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!
I’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!