Sanctuary: An Interview with YA Author Melle Amade

ebook-sanctuary-melleamade-coverrI am so incredibly excited to share my interview with paranormal YA novelist Melle Amade today!

Melle holds a special place in my heart. First off, we attended film school together. Second, the two of us have been in a writing critique group for so many years I can’t even count them (six … maybe?). Melle is a plot genius. She’s bailed me out of so many plot holes that I should be writing her royalty checks. She’s passionate, smart, and the best damn cheerleader any writer could have. And the phenomenal news is…

Melle’s debut novel Sanctuary comes out TODAY! In fact, forget this interview and just go get yourself a copy right now: Sanctuary by Melle Amade

Sanctuary synopsis: It’s survival of the fittest, but first you have to fit in. Shae is sure the icy rage that eats away at her is driving away her friends and pulling her closer to the wrong boy. But, as her protected world unravels, she discovers the violent supernatural world that lurks in her quiet hometown and the ancient feuds that threaten to destroy both her friends and her family. To save those she loves, Shae must succumb to her own fury, but at what cost?

I’m so proud and excited that Melle has come on the blog to talk about this novel. I’ve been with her through the whole process. I read the first draft. I cheered her through the sticky middle. Our group had to learn how to hold our heads high during the soul-sucking process of book submission. And today — TODAY — I get to celebrate with her, because her novel is finally available for readers! And you are not going to want to miss it!I

It’s been an incredible journey. So, without further ado, let’s talk to Melle.

I: Hi, Melle! Please tell my readers a little about yourself and about your new novel Sanctuary?

M: Thanks for inviting me to be interviewed on your site, Ingrid, you’ve always been such a big inspiration for me!

I’m a married, working mom of two little tigers who I’ve affectionately named Boogie Knight and Fairy Princess Yaya, which now that they are 6 and 5… they hate, but I still hashtag them anyhow. I work as a Marketing Director in Technology, which has nothing to do with my MFA in Film or my passion for writing YA Fantasy. Sanctuary is my debut novel and Book One in my Shifter Chronicles series. It’s clean dark urban fantasy where I channeled my inner American Gothic.

I: What inspired you to write Sanctuary?

M: I was three years into writing Bravyn, book one in my Viking’s series, when Nanowrimo came around and I desperately need a break! So, I decided to just run with an idea I’d been playing with about a shifter girl whose family wants to kill her human mate. That ended up being something of the backstory that morphed into Sanctuary. The deeper I wrote it, the more I found the story I wanted to tell; the story of a girl who values friendship, connection, and belonging and struggles to find it when it seems that her friend’s abandon her.

I: Who is your ideal reader for this book? Who is going to fall in love with Sanctuary?

M: It’s funny, when people ask me who I write for, I say, “teenage girls who like the fantasy world.” But, I receive emails every day from people all over the world and they come from all different age groups. So, I’ve adjusted my perspective a bit. I believe my ideal reader is someone who loves a fast, exciting read and believes in magic and passion. It also helps if they are curious to see how characters deal with awakening to their own flaws and struggling to reach their full potential against the odds.


I: So … why shapeshifters? What fascinates you about them?

M: In my head I’ve been a shapeshifter since I was a young kid growing up on a farm in Northern California. I’m enchanted by the idea of transformation that we can be anything and embody the characteristics of animals. My early experiences in life were all about the ancestral animals of the Australian Aborigines and the animal totems of the indigenous North Americans. Taking that a step further to build a world around a marginalized population of shifters seemed the next obvious progression.

I: If you could shapeshift into any animal … what would you be?

M: It may be obvious from Sanctuary… but, a bird. I’m not even that fussy about what kind of bird that would be, as long as it wasn’t an albatross or a vulture, I suppose. Both of my parents were pilots so I was brought up with a love of the sky and their passion for flying. Though, I’m a lousy pilot, so I don’t do that anymore.

I: Who are some of your literary influences … particularly on this novel?

M: Edgar Allen Poe has a huge influence on me. Not being afraid to go there, into the dark crevices of the human psyche. There’s also a moment in the book when a massive Shakespeare book makes an appearance. It’s a reference to my mother always holding Shakespeare up as the model that an author should aspire to, which is an incredibly intimidating and frightening literary influence. But, it does drive you to be the best you can as an author.

I: The power of friendship and the lengths at which one will go to belong is an important theme in this novel. Can you talk about where that came from and why you thought it was vital to the story?

M: I believe that as we grow up our peer group is vital to our growth and development. Fitting in is such a crucial part of discovering who you are. First we try to fit in and then we see where we do and where we don’t. When I was in high school I was a farm girl, on the swim team, played in the band, and was in all the advanced classes so I was a bit of a chameleon among the different groups in school. But, I was fascinated by one girl in my junior class and pretty much pursued her insisting that she would be my friend, because I wanted to explore what it was like to be one of the goths/punks/anti-establishment people. She’s still my best-friend to this day. In the story, Shae has such a toxic relationship with her mother that she desperately needs the unconditional love and acceptance of her friends to feel safe.


I: There’s a powerful emotional underbelly to Sanctuary that makes your protagonist Shae so compelling. Can you talk a little bit about your journey developing her character?

M: Shae has difficulty managing her anger. It’s the first visible sign that there might be something ‘wrong’ with her or, perhaps, inside her struggling to get out, an unfulfilled promise that just rages within her until she can release it. Anger and its effects on people and families is huge and practically a hidden secret in many communities. It’s not quite the norm to casually talk about the emotions that go on behind closed doors or for people to actively recognize emotional abuse in the family, which can take on so many forms. Most people try to normalize challenges in the family so they can ‘fit in’ to society. As I was getting to know Shae, she showed me that her need for friends and a sanctuary, was her way of dealing with the emotional abuses that were happening at home.

I: There’s a hot love triangle in this book (Yes, please give me more!). What do you think Shae is looking for in each of her love interests? Why is she so torn? (P.S. I’m totally #teamcallum)

M: Hahaha! It’s so funny. I was always #teamaiden but then … well, I got to know Callum and *fans face* yeah, he’s pretty steamy, bitter, yet caring… quite a guy. Shae is always looking for connection and she’s always felt in her heart it was Aiden, who she has been friends with forever. When she discovers that Aiden is impossible, it doesn’t just wipe out the feelings. You can’t just change your heart. But, you have to move on. And, Callum is a guy who, even though he shouldn’t try to be with Shae, is making every effort he can in her direction, even though he’s dealing with his own stuff. So for Shae, he’s a natural next choice because he is striving towards belonging with her. As her feelings for him grow, though… well, how do you cut someone else out of your heart just because they’re impossible?

I: What was your favorite scene to write in this book?

M: I personally have a thing for make out scenes and I particularly loved writing the scene in the woods with Callum. But, my favorite scene to explore and feel was the Bloedhart Ceremony, which happens at the middle of the book. Where we watch a person becoming and we don’t know what she will become and yet there’s a sense of relieve that something massive is going to change for her. I love that feeling in life and in the book.


I: What was the hardest part of writing this book and how did you overcome it?

M: There is a scene about three quarters of the way through the book that I knew in my head/heart had happened, but I hadn’t put on the page, yet. My writer’s critique group (WITH YOU!) was kind enough to point out that they didn’t completely understand Shae and that I needed to show them more of what was going on in her past. When I realized I had to write it, I was terrified, but they gave me the support and encouragement to buckle down and just let those experiences of Shae’s flow through me. It was such a powerful experience, but it was weird when the first readers started asking me if this actually happened, to me. No, it did not. But, someone did come and tell me about having had that experience themselves.

I: We met in film school, which is a crash course on plotting and structure. I know that you’re great at plotting (often helping bail me out of my own story problems). What tips do you have for fellow writers on how to make a kick-ass plot?

M: It’s funny… I’m so off plot at the moment. I turn on the microphone, stick my characters in a tree and start throwing rocks at them to see what they’ll do next. (Thank you, Ross Brown.) However, at some point you’ve got to line up all the dots and see if they connect. I start with the eight main points of the plot and write them as single line actions. (Example: Inciting incident: Shae’s friend return from summer camp.) Once I have the main points the plot hinges on, I will title all eight sequences, which will drive me to the goal of each sequence. (Example: Shae tries to reconnect with her BFF Zan.) Today, I usually do this in my head while I am dictating. When I’ve dictated about 250 pages, I write out the main points and the sequence titles and then place the scenes where they go and either massage gently or write missing scenes.

I: I know you have a writers group – because I’m in it! What do you think is the value of a writer’s group? And what should someone look for in critique partners?

M: I couldn’t write without my critique group. It has been an incredible, intimate support system. I joke now that I’ve been writing in a cave for twenty-seven years, but that’s not quite true because you and I reconnected seven years ago. When we started, I had just come from a book signing with Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, who are in a critique group together. I was totally inspired by them. I remember exactly what I said when we started our critique group, “I want professional-grade writers who suit up, show up, do the writing and intend to be published. I want to be sitting with them on an author’s panel one day.” What I don’t think I realized at the time and what I value so much now is the quality of the authors in our critique group and their continued efforts to excel in their craft.


I: What’s so damn impressive about you Melle is the fact that you have a full time corporate job, you’re the mother of two small kids, and you’re constantly flying all over the world … and on top of that you manage to write novels. What’s your secret?

M: I’m slightly insane? You know, I didn’t realize my career would explode like it did over the last five years. I went from working at home in freelance marketing to a director position in a corporation. I also had NO IDEA how much work, focus and emotional strain two young kids can be. There have been times in the last seven years that I have taken a hiatus from writing for a month or so, but I have found I get depressed if I don’t write. Writing is my purpose and even if no one read my work, it is still something I have to do to feel comfortable in my skin. I guess it’s much like Shae in a way. I have to get it out to be okay.

In terms of my time management secret… I write on planes and business trips, I dictate first drafts during my Two-hour daily commute, and I have incredibly supportive family who enrich my children’s lives and give me one night a week to write.

I: I know you’re in the process of writing the sequel to Sanctuary. Are there any teasers you want to share with us?

M: I am in love with Remnants, Shifter Chronicles Book Two. It’s been amazing to explore Shae’s world from her new perspective and to see how her core values of friendship and belonging are challenged in this new world. Shae reaches out a hand in friendship to a new Ravensgaard in Topanga, too late she realizes that perhaps not everyone is worthy of her friendship. She also finds that even with her core friends, there are some things that she might just prefer to keep secret.


Melle Amade is the author of the YA urban fantasy Shifter Chronicles series. Her books weave a tapestry of hidden worlds, ancient power, deep passions, international locations, and young heroines who dare to risk their lives and sometimes… even their hearts. Melle lives in Los Angeles, California where she can snowboard on the mountain and swim in the ocean all in one day. Sanctuary is her debut novel.

Get Part One of Sanctuary, Shifter Chronicles for FREE on #instafreebie 

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