When a publisher bought my children’s stories in 2011, I failed to see my writing as anything other than a hobby. It wasn’t until I released My Lea in 2014 that I finally looked at my writing journey as something more.

So here I am. Proud to be a writer. Proud to be me.

I am thrilled to bring this interview to you. E. Mellyberry is an Indonesian writer from Jakarta who writes gritty, real life stories. She is the author of “My Lea”, “I Won’t Break” & nine children’s novels. She is currently working on her latest project “Fly”; an illustrated YA novel.

 

NLK: How did you start writing?

MB: I can confidently say that writing has been a part of me since forever. The thing is, I didn’t know what it was called most of the time.

When I was ten, I was enrolled in a writing competition. Though I didn’t win any book deals, I got a few trophies. I don’t remember much about the whole thing. I only remember the delicious snack they gave to participants.

Throughout my school years, I found myself falling in love with writing essays without really knowing why. I always—and I mean always—wrote more than what was required. If teachers asked for 300 words minimum, I gave them 300 multiplied by 3. My friends hated me for this because without meaning to, I set the bar higher for everyone else.

I was that girl in the office who volunteered to type up group reports, summarize minutes, and draft letters for the bosses. Nobody seemed to like these writing jobs but me.

When a publisher bought my children’s stories in 2011, I failed to see my writing as anything other than a hobby. It wasn’t until I released My Lea in 2014 that I finally looked at my writing journey as something more.

So here I am. Proud to be a writer. Proud to be me.

 

NLK: What is your vision as a writer?

MB: As a minority, I grew up accepting there were certain things in life I couldn’t get or do due to the color of my skin. I don’t wish my children, or anyone, to go through that. If I want to change something, it has to start with me. So I teach my children to always see the person first, everything else (skin color, social class, faith and religion, the way we speak) second. As a writer, this belief has become my vision. Being human is universal. Love is love, pain is pain, compassion is compassion. It’s the same no matter where you come from. I write about people and their emotions, not about majority vs. minority.

 

NLK: Why did you choose to self-publish “My Lea” and “I Won’t Break”? What has been the biggest hurdle in self-publishing?

MB: I sent inquiries to agents. The waiting killed me, so I went ahead and explored the self-publishing option. Colleen Hoover, Tammara Webber and Tracey Garvis Graves are a few big names in contemporary fiction who started off as self-published authors. Nothing like their success stories to move me forward.

Bestselling author Chuck Wendig has a term for the self-published authors; he calls us author-publisher. It’s an accurate description of what we really are. Self-publishing is like running a company. We have to think about vision, short term goals, financial planning, marketing and sales planning, distribution and branding. It’s fascinating and intimidating.

Since I’ve experienced both traditional publishing and self-publishing, I’d like to share my insight:

In self-publishing, I’m the decision maker. I have all the control. I know what I want, I know what’s best for my books, I know what resources I have and what it can do for me. On the other hand, it means I shoulder all the risk and the bad decisions. Traditional publishers shield you from some of these risks. But traditional publishers have their own rules to follow. They make their decisions based on what they think is best for their corporation as a whole, and sometimes, those actions are not always the best for you or your books.

Self-publishing’s budget and distribution channels will never match those of the traditional publishers. Promotion materials, events, ARCs, and logistics are not cheap. Not to mention time-consuming.

I find marketing the hardest challenge in self-publishing. It’s getting better lately, thanks to the growing support for indie books and emerging strong indie writers from all over the world.

 

NLK: I’ve read both “My Lea” and “I Won’t Break” and they deal with difficult issues. I loved them for their rawness and honesty. Why did you choose to write about assaults, birth defects, grief, and love?

MB: It all started with the Twin Peaks scene in My Lea where Andrew opened up about his past. Since I always found myself drawn to the grey areas of life and the struggles people face in real life, that particular scene looked very promising. I held the original concept of a fairytale in my hand, then turned it upside down.

This is how my mind worked when I wrote Lea and Andrew’s story:

Imagine a straight horizontal line. Point zero in the middle of the line was where I sat. On my left, I put anger, regret, self-hatred and lemon. On my right, I wrote down hope, forgiveness, love and sugar. I had two set of powerful emotions—one destructive, one healing—in a straight line. I dragged them slowly to the middle until they collided. I created characters who were neither white nor black, they were grey. I presented my readers with thought-provoking issues, real ones, and asked them to feel, think, and react.

I’m repeating the same process with the manuscript I’m currently writing. Though Fly is not as brutal as My Lea and I Won’t Break, it also deals with tough issues real people face every day.

I can’t not write about love. Love is the reason for all things. When I look at true love, I look at the brightness it brings and the shadows underneath it. I read a quote once that said sometimes it’s not the butterflies that tell you you’re in love, but the pain.

God, the feels…

 

NLK: You have written nine children’s books and you’re currently working on an illustrated novel for the YA market, what keeps you going? What’s your biggest motivation?

MB: Ah yes! If everything works according to plan (crosses fingers), Fly will be my first illustrated novel.

I wish I had a scientific answer to this motivation thing. Sadly, I don’t. One thing that keeps me going is curiosity. The other thing is—if you can call this motivation—I’m very competitive. I have this unhealthy obsession to prove to myself what I can do. Don’t copy this. It gets tiring too soon. Aim to balance yourself by encouraging yourself to be better and patting yourself on the back for a job well done. I’m not there and I’m working hard to get there.

 

NLK: What are you ambitions for the future?

MB: My dream is to one day open a publishing house that specializes in diverse children and YA literatures.

 

Excerpt from “I Won’t Break”

Their eyes meet at last and a powerful magnetic force holds them together for what feels like eternity. He grits his teeth to block the rush of his negative energy from coming out. He takes a step up, then another, until his eyes are level with hers. “Take care, okay?”

A single tear rolls down her cheek. “You too.”

Andrew’s eyes follow the elegant slope of her neck where it meets her shoulders. How much he wants to kiss it the way he knows she likes it. There’s no way he can ever look at Lea and imagine her as someone else. His eyes move to her face next, to the tears that now freely roll down from her expressive brown eyes. He will not wipe them away. Those are for him and he would like to cherish every single drop before he turns his back and walks away from her forever.

Should he hug her? He dares not for he’s not sure he would be able to let go. In that frozen moment, he doesn’t know what to say either. Words seem meaningless. The sound of someone coughing, most likely his bodyguard, breaks their eternal moment.

He smiles at her and repeats his earlier words, now spoken with magnified sadness. “Take care, Lea.”

Take care of yourself for me.

“Are you saying goodbye?” Even in a whisper, she’s trying to sound strong. He’s amazed that she’s brave enough to ask something so direct while he…what does he do? What, what, what? Oh, right. Is attempting to sneak out as silently and cowardly as possible so he doesn’t have to deal with this. This question.

Am I saying goodbye?

Hell! Fuck no! Fucking no!

Should I say goodbye?

He hates that in this crucial minute of his life, his maturity decides to speak on his behalf.  Without meeting her eyes, he says a quiet, “Yes.”

The sound of an imaginary hammer meeting glass echoes in his head. Goodbye, my heart, rest in peace.

Excerpted from “I Won’t Break” by E. Mellyberry. Copyright © 2016 by E. Mellyberry.

 

About Melly

Melly has been writing stories for as long as she can remember, but not until 2011 did she publish her works. She has written nine children’s books under the name mellyberry, and full-length novels under e.mellyberry. She used to work in a school and is very passionate about education.

 

Mellyberry can be found here :

Twitter                       : www.twitter.com/themellyberry

Facebook                  : www.facebook.com/emellyberry

Instagram                 : www.instagram.com/e_mellyberry

Goodreads                 : www.goodreads.com/emellyberry

Web                            : http://melly73.wix.com/emellyberry

Email                          : themellyberry@gmail.comW

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