EXCERPT FROM A FRACTURED LAND
The bats ducked and dived over the acacia trees and under the eaves around the farmhouse as the dusk settled in. Rebecca was serving lamb curry to the guests up at the house. She could manage on her own, since it was only Carter and a British couple. If they were busy, Lexi would have relinquished the night off and taken it another time, but she was quite sure that Carter had enough of her for one day.
She curled up on the porch sofa, enjoying the soft light of the gloaming. She was warm from her shower and the throw blanket she brought with her kept off the evening chill. She saw him leave the veranda after dinner and the lights flick on in his room.
“Am I becoming a stalker?” she asked Joni Mitchell. Joni Mitchell was a farm cat who had recently adopted her, and had a particularly theatrical style of prancing about when she wasn’t languishing on inappropriate surfaces.
Lexi closed her eyes and covered them with her hand to stop looking across at Carter’s window, but all she saw were visions of the day. A blur of him striding ahead of her in the scrubland, his slim hips in his faded jeans, and the stretch of his T-shirt across his shoulders as he bent to remove and replace probes.
Then she remembered his stern, angry face and his sparse, but cutting conversation replayed in her head.
She opened her eyes again in time to see a bat swoop down. She pulled the blanket over her head. Everyone knows bats don’t fly into your hair, but she stayed there for a while, just in case.
“Go get them, Joni Mitchell,” she said, poking the shape of the cat through the fabric.
BLURBS ABOUT A FRACTURED LAND
- “Fabulous romantic suspense. [The author’s] great sense of humor and passion for the environment shine through in this eco-thriller. I really enjoyed it.” - Pamela Power author of Delilah Now Trending, Things Unseen and Ms Conception.
MELISSA VOLKER’S BIOGRAPHY
Melissa A. Volker lives in Cape Town with her husband and two daughters. When she is not writing, she is surfing her stand up paddle board in the cold, sharky waters of False Bay.
INTERVIEW WITH MELISSA VOLKER
Prior to the release of A Fractured Land on April 1, 2018 by Literary Wanderlust, I had the opportunity to interview Melissa Volker about her debut novel and her writing process.
Question - Please describe what the book is about.
MV - Lexi Taylor returns to her small South African home town to patch up a broken heart and rescue her rocky finances. Texan geologist, Carter O’Brien ignites the town’s hostility with an exploratory fracking license and a short temper. Lexi decides to risk village ire and help him out. But when his fracking survey turns up a hidden crime, being close to him puts her in danger. Then she discovers that, while his career is at stake if he fails to complete the geological survey, he stands to gain much more than he initially revealed, if he succeeds.
While Carter and Lexi are hunted by someone desperate to stop the survey, she must figure out, if she survives, whether she has a future with this dark and complex man who has the power to destroy everything she holds dear.
Q - Where did you get the idea?
MV - I grew up near the Karoo and am interested in writing about environmental issues, like fracking, in a way that creates awareness through entertainment.
Q - What’s the story behind the title?
MV - I thought of it because Fracking not only fractures the literal earth, but also divides people. South Africa is historically a fractured land, and although it is united now, in way, it also is not. I wish it was not a fractured land but it is.
Q - No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
MV - The main character, Lexi, has a cat named after a singer.
Q - Tell us about your favorite character.
MV - My favorite character is Carter O’Brien, the Texan Geologist. He is a strong character with an abrasive exterior, but a good heart.
Q - If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
MV - I would go to Austin to hear Carter and Lexi perform in their future band.
Q - Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
MV - Nope. They all come from my imagination.
Q- How long did you take to write this book?
MV - I started it in 2014 while querying another manuscript. It lay around for a bit but I finished it during Nanowrimo 2015. After a few rounds of professional editing and then rewriting some sections on the advice of a beta reader, I got a publishing contract in October 2016.
Q - What kind of research did you do for this book?
MV - I did a lot of research on fracking. For example, how it works, how it would effect the Karoo, what type of rock is involved, how the real life anti fracking movements operated, how it effects employment rates in the rurals and where fracking occurs in the USA. I also researched the Austin music scene quite a bit and I had to Google Earth tour a few places for geographical accuracy.
Q - What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
MV - I removed a whole lot of the beginning, as advised by a beta reader, so the story got going faster. The publisher removed my last chapter so the story ends stronger.
Q - Are you a plotter or a pantser?
MV - I am a light plotter, but a lot of the story grows while I write, so the plotting is a skeleton, really.
Q - What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
MV - Editing. I love to edit, polish and improve.
Q - What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
MV - Getting new work down. I have to really concentrate and it is hard work.
Q - Can you share your writing routine?
MV - I work from home as a beauty and massage therapist, so I book gaps in the day or days off for writing.
Q - Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
MV - I don’t believe in writer’s block. You just have to keep clocking your card at the desk. It’s like hiking. Each step will take you closer to the top of the mountain, even if it is weak shuffle.
Q - If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
MV - My younger self was a reader more than a writer. I would tell her to keep reading, and read widely.
Q - How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
MV - I have one unpublished manuscript and ten thousand words of a new project.
Q - Do you have any writing quirks?
MV - I need a mug of tea and a rusk to get going when I write. (A rusk is a traditional South African snack that is like a huge biscotti. It’s so hard you can’t really bite into it unless you dip it in a hot beverage.)
Q - Tell us about yourself.
MV - I am a wife (of a surfer, who does Cross Fit and reads a lot) I am the mother of his children (who also love water and reading) and the slave of a presumptuous cat (who does not love water but likes it when I read on my bed.) My day job is beauty therapy.
Q - How did you get into writing?
MV - I read for years, and then I took an online writing class.
Q - What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
MV - I surf a 9 foot stand up paddle board. The beach is ten minutes away and I love the feeling of my hair blowing back when I ride a wave.
Q - Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
MV - I write surf articles for websites and magazines. I blog about surfing and writing. And I have a work blog about beauty topics.
Q - Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
MV - I play a mean game of garden croquet.
Q - Which book influenced you the most?
MV - Alexandra Fuller, Bill Bryson, Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks are writers who’s style and methods of writing I admire and try to apply to my own. But I am more influenced by the collective mental fingerprint of all the books I have read.
Q - What are you working on right now?
MV - I am working on a love story that includes sharks and surfing. An anti-Jaws book. I want to bring the sharks back from the dark place Peter Benchley’s writing put them.
Q - What’s your favorite writing advice?
MV - Sit down and write. It doesn’t matter if it is bad just spew it out. You can fix it later. But you can’t fix nothing.
Q – What book are you currently reading?
MV - Yesterday by Felicia Yap. I’m not into dystopian fiction normally, but I am giving it a go. It’s strangely compelling.
LINKS TO MELISSA VOLKER
If you’re interested in learning more about Melissa Volker, check out the following links.