Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview With Melissa Goodwin, Author of The Christmas Village

I'm very happy to share an interview with Melissa Goodwin who just released her middle grade book The Christmas Village (which she'll tell you about below.) We also chatted about her experience self-publishing, her upcoming travels, yoga and writing, among other things. She is willing to answer any questions in the ask away!

Tell us about your book, please.

My book, The Christmas Village is a fantasy adventure targeted to readers age 9 and up. I say "and up" because it's the kind of children's story that grown-ups really like too! It's about 12-year-old Jamie, whose father has disappeared under somewhat shady circumstances. Jamie is hurt and angry and wishes that he could turn back time. He and his mother go to Vermont to spend the holidays with his grandparents. Grandma has one of those miniature Christmas villages. Jamie fixates on it, thinking that village must be a perfect place to live, a place where nothing ever changes and nothing bad ever happens. Several times, he makes a wish that he could there, and ....

One night just before Christmas, his wish magically comes true.

Jamie discovers that the village is called Canterbury, and the year is 1932. He makes friends and is taken in by the villagers, but now that he is there, of course he wants nothing more than to get back home to his own family in time for Christmas! If and how he will do that become an adventure with twists and turns and surprises to the very end. Along the way, Jamie learns a few things about life, people and himself. Ultimately, The Christmas Village is a story about family, forgiveness and friendships that last a lifetime.

Did you ever want to live in a Christmas Village like your main character, Jamie?

Oh my, yes! In fact, that's how the book came about. I was looking at our pretty little lighted village on the table at Christmastime a few years ago, and I started thinking, I wonder who lives in that house over there by the covered bridge? I wonder what song the carolers are singing? I wonder who built that snowman? And that's how it all started.

I'm always curious about people's writing journey. What is the first thing you remember writing?

The first thing I remember writing is a play that I wrote in high school. I don't remember much about it except that the main character was a court jester. Our class voted on which play to perform and they chose mine. I think they thought it had deeper meaning that it really did!

What made you decide to self-publish? How have you found the experience so far? Any lessons learned that others can benefit from?

I had an agent and we were about two months into the process of sending the book out to publishers. We'd gotten some nice comments along with some "it's not for us" responses. In the meantime, I had reconnected through Facebook with a high school chum who has successfully self-published three books. He was willing to be my mentor if I decided to self-publish. Then, my mother died and left me some money. I felt like events were coming together in a way that was encouraging me to take my destiny into my own hands.

It also helped a great deal that I had had two agents offer to represent the book, because that told me it had appeal. And my agent had been an editor, so I knew we had really vetted it. I have a very independent spirit, and suddenly it just felt right to take the leap. I was scared but the minute I took that first step, it felt right.

I can honestly tell you that my experience working with Createspace, the publishing arm of Amazon, has been exceptional. They were extremely professional and responsive. Everything was always done on time. They answered my questions quickly. I was especially pleased with my illustrator - she got my idea immediately, and I've gotten rave reviews about the cover.

Lessons learned? First, I'd say, if you are thinking self-publishing might be right for you, don't be afraid! They make it very easy for you.

Second, don't be defensive about your choice. The fact that you have self-published your book does not make it "less" than traditionally published books. Look at how many lousy books get published by traditional publishers. I'd be happy to work with a traditional publisher someday, if it made sense for me to do it - financially and otherwise. But I am also ready and willing to self-publish my next book.

Third, be ready to work hard at promotion. You'll have to do this no matter how your book gets published, but if you self-publish, it's really and truly Your Baby. Embrace it, run with it, and most of all, have FUN with it!

You are going to buy an RV and hit the road next year. What prompted this decision? What's the first stop on your adventure?

My husband is quite a bit older than me - he just turned 71. But he's a young 71, and has a wanderlust that I wasn't aware of earlier in our relationship! Both my parents passed away recently, and I think my husband and I are both feeling that "life is short" thing. There are so many places in the U.S. and Canada that I haven't been - Yellowstone, Yosemite, Jackson Hole, Nova Scotia. I want us to see those places together, while we are "young" and healthy.

I also like the simplicity of it - not owning a home and having all the care and worry that goes with that. And, I look forward to more time spent by the ocean, more time to write, and more time to spend with friends and family.

First we'll head east to see our families, and then we will head up through Maine to Nova Scotia. I've always wanted to go there, and I hope to spend most of next summer there. After that, we'll see!

You are a yoga instructor. Do you find connections between your yoga practice and your writing?

Absolutely! In fact, my yoga and my writing seemed to blossom simultaneously. I use meditation before writing to clear my mind and reconnect to my story. It helps to calm and center me. And in those moments of quiet, inspiration often strikes. The active yoga practice also helps you learn to focus. When doing a pose, you can't think about anything else, and developing that ability to focus is helpful when sitting down to write.

Stephen King recommends sitting quietly for at least 15 minutes before starting to write. He says to stay there until you can "see" your scene clearly, until you can hear the sounds and smell the smells. Only then, should you start to write. What he describes is very much like the meditative part of yoga. First I sit long enough to clear my mind of everything, then I allow my story to come in. King probably didn't think he was doing "yoga" when he described that process, but he kind of was.

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I look forward to chatting with your followers, reading their comments and answering any questions they have for me.


  1. Great interview :) I've always wanted to live in a Christmas village too!

  2. Melissa, I really enjoyed your thoughts, especially on writing and yoga. There are lots of good life lessons to be learned from both disciplines!

    Congratulations on your book! Also good to hear you've had a positive experience with self-publishing :)

  3. I like the sounds of the historic aspects of this story. My mom was a little girl in the 1930s and I always wondered how different the world felt back then.