Check out Melinda Salisbury's answers to your questions
Would you support Voldemort if he threatened to kill your family??
No! I wouldn’t support Voldemort no matter what he threatened/offered. I might pretend to, if I thought it would buy me, and therefore my family, time to plan an escape and get to safety, or I might do a Snape and turn spy, but I’d never support him in my heart. He represents everything I despise about the world – cruelty, terrorism, corruption and right to rule elitism, lies and propaganda, etc. I might be a Slytherin but I’d be beating down the door of the Order, asking if I could sign up. I’d fight him, wherever and whenever I could.
Was there a specific place or event that inspired the happenings in your book?
Not one special place, or event, but lots of little threads that eventually wove their way in. Fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Sleeping Beauty, places like Prague and Budapest and Tallinn, my own interests such as castles, and medieval life all came together to influence the story. The thing that sparked the idea was an idle musing in the shower one morning, but the whole thing – not just The Sin Eater’s Daughter, but the trilogy at large – is tapestry of everything that has fascinated me for years.
How would you/ how did you get noticed by the publishing industry and therein how do you treat/act around publishers and their various minions; at what stage in the novel editing (finishing) process did you begin to take a can opener/tool of choice to the SAS bunker that is the publishing industry, and how exactly did you do it?
I went down the traditional route of finding an agent, working with her, and then submitting to publishing houses when we thought it was ready. I don’t have any background in writing, I’ve never studied it outside of GCSE English, I don’t have any relatives that write, and it’s only recently I’ve made friends with other writers.
I found my agent because I submitted her a different book, but whilst I’d been looking for an agent I’d begun to write The Sin Eater’s Daughter as way of keeping myself occupied. My agent came back to me after reading the full MS of the original book to say she loved my writing, but the story wasn’t anything new or exciting, and did I have anything else. By coincidence, I’d finished the very first draft of The Sin Eater’s Daughter the day before, so I told her about it, but warned it was unedited. She read it anyway, loved it, though felt it needed some work, and eventually we both got it to a place where she felt she could try and get it onto publisher’s desks. So it was never really me wielding a scythe at publishing, but very much my incredible agent using her industry expertise and knowledge to help me hone, and then find my story the best home.
I treat, and act with people in the publishing industry in the same way I treat, and act with everyone, which is be interested in what they have to say, smile and be friendly, and try to be honest, respectful, open-minded, reliable and kind. I wouldn’t advise treating anyone, anywhere, any differently to how you treat others – if you start believing people can or should be treated differently, you’ll eventually end up with a Voldemort situation, where you think some people are worth more than others, and no one wants that. We’re all a lovely, accidental soup of cells and dreams, after all.
Galaxy or Cadbury?
Cadbury. In a world where the Twirl exists there can be only one.
What is the best advice someone has given you about writing? And what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
The best advice I was given was to not let it be your whole world. That if your only focus was writing, and the world immediately around it, then you’d go mad. It’s important to be interested in other things, and make time for non-writing stuff, and people. This was great advice!
As well as the obvious - keep reading, keep writing - I’d advise aspiring writers to break out of their comfort zones wherever they can. Travel is the best way, in my opinion, there’s nothing like being in a completely new place, and seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting new things to inspire you, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Walk a different way home, get a train to a town you’ve never visited. Go into a shop you’d never normally enter. Shake up your world and sooner or later these experiences will start to become things you could never have imagined. It’s scary to do new things, but routine is the enemy of creativity. If you do things a new way, you see things a new way. That’s how stories are born, the great game of ‘What If?’ …
If you were a novel, which novel would you be and why?
I think I’d be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There’s a lot of confusion, and fear, and worry, and a lot of wondering around outdoors, hoping things slot into place. But it all happens with my best friends alongside me, and hopefully in the end, the great will outweigh the wicked and good will prevail.
What were your school exams like, and how did you get through the stress?
Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo?
At what age did you begin writing?
It was a while ago now, but I don’t remember feeling particularly stressed. I sat 12 GCSE’s and passed them all, with grades A*- C. So not a super-brain, but a decent enough showing. I like learning. I’ve always liked it, even now I’m doing a home study course in Norwegian and learning to drive. Last year I took an Open Study course in the life of Richard III and loved it, I would love to do some more of those, maybe even a Masters one day. I like to be stimulated, and I like taking notes, even now I carry a pad everywhere in case I need to jot something down that I see, or think of, or hear about. Whilst I felt under pressure because the school emphasised it all a great deal, I also knew I’d put a lot of the groundwork in in advance, so I couldn’t really go that wrong. I’d kept pretty good notes, though I did noticeable better in subjects that interested me than those that didn’t.
I have participated in NaNoWriMo, finishing it in 2009, 2010 and 2012. It’s an amazing place to write a first draft of a novel, the time constraints and structure add a delicate hand of pressure that’s really helpful, especially to someone like me, who is easily distracted but loves ticking off tasks on a list!
I’ve written all my life, but only started seriously writing in 2008. I spent almost three years writing what can be described loosely as my first “novel”, and though it was truly awful, it proved to me I could finish writing one, and so I started again, writing something else.
Which of the characters in your novel is your favorite?
My favourite is Twylla, because she’s so vulnerable, and desperate, and naïve, but has such strength despite that. She’s a very real character, in that she’s just trying to survive as best she can, with very limited resources, in a very treacherous situation. Twylla is a character who realises she has to bend, or else she’ll snap. She weathers every storm, she learns how to survive and to take little pleasures in a place they are few and far between. She’s not a trained warrior; she isn’t physically powerful, she doesn’t have “magical” powers, she’s the product of the world around her. But she learns to change as her world changes. She adapts, quickly and cleverly. She’s a fox, not a wolf. She’s a lynx, not a lion. She’s the proof that strength comes in all guises and she proves that bravery comes in many forms. I love her for that.
What's on your writing desk?
I don’t have a writing desk! I tend to write sitting on my bed, with my laptop balanced on my knees, with a massive mug of tea beside me.
Do you depend on insanity to write?
No – And I can’t work if I’m at all anxious, or worried, or upset. If I’m that state of mind, I have to be outside, walking as fast and as far as I can. I can only write when I feel happy, and safe, and secure. I can have ideas when my mental state is less than balanced, but I can’t do anything with them. So absolutely not. It might buck the traditional mindset of all artists working best when they’re miserable, but I am not one of them.
Do you also have millions of stories that you started to write and never finished, or is that only me?
Kind of! I have a list of Ideas - varying from a sentence, to entire chapters - that I try and get down as soon as they come to me. But I always go back to them in the end, or mine them out to use in other stories. I’d really recommend it actually, just keeping track of them, because not every idea has to be a whole story of its own. Sometimes, they might be exactly what’s needed in another place.
Do you brainstorm your ideas or go with the flow? Which do you prefer and which method would you recommend to aspiring authors?
I would recommend aspiring authors find the approach that works for them. There is no one way to write, there is no advice that works for everyone. Trial and error, and finding what works for yourself is absolutely key. Personally, I free-write a first draft, letting characters do pretty much what they want. I always have an over-arching direction, but other than gently guiding characters towards major plot points, it’s a free-for-all. Once the first draft is written, then I plot in minute detail, going back through that draft and noting what works and what doesn’t and what needs more and what needs to go. For me, that’s when the story really starts to take shape. I think of writing like pottery, you have to soften and work with the clay before you can make pots. First drafts are softening the clay. Sometimes second drafts are too. Third is when you start to make a pot. But it’s still a long while before you need to fire and glaze it. Until it’s printed as a physical book, it’s a work in progress.
If you could invite any three people (fictional, historical, famous, friend, anyone) to dinner, who would you choose?
J.K Rowling, because she’s my absolute idol. Richard III, because I have a lot of questions for him. My Nana, because I miss her terribly and I’d love to see her one more time.