up in a drawer where no one would ever see it. I actually expected only family and friends to be interested, but the book has received quite a bit of attention and was awarded a biography medal by the Military Writers Society of America. It was also featured in a TV documentary, Our Wisconsin: the Military History of America’s Dairyland, produced by WKOW-TV in Madison.
How did you get started writing? What is it that makes you want to be a writer?
I seem to have been born with an over-active imagination and have been concocting my own stories ever since I first began to read. I was writing little stories at 5, wrote my first novel at 12 and it’s just never stopped. I’ve written 9 novels and the one non-fiction, and I’m currently working on 3 more novels. My brain is crammed with ideas for more books, many more than I’ll ever get down on paper, I’m sure. It’s not so much that I want to be a writer, it’s that I can’t not be a writer. I think if I ever tried to stop, all the half-formed characters in my head would revolt and my brain would explode. Having them trickle down my arms and out my fingers onto paper keeps me sane (although sometimes that’s debatable).
Keep at it. It’s not an easy vocation, it doesn’t happen overnight and it’s hard work, but chipping away at it, day by day, is the only way to go. Eventually it all begins to add up. I was absolutely ecstatic when I sold my first book, more so when I sold the second one. When the third one was published, I still felt like it was just unbelievable serendipity, but then it was time for the fourth, the fifth, the sixth. When I reached 10 published books, I was just stunned. How the heck did that happen when I wasn’t looking? It just added up. Even when I’m having trouble with a book, if I can just write one page, one paragraph—one word—a day, it keeps adding up. I know there are times when it feels like it’s all just too far away, but believe me, you get there. Just keep going.
If you could only publish in a single genre, what would it be? Why?
I don’t like this question at all! That’s like asking what one and only food I would choose to eat for the rest of my life. I know most authors specialize in one genre or another, but I have never aligned myself to just one (or two, or three …). I go with whatever story has captured my brain at any given time, and I don’t care if it’s a fantasy, a romance, an action/adventure or a satire. If it’s worth telling, I tell it, and I never tell the same story twice. I’ve had readers ask for sequels of some of my books, and I just won’t do it. For one thing, it seems to me that doing a sequel takes the story from the magic of inspiration to the slogging of mechanization, and secondly, I’m usually already on to the next thing. If I really, really had to limit myself, I guess the genres I enjoy most are action/adventures and romances. I enjoy the plot twists in action stories and enjoy the dynamics between characters in romances.
Why should readers read your book?
My latest book, the biography, seems to hit a chord with many people. For one thing, we as a country learned a lot from the Vietnam War about how to react to and treat our veterans, and we can appreciate their sacrifices more now, regardless of our opinion of the conflict itself. Another theme that seems to come up a lot is hardship. We have it so easy now, it’s hard to imagine the kind of hardship people in WWII went through and how they persevered. Nowadays, it’s a tragedy if people only have 2 bars on their phone or drop a call, or they have to wait 5 seconds for a webpage to load. Reading about my aunt and her sister nurses, their dedication, unwavering sense of duty and tenacity are all greatly inspirational, yet they would never have considered doing anything less. I think reading this book and others like it help to put things into perspective. We can all be grateful for the service of people like my aunt, who ensured that we have the free and viable country we enjoy today.
Who is your favorite author of all time and who is your favorite author writing now?
That’s a tough one, just because no author, living or dead, is “on” his or her game all the time. My favorite book on the planet is John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, yet some of Irving’s books are less than inspired and some even disappointing. Likewise, Rita Mae Brown’s Six of One is the second best book on the planet, but her later works often lacked the spark of this one. I think Stephen King’s The Stand is far and away his best book ever, head and shoulders above the rest. I barely made it through Christine and he lost me completely after Cujo, but The Stand is a classic. Larry McMurtrey’s Lonesome Dove is also in a class of its own. I also like Marlys Millhiser, Anne McCaffrey and Mary Stewart. Dan Brown is probably the best author going today, although as with many authors seduced by success, the re-workings of the chasing-the-symbol books seem repetitive to me. Likewise, although I was fascinated by the first Harry Potter book and J. K. Rowling’s amazing imagination, the following books just seemed like more of the same. Obviously I enjoy variety in what I read as well as what I write.
If you could improve any single aspect of yourself (physical, mental, whatever), what would it be?
Gah! There’s a question! Like most people, I could certainly lose a few pounds and tone up my body, but on the whole I’m pretty content. Not that I’m perfect—far from it—but there’s very little place for perfection in life, and contentment is vastly underrated. I’ve been married for almost 42 years, my family is primarily healthy and successful, I have a day job that I love and I’m able to write enough to keep the juices flowing. I’ll never be rich but my husband and I have managed to do some traveling and I’m looking forward to retirement (from the day job—not writing) in the next year. I often think that, although all the parts of my life are not perfect, my life as a whole is perfect—perfect for me, at least. So overall, I’m a pretty happy camper.
What question do you wish I had asked that I did not?
How about a round-up of my books? I’ve talked a lot about variety, so there’s bound to be something here for everyone!
Queen’s Gold—A hypnotic past-life regression leads to ancient Aztec gold, murder, and a love that spans centuries.
The Appaloosa Connection—When Ross Garvey’s prized Appaloosa is stolen from his Colorado ranch, he fully intends to hunt down the thieves in their New Mexico hideout and regain his best broodmare. What he doesn’t count on is bull-headed, fifteen year old Jaimie Callahan, whose horse was also stolen by the same thieves. And he certainly does not anticipate the beautiful Mexican girl who’s dealing with the thieves, nor the fact that an entire company of Mexican troops is in on the deal!
Superstition Gold—A young woman travels to the wilds of Arizona to learn about the father she never knew, only to be caught up in a battle for the famous Lost Dutchman Gold Mine in the Superstitions Mountains alongside a handsome cavalry officer, a proud Pima Indian and a band of Apache.
The Rare Breed—A beautiful half-breed searches the western plains for her Cheyenne father and finds herself torn between a lusty Irish trapper and the Cheyenne warrior to whom she was betrothed years before.
The Blue Crystal—Similar to The Lord of the Rings, a young peasant finds himself in the middle of the classic battle between good and evil. Accompanied by a whining, cowardly halfling, encouraged by a wizard and the wizard’s daughter, he squares off against the cruel tyrant that has enslaved his family—and most of the planet.
Remember Me—A young woman with amnesia struggles to understand who she is and why she married a man who hates her.
Lightning Strikes—A young freelance journalist meets a half-Hopi architect in Flagstaff and the sparks fly in more ways than one.
Goddess Rising—After a geologic holocaust that destroys civilization, the few scattered survivors live in small colonies and worship the Great Goddess. A prophecy tells of a female savior who will rise and return them to greatness.
The Pits of Passion by Amber Flame—Not for the faint-hearted! This satire of romance novels skewers every cliché of the beloved genre, so there is something to offend everyone! The story sweeps the beautiful heroine from the manicured gardens of England to darkest Africa (it was night) to the New World of America as she struggles to keep her dress on and understand which Captain Elliott is the man she loves. This is not your mother’s romance novel!
Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan—A true story of a courageous Army nurse and prisoner-of-war.
Thanks very much for having me on your blog!
For more information, see www.newmoonrising.net or my blog at mjb-wordlovers.blogspot.com.
Thank you Melissa!