MEET THE FABULOUS MELISSA MILLER
Melissa Miller is the founder and CEO of Solstice Publishing and an Amazon International Best Selling Author. Writing under her pen name, Lizzy Stevens, Melissa has written and published twenty-eight books since she received her first publishing contract in 2008.
With the help of her talented and dedicated staff, Melissa keeps the wheels turning at Solstice Publishing and is especially generous in sharing her expertise and guidance with her authors. Frankly, Folks, I don't know how she does it.
I considered myself extremely lucky to have landed an interview with Melissa, in which she talks about her writing style, her books and her role as CEO. She even shares some tidbits about her family.
This interview is a must-read for all authors, aspiring and established, because not only is it informative, it is inspirational as well!
IN ADDITION TO BEING THE CEO OF SOLSTICE PUBLISHING, YOU ARE ALSO QUITE A PROLIFIC AUTHOR IN YOUR OWN RIGHT. HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
As of this interview I have 28 books in all. I’m currently working on several others. I don’t normally bounce around. I have always written one book all the way before starting another but for some reason I had all these ideas in my head at once 😊 so I currently have three that I’m working on right now.
WHAT GENRES DO YOU WRITE IN?
I don’t stick to a genre. I write the story that pops into my head. I have written Woman’s Fiction, Romance, Paranormal Romance, Christian Fiction and Fantasy. Like I said, I just write whatever story pops into my head.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE GENRE?
I guess if I had to pick then I would say Woman’s Fiction and Fantasy are tied for first place 😊 because in Woman’s Fiction you don’t have to worry about fitting into a mold. Your couples can fall in love, sure, but your entire story doesn’t have to be about romance. The story stands on its own. If you were to take the romance out you would still have a great story. And then Fantasy is my other favorite. I write a lot of fantasy too which I find fun to do. I like to make up realms. Like in “Karma is A Bitch” that is about a whole way of life that doesn’t exist and a realm that doesn’t exist. That’s fun to write. It’s my story so I can do whatever I want with it. I don’t have to make sure that it fits the rules. Here's a description of “Karma Is A Bitch.”
Karmas are immortals that kept the not so good people in line. They live by the motto “Do bad things, bad things will happen.”
Tessa Waters was one of the best Karmas of the Karma realm. However, she wasn’t the fastest. She would watch over the realms, Earth, being her main realm. When she saw somebody not behaving she would send down a Karma punishment on that person. They were always funny and made the other Karmas laugh but she wasn’t fast enough.
The head Karma thought it would help Tessa if, instead of watching from a far, she went down to Earth and passed out the punishments up close. Maybe that would make her faster. She could not return until she hit 100 Karmas.
Tessa thought that would be no problem. Until the trickster of all tricksters, Loki, got in her way. How was she supposed to pass out Karmas if Loki was right in the way playing pranks on everyone? Now Tessa had to deal with the trouble makers and Loki. How was she supposed to hit her goal of 100 and make it back home?
So in this story instead of just taking the phrase Karma Is a Bitch and going with the concept that bad things happen, I made Karma a whole new world. The characters are “Karmas” which are immortal beings who enforce that phrase. They live in their own realm that doesn’t exist. It’s not the same old story told over and over. It’s a story that never existed before because it’s immortals and realms that never existed before I wrote the story.
OF THE BOOKS YOU’VE PUBLISHED, DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?
My favorite story out of all my books is “Don’t Make A Wish.” I wrote that story with my husband and my two boys. We sat in the living room all together and I had pen and paper taking notes of what they said. And when we were all finished talking it through and I had enough notes then I went and did the writing of the story. That book is 100% for charity. Anything I make on it goes to The Epilepsy Foundation.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR PEN NAME?
My pen name is a combination of my middle name and my husband’s name. My middle name is Elizabeth and my husband’s name is Steve. I thought it would flow better if I added an s to the end of his name. So that is how Lizzy Stevens came about.
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
Well LOL In the past I would never start more than one book at a time. I would write one all the way through before starting the next one. But for some reason I had all these ideas in my head that just had to be written 😊 so I am currently working on “Ravencrest book 2” and then two stand-alone stories that are coming along really nicely.
HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THE TITLES FOR YOUR BOOKS?
For me and I’m probably just weird LOL I always title my books before I start writing them. I just get an idea for a story and I title it and then start writing it. Titles are not my problem. My problem is character names. I will be all ready to sit down and write. I have the entire story in my head ready for me to start typing and I can’t decide what I want to name my characters LOL So I pick one and start writing and then I think something else would be better and I end up doing the search/replace feature of Word and change my character’s name.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR WRITING IS BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES OR THOSE OF SOMEONE YOU KNOW?
I think every author puts a little bit of themselves in their stories. It can be something as simple as a favorite food or a place to go that maybe you went to as a kid. So your character might go there or eat that or use your favorite shampoo. Simple little things that nobody would even notice. But my stories are all completely made up and not based on anything or anyone.
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH GOES INTO WRITING YOUR BOOKS?
I honestly don’t do much research. I hate to research. But that’s where Steve comes into it. He doesn’t mind the research. So he will do all that.
WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU USE WHEN SELECTING THE COVERS FOR YOUR BOOKS?
For my covers I will go through stock photos until I see something that really fits what I want to show about my books. My criteria are that I don’t do the curly, fancy hard to read fonts. I want a clear and very easy to read book cover. I don’t want the readers to have to work extra hard just to figure out what the title of my book is. Your book has to sell itself based on a small thumbnail most of the time. Readers are scrolling through Amazon looking for their next read. You are not going to get their attention if your font is a big curly hard to read mess. Or if it looks like some kind of carnival full of all these different color fonts and curly cursive, hard to read fonts. So, for me, my title and my author name are the same color and very clear and easy to read. I’ve seen book covers that have a font that is so curly cursive that I can’t even read what the title of the book is. That loses my interest fast as I’m sure it does for other readers too.
IS THERE A GENERAL THEME THAT RUNS THROUGH YOUR BOOKS?
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD CHANGE ABOUT YOUR BOOKS?
No. They might not be perfect but it’s what I wrote. So I write it and then I move on. I don’t dwell on it. I don’t reread the book over and over looking for some small typo or a scene that I would have written different. Like, oh man I wish I had done chicken instead of steaks for that meal in the story. LOL No, when the book is done and up for sale I move on to my next story.
WHICH OF YOUR BOOKS WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE MADE INTO A FILM?
That’s a hard question. I have so many books out there and then to pick one hmm.... Well like I said my favorite is “Don’t Make A Wish” but some of my other favorites are “A Lost Memory” “Winter Romance” “Blackbeard’s Treasure”
IF THIS BOOK WOULD BE MADE INTO A FILM, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY THE LEADS?
I really wouldn’t care who played in the movie. I would be first in line to buy the dvd LOL.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU BEGIN WRITING?
I wanted to tell stories.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST CONSIDER YOURSELF A WRITER?
When I signed my first contract.
DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING STYLE.
My writing style is probably odd. LOL I don’t make myself write. I write whenever I get the mood. If I told myself that I had to sit down at the computer from this time to this time then I probably wouldn’t get a word written. When I have the extra time then I sit down and start writing. I don’t do rough drafts. I sit down at my computer and start typing. Then I do a proofread myself fixing everything that needs fixed before sending it to my editor. Then I do four rounds of edits and a proofread. Then I send it to a couple other people to do a proofread on it. “Ravencrest book one Lucinda’s Story” went through 8 rounds in all before I released the book and it’s only around 60 pages long.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST LESSON YOU HAD TO LEARN AS A WRITER?
My hardest lesson was to learn to be thick skinned. People will try and take you down. I had no idea it was going to be like that. I was super naïve. I found out later that anyone that wants to can leave a negative review for your books without even buying your book. That was a hard lesson to learn. So I have several one star reviews for my books from people who never even read or bought the book. On Amazon if a customer buys the book then it says “verified purchase” by the review. If they did not buy the book then it won’t say anything. So I’ve had people say my books are horrible but never even bought the book.
For example, this one person has given me so many bad reviews that I can’t even count, and she will do it on a full series. One of my books has four in the series and she went to each one of them and gave each one a bad review, but it isn’t a verified customer review. So she just went and posted all these negative things about my books. The writing is bad. The story is predictable. Not enough detail but she never even read the books. If I go to Goodreads I can see that this person went to almost all of my books and gave them all bad reviews. But really, come on LOL. If you hate somebody’s writing so much that it needs a bad review would you really have read book after book of this author that you openly hate their writing. No. Which is why none of the reviews are verified purchase reviews. Problem is the reader doesn’t really pay attention to that. They just see all these bad reviews. Being a publisher and International Best Selling Author I’ve made people mad over the years. Maybe we didn’t publish their book or maybe we did and they didn’t have the success they wanted. So, they take it out on my personal books. It’s just something you get used to after a while.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR NEW WRITERS?
My advice would be to don’t let other people try and take you down. Don’t let negative reviews make you not want to write again or make you want to rewrite your book. It’s going to happen. Everyone isn’t going to love your book and that’s ok. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. What you should never do is rewrite your book because the reviewer says it would be better had you done this or that. It’s not their story. It’s your story and you should never change it to make one person happy. Because the minute you do then somebody else will say it would be better if you did this and you would be going round and round never moving on because you are too busy rewriting the same book. You wrote it and it’s up for sale. Leave it alone.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO START SOLSTICE PUBLISHING?
I wanted to help authors get their story out there. I had signed with a company before I opened my own and it wasn’t a good experience. That company lost my book for a while. Gave me excuse after excuse for their problems. And then the editor wanted me to change my story because she would have written it a different way. Ok but she didn’t write it. I did and that is what I wanted to happen in it. LOL After that horrible experience I signed with a couple other publishers and they were not much better. So I decided to open my own company and make it a place where authors felt like they are part of a family. A place where they felt like I was there for them and they could come to me if they needed to. And that has been how I have run this company for ten years. I have talked to the authors like they were friends and family. They have come to me with their problems and I’ve been there for them through their difficult times. I have shown them that they are people not just a product I’m selling in a store.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT TO ACCEPT A BOOK FOR PUBLICATION?
We look for an original story. Don’t tell us that your story is like this movie or that book. We are not looking for something already out there. We are looking for an original story.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE WHEN DEALING WITH WRITERS?
We get some hard to deal with authors from time to time. What new authors don’t understand is that Amazon literally has millions of books on the website on any given day. In those millions of books are thousands of authors. The competition is fierce. And then we get the author who signs the contract and thinks that they are special. They deserve special treatment for every little thing. Why? Because they wrote a book. Ok so did the thousands of other people in the world. For that matter so did my two teenage boys LOL. And your book went up for sale. Ok so did the millions of other books. That doesn’t make you better than everyone else. That doesn’t give you the right to treat others unkindly and give your publisher a list of demands because you feel like you deserve that. Why? Because you wrote a book 😊
For me I personally take a chance on that book and that author. I pay for the staff to read the book and send a contract. I pay for the editor to edit the book. I pay for the proofreader to proof the book. I pay for the formatting department to format the book and upload the book, I pay for the photo used on the cover. All of this costs money. None of this is free. So, I take the chance and invest my own personal money in the hope that this book will sell and make me back all that money I just spent on it and then make a little more so that I can call it a profit and not a loss or a break even. That is some of the challenges that we face.
YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE A LOT ON YOUR PLATE, YET YOU ARE ABLE TO RESPOND ALMOST IMMEDIATELY TO QUESTIONS FROM SOLSTICE AUTHORS. HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO STAY SO ORGANIZED?
I don’t know that I would call myself organized. My husband says my desk looks like a bomb went off on it LOL Basically the short answer is that I get a lot of support from my family.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST AND THE LEAST ABOUT BEING THE CEO FOR SOLSTICE?
I love that I get to help authors fulfill their dreams. It’s not easy being an unknown author. I mean you are competing with well known, famous authors who have been around for years. They put a book out and it goes straight to movie or tv show. So when a new author that nobody has ever heard of releases a book on the same day a famous person releases their next book it’s hard to compete with that.
The part that I don’t really like much is the disappointment that some authors have. It goes back to what I just said. Our authors are unknown. Nobody knows who they are and they are competing with the best. And they sign a contract with all these expectations and then they might get low to no sales month after month. It takes time to get your name known and for books to start selling. A lot of the authors had these dreams of writing a book, getting a publisher, and then making millions 😊 But that just isn’t the way it works. Trust me I wish it was LOL So the disappointment in the authors is my least favorite thing of it all.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS?
Oh I have too many to even come close to naming them all. Some of my favorites are Stephen King, Cassandra Clare, Nicholas Sparks.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOWS AND MOVIES?
TV Shows: Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, IZombie, Znation, The Good Place, The Good Witch, Supernatural, there are too many to name LOL Movies: The Marvel movies like Avengers, Iron Man, Thor etc., the Sharknado series
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC TOUCHES YOUR SOUL?
I listen to a wide variety of music.
WHAT DO YOU WANT WRITTEN ON YOUR HEADSTONE?
She was a great mother and wife.
DO YOU HAVE A BLOG OR WEBSITE READERS CAN VISIT FOR UPDATES, EVENTS AND SPECIAL OFFERS?
and my you can follow my Amazon Author Central page here: