Saturday, February 2, 2013

Interview with Melissa Keil

Tell my readers a little about yourself

I’m a writer and children’s book editor, and a self-confessed lover of pop culture
and all things nerdy. I’ve had lots of odd and varied jobs in my career, including
working very briefly as a high school teacher, but making books – writing and editing – is really my dream job. Melbourne, Australia is home, though I have lived all over the place, including stints in London, and northern Minnesota for a short time when I was younger. Life in Outer Space is my first published novel, although like most writers, I have a bottom draw filled with half-finished manuscripts.

How did you get the idea for your characters, Sam and Camilla?

Sam’s voice really came first; one of those odd moments where I was looking for
inspiration for a new project (having decided to abandon the novel I had been
working on), but really had no idea what the ‘new’ thing was going to be. I was
attempting to write in a café when I spotted a poster for a horror film club, and
Sam’s voice just appeared. I didn’t really know what his story was going to be
though, until I got to know Camilla’s character. The story really took shape after
I found her. As to where the ideas for these characters came from – I’m not quite
sure! There are little pieces of lots of cool, geeky, creative people that I’ve met in
my life in both of them, but they always felt like real people to me.

What life-experience would you say prepared you most for writing this book?

I studied Cinema at university, which helped quite a bit in shaping the character
of a cinema buff, although I was never really a fan of horror movies until I started
doing my research for the book. I guess the ‘life experience’ which I drew on
most was my own experience of high school. It was in no way as traumatic as
Sam’s is in the beginning of the book, but I did relate to that desperate need to
speed through it, to get it over and done with and move on to bigger and better
things. I haven’t been in high school in quite a while, but that experience still
seems quite raw to me!

What were you doing when you found out you were the winner of the
Ampersand Project?

I was at my day job when the lovely Ampersand commissioning editor called me.
I think I was rendered quite teary and speechless – and needless to say, was not
very productive at work afterwards!

(and of course…) Will there be a sequel?

Not as such, I don’t think. The main reason being that I think it’s impossible to
write a compelling book unless you’re willing to traumatise your characters –
and I’ve possibly traumatised poor Sam and Camilla enough! But I am quite fond
of these people, so I may not be entirely finished with their stories yet.

Thanks, Melissa!

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