World of Writing - Author Interview
Hi everyone! Thank you for joining us today for another World of Writing - Author Interview. Today we are featuring Melanie Gibson - author of Kicking and Screaming: A Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts. * Note of appreciation goes out to Leslie B of PR by the book for setting us up with Melanie.
Melanie has a bachelor’s degree in English from Texas Woman’s University, a Master of Library Science from the University of North Texas, and an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington. On top of all of these accomplishments, she holds a second degree black belt in taekwondo. Impressive stuff!
Melanie has a couple of links here she'd like me to share with you in case you would like to learn more about her:
Q:What inspired you to express your creativity through writing?
When I was a child and teenager I used to draw and was quite good at it. At some point in college I stopped drawing, and I began expressing myself more through writing, mostly in literature analysis courses. When I got back into the Korean martial art of taekwondo, which I did for the sake of my mental health, I started having a lot of insights and ideas about how what I was learning on the mat translated into other aspects of my life. The thoughts crowded around in my mind so much that I had to get them out. That’s why I started my blog Little Black Belt (littleblackbelt.com) and eventually wrote the memoir.
I go back to a quote by the painter El Greco:
“I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head.”
The spirits inside my head whisper for me to write!
Q: That's fantastic! I love that description... My understanding is that the book tells how this sport helped you through some difficult times. How do your friends and family feel about publishing this particular book, and about your writing venture in general?
My family and friends have been very supportive. Some have been reading my blog for years and are anxiously awaiting the memoir. I feel a bit nervous sharing some of my darkest and vulnerable moments in my memoir, but so far the ones who have read it have expressed sympathy rather than judgement. My grandparents each wrote me separate letters expressing what the book made them feel and think about and what they saw in me. That’s something I’ll treasure forever.
Q: What do you do to unwind and relax?
My main pastime is taekwondo, which is the subject of the book. I had a severe knee injury and surgery in July 2020, so I’ve had to put that on the back burner while I recover. I love to read and watch movies and TV shows. In the last year or so I’ve begun re-learning classical guitar, which is a beautiful instrument. I took lessons for five years and then had to stop for several years due to school and work. Practicing guitar and re-learning some of my favorite pieces completely gets my mind off other things.
Q: What is your favorite book?
The Namesake, a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, is my favorite book. Her writing style is so delicate and beautiful yet also very to-the-point. She has this way of describing normal people’s everyday lives that makes them fascinating. I first read this book around my late twenties, so I felt a connection with the young protagonist and have often wondered what he would be like as he grew older.
Q: What do you want to accomplish with your book(s)?
With my memoir, Kicking and Screaming, I want to do a few things: I want to tell my personal story in a way that is engaging and interesting. A memoir isn’t just a series of things that happened in a person’s life. The best ones are told as well-written, interesting stories that are just as much fun to read as a novel. I also want to reach out to people like me who have hidden their mental illness and anguish for years behind what other people think is a “normal life.” It’s hard to go through it alone and pretend everything is fine. I want to tell those people that I’m listening, and I’ve been there too.
Q: How long does it take you to write a completed book manuscript?
wrote some of it in “real time” as events were unfolding such as physical therapy for an injury and my black belt test. Editing and refining took much longer. If I count all the updates I made to the finished “pages” my project manager very graciously allowed, that whole process took five years!
Q: What successes has your current book done for you?
Getting a publishing contract pushed me from tentatively identifying myself as an aspiring author of one memoir to an AUTHOR, and that’s how I now identify myself on social media. It’s too early to see what long-term effects the book might have for me. In the short term it’s given me the confidence to branch out and try writing other books. I have enough material that I could certainly write a sequel memoir, but I’m also very interested in both comedy (Christopher Moore’s novels come to mind) and horror.
Q: Do you use certain tricks that help prevent you from straying from your goal(s)?
In the big picture sense, reminding myself that a finished, published book is on the horizon has kept me on track when I’ve felt worn out or discouraged. For day-to-day discipline I’m a big fan of calendars and to-do lists for both my day job and my book goals. Writing things down keeps me organized, and crossing something off a list is deeply satisfying. During my knee surgery recovery I set timers while I worked so I could take breaks to move my leg around. The time limits actually kept me focused and motivated me to work faster and more efficiently.
Q: What is your writer life philosophy?
Writing is a very individual act and requires a lot of quiet time, but there is also a huge community to interact with and learn from. You’re not in this alone. When “the spirits whisper madly,” listen to them. Get your ideas down on paper or into your computer, even if they don’t feel finished. Learn about the craft of writing and editing; take classes or read websites or books by experts. Read the type of books you want to write and figure out what you like and don’t like. Connect with other writers on social media and get to know how they work, how they market their books, and who they are as people.
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