Bestselling author of racy romance & ridiculously funny romantic comedies. I've sold over 250,000 books. AMA!

Melanie Summers
Mar 11, 2018

I'm Melanie Summers, a chartered mediator turned stay-at-home-mom who decided one night to try writing novels. In the not-quite-five years since then, I've published eight novels and a whole lot of novellas, both as an indie author, as well as for HarperCollins and Hachette. Three of my books have been translated into Czech, two into Slovak, and at the time of writing this, I have three books in the Top 10 in Amazon's British Contemporary Fiction category.

God, that was a lot of bragging, no?

Anyway, AMA about my publishing journey or my books! 


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What is the most annoying habit a romance character can have?
Mar 18, 4:44PM EDT0
What do you find hilarious that most people do not find funny?
Mar 18, 3:02PM EDT0
What do you consider to be the most ridiculous rule you have to follow when it comes to marketing your books?
Mar 18, 12:43PM EDT0
When was the last time you tried to do something to look cool and it ended in utter embarrassment?
Mar 16, 3:42AM EDT0

Hmm. I'm stumped. Since I've fully embraced my goofiness, I so rarely try to look cool. Although, a while ago, I sent the following hangout message to my husbands ENTIRE family instead of just him: 

Going to bed now. Ate myself into a food coma. Hopefully, it all goes to my boobs. 

 When I woke up the next morning, only his brother had responded, even though I could see they all had read it. He just wrote, "Heh." 

So, that was awesome...

Mar 16, 1:54PM EDT0
Which do you personally prefer? Going indie or publishing with big names like HarperCollins?
Mar 12, 2:22PM EDT0

I liken publishing with a trad publisher to traveling in a luxury RV (with someone else driving) while being an indie author is like traveling on a Ducati. In the RV, it's super comfortable but really slow, and you don't get to make a lot of decisions. If you get on a Ducati, you're in control of where you go, when, and how fast. You can weave in and out of traffic, and get where you want to be really fast. There's a lot of freedom in it, but you have to be willing to stay alert, and you won't get any rest along the way. 

I'm kind of a Ducati girl at heart. Having said that, if a major publisher wanted to put out a series for me again, and the advance was good, I'd take it. 

Mar 12, 3:12PM EDT0
How has the romantic comedy genre changed over the past couple decades?
Mar 12, 12:36PM EDT0

I've only been writing for 5 years, so I really can't comment on the changes over the past couple of decades. One thing's for sure though, the market for romcom's (movies and books) seemed to dry up for a while, but hopefully is coming back. I'm seeing a nice niche market for it in books. I hope movies will be next. 

Mar 12, 3:07PM EDT0
Why Czech and Slovak? Do you choose the languages for translation?
Mar 12, 12:01PM EDT0

They chose me, not the other way around. I'd love it if I was offered translation deals for other languages, but so far, it hasn't happened. (I had one offer from a German company but it fell through). 

You can hire translation companies to help you put your books out in foreign languages. I haven't gone down that road, but I might someday. 

Mar 12, 3:05PM EDT0
Do you miss the corporate world and working as a chartered mediator?
Mar 12, 11:43AM EDT0

Not even for one second. I truly enjoyed that work at the time, but it was also stressful and had me on flying all over Canada all the time. 

I honestly love being a writer so much, it doesn't feel like work. It's creative and fun and challenging and highly rewarding. There's also the added bonus of being home for my kids, so if they get sick/have time off school, I'm here. 

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a writer until I'm 100 years old. 

Mar 12, 3:04PM EDT0
If only one of your books could have been published, which one would you choose and is your choice based on the success of the book or your specific preference?
Mar 12, 7:09AM EDT0

That's like asking which of my children is my favourite. :) 

Okay, short answer - The Royal Treatment. It's not my bestselling book (yet) but it's doing really well and I'm so proud of how it turned out. It makes me laugh and smile when I think of certain scenes, even though I've reread it dozens of times during the revisions/editing phase. 

Mar 12, 3:01PM EDT0
In your experience, what are some of the best techniques that will guarantee a laugh from an audience?
Mar 12, 3:29AM EDT0

There are just so many ways to make people laugh, but none of them are guaranteed. It's about knowing your audience and what will work for them specifically. What's funny to my thirteen-year-old son won't work with my mom's friends. 

If you know what will make your target readers laugh, you'll be off to a good start though. 

You can look up comic devices such as irony, sarcasm, subtext, satire, etc and see which ones are your favourites. Chances are if you enjoy them, your readers will too. 

Mar 12, 2:59PM EDT0
What is the consideration given to a first time writer by a publisher and is it the same as an experienced writer's work?
Mar 11, 11:08PM EDT0

I don't know that I can speak on behalf of publishers, but it's my understanding that experienced writers with a proven track record for putting quality books out on a regular basis, who know how to market those books, and have a built-in readership already will have a better shot at garnering the interest of a traditional publisher. It does happen that first-time writers manage to find an agent, land a contract, and never look back, but it's pretty rare.

The good news is that today it's possible for a new writer to 'break into the business' by self-publishing. A lot of writers manage to make a living as indie authors (some of them do remarkably well) and in fact, enjoy having full control over their covers, schedule, and stories. 

If being a writer is your dream, the important thing is to just keep writing and don't give up. It might mean adjusting your expectations of how you're going to find your readers (traditional vs. indie), but stick with it if you know in your heart writing is what you're meant to do. 

Mar 12, 12:02AM EDT0
When did you realize you had a talent for comedy, and is there something about your upbringing that led you to the romantic comedy genre?
Mar 11, 10:45PM EDT0

I guess when I really think about it, I've always been able to make people laugh in real life. I don't know how that came about, to be honest. My mom is funny but I didn't know that about her until I was about sixteen years old. Until that point, she was so busy raising us and being very serious that we didn't get to see how witty she was. It was only when I got to see her at work, that I realized she was really funny.

When I first started writing, I included some funny moments in my books, but they weren't comedies. It's only the last year and a half that I've really dug into my funny side when writing. 

I think I was drawn to writing romantic comedy because it's always been my favourite genre of film/novel. 

Mar 11, 11:40PM EDT0
Why does comedy go so well with romance and what specific aspects of the combination makes it so appealing?
Mar 11, 9:32PM EDT0

On the surface, I think romance and comedy pair well together because they're both 'feel good' genres.

Digging deeper, any situation in life that requires a person to risk being vulnerable to another person creates tension that can lend itself to comedy. We've all been rejected in our lives and we know the pain of it. It makes us cringe to watch someone go through that and yet we can't look away. It's awful and fun at the same time. 

Watching a character be rejected, get back up, try again, then later triumph is immensely satisfying, as is watching two people who are right for each other fall in love and find happiness. 

Mar 11, 11:35PM EDT0
How does one know if one has a comic voice?
Mar 11, 5:49PM EDT0

I guess a good place to start would be to ask yourself if you're able to make people laugh when you're in a conversation. If so, is it a regular occurrence? Are you able to surprise people with what you say?

If the answers to the above are yes, frequently, and yes, then you probably have a comic voice and could write comedy. 

Mar 11, 11:29PM EDT0
Which typical situation comedy sources have you used in your books and why?
Mar 11, 4:27PM EDT0

To be honest, I haven't used any comedy sources when writing my books. I watch a lot of standup/comedy films and read romantic comedies, but I've never formally sat down and decided to look up how to write something funny. 

Mar 11, 11:26PM EDT0
What are some of the comedic devices you have used in your writing and which of these appeals to your personal comedic taste?
Mar 11, 4:24PM EDT0

Oh so many!

- Fish out of water is always fun,

- use of irony,

- Subtext, in which what the characters are saying means something completely different and both characters know what they're really talking about (the reader too) but they won't come out and say it,

- Sarcasm (but not in a cruel way),

- Dry humour is always fun, especially when you have a minor character who rarely says much, but when he/she does, it's clear they know exactly what's been going on the whole time,

- Misunderstandings can be fun, but you have to be careful that you don't let it go too far or that the reader won't be screaming at the book because they're too stupid to live,

- Flawed plans, in which the characters devise a plan that the reader can see is going to fail miserably. This only works if it's logical for the character to believe the plan will work, 

- I like a lot of 'pratfalls,' which employs physical humour (tricky to pull off in writing, but doable). 

Mar 11, 11:24PM EDT0
When writing an important scene, what methods do you use to enhance the accuracy the scene?
Mar 11, 1:37PM EDT0

I think the most important thing in creating realistic scenes is to make sure that the character isn't acting/speaking/thinking in a way that is not logical for him/her. Your characters need to be consistent in their beliefs, reactions, etc (until they realize they need to change, which should then be explained in the narrative/dialogue which happens over the course of the entire book). Change comes slowly in real life and so it will in a realistic novel as well. 

Before writing a scene, ask yourself, would this character do/say/think this? Does this scene flow logically from what has just happened in the book? 

Most importantly, follow your gut feeling when writing any scene. I can't tell you how often I've written something, ignoring my instincts because I think something 'should' happen, only to have to delete the entire scene and go in a different direction. I'm trying to working on taking a few minutes after I plan a scene but before I start writing it to check in with my instincts. Do I want to write this scene? Do I feel a bit of dread about it or excitement? If it's dread, check that out before you waste time/energy writing. 

Mar 11, 11:15PM EDT0
What are the benefits and drawbacks for a writer to research other writers in their field?
Mar 11, 12:32PM EDT0

I'm going to answer this question as though you asked about the benefits of reading books in the same genre you want to write in, as I think that's what you're asking. (I hope I'm right about that - correct me if I'm wrong). I'd say the benefits include learning more about your chosen genre, and developing an understanding of what devices/stories you enjoy as a reader which will help inform your choices as a writer. It gives you the opportunity to experience the ebb and flow of the type of story you're writing, as well, which can help when working on plotting and pacing.

Drawbacks: I know some writers refuse to read in the genre in which they're writing for fear of accidentally copying something. I don't think this is much of a concern, however, because you'll be writing about your own characters and will develop your own storyline, writing voice, etc. 

Mar 11, 11:09PM EDT0
What are the ways in which a writer can use questions to enhance the comedy in their writing?
Mar 11, 12:16PM EDT0

Ask yourself this question: What's the worst thing that could happen? Then ask: How can I make it worse? 

Disasters are funny when handled with humour. :) 

Mar 11, 2:06PM EDT0
What factors and influences should a writer take into account when developing specific characters and what are some of the standard features of a good character?
Mar 11, 10:41AM EDT0
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