Tell us about your writing career
I stopped working as a beautician when my husband’s job moved us around a lot and our children were small. During this time, about 2011, I signed up for two GetSmarter writing courses. I always wanted to write a book but I didn’t know where to start. Eventually I took a year-long supervised writing course to complete an 80 000 word manuscript. This manuscript, Shadow Flicker won the ROSA Strelitzia award in 2017. I published another book, A Fractured Land shortly thereafter and Shadow Flicker was published after that. My first short story, with a spa theme, was in the Hair Anthology in 2019. I also write short surf articles, my areas of interest are gender equality in surfing and the environment.
Why did you choose to write romance?
I’ve always loved to read gothic romance. As a teenager I read Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier. I love the gothic romance elements in the Bronte’s works and in Jane Austen. The biggest surprise to me in my writing journey is that readers find my stories amusing. I never in a million years thought I was funny in any way.
What is the name of your story in the anthology?
The Pool Guy
Spa Manager Lauren runs a professional space, so when Wyatt, the pool cleaner, brings down the tone with his languorous manner and sketchy dress code, she loses her cool. Instead of being intimidated, Wyatt is captivated, and tries to chip through the hair gel and makeup to find the real Lauren inside. However, Wyatt doesn’t reveal too much of himself. So when Lauren finds out who he really is, the pool guy realises he is in for the ‘swim’ of his life.
What was your inspiration for this story?
I am back at work as a beautician and although I’ve been reticent in the past to write about this part of my life due to client privilege, it constitutes so much of who I am. I found that writing about it from a management/staff point of view doesn’t reveal clients’ personal information, and then it became easy for me. This story is set at an upmarket spa, based on one I know.
What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning this story?
I didn’t research the spa sections at all as it is such a familiar environment to me. I did do some research on beach bars and astronomers.
How long did it take you before you began writing this story and then, how long did it take then to complete?
I am a terrible procrastinator. I couldn’t think of anything to write and then I had an idea based on how much my husband raked the lawn during lockdown to reduce stress. Sometimes you have to start writing on a blank page for the story to grow. It’s like you can’t grow a plant until you put a seed in soil. Writing The Pool Guy took three weeks after I realised the deadline was imminent!
How do you select the names of your characters?
I knew a salon owner who became a skincare brand manager with the name I chose for my protagonist. This skincare therapist was beautiful, unassuming and successful. I also had a glamourous client of the same name, and a series on Netflix recently reminded me of that name. I tried it out and it suited the character. Then I had second thoughts and changed it to something else, but it didn’t work. The first name stuck. The male character’s name came from a hottie on a Netflix series I enjoyed.
How do you like to collect and organise your ideas?
I’m the most disorganised person in the universe. I have a stash of crumpled, tatty pieces of paper I never look at again. And a few post its and some notebooks that are equally scribbled in and never looked at again. I work better on a computer, and even then things are sketchy. I have an outline doc and that’s about it. I don’t recommend my method. I need a serious mind edit.
Are you a plotter or a Pantser?
Hahahaha are you really asking me that? Pantser because the plots are lost in my messy desk drawer.
Melissa A. Volker is a reader, writer, beauty therapist and water woman. She blogs about surfing and stand up paddle boarding; writes eco-fiction, romance and short stories. She lives in Cape Town with her husband, two daughters and a cat.
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