was named by Publisher’s Weekly to their spring 2016 “Religion and Spirituality” Top 10 list. Upcoming books include Keep Holding On (Sept 2016) and a sequel to last year’s, releasing in late 2016. Melissa has taught at multiple national writing conferences, as well as retreats and workshops. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever–not that she’s biased–watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com and on and
Welcome, Melissa, and thank you for joining us. Since you are the queen of three-word titles (Three Little Words, From the Start, Like Never Before), let’s begin with a lightning round. Give the first three answers that come to mind.
1 3 of your favorite things to have on hand when writing:
Diet Coke with Lime
Diet Coke with Lime
Apparently I’m big into beverages. LOL! Also super important: flannel pajama pants. I’m convinced they help me write better. :)
1 Your 3 favorite movies:
AHHH, this is too hard! I have too many. Like, legit: I could go on and on about this. But here are three I return to constantly:
The Philadelphia Story
What’s Up Doc?
His Girl Friday
What’s Up Doc?
His Girl Friday
(It’s killing me to not also mention Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, Holiday, Roman Holiday, It’s a Wonderful Life, both Anne of Green Gables movies, Sound of Music, My Man Godfrey…I wasn’t joking about going on and on… :) )
1 3 books in your TBR (to be read) pile:
Ooh, great question, because my TBR pile is consistently overflowing…can I cheat and mention three books in one series? And it’s even a series I’ve already read! Joanne Bischof’s Cadence of Grace series. I read this series when it first released and completely fell in love with Bischof’s writing and the emotional depth of her stories. I just recently read her latest book, The Lady and the Lionheart, and I loved it so much I read it twice in one week. It made me want to go back and re-read her earlier series again. So all three books in that series are on my TBR pile.
3 things that make you smile:
My family…which I suppose sounds like a cliché answer, but it’s true. I’m really never happier than when I’m surrounded by the people I love most.
A new story idea…there’s just something so deliciously fun about discovering a new story, peeling back its layers and getting a taste of the storytelling fun to come before I even start writing.
Kind readers…I will never stop being grateful for readers who uplift and inspire me with their kind words, notes of encouragement, gracious reviews and just overall sweetness.
1 3 places you’d like to visit:
Italy! I studied abroad in London in college and while I had the chance to visit several amazing countries, Italy is one I missed out on. I’m dying to go there.
London! Solely because I would absolutely love to see my British friends again. It’s been too long.
The Smoky Mountains in autumn…I looooove the Smoky Mountains. So, so much. But I’ve never been there in the autumn and I have a feeling they’re even more beautiful then.
|For our readers, here's a picture Suzie took at Grotto Falls in the Smoky Mountains (She's not visited in the fall either).|
That was fun, but let's dig a little deeper. You admit to loving the editing process of writing, which can become a tedious process for authors. Why do you enjoy this part of creating your stories?
Honestly, I think I love editing because it finally allows me to feel a bit more “in control” of my story and my characters. Whenever I’m writing a first draft, no matter how much I’ve brainstormed and plotted and planned, the story always ends up getting away from me…which is actually kind of cool when you think about it. The characters start saying and doing things I never expected…which is, on the one hand, completely awesome. Anytime the story starts telling itself, I know there’s more at work than my own brain. But it’s also scary and messy and frustrating at times.
When I’m editing, I feel a little more in control…a little less unnerved. J BUT it’s also the part in the process when I discover nuggets in the story I didn’t even realize were there the first time around. And it’s often during edits that I realize why I’m writing this story at this time. I often discover the hidden spiritual theme that was there all along…and it’s like God sending an arrow straight to my heart.
As much as I do try to write for readers, I think I also write for myself…for my own heart. I feel like writing stories is my lifeline to God. And I always see that in action most clearly during editing.
I love reading your social media statuses and blog posts because your share life with your followers and readers. You share your insights, your struggles, and your obsessions. And very often, I’m laughing out loud at what you’re sharing (hello, baby goats?). Even though we’ve not met in person, I feel like you’re a friend because you share things with your readers and you’ve got a talent for using social media as a promotion tool.
Awww, thank you for saying that! <3
That’s a long build up to the next question…Do you ever need a break from all things social media?
Yessssss!! In fact, I’ve gotten more and more consistent about taking social media breaks. It’s always hard at first to break away…because, honestly, I love the interaction! I love chatting with friends…I love the opportunity to connect with people I wouldn’t have even met if it weren’t for Facebook or Instagram or my website or whatever.
But man, it’s so easy for my headspace to get cluttered. I don’t know if other people have that problem, but there are times when I struggle to be present in my everyday life. To be present with the people actually physically around me. To hear my own voice or God’s voice or the voices of my characters. Social media breaks go a long, LONG way in curing that.
In addition to your job as an author, you also work for a homeless nonprofit and take time out to speak at events and retreats. First, if someone is interested in having you attend one of their events, how should they contact you about that? Second, how do you balance getting your writing in with the other everything else pulling at your time?
Ooh, I LOVE speaking at events and retreats. The two easiest ways to contact me are by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via the Contact form on my website: http://www.melissatagg.com/contact
As for balance, I honestly feel like I’m still learning there. A couple years ago, I was big into hustling…fitting every single thing in to every last minute of the day. I would get up before work and write…then work eight hours…then come home and write some more. I spent tons of Saturdays and Sundays writing. And I tried to convince myself it was worth it and I was happy.
But it wasn’t worth it and I wasn’t happy. In fact, after writing my third book, From the Start, I felt so drained, stressed and unlike myself, that I decided I’d go ahead and write my next contracted book and if something didn’t change, I’d quit writing books and focus solely on my day job (which I love) and getting back to being even-keeled, happy Melissa. :)
Thankfully, God did a mega turnaround in my heart. I feel like He just completely gifted me with the writing of Like Never Before. Sure, it was still hard and stressful at times…but it was nothing like the last one in terms of, oh, me falling apart. LOL! And then toward the end of last year, I made some decisions and changed up some priorities in my life in an effort to be more balanced. Instead of forcing myself to write every day, I’m now taking long weekends every now and then to do a bunch of writing at once. I’ve cut down on conferences, blogging and other industry-related stuff. I’ve stopped feeling like I have to DO everything.
And the super funny thing is, I’m now writing more, faster and happier than I was before. It’s like, as soon as I decided to take a couple risks, stop pressuring myself and just trust God, things started falling into place in a new and much more balanced way.
(Sorry I got so ramble-y here!)
Can you give our readers who have not read your books a quick overview of the Walker Family and Maple Valley?
Absolutely! Maple Valley is a made-up town in Iowa, lightly based on a couple real Iowa towns (Boone and Webster City) as well as a fictional town—Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. It’s quirky, it’s charming, it’s eccentric. Everyone knows everyone and there’s some kind of town festival, fair or event, like, every other weekend. Haha!
The Walkers are so ridiculously real to me. The dad, Case, is a widow and former Army soldier turned diplomat who now runs the Maple Valley Scenic Railroad and Museum. Case’s children, in the order of their books, include:
Kate—a screenwriter of Hallmark-type movies with heartbreak in her past, the main character in From the Start
Logan—the oldest, a political speechwriter, the fictional love of my life, father of a little girl named Charlie and main character in Like Never Before
Beckett—the mysterious son! All you know in the first couple books is that he’s a lawyer in Boston and he hasn’t been back to Maple Valley in years. He’s the main character in my upcoming book, Keep Holding On
Raegan—the youngest who still lives at home. She’s 26 and works a slew of part-time jobs. She’ll be the main character in the final Walker book next year. She’s pining for a recurring character named Bear.
There’s also Seth Walker, a cousin, who is the main character in Three Little Words—a free prequel novella!
The Walkers are a super close-knit family with lots of quirks and lots of love for each other. They all miss Flora Walker, Case’s wife who passed away years ago, and continue to be impacted by her legacy and love.
It’s been a pleasure visiting with you today. Thanks again for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us.
About Melissa's books
Three Little Words
Ava Kingsley and Seth Walker might be the most unlikely friends ever. The only thing these two polar opposites have in common is a knack for wordsmithing. Back in college, they were known for their written sparring in the campus newspaper's popular "He Says/She Says" column.
At their ten-year college reunion, they pick up right where they left off. Except this time their squabbling leads to a surprising turn: friendship and a year-long exchange of emails. So when Ava approaches a crossroads in her athletics department career in Minnesota, Seth is quick to offer the open apartment above the restaurant he's been remodeling in Maple Valley, Iowa.
Ava doesn't know where her career will lead her next, but she's starting to suspect she might see Seth as more than a pen pal. Which would be exciting...except for the fact that he only sees her as a friend. As Maple Valley grows on her, Ava wonders if there might be something here for her even though Seth is unavailable. And maybe, just maybe, after all the words the two of them have exchanged over the years, they'll finally be able to say the three that matter most.
Three Little Words is an e-only novella that gives an exciting introduction to Melissa Tagg's new series about the charismatic Walker family and the endearing town of Maple Valley!
From the Start
Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.
Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.
While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?
Like Never Before
Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley's haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher...if only she knew who he was.
After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime--a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he's inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.
But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She's scrappy, but wounded. He's dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley's quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.
(available Sept 27, 2016)
Beckett Walker hasn't stepped foot in Maple Valley in years. There's no getting past the painful memories, and there's every chance he'll be arrested as soon as he shows his face. Which is exactly what happens when he finally returns. Suddenly his dream of adventure as a military lawyer comes skidding to a halt.
Horticulturist Kit Danby has spent too much time missing home and her childhood best friend--Beckett Walker. Now she might have a shot at reclaiming both. After years of living abroad, she returns to run her family's apple orchard. She has one season to turn a profit and impress the father she barely knows. But she can't do it alone.
It should be simple: Beckett needs community service hours. Kit needs a helping hand. But there's more at stake than either of them planned. With a tangled past and futures that look nothing alike, they'll have to find a way to weather the storms of the present . . . or risk losing everything.
Would you like an opportunity to win one of these wonderful books? Melissa is giving away a digital copy of her newest, Keep Holding On, to one lucky readers. All you have to do is leave a comment below. All comments left before midnight PST 9/14/2016 are eligible.
(Minimum of 5 comments required to validate contest. Please include your email address with your comment to facilitate contact if you are selected as the winner.)