MA: My special guest today is author Melinda Clayton. Melinda is a licensed psychotherapist and freelance writer living in central Florida. Her vast experience working in the field of mental health gives her a unique perspective on human behaviors, and she likes to explore this dynamic in her writing.
Melinda has published over twenty articles and short stories in various print and online magazines, and is currently in the dissertation phase of an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration. Return to Crutcher Mountain is Melinda’s second novel.
Tell us about that passion you’ve had for writing for many years now.
MC: I’m an odd combination of psychotherapist and writer. I’ve always wanted to write, so several years ago I began writing on multiple online writing sites. From those, I began selling a variety of articles to print and online magazines on mostly mental health related topics. From that, I decided to branch out to short stories, and then a novel seemed the next logical step.
MA: I can see the progression! Did it evolve to novels or did you know for some time that you wanted to write them?
MC: I’m a very goal-oriented person, and writing a novel had always been a goal of mine. I’m at the perfect point in life to pursue it, in that I took time off from working with clients to raise my children and pursue a doctorate. With extra time on my hands, writing was a natural activity for me to pursue.
MA: I imagine that in your professional line of work, you’ve run into some quirky people and you’ve seen some odd things that would make for great characters and plots. Did any of that influence your writing?
MC: Oh, absolutely. I love to explore the thought processes behind the decisions we make, and I do that with my characters. I like for my characters to face tough decisions – decisions in which there is no clear answer – and I like to explore the reasons behind the paths they ultimately choose.
MA: I know you wanted to talk about your second novel, so please tell us about it.
MC: My second novel is a mystery, and it’s also a sequel to my first. My first novel, Appalachian Justice, describes the circumstances through which Jessie McIntosh was saved from a childhood of abuse. The sequel, Return to Crutcher Mountain, picks up with Jessie as an adult who, although successful by all outward appearances, struggles with the psychological scars of her abuse.
When she’s called back to her childhood home following a string of mysterious occurrences, she must confront the truths of her past in order to free from painful memories and look forward to the future.
MA: Wow, so you probably have dealt with people like Jessie in your professional life. I imagine that helped you shape her character.
MC: Having worked in the field of mental health for so many years, I’m very familiar with many of the issues adult survivors of abuse often face. Jessie describes herself as “a woman composed completely of opposites.” Like many survivors, she’s tough yet vulnerable, brave yet afraid, independent yet lonely.
Jessie’s a strong woman, but she’s often her own worst enemy. Her insecurities cause her to sabotage the things in life she most wants. She does have a keen awareness into that part of her personality, but really has to struggle to overcome it.
Both books are really a tribute to the many women and children with whom I’ve worked over the years. Their strength, perseverance and tenacity leave me in awe.
MA: Tell us about the antagonists Jessie faces.
MC: Since Return to Crutcher Mountain is a sequel, the memories of the bad guys are still evident throughout. But the antagonist is, I hope, totally unexpected.
MA: So what’s in the future?
MC: A few people have shared with me that they’re not yet ready to leave Crutcher Mountain, the setting for both novels. I have a couple of ideas in mind, but haven’t quite decided.
MA: Will Jessie or any other characters reappear in future stories?
MC: I’ve had a few people ask about that, but I’m not sure. I sort of think we’ve got Jessie squared away now and it’s time to move on. If I do write another novel using the same setting, I might focus on someone else, someone who has been on the periphery but not really yet explored.
MA: Thanks for guesting with me today and for sharing so much about your stories. I would like my readers to visit Melinda’s website for more information about her novels: http://AuthorMelindaClayton.xanga.com.