Hi, and welcome back to the Nook for another author interview! Today, I will be interviewing Melanie Cellier!! Mrs. Cellier is the author of the YA fantasy series; The Spoken Mage, The Hidden Mage, and A Mage’s Influence as well as the author of the fairy tale retelling series; The Four Kingdoms, Beyond the Four Kingdoms, and Return to the Four Kingdoms. Her novel, The Princess Companion: A Retelling of the Princess and the Pea, is one of my favorite books ever!!!! So it is such a thrill and joy to be able to interview her today!
#1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your books, and where we can find/follow you online?
Hi! I’m an Australian author, and I live in Adelaide with my husband and children. I think Adelaide’s a pretty typical Australian city in that we have hot, dry weather and a lot of beaches. We also have koalas in the trees, and they’ll sometimes decide to stroll down for a visit in the backyard. I’ve been obsessed with books for about as long as I can remember, although sadly I don’t have as much time for reading now that I’m an author and also a mum. I still squeeze it in when I can, though! I also enjoy a good Netflix binge watching session—my latest obsession is kdramas!—or an evening playing board games. But most of the time if I catch up with friends, we just end up spending the whole time talking. (And eating, of course 😝)
In terms of authoring, I write Young Adult. I have several series of connected fairy tale retellings, and several series of general YA fantasy. My fairy tale retellings are mostly stand-alone books with each one having a different hero and heroine. They are all interconnected, however, so characters do pop up in each other’s stories. The books have a strong central romance, but also include adventure and intrigue with some sort of kingdom-level threat that must be defeated. My general fantasies have the same strong elements of romance, adventure, and intrigue, and usually also include some sort of training element—whether that’s a formal academy or more of an apprentice system.
You can find my website at https://melaniecellier.com
#2. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I always loved the idea of being an author, but I was a practical child who thought it wasn’t a very realistic career path, haha. It wasn’t until a serious illness forced me away from my office job that I decided to pursue writing more seriously. And even then, it took me a bit of time to find the right fit of book so the inspiration started to flow. I ended up stumbling into writing fairy tale retellings because I think it’s so fun to read a new story but to also find all the connections to the original tale. And when I’m reading the old fairy tales, I’m often left in some confusion as I try to understand why the characters do such odd things! So it’s even more fun to come up with characterizations and motivations and twists and turns that can explain the bizarre events. My first book was a retelling of The Princess and the Pea and it began when I wondered why the queen was so obsessed with her son marrying a true princess—and who in the world would think putting a pea under a giant pile of mattresses to be a good test of princesshood! Once I came up with a motivation for the queen, and added a godmother and a magic pea, the story grew from there. Plus, I think we can all do with some more happy endings in our lives, and there’s nothing like a fairy tale for a good happy ending!
#3. Who or what would you say has helped grow your writing the most?
I think the most useful thing I’ve done for my writing has been years and years of reading. Even before I knew I was going to be an author, I absorbed so many stories, and I think that’s really helpful. Even now, I have to make the time to keep enjoying stories because it’s so important to have creative input if you want to maintain creative output. I’ve also learned a lot from the various editors I’ve worked with over the years in terms of both story and character development and prose.
#4. What is your favorite part of the writing process?
My favourite part is when I’m writing a story and I don’t know some aspect of where it’s going, and then a flash of inspiration comes. Even better is when I realize that there were already set ups for a story element I didn’t even know was coming. My brain was working it out the whole time. Our subconscious is amazing!
Haha, yes, you said it! I love how our brains work. XD
#5. Have you faced any doubts/discouragement along the way and if so what motivated or inspired you to persevere?
The hardest part is definitely having the necessary discipline, day after day. When I worked for someone else, sitting in an office 9am-5pm, it would never have occurred to me to browse the internet or read a novel during work time. And I would never have organized to catch up with someone or run errands during work time, either. Unfortunately, now that I work for myself, the lines have become more blurred. My work times aren’t set in stone and often need to be flexible around the needs of my family, and now reading books is actually part of my work. I need to keep my creative well full! So in the midst of all that, it can be hard to find the discipline to carve out enough time to immerse myself in the actual writing. As well as that, as an independent author, I handle all aspects of the publishing process myself. And the more books I have, the more work that involves. I could probably fill all my time on just the business aspects. Sometimes it feels so hard to discipline myself to get the necessary words on the page that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to finish another book. But, at the end of the day, I can’t imagine doing anything else other than being an author, and so of course I need to keep writing books. Whenever I struggle to find that balance and become discouraged, thinking I’ve lost the ability to focus, I remember that. I’ve also been working on learning more about my personality and how my brain is wired so that I can work out new ways of working and systems that are fitted to me as an individual.
#6. What’s the first thing you do when you get a story idea before you begin writing it?
Generally speaking I’m a “pantser” rather than an outliner (meaning I write by the seat of my pants, letting the story develop as I go). Another term for this is discovery writing. For my first series, I wrote the first book and only then decided to turn it into a series. (Too many of the secondary characters needed their own stories!) However, doing it that way did limit the fairy tales I could adapt for future stories, since I had already established elements like family backgrounds for the other heroines. So, for my second series, I did at least take the time from the beginning to plan out the royal families of each of the kingdoms and how they would fit into the fairy tales I wanted to retell. And usually I will get some way into a story and then make a rough outline for the remaining chapters. I often don’t stick to it, but it gives me something to aim for.
Since I write fantasy, I don’t have to do as much research as some other genres. However, I still do some research, usually around words/phrases (checking when they came into common usage to ensure they’re not too modern—and sometimes I’m really surprised by the results!) and specific, more technical, story elements. I generally do this research as I go, and the internet is my first stop. Sometimes it’s hard to find the info I need, though, in which case I turn to experts where possible. (Eg a doctor for a medical issue.) Often the issue is that I’m researching how something would go wrong, and all the information is about how to prevent the problem happening. For instance, when I was researching how a particular type of boat would sink, and all the articles were about how to prevent your boat sinking. Or I was researching a horse spooking, and all the articles were on how to train your horse not to spook. Helpful for real life, not so much for my story, haha.
Haha, it’s funny how research can be helpful and not helpful at the same time. XP
#7. Fun question. 😉 What’s your favorite original fairytale and fairytale retelling?
I actually don’t have a favourite fairy tale. But as a kid I absolutely loved a real-life movie version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses that my mum would borrow from the library. My sister and I would watch it every day until it was due back!
Aw, cool! I love The Twelve Dancing Princesses!
#8. Do you have any advice, encouragement, or words of wisdom for teen writers who want to take their writing seriously?
When children or teens ask for advice on what to do if they want to become an author, the first thing I always say is to read, read, and read some more. All those years of reading help build the foundations.
After that, I remind them not to give up part way through a finished book. There will always be an idea that seems shinier, or a voice of discouragement, or something holding you back. But you need a finished draft before you can edit it into what you want it to be. (Note, there’s nothing wrong with editing as you go, if that’s the way you prefer to write. But if you’re not writing because of one of the things I mentioned, the most important thing you can do is to push through and keep going.) And even if the book you finish doesn’t turn out to be publishing quality, learning how to finish a manuscript is a huge part of the necessary learning curve. Each one you write will get better, and you’ll learn so much in the process.
Such great advice and fantastic answers! Thank you so much, Mrs. Cellier, for joining me for this interview!!!
That concludes this post today. It was so much fun doing this interview, and I hope you all enjoyed it! If you have read any of Melanie Cellier’s books, please consider reviewing them on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews help the author out so much, and I know Mrs. Cellier would greatly appreciate it. And if you haven’t read any, perhaps check some out, buy a copy, or whatever it is you do. XD
Have you read any of Melanie Cellier’s books? If so, which ones? Do you have a favorite series by her? Are you more interested in her fantasy series or fairy tale retellings? Also, what book do you want for Christmas?
~ Katherine Perry