Melissa Morelli Lacroix is a writer, teacher and editor who lives and works in Edmonton. She holds degrees in writing from the University of Alberta (B.A.) and Lancaster University (M.A.). Her writing has appeared in Canadian, American and British print and on-line publications and has been produced on stage and radio. Melissa is a founding member of the MWG Ink writing group and facilitates writing groups for seniors. Her first book of poetry, A Most Beautiful Deception, was recently published by the University of Alberta Press.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My first book just came out, so it’s still changing my life. So far the biggest change has been that I can now walk into a bookstore without getting depressed.
2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
I’ve always worked in several genres. When I choose one or another either the story tells me in what genre it needs to be or I decide I want to write in a certain genre and I search out a story.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I tend to think a lot before I start writing and then the writing comes slowly. I agonize a lot over the first draft, so by the time it is finished parts of it have been reworked several times. Sometimes, especially with short stories and formal poetry, this “first” draft is fairly close to its final shape. However, even after publication I still question word choices, punctuation and line breaks.
4 - Where does fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Fiction begins with either a scenario or a character. I usually know whether it is a short story or something longer, but the fiction I’m writing now has morphed from a collection of connected short stories into an episodic novel and now into three separate novels.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
For me writing is not just sitting in my little corner and working with words and images so I can stick the final product in a drawer. I like to share my work with others through publication, performance and readings.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Bilingual writing is a burr under my skin: how to do it without translating or summarizing, how to make it truly bilingual and not just a smattering of words and phrases, how to make it fly in the publishing world, etc.
I try not to answer any questions with my writing other than the ones my characters and narrators pose. Their concerns and preoccupations become mine. It works better than when my concerns and preoccupations become theirs.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
The first role of a creative writer is to write. Story, language and image must be our primary concerns. Anything beyond that –proselytizing, educating, commenting, etc. – can only be done through good and engaging writing.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Both, once I have enough distance and objectivity then I appreciate the input, and I find it helps me go deeper with my work.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
As a writer that would have to be this quote I found on a calendar: “Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.” Madeleine L’Engle
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction to drama)? What do you see as the appeal?
I’ve always moved between genres, probably because of the way I was introduced to writing in school: write a poem about spring; write a Halloween story; etc.. Now I move between genres, as I said before, either because a certain idea requires to be explored in a specific genre or because I desire to explore a certain genre.
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
My routine changes with the seasons and with the needs and demands of my work and family life. Currently, I have two hours of uninterrupted time every morning to write. I try to squeeze in a few more hours in the evening, but after working and parenting all day, I don’t always have the energy to do so. My youngest child is heading off to school in the fall, so come September I’ll take most of the time between 9:00 and 3:00 to write and do research.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
It depends how I’m stalled, but walking and other aerobic exercise help loosen my mind and muscles. Housework and playing the piano open up my mind too. Sometimes just forcing words out is the best way to proceed, and other times reading and research get things going again.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
There isn’t really one, but certain cooking smells remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen, and warm cut grass and other earthy smells remind me of playing outside as a child.
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
Music has a huge influence on my work. I often incorporate music in my plays and fiction, and my book of poetry, A Most Beautiful Deception, is formally and thematically connected to the music and lives of Chopin, Debussy and the Schumanns.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I cannot shut off my writer’s brain, so everything I read and watch (on TV or film) becomes important to my work. On some level I’m always studying the construction, language, story and image of it all.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Publish a novel.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I think if I hadn’t chosen to be a writer, I’d probably teach piano more or perhaps be a librarian.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It’s what I’ve always wanted to do; it completes me.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
The last great book is usually the one I’m reading, so that would be Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True and Margaret Laurence’s The Diviners. However, Tyler Trafford’s Almost A Great Escape sticks out as an amazing blend of memoir, biography and history. As for films, I’m a parent, so Frozen and Lego Movie are in the top.
20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m actively working on a novel and passively working on five other projects in three different genres.
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