Melissa Bourbon is the national bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Book Magic mysteries, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, and the Bread Shop Mysteries, written as Winnie Archer. A former secondary English/Language Arts teacher and Creative Writing teacher with Southern Methodist University’s CAPE program and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institution with North Carolina State University, she has applied her love of teaching to the creation of WriterSpark Academy, an online school for aspiring and new writers seeking to hone their craft. Learn more about Melissa at her website, www.melissabourbon.com, on Facebook @MelissaBourbon/Winnie ArcherBooks, and on Instagram @bookishly_cozy, and learn about WriterSpark at www.writersparkacademy.com.
Learn more about Melissa’s books here.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I was an English major in college and taught middle and high school English/Language Arts for a long time. My husband and I have five children. It became harder and harder to work as a public-school teacher full-time and raise our kids. I started dabbling with writing when I was on maternity leave and then staying home with our kids when they were young. When my youngest was born, a friend and I would go out to a coffee shop twice a month to write. We used prompt books. Before long, I had a character (Lola Cruz). Soon she had a family, friends, and a broader community. I thought to myself, “I can turn this into a book.” When I thought about what kind of book to write, a mystery was the logical answer because I’d grown up reading them, beginning with The Bobsey Twins, moving to Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, and then to every Agatha Christie book throughout high school. Mysteries were my wheelhouse.
When I wrote Living the Vida Lola, which ultimately became my first published book (with St. Martin’s Press), I wanted to create a character my then-three-year-old daughter could relate to as a Latina living an American life but also fully embracing her Mexican culture. I’m married to a first-generation Mexican-American man and Lola and her family are greatly inspired by his family and the very rich Mexican culture. We’ve tried very hard to celebrate that culture in our lives for our children. Writing Lola Cruz as a character has been one way I’ve shown my daughter representation of who she is. Lola will always hold a special place in my heart because of this, and also because hers was the first series of mine that sold.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
Teaching; I was a co-founder of a small publishing company; and now I teach adults through WriterSpark and I do workshops and presentations for groups/organizations.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
Bobbin for Answers is one of my most recent titles. It is book eight in the Harlow Cassidy/Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, which is set in a small fictional Texas town called Bliss. It’s Project Runway meets the descendants of Butch Cassidy (with my alternate history)…plus a little magic and a ghost! Cozy mysteries usually have punny titles. Since this is a dressmaking-themed series, all the titles riff on that. Bobbin for Answers was perfect for a Halloween-themed book. There are Wednesday Addams references throughout the book, so the cover, with Wednesday’s party dress (from the Netflix show), is so perfect for the story and title.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
Thrilled! And I still get that excitement even after 35 books.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
I have Spotify playlists for some of my series! My Book Magic and Sky Girls series both have strong Irish themes, hence the playlists are heavy with Irish-themed vibey music (below).
Ivy Culpepper from my Bread Shop series has a playlist, too, which puts me in the mood to write that series.
I use Spanish/Mexican playlists on Spotify when I write Lola Cruz. She’s a huge fan of Juanes and Enrique Iglesias, and so am I.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
My books always have strong family relationships, and strong female relationships/friendships. Many characters are named for my family members, generations down the line, and many story elements (particularly in the Dressmaking series) stem from those women. Lola Cruz has a very tight-knit family. She will always have their back and they will always have hers; Harlow Cassidy, her mother, her grandmother, and her ghostly great-grandmother are important in each other’s lives, as are her friendships; Pippin Lane Hawthorne from my Book Magic series (Murder in Devil’s Cove is the first book) is a twin and her relationship with her brother, as well as the two friendships that form when she moves back to the fictional town of Devil’s Cove, are vital for her. These are just a few examples of how family and friendships play an important role in all my books/series.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
Hearing from readers that they love my stories, and interacting with readers are probably the best parts of being a writer. There are a few reviews of my books that stand out and always bring a smile to my face.
“A combination of magic and mystery, Murder In Devil’s Cove by Melissa Bourbon is a deftly crafted and impressively original novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality. While certain to be an unusual, immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections…” – Midwest Book Review
“The unraveling of the mystery involves Pippin’s family history (it goes all the way back to Roman times in Ireland), hidden clues, a long-lost keepsake, and a secret room. For mystery fans who enjoy amateur detectives who rely on mystical insights rather than Holmesian deductions, Murder in Devil’s Cove will provide an entertaining read.” – Seattle Book Review
“…Close reading as a super power[!] MURDER IN DEVIL’S COVE ha[s] all the makings of an original, unique story with a lovely tilt in advocacy towards literature fanatics. The heroine nature from Cassie’s perspective was strong, and the female power got even better as Pippin grows up. Also, as a big fan of the Odyssey myself, I absolutely loved the role the epic played in guiding the narrative…Overall, I think this is a rewarding day read. The pages turn easily, and the characters are gripping enough for the reader to latch onto their motives and goals.” – 29th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I wear many hats in the publishing world. I am the founder of WriterSpark Academy and WriterSpark Book Cover Design. WriterSpark Academy is all about the business, creativity, and craft of writing with a website, articles, online self-paced courses, resource books, and a podcast. I have learned so much over the years since I first was published. WriterSpark is a way to pay it forward and to help aspiring writers skip the line, so to speak.
My book cover design is a newer passion. I come from a family of fine artists. Words are my art, but I also love design. Designing book covers keeps me firmly grounded in the publishing world, while allowing me to tap into my art interests.
For my writing, I’m currently working on a new women’s fiction project my agent is shopping. I love bringing history and magic into my books and this series is no exception. It goes back to Ireland and the last woman tried for witchcraft there in the 1800s, then circles to the 1970s and her descendants who live on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I am so crazy about this story and can’t wait for readers to discover it.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.