Author Interview: Melissa Barker-Simpson (The Contract)

Changing Worlds 2

Today, Melissa Barker-Simpson is with us to talk about The Contract, prequel to The Fractured series. I fell in love with the world and its characters so I am happy that Melissa accepted to be interviewed about this novella. The Contract is featured in the Changing Worlds anthology, which also includes Saunders’ Choice, a Natural Gifts Novella by Gina Briganti.

NG: Where does your love for prologues and epilogues come from? How did they happen for The Contract?

MELISSA: I know that prologues aren’t popular, but I’ve always felt they build tension and give me, as a reader, a little background into the story. It’s a kind of, here’s what you need to know before you begin your journey. Prologues are also great for setting up the here and now, by giving us a taste of the past. They are like a window, allowing us a glimpse of a character’s motivations or the events which influenced them. Epilogues on the other hand, at least for me, are a way to ease the reader out of a story. The journey has come to an end, so it’s nice to catch up with the characters; a way to tie up those loose ends.

When I began writing The Contract, I wanted to give my readers a little perspective on the world they were about to journey into! I felt it was important to show the origins of the world, not only to entice, but to set the stage.

NG: How did you decide to have both Maddison’s and Tobias’s points of view to tell the story?

MELISSA: Originally I wrote The Contract from Maddison’s point of view, and though I enjoy being inside her head, during my first edit I realised that Tobias’ motivations; his distinct sense of humour – were lacking. I wanted readers to know how he felt about the journey, so I began to rewrite and add a few scenes. It turned out Tobias had a lot to say and this reflected their unique relationship. It felt right to do it that way.

NG: Is there any character you wish you could tell more about in The Contract? If so, will we find out more in the upcoming books of the series?

MELISSA: I loved the scenes with Orion Reece, they were an absolute pleasure to write. He actually took me by surprise, his appearance anyway. I planned to introduce him in the first book of the series but, being the exhibitionist that he is (he’s a god after all), he decided he wanted in on the action. You can expect to see him quite a lot in the next adventure!

NG: Do you have a “dream” cast in your mind when developing and writing the characters?

MELISSA: Absolutely. The characters in my head are so vivid that I only have to close my eyes to see them acting out a scene or talking among themselves.

NG: Do you have a writing playlist to inspire you?

MELISSA: I rarely listen to music when I write because I find it a distraction. I can’t hear the characters in my head and it interrupts my flow. There are times when I’m struggling to convey a particular emotion, or want an action scene to come to life, and at those times I’ll listen to a piece of music before I begin writing. I understand and appreciate the power of music; the way it can impact a scene. You only have to think about John Williams and what he did for Star Wars in terms of musical score. The emotion it incites is phenomenal, and sometimes I use that kind of inspirational score to breathe life into a scene.

Quite often I’ll hear music in my head even when it’s not playing. For example, when Orion Reece appeared at the beginning of The Contract, he was accompanied by sound (part of the score from Guardians Of The Galaxy).

NG: Are there any writing rituals that help you tackle low inspiration problems?

MELISSA: It depends on the problem. I suffer from depression so when my motivation is exceptionally low I accept that I’m not going to be able to write. I just have to wait it out, utilise the coping mechanisms I have in place.

There are occasions when a character isn’t communicating well, or I can’t envisage a scene clearly. At those times I’ll either throw a little dialogue at them – give them something to talk about so they can hash it out. Or I might write a short story, move on to another project, or step away completely and return to it with a fresh perspective.

NG: Will Tobias get Maddison a dog in the future?

MELISSA: I love this question! Tobias found it hilarious too, though Maddison – not so much. Strangely, Marcus, Tobias’ second in command, popped into my head when I thought about the answer. If he knew about that particular conversation, he would use it against her at every opportunity. He’d certainly transform into a dog just to get a rise out of her – it’s fun working with a shapeshifter!


Mel2I’ve been writing since, well…since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I often look back on those earlier stories, and apart from laughing at the heavy-handed drama, or cringing at my inexperience, I am reminded that I have always lived in other worlds.

My first novel was published in 2008, and I love nothing more than working on a new project. The voices inside my head invariably pull me in different directions, so although I try to work on one thing at a time, those who know me would tell you it doesn’t always work!

I have a full-time job which, though does not involve writing per se, incorporates my love of language. As a British Sign Language Interpreter, I get to translate information between two languages which is (mostly) fun.

I have two beautiful daughters who bring me great joy. They also keep me grounded, because otherwise I would have my head in the clouds permanently!

 

 

27 thoughts on “Author Interview: Melissa Barker-Simpson (The Contract)

  1. What a lovely interview! I enjoyed your questions as well as Mel’s answers. Everyone always wonders how inspiration works for others 🙂

  2. Great Interview! I love that you obviously took the time to understand the work before asking questions, and the answers are fabulous!

    It is always interesting to see how other authors work and this glimpse shows an author who both works as I do (Characters who are so vivid they dance through your mind, mine talk and tell me the story when I’m not trying to write but that’s ok!) and completely opposite of me as well (I listen to music 99% of the time, whether it be the score from one of the toddler’s shows or one of my many Pandora stations. When all is silent, that is when the frustratingly difficult to flow scenes are happening).

    Again, great interview!

    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed the interview. I often have general questions I always want to ask authors and then I tailor a few new ones based on what I know about the work. 🙂

        1. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. I agree – Natacha did an excellent job and I did feel respected. My characters also felt appreciated! 🙂 It’s great to hear we share the experience of stubborn, insistent characters. I don’t mind a bit. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😀

  3. What a lovely interview! Your process reminded me of mine so many times, while reading this. I love prologues and epilogues, for the reasons you mention. Ironically enough, while editors hate them nowadays, all you have to do is call them “chapter 1” and “last chapter” and all is well. Shrug.

    Also, I, too, hear music all the time in my head. So good to know I’m not alone in that 😀

  4. Thanks, Nicholas. I’ve argued my case so many times that my editor has stopped suggesting I remove them! We have a great working relationship, which is important, I think. It fascinates me how people use or hear music when they write. I have a habit of associating things, so if I hear a certain word, it will spark a reaction in my mind and, quite regularly, I’ll burst into song! This usually earns me a long suffering sigh from my daughters 😀

  5. What a great interview. I think prologues, and adverbs, have an unfair amount of hate lobbed against them. I always say they exist in the language (or as a device) for a reason! When used effectively, they can add a lot of flavor to the text. 🙂

    I struggle with depression too, so it was encouraging to hear an author say that it was okay not to try and force writing during the harder times. I always end up getting more depressed because I can’t bring myself to write when I’m feeling low!

  6. Thanks, Alex. I agree with you – adverbs are there for a reason and I think they can definitely add flavour to text. It’s like any device, I guess. As long as there is method in the madness 😉

    And I can completely relate to feeling worse if I force myself to write when feeling low. Writing is often my salvation, so it’s a preservation thing, perhaps. I’ve learned when to step away. It can be tough, but I never stop fighting. It helps knowing I’m not alone.

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