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  • Writer's pictureElira Barnes

Author interview with Melina Druga

Melina Druga is a historical fiction novelist, non-fiction author, freelance journalist and history enthusiast. Her focus is on the period 1890-1920

with a particular interest in WW1 and how the war

changed the lives of ordinary people.

I'm honoured to have her in my Authors Spotlight section!

Elira: Hi Melina, and welcome to my author spotlight! What made you want to become a writer?

Melina: Thanks for the warm welcome, Elira. It’s nice to be here.

I often say that I didn’t choose my profession, it chose me. I’ve been writing fiction for almost as long as I’ve known how to write. I started off creating newspapers for city in a fictional European country. I later moved on to novels, although those first attempts are maybe more accurately labeled “plays” because they are mostly dialogue. The first one was about two sisters in an 1840s canal town.

Elira: You write both fiction and non-fiction. Which one do you find more challenging? How do the writing processes differ?

Melina: Fiction is by far the most difficult. Fiction has so many more components to it – dialogue, description, symbolism, characterisation, etc. – and an author needs to get all these components right.

The writing processes also are radically difficult. Nonfiction consists of doing research and then writing a clear, concise, compelling book whereas fiction requires so much planning and what feels like an endless number of drafts before it’s ready for publication.

Elira: Your genre is historical fiction. In your opinion, what are the elements of a successful historical fiction novel?

Melina: Historical fiction should transport readers to a different era. At the same time, dialogue shouldn’t be so far removed from the present that it’s either difficult to understand or prevents the reader from connecting to the characters. That’s a fine line to walk because dialogue that sounds too far removed from its era is also off-putting. Historical fiction also teaches readers about history either through discussing historical events or by examining social mores.

Elira: Is there a particular book or author who made you want to start writing this genre, or were you inspired by something else?

Melina: I’m a huge history enthusiast, and I have been for more than 30 years. Although it’s possible it began sooner, I believe the love began when I read the Little House on the Prairie series. Historical fiction is perfect for me because it blends my two loves – writing and history.

Elira: How do you conduct research for your books, and how important is it?

Melina: Because I write historical fiction, research is a must. My era of expertise – and obsession – is the 1890-1920 timeframe, although future books will explore parts of the 19th century. I love research and how I can learn new things. I also love discovering interesting tidbits I can incorporate into my stores.

I conduct research as part of the planning process. This usually involves learning about the fashion of the day, education, where my characters live, household tech, etc. In later drafts I may do supplemental research to ensure something is presented correctly. It may be a detail that only I would notice, but I want to get it right. I also research the origin of slang terms and idioms to ensure that if I use one, it’s appropriate for the era.

Elira: What inspired your upcoming novel, Angel Of Mercy?

Melina: Angel of Mercy was inspired by the My Chemical Romance song “Mama.” They are my favourite band, and the song appears on my favourite album, so I listened to it frequently. The album’s liner notes remind me of an old newspaper, and the band’s photo looks like a fantasy version of World War 1. The song begins with what sounds like bombardments in the distance, and the lyrics make allusions to war, medical care and mourning. From this, I created my first three characters – Hettie, Freddie and Geoffrey – and imagined who they were and what they were doing. The story kept sticking around in my head, so I decided to flesh it out and eventually it became the plot of the novel.

Elira: What is the significance of the title?

Melina: Angels of mercy was the nickname soldiers gave nurses during World War 1. Hettie is Canadian, and her uniform would have been an almost turquoise-like blue. Canadian nurses had another nickname as well, bluebird, and that nickname makes it into the dialogue.

Elira: Does the story carry a message?

Melina: If I’ve done my job correctly, readers will walk away with the sense that war is hell and comes at a difficult cost.

Elira: You have another upcoming book in July, Heinous: Forgotten Murders From the 1910s; what can you tell us about it? And how long have you been working on it?

Melina: Heinous: Forgotten Murders From the 1910s examines 18 murder cases that captured the public’s attention a century ago. The 1910s in the United States was a decade filled with a myriad of crimes, including murder. The U.S. had the highest murder rate in the world at that time as well as one of the highest rates of incarceration. Sadly, things haven’t changed much.

Excluding research, I worked on the book for about six months.

Elira: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being both a fiction and non-fiction author?

Melina: Honestly, I think there are more disadvantages than advantages. Most involve marketing. For example, people who are fans of historical fiction may not necessary read nonfiction, even if its history-themed, while nonfiction fans may not enjoy the artistic license fiction takes. So this means that I have to divide my time between two different audiences, and it has not been easy. On Twitter, my history posts alienate those following me because of fiction and when I talk about fiction, it alienates those who follow me because of my history posts.

For this reason Heinous: Forgotten Murders From the 1910s will be my last nonfiction book, although I am open to a nonfiction companion book to an occasional novel. I need to focus on one particular audience and for me that’s historical fiction. Fiction has a much larger audience and is a much larger market with some very loyal fans.

Elira: Tell us about your first published book. What was the journey like?

Melina: My first published book was Enterprising Women: Practical Advice for First Time Entrepreneurs. I relaunched it last year because I made so many mistakes.

Elira: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Melina: Write often to learn your craft. Don’t be afraid to write just for a creative exercise. Love your characters and story because if you don’t, no one else will either. Learn about the publishing industry and decide what route you want to take then write a business plan. Don’t be frightened to hire a professional copy editor and cover designer.

Elira: Let's get to know you better! What is your writing schedule like?

Melina: I start my business day writing for my clients. When that’s finished, I switch over to my projects. This could be anything from research to typing to formatting to creating a social media strategy or participating in interviews like this one. At night, I work on research, character bios, chapter/scene lists and rough drafts.

Elira: What book is currently on your bedside table? Are you enjoying it?

Melina: None, because I never read in bed. I recently finished The Summer Before the War. It was good but moved very slowly.

Elira: What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Melina: I’d like to hire Edith Wharton as an historical consultant because she lived through the era I write about and she could answer many questions. That being said, however, she did write about the aristocracy whereas my characters are upper middle class and their experiences would have been much different.

Elira: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Melina: I practice yoga on a daily basis and also keep up with current events. I enjoy photography and wish I could travel more often.

Elira: Share something your readers don't know about you.

Melina: I’ve been bilingual since childhood and learned a third language in high school.


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Melina's books are available on Amazon: eBooks are free to Kindle Unlimited members and on KDP Select free days.

Follow her and grab a copy of her books on Amazon by clicking here.

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