Interview with Melissa Lea Leedom – Ramona Portelli Blog

Interview with Melissa Lea Leedom

Author Melissa Lea Leedom has loved to write ever since her fifth grade teacher told her, “You’re very good at this!” That was all she needed to hear, and she was off to the races!  Melissa was born and raised in New Orleans, but moved away in her late 20s and has since lived in several states in the South and East. She has made a permanent home now in Austin, Texas.  She is the mother of two boys and the wife of a hospice chaplain. 

She also had the experience of being single-again for nearly 8 years, so she is intimately familiar with the singles dating scene.  “I love love, falling in love, and the idea of happily ever after–but the course of love, as we know, does not always run smooth. See how the singles of To Forgive, Divine handle it.”  

Tell me about your latest book.  

To Forgive, Divine is a contemporary romance. Characters face modern problems: juggling work and single parenting, trying to make a difference in the community and having it seemingly backfire, dealing with parents who think they can run your life better than you can. 

But love is all around, and sometimes it finds you even when you’re not looking for it. Bonnie Callaway hasn’t quite decided whether she’s ready to take the plunge after two years of widowhood. Ready or not, though, she and Jeff Wells have become the talk of the town and are considered an “item.” Problem is, Jeff seems to think there’s somebody else in Bonnie’s life, and Bonnie KNOWS there’s somebody else in Jeff’s! Or does she? Are things really as they seem?  

Enter a young boy who desperately needs help that only Bonnie and Jeff can give him, an embittered young woman who learns about forgiveness from these two people who can’t seem to forgive each other, and an estranged couple who need just a little push from reluctant lovers Bonnie and Jeff to re-write their own ill-fated love story. Bonnie and Jeff can’t avoid seeing each other even when they try! 

As Bonnie and Jeff watch lives transformed all around them by love and forgiveness, they must confront their own failure to forgive. How can they recommend forgiveness to everyone else and deny it to each other?  

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?  

Finding good chunks of time in which to write. I was working full-time as a tech writer and going to graduate school, in addition to being a wife and mother, as I tried to write To Forgive, Divine. It’s hard to write with a lot of distractions, so there were lots of late nights of writing after everyone else had turned in, and lots of soccer practices I missed—but I never missed a game!  

Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?  

No, not exactly. When I was a teenager, maybe 14 or 15, I wrote a novel about teenagers who run away from home. My teenage self was so sure of its being published, I sent my only copy to a publisher. I got a nice rejection letter from them, but I didn’t get my manuscript back. What I wouldn’t give to have it again—just to see what my younger self wrote, to be sort of transported back to that time. Ah, well. Live and learn.   

What is your motivation for writing more?  

Writing is a little like teaching or performing on a stage—you have an audience. When a teacher is explaining something to her class and she sees that light of understanding come into her students’ eyes, there’s nothing like it—it is such an affirmation!  So when To Forgive, Divine came out and reviews started coming in from critics and readers alike saying, “So well written!” “Couldn’t put it down!” “When is the sequel coming out?” I was hooked. I knew that I was touching people, moving their hearts and minds with something I wrote.  More? Yes, please! 

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

NOW you’ve put in a nickel in my slot!   

First, get as much education as you can possibly can. I’m not saying you HAVE to have a degree in English to write, but it certainly can’t hurt. When you study literature, you read vast quantities of great writing. If you’re observant, you can gradually see what MAKES the writing great, what MAKES people want to read it again and again, and maybe those techniques, those qualities, will find their way into your brain and influence your writing. Also, as a lit major, you must write—reams of writing. And the more you write, the better you become at it, especially with the guidance and critique of good instructors along the way.   

And while we’re on the subject of education, no matter how far you go or don’t go in school, MAKE IT YOUR BUSINESS to learn grammar and punctuation (forget Grammarly—it’s like a calculator: how do you know if it’s right if you don’t know the mechanics behind it?). Especially if you decide to self-publish, you need to be able to make your manuscript as clean and correct as possible. Errors scream “amateur” (or worse, “illiterate”)! Don’t think you can pay some editor to come and clean up your work for you—I can’t tell you how many self-published writers I know who paid LOTS of money to editors and got ripped off because they, themselves, did not know any better. And their books are awful.   

Read, read, read! Read everything you can in your intended genre. But read other genres, too. Read non-fiction. Who’s on the best-seller lists? Read their stuff and see if you can tell what makes it so popular. Read!    

Write, write, write! Write letters (remember those, before email?), even if they’re to imaginary people. This is a little like journaling. Tell somebody about your day—the work you did, the people you encountered and interacted with, the food you ate. All provide practice with description and story-telling. Write your Grandma and your Uncle Jake—they’ll be thrilled! (But be sure to keep copies!) Interact with people on Facebook—because you have to do it in writing—but do it as correctly and eloquently as possible. Eschew text-speak; it can only degrade your language skills. Go online and google “writing prompts.” Find some that pique your interest and write about them!   

When you write your manuscripts, just write. Don’t worry about proofreading or editing when you’re drafting. Get your words and story OUT. You can (and will) always polish later.  

Visit Melissa at:  


Facebook: Facebook Groups 

Twitter: @melissaleedom 

email: [email protected] 

Melissa Leedom To Forgive, Divine

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