Why do you write under two different but similar names?
I decided to keep my more romantic stories under the name of Melanie Nilles, since readers had become familiar with that and had certain expectations of what they would find in the pages of books with that name. I had considered for a long time using the M. A. Nilles for my Legend of the White Dragon series, especially after going ahead with it on Tiger Born. Since I changed the covers of the LotWD epic, I updated that and established the M. A. Nilles brand for everything that wasn't a strong romantic plot.
The white dragon books are very different from my other works, about as different as the Demon Age books are, just as the Dark Angel Chronicles are different from Forgotten Worlds. Because readers have expectations that aren't met in some stories, while others like all my works, I wanted to make it easy for them to know who was writing the books but still differentiate my story styles. Thus, my full name–Melanie Nilles–is used for the young adult and/or more romantic type stories and my initials–M. A. Nilles–is applied to darker/morally challenging/more violent stories. I feel that this is the right way to go so readers can see that, while there are similar elements because I am still the author, the story types vary.
Where do you get your ideas?
I find ideas all around me. Sometimes an element of a story I’ve read or a movie I’ve watched intrigues me and an idea takes off on a different tangent that promises something new. Sometimes, a picture I see sparks a story idea. Other times, I look for something new. Ideas are all around us. Nothing is new. It’s the new and exciting expression of an idea that sparks my interest in pursuing it to an end.
How did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
I always knew I wanted to write stories. I’ve always loved books. When I was in elementary school, I was fortunate to be chosen to participate in a Young Author’s Conference, where one child was chosen from each class, grades 1-6, from local schools. In high school, I tried writing, but I didn’t have the skills to put together the kind of story I wanted to write. I didn’t start seriously writing until my freshman year of college, and then I knew I wanted to write science fiction. It was BAD, which I realized as I improved; but we all have to start somewhere. Over the years, I continued to write; I had to write for myself, if not for others. I participated in online critique groups and a local writers group for a while, but my writing improved the most from the advice of a professional editor.
Writing isn’t easy, but if you want to be a good writer, you have to develop a thick skin. I wanted to see my work in print, so I developed that thick skin, saw my writing improve with advice from others, and kept submitting it.
What made you decide or influenced you to write science fiction and fantasy?
I’ve always enjoyed those genres most. Contemporary fiction is too dull. I like the escapism of going to other worlds the most with explorations of the supernatural close behind. Nothing else takes me to as exciting of places or situations.
What are some of your favorite stories and/or writers?
I’ve always been a little picky but am worse since I started writing and learning the mechanics. However, sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. I like to give new authors a try, if the story sounds interesting. As for specifics, I like Harry Potter, although I didn’t start reading the books until after seeing the first four movies. I’ve always been a Star Wars fan and have read most of the extended universe books. Growing up I thrived on anything by Walter Farley and Marguerite Henry, who wrote horse stories. My husband turned me onto The Lord of the Rings and I became a fan of Tolkien and other fantasy writers whose books he already had. I love SF/F shows like Star Trek, Dr. Who, the Stargate series from the movie to SG-1 and Atlantis, Babylon 5, Red Dwarf, Farscape, and others. My husband introduced me to anime; and although he prefers mecha, some of my favorites include DNAngel, Escaflowne, and Inu Yasha. I’m always looking for something new to escape with. (I DON’T like anything related to horror.)
What makes you like a story?
One of my own or reading? Actually, it’s the same for both. I like stories heavy into SF/F elements, usually set on a different world. I’m not into urban fantasy, despite writing what might be considered YA urban fantasy; it’s actually science fiction.
As to what makes me like a story…distinctive characters, another world, some unique and some familiar tropes (depending on how they’re used), good writing style is a big one for me since bad writing really pulls me out and makes me want to take a red pen, and I’m a sucker for a bit of romance. I don’t need a HEA, but a little sexual/romantic tension really gets my attention. I find my stories tend to be romantic or include romance in them, although they don’t all end with a HEA. As Schmendrick the magician said (in the LAST UNICORN), “There are no happy endings, because the story never ends.”
What don't you like?
I don’t like stories where all anyone does is get killed or where there’s lots of sex. In fact, I prefer stories without any sex scenes of any kind. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves about certain fantasy and science fiction books–no plot but lots of sex. I like a story to start in the first few pages. I also don’t like just meeting an interesting character and having him/her whacked quickly. I like to know that my interest investment in that character will pay off in getting to know them further. And I don’t like characters who are crude and obnoxious. I’ve returned books to the bookstore for overly offensive and incurably dislikeable characters.