Welcome to Talk to Me Tuesday
with Mellanie Szereto!
I met Mellanie recently when I helped organize an autism awareness event on Facebook last month. She and I chatted a bit, and we seemed to bond a bit over our love of books and the fact that we are both mothers to sons on the autism spectrum of disorders.
During our brief interactions, I found Mellanie to be knowledgeable, engaging, and just a general delight! When I decided to begin doing these spots on Tuesdays, I was thrilled that Mellanie agreed to answer my questionnaire.
From her author page on Amazon.com
When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies and the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-two years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Aged to Perfection SRWA, Contemporary Romance Writers, FF&P Romance Writers, Indiana RWA, and NEORWA.
Let’s talk about your favorite genre to read? To write?
I’m not sure I can pick a favorite! I enjoy reading mystery, historical fiction and nonfiction, women’s fiction, and most subgenres of romance—almost everything. While I write a lot of contemporary and erotic romance, I also like to write historical, paranormal, and romantic suspense. My to- write/rewrite/edit list is quite extensive and includes every one those romance subgenres!
What inspired you to write your first book? And, please, tell us about that book.
I’ve always loved to read and write, and my first full-length novel provided a little escapism from raising my autistic son. When I was pregnant with him, my doctor discovered I have anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome (an autoimmune disorder related to lupus), so the main character in that story gave me an opportunity to explore the fears I had during my pregnancy. Although I had no symptoms, APAS often results in recurrent miscarriages and its diagnosis usually occurs in relation to a miscarriage. My doctor was shocked that I hadn’t miscarried in the first trimester when he made the diagnosis at 20 weeks. Miracle baby!
The heroine in Spoken For had a miscarriage from an unplanned pregnancy and suffered the severe complications that can happen with APAS—organ shutdown. Another pregnancy would mean risking her life, but no other man has filled the empty place in her heart left by her former lover so it hasn’t mattered. She connects with and decides to adopt a young orphan girl who hasn’t spoken since the car accident that killed her parents. The former lover returns to town, hoping to rekindle their longtime friendship and romantic relationship. By accident, he finds out about the pregnancy. They must overcome the heartbreaking secret she kept from him and his reactionary accusation that she chose to end the pregnancy. This book is in the rewrite column of my to-do list, but it will see the light of day as part of a planned series in 2020.
Do you have a favorite theme for the stories you read and write?
My favorite theme is family. It’s part of almost every story I write and it’s my favorite theme to read! I also enjoy reading and writing about coming home, healing from emotional trauma, and cooking/food.
Let’s talk POV? Which do you prefer and why?
I prefer alternating third-person POV in past tense because it gives me insight into the main characters GMC (goals, motivation, and conflict) and allows for deep POV without the complications first-person can create.
What’s on the top of your TBR pile right now?
When I finish my current work-in-progress (the first book in a new nerd series, featuring main characters on the autism spectrum), I’m rewarding myself with a first-time read of Insert Groom Here by K.M. Jackson and a reread of at least one of Vicki Lewis Thompson’s nerd books!
Do you mind sharing the synopsis of your latest story with our readers? Maybe give us a tease to whet our appetites? How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Flavor of the Day is my most recent release and is the final book in the Love on the Menu…Extra Hot series. I created the title and decided on a gelato shop setting long before I knew the characters. One day, they started talking to me, fully formed and their internal conflicts clear.
Here’s the blurb and a short excerpt:
Hot tempers. Hotter attraction.
Roma Denata prefers spending her time inventing new flavors at her gelato shop and scratching her sexual itch on the run. Unfortunately, her annoying new landlord is a rash that won’t go away, no matter how often they take their clashes to an unexpected level. And more than her Italian temper reaches the boiling point.
A temporary return to his hometown forces Lucas Calloway to rethink his reasons for avoiding emotional ties. His tenant makes him want more than a daily dose of sleeping with the enemy, and revealing his own disturbing secret is the perfect way to convince her to share hers.
Guilt has destroyed Roma’s appetite for love and trust seems beyond her ability—even when Lucas’s revelation uncovers a common bond. Melting her heart is a challenge he must accept, but the collateral damage inflicted from events of the past may be too much to overcome.
She sorted through her keys as she stepped onto the sidewalk and gave the chauvinistic loser her back. Between him and Cliff, they’d all but cured her of any craving for real sex, at least for today. She inserted the key into the deadbolt and twisted until the tumbler clicked into the unlock position. “I need more batteries and fewer men in my life.”
The second lock stuck until she yanked upward on the door handle and tapped the lower corner of the door with the toe of her hiking boot. Although her actions probably looked like a frustrated effort to the casual observer, growing up with a locksmith father had taught her a few tricks to customize the security of the front door to her business.
She blew out a noisy breath as she pushed inside. The last thing she needed was assistance from the alpha-tistical pig parked next to her. “Clearly not.”
“You’re Roma Denata?” His shadow, but not the swine himself, followed her through the doorway. “The sweet little ice-cream maker Glenn Frasier told me about?”
Whirling around to face the intruder, she positioned a key between her fingers as a makeshift weapon. Glenn, you’re getting a boot up the ass the next time I see you. I don’t give a shit if you are my landlord. “I’m not sweet and it’s gelato, not ice cream. Everybody’s little compared to your ego. State your business and go away.”
The suit looked down at her and shook his head, but his perfectly mussed brown hair didn’t budge. Amusement danced on his full kissable lips. “He didn’t mention the chip on your shoulder is bigger than you are.”
Smack-able, maybe, but not kissable. The fact that he was more than a foot taller than her and had rubbed her nose in it gave her reason enough to send him packing. “Fuck you.”
His derisive snort added to her instant dislike of him. “I’m meeting Glenn here at eight, so if you want fucked, it’ll have to be a quickie, little bit.”
Can we talk about character development? Do you have a set process for developing your characters? Do you plot them out ahead of time or do they develop as you write the story?
I wish I had a process! Some characters pop into my head fully developed, some reveal themselves in their first appearance in the story, and some are very good at keeping secrets until the right moment comes along. That said, I’m usually a pantser. However, I have successfully plotted parts of a few books. Oh, and my characters have told me to find them new names a few times too.
Please talk to us about where readers can find you on social media and where they can find your books. Maybe share a bit about your top 3 favorite books?
You can find me and all my books at:
Book+Main Bites: https://bookandmainbites.com/MellanieSzereto
The top 3 favorite books I’ve written …
1) Flavor of the Day (see above) – I love this story because Roma and Lucas are so focused on their own faults and keeping people at arm’s length that they don’t realize they’re falling for each other. They find true love in their late thirties!
2) Egging Her On – Despite their all-business exteriors, Lindie and Blaine both have their soft spots—her for family and animals, and him for his nephews. They’re also older characters!
Haunted by her traumatic childhood, forty-year-old Lindie Brewster finds a measure of peace living alone in rural Ohio with her chickens and gardens to keep her company. Living life on her own terms has gone off without a hitch, until her sexy new neighbor threatens to ruin everything.
Divorcee and reconfirmed bachelor Blaine Stockwell has always had a life plan, and regaining possession of his grandparents’ farm is at the top of his priority list, in addition to being a good father to his nephews. When his lawyer’s generous offers don’t convince the current owner to sell, a little reconnaissance is in order.
Finding Lindie naked in the backyard tempts Blaine to enjoy another kind of arrangement while searching for a solution to their standoff. A no-strings affair improves both their dispositions until a more-than-business proposal and the past threaten to scramble their newly hatched feelings for each other.
3) Just Desserts – I adore this second chances story! Meg and Aidan let me mix a lot of humor with their sexual tension.
After fifteen years, librarian Meg Graham returns to her hometown to appease her family and reopen the local library. First, the neighbor’s dog steals her underwear. Then its owner, the boy who stole her heart in high school, shows up on her doorstep and does his best to woo her with baked delights. She has no intention of falling for the pie-baking Casanova again, no matter how sweet his desserts or how hot the attraction between them.
Aidan Rourke’s uncle has promised him ownership of the family bakery if Aidan marries before his 34th birthday. When the only woman he ever truly loved—the one who got away—moves back to town, he pulls out all the stops to recapture her heart. He has only three weeks to convince her of his love and march her down the aisle before she discovers the truth about his uncle’s blackmail scheme.
Top 3 all-time favorite books I’ve read:
1) The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—Because who doesn’t love Sherlock Holmes!!!)
2) Misty of Chincoteague (and all the other books in this series) by Marguerite Henry—I remember borrowing these books from the bookmobile when I was in elementary school.
3) The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder—This story has always stuck with me. The daughter of a migrant worker finds an abandoned house with a velvet room, a place she can escape to!