Mike: Melanie Atkins a multi-published author of suspense and romantic suspense, a fan of crime dramas, and an avid reader. Writing is more than an escape for her—it’s a way of life. She grew up in the Deep South listening to tall tales and penning stories about her cats. Now she writes gripping stories of love, suspense, and mystery with the help of her furry little feline muses.
I love your genre, and I also know you have some connection to the law enforcement community. Tell us about your background and what brought you to writing your novels.
Melanie: I’m the former wife of a police officer, and even though we divorced I admire all the brave men and women who protect and serve–and I love to write about them. Fiction grabbed me at a young age and I can’t stop writing. In an effort to “make it real and get it right,” I’ve completed two local Citizen’s Police Academies and have attended numerous writing conferences with law enforcement sessions taught by professionals, including Forensic University sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of Sisters in Crime. Some of the professionals there have turned out to be excellent resources who are eager to help. Even though I’ve sold many books, I know I’ll never stop learning. I’ve written a good many short stories and even a little poetry (which no one will ever see) over the years but I tend to write long. I love the escape books provide and I hope to give my readers that same pleasure.
Mike: I was in law enforcement for over 25 years, and I know the sacrifices the spouses make, so thanks for your support to the troops. Tell us about your novels.
Melanie: PRIME SUSPECT is a suspense set in New Orleans. In this story, New Orleans Assistant District Attorney Marisa Cooper prosecutes murderers for a living, but the tables are turned on her when her ex-husband is found dead in her garage. To prove her innocence, she must team up with her former fiancée, Slade Montgomery, the detective who risks his career–and his heart–to help her find the real killer.
SKELETON BAYOU is s single title romantic suspense set in south Louisiana. In this book, Savannah Love is emotionally and physically battered, but is determined to survive after escaping the hellish imprisonment imposed on her by her psychotic cop-husband. After seven months in hiding, she resurfaces at Mossy Oak, her ramshackle family home on a Louisiana bayou, and attempts to restart her life. The empty house provides shelter, but isn’t the fortress she needs when her cruel ex comes calling.
Mack O’Malley, former cop turned handyman conflicted over a bad shoot on the job, comes to Savannah’s rescue when the psychopath draws them into a deadly game of cat and mouse. Fearful of Mack at first, she soon discovers that beneath his steely exterior lies a resolute defender with a heart hungry for love. Will their alliance save them, or will they fall victim to the Legend of Skeleton Bayou?
Mike: How did you develop the ideas for the stories?
Melanie: I come up with a basic story premise, then develop my characters using character diamonds that include their four main traits–putting my two main characters at odds with each other and the villain. Everything they say and do must come from one of the corners of the diamond. I’ve found that it’s an effective way to build my heroes and heroines.
Mike: Tell us more about your heroines and heroes.
Melanie: My heroes tend to be loyal, brave, and trustworthy–but they are afraid to trust, to risk their hearts. They give their all to save the heroine and defeat their adversary, even if it means being hurt or even dying, but usually they intend to walk away in the end so they won’t get hurt. In PRIME SUSPECT, Slade is afraid Marisa will leave him again. She did once before, so why not now? He fights his attraction to her but finally gives in and together they bring down a killer.
Mike: And the bad guys?
Melanie: Each of my books has a different villain. PRIME SUSPECT has an entire family of them, allowing for enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing. SKELETON BAYOU is a bigger book with a secondary storyline that has its own villains. It’s a complicated story.
Mike: Since you grew up in the Deep South, I bet your early experiences there shaped your writing, correct?
Melanie: As far as the settings go, yes. As for the plot, not exactly. My love of New Orleans plays a large part in many of my stories. I’m fascinated with the city, and I believe that comes out in PRIME SUSPECT. As for SKELETON BAYOU, I’ve visited the Louisiana swamp, and it scared me–which gave me the idea for that book. The plot of each of my stories comes totally from my imagination–even though I might get an idea from a dream, a newspaper story, or an event I witness. All of life is material, and I try to keep my eyes and ears open.
Mike: What are you working on next?
Melanie: I’m working on a gritty single title suspense set in my hometown. I’m hoping to shine a light in a very dark place and keep readers guessing.
Also, in my six-book New Orleans Detective series (PRIME SUSPECT is the 2nd book), I introduce the hero for the next title in each book, then bring them back from time to time. They all work together, and I love revisiting the characters and seeing how they’ve grown.