This week, the spotlight is on Melanie (Hooyenga) Swiftney;
Melanie Hooyenga first started writing as a teenager and finds she still relates best to that age group. She has lived in Washington DC, Chicago, and Mexico, but has finally settled down in her home state of Michigan with her husband Jeremy. When not at her day job as a writer/designer, you can find Melanie attempting to wrangle her Miniature Schnauzer Owen and playing every sport imaginable with Jeremy.
Where are you from?
I live in Grand Haven, Michigan, just a few minutes from Lake Michigan. I’m originally from here, but I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
Tell us your latest news?
The third book in my YA trilogy, the Flicker Effect, came out in June 2015. Also, I’ll be at the Grand Rapids Comic Con this October and the Kalamazoo Book Bash. I can’t wait!
When and why did you begin writing?
I first started writing in middle school, but stopped once I graduated college and started my career as a graphic designer. It wasn’t until I was living in Mexico and not working that I started writing again. It’s been eight years and I haven’t stopped since!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer about a year after I started writing, so once I’d finished my first full-length novel. I considered myself an author when I published my first novel, Flicker, in 2012.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first novel was about a teenager trying to sneak across the US border from Mexico. (You could say I was influenced by my surroundings.) I enjoyed including the day-to-day details I learned about Mexico, but that novel is buried safely in my computer.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I prefer to write in first person, present tense. My first two novels were third person past, but I feel much more comfortable in first present. It’s sometimes tricky because you can only tell the story from your character’s perspective–there’s no narrator to add details for the reader–but the immediacy to that voice resonates with me.
How did you come up with the title?
My main character, Biz, uses sunlight to travel back to yesterday. She calls it flickering after the way the sunlight filters through the trees like a strobe light, so it seemed logical to name the first book Flicker, and the series the Flicker Effect.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Try to see beyond yourself. There’s a big world out there and each of us can help others in our own unique way.
How much of the book is realistic?
It’s contemporary YA, set in modern day, so aside from the time travel element, it’s completely realistic.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are snippets from real situations or jokes that I have with friends, but very little is taken from actual events. There is a scene in Faded (book 3) that is similar to something that happened to me, but I can’t go into detail without spoiling it.
What books have most influenced your life most?
I’ve read voraciously since I was very young, and my tastes have varied over the years. Because of that I can’t say that any one book or books have had a bigger influence than others. I devoured the Sweet Valley High books in elementary school, so those certainly sparked my interest in the relationships between people — something that plays a strong role in my books.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d love to spend time with Stephanie Perkins, author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Her books blow me away. The storylines aren’t overly complex but I want to be best friends with her characters and I’d love to get inside her head to learn how she does it.
What book are you reading now?
Nothing at the moment but I recently finished SMART GIRLS GET WHAT THEY WANT by Sarah Strohmeyer. It’s about three wickedly smart high school girls who realize there’s more to high school than just good grades. My current WIP is about a girl who moves to a new school so I’m devouring books about teens going through big changes (which is pretty much all YA) and this one was great.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Linda Budzinski is fantastic. Her debut novel, THE FUNERAL SINGER, is phenomenal and I cannot wait for her next novel, EM AND EM.
What are your current projects?
I wrapped up the Flicker Effect series this past June, so now I’m working on a book about a girl who loves to downhill ski and moves from Vermont to Colorado. And of course there’s a swoon-worthy boy.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My teachers, for sure. They’ve always seen my potential and pushed me to be better than I thought I could be.
Do you see writing as a career?
Someday. Right now I still have a day job, but I recently switched from being a full-time graphic designer to having more of a focus on writing.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope. I’m really happy with the way I concluded the series.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I still have a short story I wrote in first grade, so I’d have to say writing has always been a part of me. My mother is an avid reader, something I got from her, and that turned into storytelling for me.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
This scene takes place right after Cally wiped out doing a ski trick. Blake helped her, and now she’s being examined at the lodge:
I texted Dad after Blake convinced me to call ski patrol, and now he’s pacing behind me while a snow patrol guy in a blue ski jacket appraises my knee. My snow pants are shoved as high as I can get them up my leg but they keep sliding down. Blue Jacket touches his chin before making eye contact with Dad. “Snow pants have to go.”
A fresh wave of humiliation sweeps over me. Of all the days to wear my long underwear with little bunnies hopping all over them. I unsnap my snow pants and shimmy them to my ankles, then slide the bunnies over a knee that is considerably larger than it was when I got dressed this morning.
“Christ, Cally.” Dad forces out a deep breath and rests a hand on my shoulder. “What were you trying to do?”
If I admit I was upside-down without an adult within fifty feet he might not let me out of his sight the rest of the vacation. “Nothing crazy. Just my usual three-sixty. I caught my edge when I landed.”
Blue Jacket pokes my knee and I suck in a breath.
Please don’t let it be serious.
“Looks like a sprain. There’s a med center in town that can tell you for sure, but I suggest you stay off it for a few days.”
I whip around and face Dad. “A few days? That’s our entire trip!”
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Right now, I’m still working on staying in the voice of this new character. I wrote Biz and her friends for five years, so I have to remind myself that Cally reacts to things differently.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Lisa McMann really stands out for young adult, probably because her two series, WAKE and VISIONS, are similar to mine. They’re both about a normal girl who has a weird quirk in her head that makes her do something supernatural.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I would LOVE to, but no. Fortunately the internet makes it easy to research far-away places. I have traveled across west Michigan for different book events, and hope to attend an event in Detroit in spring of 2016.
Who designed the covers?
I did! The benefit to also being a graphic designer is I’ve designed the covers and interiors of all my books.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Deciding it was finished. Most writers will agree that you could keep editing forever. There’s always one more thing to change, one detail to clarify, or one scene that could be tightened, but at some point you have to step away and decide it’s finished.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that it’s very important to keep a character bible while writing. When secondary characters pop up, or they go to a restaurant, I name it and keep writing. If they go to that restaurant later in the book and you haven’t noted the name, you’ll have to search the entire document to find the name. Notes are good.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t give up! Writing a novel is a solitary endeavor and it can take a really long time. It’s easy to get inside your head and let self-doubt take over, but if you want to write a novel, sit down with your computer or pen and paper and do it. You are the only one who can stop you.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading! I love hearing from my readers and I especially love getting reviews. They are gold to writers.
Name of Author: Melanie Hooyenga
Name of Book: The Flicker Effect trilogy (FLICKER, FRACTURE, and FADED)
Author Website: http://www.melaniehoo.com/
FRACTURE Ch 1: http://www.melaniehoo.com/books/writing/fracture-chapter-1/