Melissa Senate's latest novel, QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE MARRYING, was inspired by a very popular New York Times article, which lists 15 questions couples should ask before marrying. In Melissa's book, bride-to-be Ruby Miller and her fiancé Tom Truby have questions 1 to 14 almost covered. It's question 15 that has the Maine schoolteacher stumped: Is their relationship strong enough to withstand challenges?
I read some of those "challenges" and, wow, do Ruby and Tom have their work cut out for them! It sounds like a fabulous and funny book, and I'm delighted to have Melissa here today as part of the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour to answer a few questions I had about the story and her writing life. Welcome, Melissa!
New readers want to know about this story. Can you tell us the basic premise? QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE MARRYING is the story of estranged twin sisters on a long and bumpy road trip. Stella, professional muse and face reader, is essentially staging an intervention to stop conservative school teacher Ruby from marrying a man she thinks is all wrong for her. Meanwhile, Stella is pregnant from a one-night stand and is searching for the baby’s father—would help if she knew his first name. These sisters learn a lot about each other, themselves, and life while on the road.
Did you use any musical references in your novel? If so, do they play a significant role? I don’t often reference music, but I did sneak some favorites in. While on the road, Ruby and Stella stop at the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame museum hoping to see the hot Levis Bruce wore on the cover of Born In The USA. They also listen to Jack Johnson in the car because they find it impossible to argue while he’s mellowly singing and strumming that guitar. Right now, I have some crazy taste in music—a sudden love of vintage Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd. (Very '80s--excellent choice!)
Do you have a favorite food? I would rather eat chicken tikka and vegetable biryani than anything else. I could have Indian for lunch and dinner every day. (I love Indian, too. Well, and Italian and Chinese and Mexican and... :-)
What's your Writer Fantasy--i.e., to see your book make into a feature film, to be on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 consecutive weeks, etc.? The New York Times list would be amazing, but my fantasy would be to see a book of mine on the big screen. My debut novel, SEE JANE DATE, was made into a TV movie and that experience, everything about it, was one of the top 5 highlights of my life. Was one of those magical I-can’t-believe-this-really-happened to me events. (Readers should know, Melissa is the author of seven novels thus far. SEE JANE DATE was made into a movie for ABC Family, but she also writes YA for Delacourte and just sold her next two adult novels to Pocket. Busy lady!)
What's one piece of writing advice you've found valuable on your journey to publication? A very wise editor once told me that the greatest thing about writing fiction is that you can fix whatever you want in your own life in any way on paper. I glommed onto that and it makes all my work very personal for me, raises the stakes for me and in turn for my characters.
Do your neighbors/hometown acquaintances know you're a published author or did you just choose to tell those closest to you? Funny—a woman I see at kindergarten drop off every day said to me: “I saw the ad in the paper for your book signing! I had no idea you were an author—how could you not have mentioned that!” Close friends know, but I rarely mention it otherwise—I suppose because it sounds sort of “boasty?” Not really sure.
Finally, what's a personality trait you love about one of the characters in your novel and why? I always fall madly in love with my foil character, who in QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE MARRYING, is Stella, the professional muse and face reader and seeker of her unborn baby’s father’s name and whereabouts. We only get Ruby’s point of view in the novel, but Stella came so alive for me that she stole the show.
Thanks for these fun questions, Marilyn!
You're so welcome, Melissa. Glad to have you here today and congrats on your new release!! And to the rest of you out there, what's a question YOU think you should ask someone before marrying? (And, if you're married, did you ask it??)