Here's the book's blurb:
New town, new school, new ghost.
Jade has a dedicated boyfriend, an overprotective mom, and a full scholarship. Uprooted from Nantucket, Jade is installed off-island at her dad's new house so she can attend snobby Layton Academy. Leaving Charlie behind is sheer torment, but living with her father has plenty of dangerous distraction-in the form of a terrifying spirit haunting her new school. Hottie classmate Mateo Fernandez can't see the ghost, but he knows its story. He'd like to know hers, too, but Jade still misses Charlie, even though distance seems to be changing him.
With support from Mateo and the mysterious Noemie, Jade commits to helping the agonized spirit cross over. As she delves into the ghost's past, the disturbing secrets Jade learns draw her into a deadly confrontation with a desperate man. If she can't play his demented game, the spirit's harrowing fate could become her own.
Now, on to our conversation with Melissa!
Welcome back, Melissa, and congratulations on your latest book! Ever Lost is the second book in your Secret Affinity series. In a few words, how would you describe the book for our readers?
Jade meets a new ghost and a new boy at prep school. She also must contend with a very human threat.
Ever Lost is a YA paranormal. Is that a reading genre that you enjoy? What are a couple of your favorites?
I do like YA but it's not the only thing I read. I actually read a lot of Women's Fiction and YA contemporary. I only like light paranormal, books similar to mine, because they allow me to suspend my disbelief more easily. I am a skeptic at heart and will start to assail a story with logic, effectively ruining the fun for myself.
Your lead character, Jade, is a mixed-race young girl. I find this intriguing because I recently published a book whose main character is also a mixed-race girl. In what ways does her ethnic background influence Jade?
I love that we have that in common. Jade never outwardly says it, but I imagine her feeling torn at times between the two ethnic groups to which she belongs. She feels very close to her father who is African American and to her grandparents on his side of the family, but she's spent the majority of her time with her mother who is Caucasian. When people see Jade, they try to categorize her, and she can see them trying. I imagine this would get annoying because you just want to be yourself and not have people try to judge you. I think this struggle is part of what has made her strong and sure of herself.
We thought it an interesting creative choice to change the setting of the book from your own home town of Nantucket, to an off-island boarding school in Boston. What led you to that?
Well, mostly it was practical. I needed a new ghost that Jade was forced to interact with. Also, I wanted to put a strain on Jade and Charlie's relationship, giving Jade room to get close to Mateo. I love a good love triangle.
Indeed! That love triangle takes place at a prep school, Layton Academy. Your descriptions of life at the school have the ring of authenticity. Do you have prep school education in your background?
Yes, I based some of Layton Academy on my alma mater, The Pingree School, but there were no ghosts or creepy teachers there. I had an amazing experience at Pingree and loved my teachers and classmates there.
Ever Lost introduces us to a new ghostly spirit at the boarding school. How did you go about differentiating that ghost from Lacey, who we meet in the first book?
Well, Mr. Avery is a more recently dead ghost so that is a difference. I also had to work hard to come up with new ways to describe him so he wouldn't seem too similar to her.
Part of the richness of this second book is that it involves not only a new location but new characters and relationships. Did that present any special challenges to you as an author?
Actually, writing this book went smoothly once I had the storyline in my head. Already knowing the main character made it easier, I think. Noemie and Mateo were really fun to write, too, so I chugged along pretty well on this one.
We liked how you smoothly worked in the back story of the first book, Ever Near, into this novel. Would you say a reader needs to read the books in order, or are they readable stand-alone?
Ever Lost can stand alone, and I'm really pleased about that! I don't want people to feel like they have to read the first one if the second one interests them more.
The book also shows a deepening of Jade's development in coming to grips with her ability to connect with the other-worldly. How would you describe the arc of the changes that Jade is going through in this series?
Jade's confidence in her ability grows in the book but it also takes some hits along the way. By the end of this book, she's feeling pretty sure of herself but that will be put to a serious test in Book 3 with what I have planned for her.
Your novel has attracted a great response from readers, who describe it as "excellent," "suspenseful," and "fascinating." Are there any reviews that have particularly stood out for you?
I love the reviews that use the words you quoted! Most of all, I love to hear that my books are page turners. Reviews terrified me in the beginning but now I am better at handling them.
Let's get a bit technical on the writing process. The story has a shift at times in Point of View. We found this quite effective, and the chapter headings were helpful in signaling these shifts. Tell us a bit about the challenges of "head-hopping" when writing a novel.
Well, the original shift happened late in the book out of necessity. I had to leave Jade's first person narrative. There was just no way around it. So then, one of my editors at Red Adept suggested that we add the earlier Mateo points of view so that the transition wasn't so jarring later on. I was initially nervous about this, but then found him fairly easy to write, and I think it made the book better.
You're a teacher, and we've felt that some of your educational skills come across in your interviews; for example, your "Finding the Perfect Title" piece on Big Al's Books and Pals. Do you think that the experience of becoming a published novelists has affected your teaching in any way?
I don't think my writing has affected my teaching as much as my teaching affects my writing. Being around young people is inspiring to me. I love their energy and optimism. Plus, I don't teach creative writing so there isn't a ton of cross over. I do find being a teacher helpful when writing blog posts though!
Besides being a teacher, you're a wife and mother of a young family. What's your secret for finding time for writing in your busy schedule?
Time is so precious! I value it more and more the older I get. During the school year I write on the weekends and early in the morning. In the summer, I get to be fully immersed in writing which is sometimes a bit scary. I find I work better when I have the pressure of time constraints.
We're pleased you find the time to create these stories! And your readers and reviewers are calling for more books in this series. What are your plans?
One more Secret Affinity book and this series is done! After that, we'll see what happens…but I know I will never stop writing. I love it too much!
We look forward to seeing more in this series and from you as an author! Thanks for talking with us today.
Ever Lost is available now to download to your Kindle! And be sure to check out the Ever Lost blog tour celebrating the book's release - for interviews, reviews, and a chance to win SWAG from the book's publisher, Red Adept Publishing.
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