Sunday, November 15, 2009

Girlfriend Visiting! Melissa Senate

"The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate opened my heart, made me laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time. A don't-miss read!"

–New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips

Melissa Senate was one of the very very first "real" authors I ever met. (Remember that, Melissa?) I went to hear her speak at a meeting of the New Englnad chapter of RWA--and I was captivated. I probably didn't tell her that (too timid!), but she was fascinating. Honest. Genuine. And hilarious.
So it's no wonder Melissa's books have captured readers' hearts. And, hurray, now she has a new one!

(Melissa lives on the coast of Maine with her son and their menagerie of pets. She’s the author of eight novels (seven women’s fiction and one young adult) with two on the way.)

HANK: You and I get into an elevator on the first floor. We're both going to 22! Oh, I say, you're the famous author. What's your new book about?
You say:
MELISSA: 28-year-old New Yorker Rebecca Strand is shocked when her dying father confesses a devastating secret: he had affair when Rebecca was a toddler—and a baby he turned his back on at birth. Now, his wish is that the daughter he abandoned, Joy Joyhawk, read the unsent letters he wrote to her every year on her birthday. Determined to fulfill her father’s wish, Rebecca drives to a small town in Maine—against the advice of her lawyer boyfriend who’s sure Joy will be a “disappointing, trashy opportunist” and demand half her father’s fortune. But when hopeful Rebecca knocks on her half-sister’s door, Joy—a separated mother who conducts weekend singles tours out of her orange mini-bus—wants nothing to do with Rebecca or the letters her father wrote to her. Determined to forge some kind of relationship with Joy, Rebecca sticks around, finding unexpected support from Joy’s best clients—the Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset—and a sexy carpenter named Theo . . . .

HANK: Do you remember the moment you had the idea for the book? How and when did that happen?:

MELISSA: Several years ago, I received an email out of the blue that said: I think you might be my half-sister. I was. Am. It took me a long time to decide to take that little (huge) nugget and write a novel to help me figure out the answer to some burning questions, such as: if you haven’t seen or heard from your biological father, or any member of his family, since you were little (or, in Joy’s case, never at all), is his child from another relationship really your sibling? Or just a stranger? Does the word father or sister or brother mean anything without back up? I had a ton of questions and set out to uncover how I felt through a fictional character, but it’s interesting to me that I flipped everything on its head in the writing of the story. Nothing but the basic questions that are proposed in the novel are autobiographical. Just the questions! And I surprised myself quite a few times during the writing of this story with how I felt about certain things. Amazing how writing fiction can teach you so much about yourself.

HANK:. Your main character--is she you?

MELISSA: Not at all! Although I love to steal from my own life as the nuggets for my novels, I never base my characters on myself or anyone I know. On the burning questions and the theme, perhaps, are very, very real.

HANK: So--movie time. Tell us who you envision playing your main character? The love interest? A bad guy?

MELISSA: The main character, Rebccca, I see Anne Hathaway or Emily Blunt or Rachel McAdams with her sweet expression. For her half-sister, Joy: Kristin Bell or Michelle Williams. The love interest: Aarron Eckhart or Matthew Fox.

HANK: And you can be in the movie too--what part would you play? And why? MELISSA: I would want to play the kind, wise pizza maker, Arlene Radicchio, who becomes a source of safety and comfort for Rebecca. I would love to have someone like nearby in real life. Someone always ready with a cup of tea and a slice of warm pie and an open ear.

HANK: Do you read other people books while you're in the writing process? How does that affect you?

MELISSA: Oooh, yes. I read all the time. Reading while writing novel inspires me. If I’m feeling a little stuck, I’ll just read a little Jennifer Weiner or Elizabeth Berg or Lolly Winston and I’m ready to get to work. They are like fairy Godwriters.

HANK: What's the very best line of the very best review you've gotten? So far, of course.

MELISSA: It was a Booklist review that said: “Melissa Senate’s latest has her trademark quick pacing and sympathetic, loveable characters, proving once again she’s one of Red Dress Ink’s brightest lights.” Red Dress Ink is no more, and I’m now writing for Simon & Schuster, but I thought that was the loveliest review I’ve ever gotten.

HANK: What was your favorite book as a child? Do you still love it?:

MELISSA: Anne of Green Gables and yes! That book taught me that imagination can take you places.

HANK: What's your secret indulgence? A certain food? A particular movie? What would you buy on a day of shopping?

MELISSA: My secret indulgence is really and truly books. I love contemporary women’s fiction and there’s so much great stuff with gorgeous covers. My Amazon cart is always bursting.

HANK: What's one thing no one knows about you?

MELISSA: How introverted I truly am!

HANK: Do you remember when you typed "The End?" What happened next?

MELISSA: Pure happiness. Done. Send. And then the nervous anticipation of reaction sets in. Which is when I busy myself immediately with starting a new novel.

I know, now you're saying: MORE MELISSA! Can do.

FIrst, visit her website ( -- she’d love if you became her friend Facebook ( and followed her on Twitter (

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