I’ve got an exciting treat for you all today: Melissa Marr, author of the fabulous books Wicked Lovely and the forthcoming Ink Exchange (review coming soon)! Melissa was nice enough to answer a few questions for me, and she’s got some great answers. For those of you that haven’t read Wicked Lovely, do so–you still have time before the release of Ink Exchange (which is a companion book, not a sequel, but your reading experience will be richer if you read Wicked Lovely). Also, just so you know, I’ve got some more great author interviews for you all in the coming weeks, so stay tuned! Anyway, thanks so much, Melissa, for doing this!

Can you tell me a little about your third novel and when it will be released (if you know yet)?

Right now, I’m calling it “Enthralled,” but I don’t know if that title will make it past the gatekeepers. We’ll see. While Ink Exchange is a companion novel to Wicked Lovely, the third text is more of a sequel to WL. It features Ash & Seth & Sorcha (head of the High Court) as narrative pov characters. Keenan, Donia, Niall, Irial & others are all in it. I’m not what else I can say just now because I do try not to get all spoiler-y. It’s a lot like WL, imo: more romance, less darkness. I believe the hardcover will be out Summer 09 in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, & New Zealand.

Could you share a bit about how you write–do you outline your books (or at least know where you’re going with them), where do you write, how many drafts do you usually do, etc.?

I’ll try. I typically write in my office. I sometimes write longhand when I’m on travels or outside somewhere. I always have music when I’m writing at the desk or on planes, but never do when I’m outside.

I don’t know how many drafts I do. I revise as I go, but then revise afterwards too. And, of course, with two primary editors to give me revision letters, I do a few editioral-directed revisions. Hmm. I revise as much as I possible. I enjoy revision a great deal.

The visual in my head for my process is like marking a map for a roadtrip. I have a few general landmarks/plot events highlighted. The stuff between them comes as I write. I write the events as I know them, and then I re-order & fill in the stuff from the middle out, or the end back, or the beginning forward depending on my mood that day. I’m not linear. . . which means I also write bits of other novels as I write this one. My agent calls it “organic”–which is probably nicer than calling it “disorderly & random.” The benefit of the way I work is that I have several projects in process regularly, which amuses me. The downside is that some of them aren’t going to be due to anyone for years, so I really should be working on the ones due now.

Was there any particular inspiration you can cite for Wicked Lovely and/or Ink Exchange, and, if so, what?

I don’t know that there’s a single inspiration for anything I write. In retrospect, we can often assign significance to an event/moment/cause. At the time though, do we think of it that way? I don’t. I can say now that WL started as a short story (which started with a name/word “Aislinn” which means “dream or vision). The story was rejected in both younger & adult markets. It lingered, so 8 months after I had set it aside, I started turning it into a novel.

Ink . . . That one’s harder to articulate. I know a number of people who’ve been addicts. One of the few people I’ve ever been in love with was an addict. And then there’s the tattoo element . . . I’m a devoted tattoo fan. And then there’s the logic thing–at the end of WL, it seems only logical to deal with the Dark Court. Stuff mixes, & suddenly there’s a novel.

How has being a published author different from what you had anticipated (if it is different)?

It’s so completely different that I’m often overwhelmed. I wrote the first book hoping for a quiet little deal to offset my teaching salary. Before that I’d written only one novel, some short stories, & poetry. I had no expectations of the things that’ve happened. I’m not sure I would’ve done it if I did know what it would be like. I’ve had two tours in 10 months, three book festivals, assorted industry events, book signings, and all sorts of things I had no clue of how to handle. My agent and the folks at Harper US & UK (& at several of my foreign houses) have guided me through the confusion, but I still feel rather babe-in-the-woods sometimes. I’m happy, but it’s been a steep learning curve with not enough sleep.

Do you plan to or would you like to write novels in other genres besides YA urban fantasy? If so, what?

I’m under contract for a manga series (set in the same world), an adult UF anthology, and a new YA contract (for books 4, 5, & 6). The contract for those next 3 books is very open-ended. I could do 3 more novels in this world, or another world, or not-fantasy . . . I like that. Somewhere along the way I’m hoping to write not-fantasy too. It’s really about whichever story feels right at the time though. I write what my muse allows, no more, no less.

Why do you write for young adults? What do you think is different about writing for teens than for other audiences?

I don’t know that I set out to be a “YA author.” For over a decade, I taught university –first as a grad student and then as my FT job. I did guest lectures in high school. I have a teen daughter–with whom I read piles of books. It makes a certain amount of sense that when I started to write it would be influenced by the people I spent the most time with–my students & my kids.

How is it different? I guess I don’t think it is. I try to tell a good story with real characters. The big difference is that the teens I know will tell me if I suck, so I’m trying to make sure I don’t disrespect them by trying to sound all Let Me Teach You My Truths. I know my own values filter in–I am an egalitarian, think volition is critical, think body art is fun, et etc–but I don’t want to write anything that’s didactic or tedious. I try to be responsible– in WL I mention the importance of STD testing & precautions–but I’d do that in adult books too. My goal is just to tell a good story in a real way. Some of those stories are YA; some aren’t.

What are some of your favorite YA books or authors?

Off the top of my head I’d say Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak is brilliant), Clare Dunkle, Annette Curtis Klause, A.M. Jenkins, Holly Black’s YA books, Rachel Cohn & David Levithan’s Nick & Norah (one of the best YA books I’ve read), . . . of course, I’m sure I’m forgetting far more than I’m remembering.

Oooh, and recently I fell madly in love with a two unreleased YA books– Graceling by Kristin Cashore (out in Oct) and The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (out in August). One of the fun perks of this job is getting to read books early. Even though I read these pre-release, I’ll be buying them on release.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a published author?

I’d love to sound all authorly, but my fav part is the same as with any job–it’s fun. I’m horribly lacking in discipline in that I only do jobs that are fun. Of course, I believe most anything can be fun for a while–I’ve been a bartender, cocktail waitress, secretarial assistant, archeology dig general worker, lit teacher, daycare worker . . . It’s all fun for a while. The least appealing part? I’ll let you know when I get to it :)

You talk sometimes about your tattoos on your blog, and tattoos play a big part in your upcoming novel Ink Exchange. How many tattoos do you have, and which ones have the most meaning to you?

Technically I only have 3, but two are largish. I don’t know that any are “more” meaningful; it’s like picking the “best” book or the fav character or most loved child. They are all valued for different reasons. My muse is tattooed on my spine, dancing on an earthen mound with bones & flowers poking thru the soil. An ivy vine with lilies entwined throughout it wraps my torso & is going to start growing down my right arm sooner or later. Both of the those are in progress still. Ms Muse still needs a background, & my vines aren’t quite done growing. The third one is at the top of my spine. It’s a faith symbol. All of my art is carefully planned, and none of it is out where it’s casually visible (unless I’m at the beach or have my hair up in a knot).

Is there any question you wish I’d asked, or anything else you’d like to share?

No other questions, but I always like the chance to just say thanks to the people who have shared their reading hours with my characters. It’s surreal sometimes to realize that the world & people in my head are out there in people’s hands. Thank you for that.

Thanks for doing this!

It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.