The Unspoken Answers of a Writer by Melinda Curtis

I know we just talked about silly questions last week, but...

Writing is a solitary profession. Most of us sit at a computer and don't interact much with others - if at all - as we put words on the page. I find that when I do get out "into the world" I don't always answer the questions posed to me about my writing with the entire truth - mostly because only a writer could sympathize with the answer.

"Where do you get your ideas?"

  • My usual answer: "Ideas are everywhere." 
  • The longer, unspoken answer: Story generation is like making a cobb salad - take a bit of someone's experience here, add something unique there, flavor it with an emotional wound, and season with your own writing voice for 300-400 pages.

"How long does it take you to write a book?" 

  • My usual answer: "Several months."
  • The unspoken answer: Too long! (sob)

"I didn't know you had experience (insert one: shooting a gun, as a winemaker, MMA Fighting, coaching basketball, gambling, couples therapy, self-help, training horses, etc.)?

  • My usual answer: "It takes a lot of research."
  • The unspoken answer: I spend way too much time researching on the internet, watching documentaries or reading biographies. Lately, I've been fascinated with metal-made mermaid art. See my October 2016 book for more on how that turns out.

Here are some of my favorite questions that I answer with the truth because the answer isn't always so long or poking at my writer underbelly.

"Why do your characters drink so much coffee?"

  • My usual answer: "Because I sit alone at the computer and drink a lot of coffee!"

"Why are the grandparents in your books so out-spoken?"

  • FYI: If you haven't read my Harmony Valley series, it's a town populated with grandparents - more so than parents.
  • My usual answer: "Because my parents and their friends - who I love dearly - are so very independent and at a point in their lives where they don't care what others think, they speak their mind!"

So readers, here's your chance to ask some authors a question about writing and have them answer. And authors, here's your chance to post some of your most frequently asked questions and your answers. 1-2-3...Go!

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author. Her next Harmony Valley book is A Man of Influence, available in April online and May in larger Walmart stores. But the book with her favorite older character - Eunice - is featured in A Memory Away, available now. But please don't tell the other young-at-heart characters in Harmony Valley that Melinda has a favorite.


  1. Melinda, laughing over my coffee this morning! The question I hear the most is definitely, "Where do you get your ideas?" And I usually answer in a similar way, because really, I don't know. Now, however, my answer is going to be "Cobb salad." I love Harmony Valley! Can't wait for the mermaid art.

  2. Melinda, same here about where you get your ideas...And I usually answer, "out of thin air." Because most of my ideas do seem to come from nowhere and everywhere.

    Also, I think the hardest part of writing is getting your head into the story, and for that I have to have solitude...which is sometimes difficult for this ESTJ...can you tell where I am in my next story? lol

  3. Melinda, I love your Harmony Valley books. I guess the number one question people always ask is about where ideas come from. But some ask if all of my characters are people I know. That's hard. I'm sure bits of real people creep into stories, but I tell them I try to not have that happen. Oddly old friends seem to want to find themselves in my stories. Does that happen to anyone else?

  4. OOoooh, mermaids! Can't wait. and I LOVE Eunice. :) I think I get the same questions you do, especially asking where the ideas come from. I get a lot of mine from watching TV and movies. Here's to more coffee this morning! *toasts*

  5. LOL! Great post, Melinda! When I was offered a contract on my first book, a co-worker asked me if I planned to quit my job. I responded, "Not unless my contract includes a salary, 401k, pension and excellent health coverage."

  6. Like Roz, I'm often asked if my characters are based on real people. They are. They're usually based on something deep inside me, my friend's fears, my sister's smart mouth, etc. Everything that happens to us or that we witness becomes part of our consciousness and when we draw on it, I think we often find fears or solutions that belonged to someone else. Funny thing: when I wrote Americans and we included sexual situations, I sometimes got really creative and invariably readers would ask me about it. I had a very reliable research panel for all kinds of things -a nurse, a cop, a farmer, a winemaker and I had a very game, adventurous couple willing to research sexual positions. I remember once asking, "Can you do it on a kitchen stool?"The answer was, "We'll let you know tomorrow." The answer is, you can Happy week, everyone!

  7. I love the cobb salad analogy, Melinda. I might have to ask you for permission to plagiarize at some point!

    Yes, the question about story ideas is the most prevalent one I hear, too.

    Great post, Melinda! Thanks.

  8. My favorite questions are the ones where people pull something really small out of your book and seek the deeper meaning - "Did you put this particular flower in pot outside her front door because it means blah blah blah?" Um, nope, just picked a flower that grows that time of year in that place. No big, hidden agenda in the flower pot, I promise.
    And I love your new cover. Can't wait!

  9. I have a question(s) for you all, or for whoever would like to answer it. Do you all write in 3rd person, or have you ever written a Heartwarming book in the 1st person? And when writing in 3rd person (particularly when you wrote your first book), do you have trouble staying in it? Please feel free to tell me if it's an odd question.

    1. Laurie, I write exclusively in 3rd person with multiple Points of View, and I don't have trouble staying in each person's When I first started writing I had to learn that the person I was showing the action through could only know their own feelings and thoughts. Hope that helps.

    2. It does help!! Thank you so much for responding.

    3. I write only in 3rd person, too, although I admit the one book I wrote in 1st (The Girls of Tonsil Lake) was so much fun I'd love to try it again. I do have occasional oopses with Point of View--thanks goodness for a picky editor!

  10. I love the cobb salad, Mel, and it's exactly right. One question people ask a lot is which is my favorite book. I usually say I don't have a favorite--it would be like having a favorite child--but that's not true at all. I do have favorites; I just don't want to admit it.


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