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An Interview with Melissa Grindon


Melissa is a Liverpool-based writer and spoken word artist, originally from Ireland. Her main area of interest is historical fiction and contemporary drama. Melissa also holds a First Class MA in Writing from Liverpool John Moores University, along with a First Class BA in Dance from Liverpool Hope University. Previously, she has been published with the University of Oxford’s “Oxford Scientist” and with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres “Love Liverpool”. After winning WOW’s Pulp Idol 2021, a competition with judges from Harper North (an imprint of HarperCollins), Melissa has completed her debut novel, Cabbage Babies, and her first poetry collection, Everything Grows When You Bury It, both of which are in the process of querying for publication.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I’ve always written stories, from when I was old enough to draw pictures and write what little words I knew beneath them. In primary school, I was always reading, even sneakily under the table! I moved around a lot during my childhood, and books became my constant. I found comfort in school libraries, (I think I read Matilda five times!), and it wasn’t long before I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to create what these authors have.’

What inspired you to start writing this book?

I started writing my book during my MA at LJMU. Originally, it was a short story, based on a task from my lecturer. We were to write a page of dialogue surrounding an argument between two characters. At the time, there was a lot of discourse in the media on the legal framework for reproductive rights for women in Northern Ireland after the decriminalisation of abortion, along with conversations surrounding how women suffered during the Troubles to gain access to abortion healthcare. I created a conversation between two young girls, one pregnant, one not, as they hide in a school cubicle. I read it out to the class and my lecturer told me it should be my novel. So I went with it! My plot unfolded from there.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

My book is called Cabbage Babies. This was surprisingly easy to commit to! I can remember in school, there was a module in the Child Development GCSE where students made ‘flour babies,’ creating a model of a baby out of flour and sheets, and taking care of it for a week. I interpreted this into my novel, except there are rumours flying about one of my characters carrying around a baby made of cabbage instead. Therefore, Cabbage Babies was born!

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Oh, there are so many! I’ve actually already made a spotify playlist. Of course, as my book is set in Ireland, I have a lot of traditional Irish songs and artists. Some examples include:

“Belfast” by Brian Finnegan

“Teir Abhaile Riu” by Celtic Woman

“Tell Me Ma” by Sham Rock

There’s also some more modern songs by current artists I include, such as:

“B a nobody” by Soak

“I Left My Heart” by Lucy Blue

“Heavy” by Orla Gartland

Describe your dream book cover.

I’ve always imagined my book to be an emerald green (of course!), and the backdrop patterned with cabbage leaves, with Cabbage Babies in a large, gold font. If I was going to get super fancy, orange sprayed edges would be lovely too!

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I have worked in Higher Education since leaving university. I love the community I work in, and my institution has always been so incredibly supportive of what I pursue outside of my role. Other jobs I’ve had include call centres, sales, marketing, waitressing, and being a kitchen porter! I think I’ve tried pretty much everything.

Something my readers may not know about me is that I am very musical. I grew up playing piano, guitar, and the tin whistle. I am very stubborn and can’t read sheet music, so I taught myself. I love using it as my party trick!

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I have of course read a lot of Irish authors for continuous inspiration. Sally Rooney (Normal People), Naoise Dolan (Exciting Times), Tish Delaney (Before My Actual Heart Breaks), Anna Burns (Milkman), Claire Keegan (Antarctica), Michael Magee (Close to Home), and Susannah Dickey (Tennis Lessons). However, I do also find authors such as Douglas Stuart (Shuggie Bain), David Nicholls (One Day), Anthony Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See), and Yvonne Battle-Felton (Remembered) incredibly inspiring in their world building and intimate, vulnerable, and very human relationships.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My work is part of telling the stories of women who have the experiences of my characters, but are rooted in reality. I hope that my book will resonate with individual experience, foster collective understanding, and inspire social change for abortion. I want my novel to represent the women in our society who did not have the freedom I do, in the present day, to exercise their reproductive rights. I would love for my readers to read with an open mind and heart, and for the story to stay with them afterwards, as they consider their place in history.

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