Today, I’m pleased to have as my guest Melodie Ramone, author of the literary novel Lights of Polaris. Enjoy the interview, and don’t forget to enter the Lights of Polaris Giveaway!
Q. Melodie, you started writing at a fairly young age. What kinds of things did you write back when you were a kid?
A. I’ve always written literary fiction, more or less, but when I was a kid I wrote about weird stuff more than I do now. I was a pioneer of fan fiction (laughs). In 1983 or 1984, I wrote a twenty-page novella entitled The Return of ET, where ET came back to visit and got stuck again or something. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure it was awful. I do remember being told that it was unpublishable because of the original story. It was my introduction to copyright laws. But, beyond that, I wrote tons of poetry in junior high school and went into magazine articles and local newspaper when I was in high school. I did that for years. I didn’t really start full-length novels until I was in my thirties, but I wish I had.
Q. Wow, that’s way more writing than I did at that age! I was happy to learn that you had worked in the music industry for a number of years. Can you talk a little bit about that period? What are some of your favorite bands?
A. Oh, yeah. That. Well, my very first job was working for a small public relations firm from Baltimore, Maryland, that supported artists from Chrysalis Records. I was sixteen and had friends who were out in LA making a splash on the 80’s music scene. They introduced me to some people, and I got offered a job as an area representative in Chicago. What I did in the beginning was run around passing out flyers and doing inventory in record stores. I set up a street team, and we’d call radio stations and blow up the phones at MTV. We did snail mail blitzes and all kinds of stuff like that. It was a lot of fun, but it didn’t pay really great. Most of my salary consisted of backstage passes and free dinners, and I got to tag along from show to show on various tour buses with rock stars.
I did meet a ton of people, and I made friends with some unlikely souls. The music business isn’t a far cry from the publishing industry, to be honest. It’s colorful, vicious and wonderful. It’s filled with every type of personality you can imagine. I met people who were larger than life, and I met people who were nothing, but who the PR companies had blown up into something unreal. I think that alone was an education—watching human beings who were filled with real charisma and something magical being set shoulder to shoulder with pretenders. It taught me about the line between fact and fiction that transcends reality, and those geniuses at the PR firm showed me how to present that in a way that people can embrace. I use that spin a lot when I write, and spend a lot of time in that grey area with my characters. I learned from rock ‘n’ rollers that the truth is always in the grey, and I learned to spot it really quick.
My favorite bands? I’m really just so eclectic, meaning that I listen to all kinds of stuff. When I was in the biz, I worked with mainly heavy metal and punk rock bands, but I was raised on 70’s classic rock and folk music. My grandma loved big band and jazz. Now, I hop around a lot. Right now, believe it or not, I’m on a My Chemical Romance vs. 40’s and 50’s standards kick. Like for real. I’ll finish with The Black Parade and flip over to a Tony Bennett mix CD, and then I’ll go to Danger Days, and then pop over to Perry Como. I’m weird like that. But my heart is with punk rock. I mean, I’m old enough to say that I was alive when Sid Vicious was still around, but I really like some of the modern stuff. Cellabration is fabulous. This morning I listened to Stomachache and then put on Mel Torme. Like I said … eclectic. In fact, that may be an understatement.
Q. I would ask you to create a playlist for me, but I’m afraid my head would explode. Which reminds me … Your work has been described as “edgy.” Does this reflect your personality, or does the edginess come from a different place when you write?
A. I get that constantly! I ask the people who know me well to tell me why, and they say it’s because I tell the truth about things I’m not supposed to be talking about in the first place. If that’s edgy, then I definitely am, especially in what I write. I’m certainly not obnoxious, but I tend not to pull punches. If there’s a story to tell, it’s probably got some dirt and grit on it, and I don’t shy away from exposing it. Besides, dirt and grit makes things interesting and once you wash it off, then you can see whatever beautiful was beneath it. And I’m always looking for beauty, especially below the surface.
Q. I’m with you there. Sometimes, the most imperfect people make the best characters. What are the one or two things you would like readers to come away after finishing Lights of Polaris?
A. Well, with Lights of Polaris it was my goal to show what happens to a woman after she makes the decision to leave behind what’s making her unhappy, and does it. The truth is that many people walk around this world nearly dead inside, and only a few get to the point where the fight-or-flight reflex kicks in. Daisy Cade, the pivotal character in the book, desperately wants to live a life and not just survive her situation. So she does what society perceives as the “wrong thing to do” and—more or less—she runs like hell. From her job, from her home, from her relationship … from a life that was killing her. She throws herself at the mercy of her family for solace.
And then I wanted to show how even those who love us most and whom we trust can be doubting and judgmental about that kind of decision, and how society ridicules a woman who is being true to herself. I wanted to show how lives intertwine, too, so there are a couple of plots running through the book to reflect the intricacies of how one life affects another. And, lastly, how life itself can come screaming at us from out of nowhere when we least expect it, and aren’t even ready for it, and can offer us the things we most desperately want and need. It often happens at the worst possible times—when we are under the microscope of a society of people who mostly never had the courage to do what we have done.
So, in the end what I want people to walk away with is a sense of hope and the belief that you can go about your life in the oddest, most misunderstood way, and that if you’re true to yourself you can find your way to someplace livable, where you can breathe, relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders, and just be free. Because it is possible, and I have learned that there are more possibilities in this world than limitations if you accept them, have the courage to leap, and reject the notion of failure.
Q. Well put. Can you talk about what you are working on now?
A. I don’t really like to talk about upcoming projects, but I will say that I’m extremely excited about the one I’m working on. And I will tell you that it’s likely to be a book series in a genre that I have never written in before. But it will have guts and soul. And I will tell the truth like I always do, so it’s bound to be “edgy.” I don’t think there will ever be an escape from that for me.
Throughout her life, Daisy Cade was a free spirit who tried to fit in, but her struggle to conform was futile. And it was suffocating her. Desperate for air, she would pack up and run, often leaving chaos in her wake. At the age of thirty, weary of being labeled a “wild child,” she descended into a loveless relationship with a man who targeted her with his insidious mental cruelty – a psychological abuse so overwhelming, it threatened her sanity.
On her thirty-fifth birthday, she fled that life, too.
She returned home to Chicago, safe in the refuge of her famous brother’s house, but reeling from the fallout of her latest breakup. What she didn’t expect was for her life to collide with Stuart Adkins, whose piercing blue eyes could see right through her and understand more than she wanted him to know.
An enigmatic woman on the edge. A devoted, but meddling family. An angry ex, hell-bent on payback, and a handsome Irish singer with a troubled past. Only one thing is certain: Daisy Cade’s future is arriving like a train that’s jumped the tracks.
About the Author
First published in literary magazines at the age of twelve, Melodie Ramone is a lifelong writer from the city of Chicago, Illinois.
“Words, words. Pens. Ink. It’s always been this way with me. Sometimes my fingertips get sore and sometimes I go blind, but I’m never happier than when I’m writing or have my nose shoved in a book. I get cranky when I don’t have something to create or feed to my brain.” A lifelong lover of music, she worked in the public relations sector of the music industry from the age of sixteen to twenty-four.
She is now settled into a four-bedroom house on a shady street in Central Illinois and spends her time as a full-time novelist, Certified Kitchen Witch, mother, public speaker, event organizer, stray cat rescue advocate, and community activist.