Monday, February 14, 2011

Interview with Melanie Nowak

Author of the venomous vampire series ALMOST HUMAN
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After the interview post your comments to enter Melanie's contest for a chance to win a free signed set of Almost Human~The First Trilogy. (International entrants will have to pay shipping)

Tell us a little about yourself.
 Melanie: I am a happily married mom of 2 boys. My wonderful husband and I have shared almost 20 years together, and we are a very close family. We live on Long Island in N.Y., but hope to be moving upstate into the Catskill mountains very soon.

As far as things you can’t read off the back of the book cover in “About the Author”… basically I just love fantasy – I love it. Whenever possible, my childhood was spent roaming the forest alone imagining that I was a shape shifter or a faery. When I was at home or at school, I was buried in a fantasy book or daydreaming out the window. 

Now that I’m supposed to be a grown-up (LOL), I can be a practical mom, keeping everything on schedule (mostly) and running smoothly, doing what needs to be done. I do very much love spending time with my family. We have great fun together and I feel very blessed in my life; but at heart, I am still a dreamer. I always will be. Having the opportunity to escape into my fantasies while writing ALMOST HUMAN is a passionate obsession I greatly treasure.

How long have you been writing?
Melanie: I never thought that I would be a writer! As a child I was forever playing “Let’s Pretend”, and throughout school, I was an avid reader who aspired to be a singer and actress. I always had a creative imagination for stories, but I wanted to act and live them, not write them!

Although still very active in drama classes during college, I became a teacher. Eventually I received my Masters in Library and Information Science to be a school librarian, but after my children were born, I was fortunate to be able to stay home with them. During the day while doing housework, I found myself thinking up ideas for venomous vampires, and a story involving characters I created. It was unlike anything else I had seen or read, and I felt badly to think that my ideas would just be forgotten. So one night, I sat at the computer and decided to just write them down for myself. That was the first time I ever wrote something that was not a school paper, but a work purely for entertainment. Before I knew it, I'd been writing for hours! It started in a sort of ‘screen-play’ format, because I was used to dealing with that in my drama classes, but I soon started expanding on that to add the characters’ thoughts, and I eventually converted it to a novel. So I guess I started writing at the age of 34… call me a late bloomer :-)

I wrote the books originally for myself, so although I copyrighted them in 2004, they were not officially introduced to the public until I put them on Kindle in 2008. The series was then released in print in 2009.

What inspired you to write your Almost Human series?
Melanie: A few things came together to bring ALMOST HUMAN to life. I’ve always been interested in bats. Vampire bats have a anticoagulant in their saliva called “draculin” (named after Count Dracula!) that keeps blood from clotting. I had the idea that such a thing would be useful for vampires as well. It would also be useful if they had something to keep the victim calm, like a drug.

I always wondered about a vampire’s ability to put victims in thrall. In old movies, vampires are always able to hypnotize people, and it’s never really explained. People are just ‘under their power’. I always wondered – why? How does it work? I put those questions together with the anticoagulant/drug idea, and took it further. What if vampires could inject their victims with venom – like a snake? Only the venom would not be deadly poison, but a combination of drugs that kept blood from clotting, kept the victim calm and even willing, and also could mark territory for the vampire, leaving a mark that other vampires could see. The vampire could then use the existence of this ‘drug’ in their victim’s system, to put them in thrall as well. 

The idea of venomous vampires seemed so logical to me, that I assumed for sure that someone else had done it already. I began searching my library for a book like that, so I could read it! This was probably in the late 80’s and there weren’t very many vampire books around at that time. I never found what I was looking for, and I filed the idea away. It never occurred to me to write it myself, LOL.

Around that time, I had discovered Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles and absolutely loved them. That was the first time I read something from the vampire’s point of view. The way that she captured emotions and described surroundings was mesmerizing to me, and I really connected with her story. I’m also a huge fan of the T.V. series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Joss Whedon is a genius! That said - towards the end of the show, I started disliking some decisions the writers made. I understood their vision, but I also saw missed opportunities. I would have done things differently.

That started me thinking of my own storylines and my own characters, incorporating my venomous vampire idea. None of this was written down, just daydreamed during housework. Then one day I realized that a lot of the ideas I had were really good, and it depressed me to think that it would all just be forgotten. So, I sat down one night at the computer, to write out a few things so I wouldn’t forget, and could look back at them one day. The scenes just came pouring out and before I knew it, I’d been up writing almost the whole night! That’s when I realized that I had a real story to tell, and wanted to write it all out from beginning to end. That is how my ALMOST HUMAN vampires were born.

What is the strongest character voice you have had while writing?

Melanie: Each of these characters has been taken from the seed of something within myself. I’ve been lucky enough in my life never to have been sexually abused or addicted to drugs, but everything that goes into making up the personalities for my characters, how they feel and react to things, has come from some little grain of dealing with something in my own life - magnified. At some point in my life I have totally identified with and "been" these people. Even if it didn't outwardly show, this is how I felt and wanted to react. Writing through my characters is extremely cathartic for me, and I feel each of them very strongly when writing for them.

Outwardly I’m sure my friends and family would say I am most like Felicity. Physically, I’ve modeled her after myself; intellectually and emotionally she is very much the girl that I was at that age. I was usually pretty quiet and shy, constantly reading my fantasies rather than trying to live them out. Because of that, I identify very closely with Felicity, but I have to admit that it’s often more fun to write for my other ladies, Allie and Sindy. They are the characters that will tend towards the ‘unexpected’ in a scene; times where I will suddenly know that they will do something I hadn’t planned on, but that is their nature and what I need to let them do. Allie is much more sassy and daring than I have ever been in life, and Sindy… well let’s just say it; She can be an evil bitch – and who wouldn’t think that was fun to write? Sindy was my most insolent character, as far as straying from her planned story.

I plan out the general outline of my books well in advance of writing a single word. There will be 12 books to the series, and I do have them all loosely outlined at this point (Including a 13th book that will be a spin-off novel). There are times the story evolves a little differently as I write it, but it never truly strays from the overall outline. I have some complexly intertwined storylines leading from one book to the next, and one trilogy to the next, some of which have not even really been introduced yet, but have seeds and foundations sown throughout all of the prior books. To change anything drastically would alter the overall plan for the entire series.

When I write, I get very immersed in my characters, often going over a ‘scene’ several times, to look at it from each characters perspective, and be sure their actions and words ring true. Sometimes I make a choice because I know it’s what one character would do – but it messes things up for the other characters. I find myself very against altering an event once envisioned; to change something feels like a lie – like I am not telling what really happened. So I relate the events as I first envision them, forcing the other characters to adapt and react as they must. Eventually things come back to the original outline again, they’ve just taken an alternate path than I first planned. Difficult occurrences are opportunities to show character growth. Things don’t always happen the way we expect them to in life, and we have to learn to deal with that.       

What are your future projects?
Melanie: I have been thinking about my characters and their story for years, and have already planned their future for many books to come. I have decided to write my ALMOST HUMAN series as a succession of trilogies. The series will continue chronologically with the same characters throughout, but each trilogy will have a new focus and storyline that follows through its three books.

Writing the series as a succession of trilogies gives readers the opportunity to feel a sense of completion during points in the story, even though the series will still continue for many books to come. I have planned 4 trilogies for the ALMOST HUMAN series, meaning 12 books in all, and then I have plans for a spin off novel, which may result in a series of its own.

At the moment there are 4 books available in the series, and I am now writing Volume 2: Descendant of Darkness, for the second trilogy, and hope to release that book later this year.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
Melanie: I spend time with my husband and kids when I’m not writing. We have video game tournaments, and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing and skiing. I also make beaded bracelets (stringing beads is very relaxing) and I breed tropical fish for pet stores. My other favorite recreational activity is singing. I sing all the time around the house, and once in a rare while I will slip away for a girls night out of karaoke.

How many books do you have in print/e-book now?
Currently there are 4 books available for the series, all of them out in paperback and e-book:

ALMOST HUMAN ~ The First Trilogy
Volume 1: Fatal Infatuation
Volume 2: Lost Reflections
Volume 3: Evolving Ecstasy

ALMOST HUMAN ~ The Second Trilogy
Volume 1: Born to Blood

ALMOST HUMAN ~ The First Trilogy was featured in the New Title Showcase of Book Expo America in May 2010. At that time, the series became available Internationally in ebook and paperback, online and in your local bookstore – if it’s not on the shelf – ask for it!

You can purchase ALMOST HUMAN online through Amazon at:

Or at a discount through my website, where you can also read free sample chapters:

What else would you like to share with us?
Melanie: ALMOST HUMAN is an independently published series, meaning that I handle every single aspect of it completely by myself with no outside help. There are of course pros and cons to that: I don’t have financial backing for a large promotional campaign, and I’m called upon to do things for the books that I don’t have much experience with, but it has been an incredible journey for me, and I am extremely proud to be able to present my vision for the series to readers without it being changed to suit the ideas and formats of a publisher. This series is my raw emotional relation of these characters and their lives.

Like most of my readers, I am a working mom with humble ambitions. However, I have this story inside of me that is just burning to be told, so I am following my heart and putting it down on paper to share with others. As a reader, my favorite aspect of a story is being able to connect with a character or idea and take it with me after I’ve finished the book. As a writer, I hope that my story resonates with my readers, and gives them something to take with them in life – an interesting new idea, a comforting thought, or even just a friend to take off the shelf and visit when you need them.

My favorite quote that really sums up the part books have played for me in life:

 "Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~Charles W. Eliot

I hope that my characters are a ‘constant friend’ to others as they are to me.

Would you leave us an excerpt, video, blurb?
Melanie: I would be happy to. Here is a little excerpt from the first book of the ALMOST HUMAN series:

Taken from chapter 5 of  FATAL INFATUATION

Felicity hadn’t seen Cain since that night. She kept telling herself that was a good thing (he’s a vampire stupid!), but in a strange way, she was kind of disappointed. Now that she had gotten over the initial shock of it all, she felt terrible. This was not some nameless creature of the night, lurking in wait for her. He was a real person; and even though he frightened her, she couldn’t help but feel that somehow she was the one who had betrayed his trust.
            Cain said he had thought she’d known what he was. Could it be, that he hadn’t sought to deceive her at all? She knew she ought to worry that it was all part of some elaborate lie, but somehow she just couldn’t bring herself to believe that. It wasn’t even really what he said, but more the look in his eyes. It hurt him that she was frightened, she knew it did. She was almost anxious to see him again. The other night felt surreal, but to see him again, without the moonlight and the drama; would he look the same to her? Would there be warning bells going off in her head?
            Felicity sat down on the floor behind the counter, next to the box of recently arrived romance fantasy novels. She pulled one out to look at the cover. It depicted a knight in shining armor on his noble steed, standing over a fallen dragon. Behind him rode his fair damsel, no doubt recently rescued from distress. If only life were that simple. How did she know the knight was any safer than the dragon? At least the dragon was forthright in its intent.
               She put down the book. This train of thought was getting her nowhere. Time to get some work done. She straightened up from behind the counter and let out a yelp of surprise. He was standing right there. Cain.
            He tried not to smile. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”
            “Well…” She was annoyed that he had caught her off guard. “I had finally stopped expecting to see you every time I turned around,” she said defensively. She studied him a moment. No alarms in her head, just her heart trying to pound out of her chest. He seemed quiet, a little sad. “You haven’t been here the last few nights.”
            He gave a little shrug. “I thought it best if I stayed away.”
            “Then why are you here now?” she asked him archly.
            “There aren’t very many places to go in this town at night, and I don’t like crowds.”
            “Well, if you don’t like the town, why do you stay?”
            “I’m not finished,” he stated matter of factly.
            “Finished with what?” She realized that she was firing a barrage of questions at him, but she couldn’t help it.
            He raised an eyebrow at her directness. “Something I set out to do.”
            She let out an exasperated sigh, rolling her eyes. “Fine, be all cryptic and mysterious. Does that mean you didn’t come in here to see me?”
            He had to smile. “Well, now that is a loaded question, isn’t it? I think I’ll decline to answer for now, for I do need your help.”
            She leaned toward him over the counter and lowered her voice, looking around to see if anyone was near. “Are you looking for the other vampires?”
            He looked at her quizzically. “No,” he answered in a conspiratorial whisper, “I’m looking... for a book.”
            She leaned back, feeling pretty silly. “There’s an OPAC computer right behind you. Just type in the author and title.”
            “Yes, the thing is… computers, they don’t really like me. Besides, my typing is horrific. Help me out?”
            Felicity looked at him in assessment. If she didn’t know better she would think he was just a regular guy, trying to get a little extra attention. She wished she knew what was really going on in his head. She let out a little sigh, and decided to play along. “Fine,” she said with a tight smile. Perhaps he really did need her help; and if not, a little flirting never hurt anyone, right? She came around from behind the counter to the computer. He turned to look over her shoulder as she addressed the keyboard. “Author?”
            “Max Lucado.”
            “It’s not about me.” She gave him a questioning glance. “That’s the name of the book, I swear,” he said, smiling innocently.
            She entered it. “That’s weird, it’s in the Christian section.”
            “That makes sense, it’s a Christian book.”
            Now she turned fully to stare at him. “Are you kidding?”
            “Is that a problem?”
            “Not for me it isn’t. But... what if there’s a big cross on the cover?”
            “Guess I’ll have to wear gloves,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
            He made her think of a remembered line from Alice in Wonderland... ‘Curiouser and curiouser’. “So what, you’re like… a religious vampire?” He smiled, but before he could answer, she remembered something. “Your tattoo!”
            “What about it?” He almost sounded self-conscious, very unlike him so far.
            “Genesis... what was it?”
            “Genesis 4:7,” he admitted
            “That’s from The Bible, right? Was that from, before you... died?”
            “They didn’t do much tattooing back in 1692,” he said with a little grin.
            That took a minute to register. “Wait; did you say 16, like in 16 hundred and 92?” He gave her a little nod. “But that would make you over 300 years old!”     
“Truth be told, I’m 340. What’s the matter, don’t you like older men?” he asked playfully.
            She had a hard time assimilating that, so decided to put it away for later thought. “What is it?” She gestured toward his arm, though it was covered by a light denim jacket at the moment.
            “A reminder.”
            “So what’s it mean?”
            “I think it’s pretty self explanatory,” She gave him a blank stare. “Been neglecting your studies have you?”
            “It wasn’t in my curriculum,” she said with a sarcastic smirk.
            “Shameful, that. Then let me enlighten you,” he said, with a resigned sigh. “The Lord is speaking to Cain, and says ‘If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’ Something I thought worth remembering.”
            She pondered that a moment. “I’m assuming you’re not the original, so what kind of name is Cain, anyway?”
            “One that fits,” he said with a little shrug.
            “But not the one you were born with?” He gave his head a little shake. “So what’s your given name?”
            He looked into her eyes, and then wrinkled his nose at her. “I forget.”
            She laughed. “I know you’re supposed to be one of the ‘Great Pretenders’ and all, but for a vampire, you’re a really rotten liar.”
            “I can accept that. Are you going to get me my book, or do I have to cry prejudice?”
            “One Christian book, coming up. Maybe I should have you pay first, in case you make it burst into flames or something.”
            “Very funny. It’s true words can carry power, but not in that way. Perhaps I should point out the fact that my arm is still here, burn free.”
            He followed her to the book in question. No cross on the cover, just a pretty sunset, or maybe it was sunrise. Would that be scary to a vampire? Too weird. She led him back to the register where she scanned the book and handed it over. “$14.95.”
            He gave her a twenty. “Keep the change; call it a tip for friendly service.”
            She put his change on the counter. “I’m not allowed to accept tips.”
            “Then consider it payback for ice cream accepted under false pretenses.” He broke eye contact to look down at his book, as she recalled the night he’d bought her the ice cream. Had he really thought she’d known what he was? She felt bad for being so freaked the other night, even if it was justified.
            She studied him for a moment as he read the inside jacket cover of the book. He looked like an ordinary guy. Okay well, maybe not ordinary. He looked like an extremely attractive guy. Early twenties probably, broad shoulders, very nice build. His hair fell down into his eyes as he looked at the book and he absently swiped it aside, although it fell back again almost immediately. He was a little pale, but he certainly didn’t look supernatural. He looked up from the book to find her staring at him. She quickly searched for something to say. “I suppose you’ll be taking it over to the cafe?”
            “Mr. predictable, that’s me.”
            “Right.” She had an odd thought as she swept the change from the counter into her pocket. “Do you actually drink coffee, or is that just for show?”
            He seemed to find her question amusing. She supposed such a direct question might be considered rude, but she couldn’t help but wonder. “I can drink what I like.”
            She came out from behind the register and began walking him over to the cafe. She noticed Ben staring, but ignored him. The presence of the man beside her commanded her full attention. “So what do you do besides drink coffee and read?”
            He looked a little sobered by that one. “Fight.”
            “Other vampires?” she asked quietly.
He eyed her seductively. “Temptation mostly.” She wasn’t sure whether to melt or shudder.
Do you have any other internet sites that fans can stay in contact with you? Twitter, Facebook, My Space, etc.
Melanie: I love being able to keep in touch with readers!

There is a group page for the series on facebook at:

You can also find links to my personal pages on facebook, Twitter, MySpace & Goodreads in the “About the Author” section of my own website, where I post series updates, and I also have book discussion forums and ask the author message boards! Become a member for free at:

Thank you, Melanie for being our guest author for this month. Best of luck with your books.
 It has been my pleasure! I would sincerely like to thank Amy of Ramsey’s Reviews for giving me the opportunity to introduce everyone to my venomous vamps! Thanks for having me & happy reading!
~ Melanie Nowak

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stacey said...

Sounds Good.Do you no there is a New TV Show called Almost Human?
But does not sounds the same as your book so now I Got to Check ot your book and see how it go's Love Vampire Stories.Love the Idea for your Books Can't Wait to read them.

Amy J Ramsey said...

Thank you, Stacey for stopping in. Melanie's Almost Human series is definitely worth the read. I am almost finished with Vol. 1 of the Almost Human trilogy. It's not like the TV show.

Amy J Ramsey said...

Melanie's answer

"Actually, the new show on TV is called "Being Human". It's the American version of a show that has been very popular on BBC for a while now. People have confused my books with the show before :-) My books are different from the show, but I do enjoy the show too!"

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