May 28, 2012

Author Interview: Melissa Studdard

Please welcome to A Three Way Tie, the YA author, Melissa Studdard.

Image of Melissa StuddardPlease tell us a little about yourself.

I wear a lot of hats. I’m the author of the novel Six Weeks to Yehidah and its companion journal, My Yehidah, as well as the co-authored essay (with Scott Lutz), “For the Love of All.” As well, I’m an editor for several magazines, the host of the blogtalk radio program Tiferet Talk, and a professor at a community college.

In my personal life, I’m the mother of a wonderful fourteen-year-old daughter, who, along with my boyfriend, is one of my most cherished beta readers and fellow authors. She actually wrote the poem that my main character, Annalise, recites in Six Weeks to Yehidah.

I also like moonlit walks on the beach, hot tea on the porch in the reain, and I am a Leo, with a Gemini rising. Haha. Seriously, though, I love yoga, meditation, reading, hiking, and travelling, and I am a dedicated admirer and owner of cats.

When and why did you begin writing?

I can’t remember ever not writing. I was always writing in my head. Of course, I didn’t know that’s what I was doing in the beginning, and, in fact, I may even have felt concerned about my sanity a few times, but there’s always been a narrator living in my head, and there’s a poet in there too.

It wasn’t until after college that I seriously began putting the pen to the page though, and it wasn’t until after my daughter was at an easily manageable age that I began writing and publishing consistently.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? What is the easiest?

Ironically, the easiest parts of Six Weeks to Yehidah were the most imaginative, and the most difficult parts were the most literal. My imagination is so active that I don’t even have to exert much effort to make up alternate worlds or fantastical beings. But put someone in a hospital bed and someone beside them grieving, and suddenly I’m at a loss for words. I find being true to the emotional integrity of such a scene to be much more difficult than simply making things up.

What music do you listen to while you write?

That varies radically according to what I’m writing. I might listen to Mozart or Mahler to write a funeral scene, classic rock to write a poem set in a bar, and disco to write a short story set in the seventies. Right now, I’m listening to Adele.

This is an incredibly relevant question, because music is a wonderful way of setting the mood for a piece of writing, and it is a great way to return to the mental space of a longer project when you have to stop and restart daily.

Six Weeks to YehidahWhat inspires you?

Honestly, I’m inspired by everything I encounter—other writers, music, nature, art, human nature, ideals—it’s all grist for the mill—this amazing, beautiful, flawed world is one huge, constant source of inspiration to me.

Do you have any hidden talents?

If I do, they are also currently hidden from me. Haha!

What are your current projects?

I’m always working on multiple projects at the same time. The thing closest around the corner (to be released this summer) is a compilation of interviews I’ve conducted for Tiferet Talk, the radio show for Tiferet Journal. I interviewed amazing writers and spiritual and religious leaders, and they had wonderful insights and stories to share.

The other major project is a novel I’ve just started. The plot is incredibly complicated, as are the characters, so I think it will probably take me a good while to write it, probably a few years.
Of course I’m always writing short stories and poems too, and I’m fairly certain that I will complete at least one collection of poems or stories before the novel is finished, maybe within the year.

How did you land a traditional publishing deal?

That was actually a very methodical, yet easy, process. My novel is the story of a young girl’s spiritual adventure. It’s fantastical and highly imaginative, and it’s deeply steeped in wisdom traditions and literary allusion. Think of Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia.

I knew I wanted my book to reach a specific type of reader—that I wanted to start in a niche and then branch out to a more general audience once my footing was secure in my niche—so I decided to target spiritual audiences, and I researched online until I found a small group of publishers (about ten) catering to this audience. The hardest part was doing the research to find the right publishers. Because I selected publishers for whom I truly was a good fit, it was not difficult for them to see that Six Weeks to Yehidah was a good fit for them, as well. After that, the acceptance came rather quickly.

Do you have a professional editor?

No. I’ve been teaching English at the college level for over twenty years. I’m pretty good at catching mistakes. I also have a group of friends who read my drafts, and the editors at my publishing house, All Things That Matter Press, are fantastic editors too. Fortunately, I’ve never had the need to hire anyone.

Do you edit as you write or wait until your book is finished?

I edit and revise as I go. I always still have edits to do at the end, but the bulk of it is done during the actual writing process. It just feels most natural to me to do it this way. For me, revising inspires the next step in the writing. In fact, if I have writer’s block, I can often overcome it by revising something. That puts me back into the creative mode.


What book are you reading now?

I’m reading The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. It’s an apocalyptic journey set in the barren wasteland of what seems to be a nuclear holocaust. I’m not certain yet if it’s nuclear. I’m only about fifty pages in. The first forty or so pages were a little slow going, but now I’m at a point where I don’t want to set the book down and will actually carry it to the bathroom with me, tripping over things along the way. It’s funny how caught up we can get in books.

Quick: Vampires or Shapeshifter? Why?

Shapeshifter. Vampire lore is quite specific, which creates limitations on how they can be written. Shapeshifters host worlds of possibilities.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I think the most important thing to understand as a writer is that you have unique and worthwhile perspectives and stories. Don’t lose sight of that, and don’t lose faith in it. Writing and publishing is a tough business. There will always be people who do not care for your work and who don’t understand what you’re trying to do. Don’t let them pull you away from your center and your purpose. Focus on what you have to contribute—what your special gifts are as a writer—and keep trudging forward. There is only one you, comprised of the unique genetics and experiences that shape your views, and you are the only one who can properly write your stories.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I wish life made it possible for me to meet all of you in person! I love knowing about my readers and what they think. If you’ve read the book, send me an e-mail; post a review on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon; or post a note on my author wall on Facebook. I love hearing from you! 

My Yehidah: A Journal into the Story of You

Move over, C.S. Lewis; Melissa Studdard is here! Annalise of the Verdant Hills is one of the most delightful protagonists to skip through the pages of literature since Dorothy landed in Oz. Join Annalise and her two walking, talking wondersheep as they travel to ever more outlandish places and meet outrageous and enlightening folk on their journey to discover interconnectedness in a seemingly disconnected world. Discover with them how just one person can be the start of the change we all strive for. A book for all ages, for all time: wonderful, wacky, and bursting with truth!


  1. Thanks for hosting the interview! It was a pleasure!

    1. It was a pleasure getting to know you and having you on my blog!

  2. I`ve read her "My Yehidah", and I was really too much impressed! Thank u for ur good work, we`re waiting for another bestseller!

    1. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I'm sure the author appreciates it!