Author Interview: Melina Druga
Just a few housekeeping items before we dive into this fantastic interview.
Firstly, welcome new followers! There are a lot of you so I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks for checking in. The blog posts weekly every Friday, and alternates between keeping you updated about my own work as well as showcasing other authors, like the multi-talented Ms. Druga.
For those interested in my Instagram Live tonight on Writer's Journey, please note that the event has been temporarily postponed. I'll keep you updated as to the new date as soon as that information is available.
Finally, I'm pleased to announce that Thicker Than Water received some additional press since last week's post. On 8/16, I was interviewed by the Night Beats community. The novel also received an Editorial Recommendation by Shore Local Newsmagazine, who called it:
...a story that’s just as interesting for being a time capsule as it is for the compelling characters it creates.
Links to both articles can be found in the Media & Reviews section on my header.
But, enough about me. I'm actually much more comfortable supporting other authors. Which brings us to today's interview.
Rumor has it that Melina Druga came out of her mother’s womb with a pen in her hand. While we can neither confirm or deny this, you could say she was destined to become a writer.
The author was so young when she started writing that she can’t remember exactly when the urge began. She does remember, however, her first novel – a historical fiction about two sisters living in an Ohio canal town in the 1840s – that she wrote at age 10.
Music keeps Melina sane, and it has gotten to the point that she cannot write without it. It keeps her awake, alert, motivated, and productive. Music has even inspired her fiction. And not just The Rock Star’s Wife series. The My Chemical Romance song “Mama” was the inspiration for her historical fiction novel Angel of Mercy.
I've read many of Melina's historical fiction works, full reviews of which can be found here. Her character, Lucretia Steward, is a formidable woman, as is her daughter, Hettie.
The author also pens nonfiction and contemporary fiction. Today, we're chatting about her process and upcoming project, Sexual Awakening.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try to work seven days a week. I’m also a freelance writer. Monday-Friday, I do client work in the morning then my projects in the afternoon. I work on my projects again in the evening. On weekends, I only work in the evenings.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was 10. It was an historical fiction novel about two sisters living in an Ohio canal town. I still have it and did a blog post on it last year.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Not writing? What’s that? For nearly two years, I was writing 60-80 hours a week. A few months ago, my productivity dropped and I’d really like to get it back.
That said, I do take time to exercise daily. I listen to music doing almost everything, and I enjoy photography.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
It depends how you’re keeping track. I wrote a couple dozen before I published my first novel, Angel of Mercy. Currently, I have published nine nonfiction books and six historical fiction novels. An entire contemporary fiction series also is written, awaiting publication starting next year.
My favorite novel so far is Rock Star Romance, which will publish in February 2024. It’s my favorite because the heroine finally finds true love after a string of failed relationships and starts to become the woman she is meant to be.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
Pirated copies. I received a Google Alert recently that one of my novels, Adjustment Year, is on such a site. There really isn’t much an author can do when this happens unless she’s prepared for a long legal battle. This is assuming the pirate websites actually have authors’ novels. Many don’t, and are seeking to steal credit card information or download viruses or malware onto an unsuspecting reader’s computer.
Equally unethical are Amazon readers who purchase an eBook, read it, and return it for a refund.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It depends what stage in the process I am. Rough drafts exhaust me. Rewrites energize me. Finally copy edits and proofreads again exhaust me.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did for many years in my youth. My maiden name is very Greek and often mispronounced (as is my first name) and I wanted a name people can say and spell. My husband’s surname, which still ethnic, is much shorter and easier to spell, so I decided to use it professionally.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to be original. I find nothing squashes creativity more than following tropes and formulas. I enjoy writing about ordinary people in realistic situations.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
I like doing a combination of both. All my historical fiction books have a connection to each other, and all my contemporary books will. However, each novel is a standalone story. It is the characters that carry over from book to book, and I always reintroduce characters in each book.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Thirteen, not counting the ones I wrote before Angel of Mercy which I opted to recycle (they were handwritten) rather than publish. Twelve will be published between 2023 and 2026. That just leaves one that I’m keeping but probably will never finish. It’s an historical fiction piece about a Brooklyn family during the Great Blizzard of 1888. My premise was sound, but in order to tell the full story of the blizzard it needed multiple perspectives and there’s only so many ways to describe cold and snow.
What do you have coming next?
I’m working on The Rock Star’s Wife series, a contemporary fiction series about sex, family, and rock & roll. The series follows Cassandra from her teen years into her 40s as she navigates relationships (both romantic and platonic) -- all with music playing a prominent roll.
Sexual Awakening, book one in the series, launches February 14, 2023. It follows Cassandra during high school. Here’s a teaser: Teenager Cassandra Economos loves five things: Her awesome friends. Her big fat, dysfunctional, Greek family. Rock music. Her plan to move to Chicago. And Kurt Cobain. Soon, she’ll gain another love. Sex. Stifled by her family’s rules, how will Cassie explore her sexuality?
Interested in learning more about The Rock Star's Wife series?
Why not give Cassandra's rockin' playlist a listen?
The author has also graciously given us an exclusive first glimpse at Chapter 1 of Sexual Awakening.
“‘…he thrust his hard member…’”
“Wait,” my best friend Shawna Greene says, sitting forward. “Member of what?”
I peer over the paperback I’m reading, tightening my grip on the cover. “I don’t know. Let me finish. ‘…into her wet maidenhood. She cried out, first in pain, then in pleasure.’”
She squeezes her eyebrows together. “I still don’t know what that means.”
“I think I know.” I tap my middle finger on the cover. “It means she lost her virginity. Remember, in health class, there’s a piece of skin or something that covers part of the opening down there.”
To explain what I mean, I wiggle my fingers in front of my frayed denim shorts’ zipper.
Shawna’s eyes widen. “Not uh. No way. A member is a penis?”
We burst into giggles.
“Are all the books this silly?” I say, placing the novel on the floor, my beanbag chair’s beans groaning as I shift my body.
Shawna’s foster mother, Mrs. Mueller, keeps a collection of erotic books “hidden” around her house. The collection has grown to the point where she would never notice a borrowed book or two, although this afternoon is the first time we borrowed one.
“I glanced through some of them.” Shawna’s eyes glance briefly at the book cover. “Some are written like this book, some start out like romances, and some have words in them that would get me smacked if I said them out loud.”
We’re 14. We’re old enough to know these things.
Shawna flushes but can’t bring herself to tell me. “I’ll give you one to read if you’re that interested.”
I uncross my ankles and sit forward, digging my toes into her shaggy pink area rug. “I am. If they’d get you smacked, then my parents would probably have a heart attack.”
She picks up the paperback, rereads the sentence and laughs. “I don’t know why people read these things, yet alone write them.”
Well, I think, you should know, considering you live with someone who collects them.
I don’t want to start an argument, though, so I change the subject. “Have you talked to Jenny lately?”
Jenny Shapiro and I have been friends since kindergarten, and she’s the only person from elementary school who I stayed friends with after moving to middle school. We share the same friends, including Shawna, and she’s the first one of us to have a boyfriend
“Not since the Fourth of July party,” Shawna says, putting the book back on the floor before sitting Indian style on her bed. “Why? What’s up?”
Butterflies build in the pit of my stomach. Maybe I shouldn’t tell Shawna. I’m starting to think it might be privileged information. Oh, well. Too late now.
“Well,” I say, licking my lips, “after the party, she and Derek had sex in the woods at Eberly Park.”
Like what you've read so far? Kindly note that this manuscript is still a work-in-progress.
The final version will be available in December. Those interested in an ARC of Sexual Awakening can sign up here.
Thank you so much, Melina, for joining us today. The author lives in the Midwest with her husband, daughter, black cat, books and CD collection. Readers can learn more about Melina's work by visiting her two websites:
Author website: http://www.melinadruga.com/
The Rock Star’s Wife website: https://rockstar.melinadruga.com/