Melissa Tomlinson Romo’s historical novel stands as one of my most memorable copyediting projects because I learned a lot by working with an author so dedicated to making her work the best it can possibly be. Not to mention, I have gifted this novel to more than a few people, and they have all enjoyed it. I hope you will feel compelled to read her book as well.
Official Bio: Melissa Tomlinson Romo is an American writer with a wandering soul. She spent the last two years of the 20th century living in Warsaw, Poland, an experience that inspired her to write Blue-Eyed Son. Melissa is hard at work on the prequel, to be published in 2016. She works full time in marketing and lives in London with her husband and two sons.
Author Interview: Melissa Tomlinson Romo
1. Please provide a brief synopsis of your book.
The book is called BLUE-EYED SON and it is a historical mystery set in the 1990s and World War II.
BERLIN, 1942. An orphan boy is adopted by a childless couple. He grows up in a divided and war-weary Germany with the legacy of a hideous crime on his conscience. More than fifty years later, his American daughter, Agnes, prepares to marry her Polish-American sweetheart. But when the wedding day comes, the father of the bride fails to appear and the groom storms away with a mysterious letter. In that moment, Agnes realizes that even half a century isn’t long enough to extinguish the flames of war. Hoping to forge a peace between her father and her groom, Agnes ventures to Berlin, Munich, and ultimately Warsaw in search of answers only her father’s estranged and ailing mother, Gertrude, can provide. But as Gertrude’s health deteriorates, it becomes clear that she holds the key to a horrific secret that she is determined to take to her grave. To uncover the truth, Agnes must race against the silencing jaws of death through a tangled post-Communist bureaucracy, American embassies, Polish convents, Nazi legacies and the spectre of her own doubts. Agnes must decide how far she is willing to go, and if it’s worth destroying her father and casting shame over the final days of the woman who raised him.
2. Tell us a little bit about what motivates or inspires your writing.
I love to be absorbed in a story and I especially love historical mysteries – those little corners of our past that remain unsolvable or even unknown. When I was in high school I pulled a nonfiction book down off my parents’ bookshelf – it was called Best Evidence by David S. Lifton. The book was about the Kennedy Assassination and I remember seeing pictures in it of Kennedy’s skull – the exit wound from the gunshot clearly in the rear of his head on the front – which disproved that he was ever shot by a gunman in the Texas School Book Depository. I was amazed, as if I were the only one to have discovered this picture – published in a book – and was the only one who really knew the truth. Which of course I wasn’t! But the discovery of something that has been unknown, misstated or misrepresented has always made me have a fire in my belly to set records straight!
3. Writing aside, what passions drive your life?
My main passion is definitely travel, and unfortunately, things that have sugar in them! I mainly travel to discover material for stories. Being in places unfamiliar to me is the best way to get inspired. Again – it’s always about discovering something other people haven’t discovered yet and bringing it back to show them.
4. It’s hard to pick just one, but what do you consider your favorite novel and why?
My favorite novel is usually one I’ve read recently, then when I read another that becomes my favorite novel! In the last few years I have been amazed by both Sarah Waters’ book The Paying Guests and Anthony Doerr’s book All the Light We Cannot See. Waters’ book is a 1920s detective story set in South London, where I live now, and I loved all the period descriptions and atmosphere her story created. There was so much tension in every page! Doerr is quite literally a virtuoso – his powers of description and ability to capture emotions and feelings in words is unrivalled.
5. What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?
I blog on my website melissatomlinsonromo.com and I usually blog about what I’m writing or researching, notes on traveling, and sometimes just miscellany.
6. What does your drafting and/or editing process entail?
I was so overwrought with perfectionism about BLUE-EYED SON that it nearly killed me. I was part of three different writing groups through the course of writing and got great critiques from them. I pitched the book live to five of the big New York publishers, and got critiques in the process. I participated in writing classes (more critique), networking groups (more critique), sent the book to 12 “beta” readers (more critique) and hired two editors and worked with a friend on proofreading before I was finally done. It was too much critiquing and fiddling. It’s hard getting your first book right, especially when you are making all the publishing decisions. I was really concerned about it being a flawless read. I’m sure it’s not, after all that!
7. Are you traditionally published or self-published?
Self-published. I have nothing against the traditional publishing path. I reached a point of receiving more than 60 rejections from agents, many of them of the kind where they expressed what seemed like genuine interest and a real indecision about not taking the book. It was tough to get those! Ultimately finding a good agent is very much about luck and timing (assuming you’re a quality writer) and then finding a good publisher is about more of the same. I decided that finishing what I started was really important to me, seeing the book exist in the world and being able to offer it to readers, so I decided to publish it myself. From a business standpoint, I keep a higher percentage of the royalties now and given that more than 50% of books are purchased online, mainly through Kindle, I didn’t need a publisher to have my book shelved there. The challenge is of course now getting my book found in a sea of titles!
8. Can you offer one or two helpful tips for fellow writers when it comes to marketing and publicity?
I wish I could, marketing and publicity is something I need to do much more of but I work full-time in a global marketing job (ironically) and am busy with that 60-70 hours a week. Anytime I have left over I want to make sure my kids don’t forget who I am! My advice on the basics would be to make sure you test your book blurb with readers so you can spot where it is confusing or worse, boring. If you can’t do a website and don’t have time for a blog, I really think Facebook is a good alternative to both. I have a website but Facebook is a much more immediate way to interact with people. Use your networks too. My friends and family spreading the word were a big part of the book selling strongly at the beginning.
9. What future projects can we look forward to?
I’m working on both a prequel and sequel to BLUE-EYED SON as well as a memoir about relocating to London with my husband and two kids. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, so to speak, and was full of surprises!
10. Is there anything else you want your potential readers to know?
I really hope to find readers among young women, and to write female characters they can admire and emulate. I am not a fan of damsels in distress, romance, and storylines that are generally about girls chasing boys. This is why I have so much trouble with Jane Austen! My book does have some romance to it, but my main character is really her own woman, following her own path, on her own mission. It doesn’t matter what the men around her do or don’t do. I think women in general have a difficult time being that independent. It can be lonely and scary to be independent, I’ve felt it myself, but so many women put themselves in the background once they meet a man. I really regret that for women. I wish women could stand on stronger ground. Be your own woman, girls!
You can connect with Melissa and her social media accounts via her website. Explore her short fiction and magazine writing here.
Is there anything else you would like to know about Melissa Tomlinson Romo?
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Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.
Thanks for another great interview, Jeri. The thing that strikes me most is Melissa’s intense curiosity. I love that! It is the thing that has driven me as well. Blue Eyed Sin sounds like a winner. And because I am always looking for great reading, I’ll check it out:)
Thanks for your comment Jacqueline. I think my husband would say my curiosity is definitely intense. Our family holidays around England are usually nicknamed “history rampages” by him and my sons – all the landmarks, all the cathedrals! I hope you enjoy the book!
Blue-Eyed Son sounds like a book I’d enjoy. I appreciate all the care Melissa has put into getting it as perfect as possible. Good luck with the marketing and distribution.
Thanks Donna, it’s great to have help from an editor and blogger like Jeri to get the word out. I hope you enjoy the book if you get a chance to read it!
A really great review. I like how you bring your female characters to the forefront. That you have a WWII backdrop makes it even better – too many female roles were undermined during the war. I visited Poland a few years ago and Warsaw has been restored beautifully. The next tourist hotspot I’m sure. Your book sounds really interesting!
I love Melissa’s message to women. I too wish women could put themselves first, I wish they could emerge out of the conditioning they have been getting for ages and realize how much talent and strength they possess. Jane Austen lived in an oppressive world but we have the opportunities to rise!
I would surely like to read your book Melissa and wish you great success.
Thanks for sharing a wonderful interview Jeri.
The novel sounds especially interesting. Historical fiction is a favorite fo mine. Blue-Eyed Son sounds like historical mystery if there is such a genre.
Great interview. Lovely to learn more about Melissa and this book. My kind of read. 🙂
Sounds like a very good book! I set one of my books in post WWII Germany – I think a lot of people don’t realize how the war still permeates European thought.
Sounds like a fascinating story and my heart really goes out to Melissa just thinking about all she put herself through to get her book published! I wish her nothing but the best and definitely plan to jump over and take a closer look at Amazon. Thanks!
Great interview, Jeri! It sounds like Melissa loves what she does and that’s great!
I think we all spend extra time initially to get our writings (book, blog, etc) “perfect” and that’s ok. For me, it’s about learning the process to become an expert so if I spend more time initially, I know I will be able to see what areas I needed to work on and later do even a better job.
Great interview Jeri and Melissa. Love learning from the best.
The book sounds right up my alley – born in Holland I have always been fascinated with European history and WWII was definitely a time in history I heard much about growing up.
I like a bit of romance in a book but like Melissa, I do not like the helpless woman being saved by a cruel stranger type books.
I’ll be heading to Kindle to see if I can find the book.
Melissa, I wish you all the best!
Melissa and Jeri, great article! I love history books . I am reading The Revenant right now and have to look up words I do not know from the period of the 1820’s. I like looking up new things. I love to travel and I agree with you that it inspires a person to create. I love a strong independent woman too! Your book cover is beautiful and eye catching. You work a lot and juggle so much. It is inspiring that you finished your book! Great job and it is in the realm of books I read. =)
Great interview, Jeri, and thanks for introducing us to Melissa! I am glad Melissa found the self-publishing route and didn’t give up on getting her book done as it sounds like an amazing read!
A very interesting and well presented feature… Her book sounds very interesting… I love when a plot have a sociological, historical background, which is certainly the case… It adds depth to the reading… Thanks for introducing us to Melissa Tomlinson, dear Jeri… Sending best wishes! Aquileana 😀
Thx for introducing us to Melissa, Jeri. I love hearing about what motivates my fellow authors.
An insightful interview.
I have noted the tips from Melissa. As a first time publisher, rejection will come. I did not realise just how much! I need to grow an even thicker skin in order to survive the knock backs.
Great interview! Thanks to both of you for sharing. I love historical fiction and I live in Germany, so this one is definitely going on my TBR list. I wish Melissa the best of luck with Blue-Eyed Son and future endeavors.
Sounds like an interesting novel. It’s an era in our European heritage that is really important, not least since fascism is on the rise again. And antisemitism has never disappeared in Eastern Europe and Russia. Just read Churchill’s memoirs and a Yale publication about Stalin. It’s amazing how the same concepts that resulted in dictatorships and war are being repeated. Hopefully it will not result in yet another war. By the way did you know that Stalin taught himself how to read and write. And not in his first language Georgian but Russian. He subsequently read advanced intellectual books such as Machiavelli’s The Prince and von Clausewitz.
What a great post, especially for me right now.
I am looking at taking my novel and self publish it. Even though I am still leaning on traditional publishing or nothing, this author has given me much to think about.
Hi Jeri, another great author interview. I consider myself a history buff and have always been interested in WWII. Historical novels are some of my favorites, so I think I’d really enjoy Blue Eyed Son. Sounds like a great story line.
I love historical fiction too! (It’s easier to justify my binge-reading if it’s educational.) And this one sounds really intriguing. Thanks for introducing us!
I really like anything about strong independent women and Blue-Eyed Son seems to be a compelling story. I agree with Melissa that I hate to see women lose themselves for a man. When my Grandfather died, my Grandmother kept saying that he was everything and she was nothing. And she lost much of her vibrancy. I promised never to let that happen and I’m happy I can be married to a man where I still get to be fully me.
I admire Melissa’s desire to “write female characters they [young women] can admire and emulate.” May I add, this is good also for older female readers. Role models are important for us all in the ongoing process of self-empowerment. If the role models are fictional, well that’s okay!
Her synopsis is so compelling that I think I’m going to buy her book. The blurb is no doubt the most important content of the book. I know how blurbs influence my choice in picking books to read. It’s sad, actually, that an author slaves over a book and that one short paragraph could spell the difference between success and failure.