1) What inspired you to start a writing career?
Ghostwriting on international security issues, which occupied the lion’s share of my writing career, started as a stopgap measure. It evolved from my academic background at a time when I was between jobs. I initially regarded the work, done on a contract basis, as temporary until I could find full-time employment. But I discovered I really liked it, was good at it and the contracts kept coming. I also liked the freedom of being a freelancer.
The evolution from nonfiction ghostwriter to novelist was more dramatic. From early adulthood, I always knew I had the makings of a novelist. And for all the material rewards of ghostwriting, one tires of not writing in one’s own voice. Also there was great appeal in creating a fictional world I could control. Unlike the real world, the bad guys I craft will eventually get their comeuppance and the good guys will eventually get their reward. I’d developed my fictional chops with many short stories and poems over the years. Had a few published. Basically, I realized if I was ever going to become the novelist I’d long dreamed of being, the time was now. So I committed to it fully and was lucky to find a wonderful publisher and editor, who had faith in me
2) Is your book a stand-alone, or is it part of a series?
Decanted Truths is a singleton. If you’re interested in a series, please check out my Hillwilla trilogy, based in contemporary West Virginia and featuring the clash between “born-heres” and “come-heres,” with the latter exemplified by a gritty middle-aged heroine with a dark past. The first novel, published in 2014, is Hillwilla. The second is On the Hillwilla Road (2015). The final one, just published late last year, is Reinventing Hillwilla.
3) How does your book stand out from others?
Decanted Truths stands out from other novels because it’s so many things at once — and so hard to peg. It’s part literary novel, part (dysfunctional) family saga, part women’s fiction, part historical period piece — all with a hefty dollop of the paranormal. I’ve never fit a stereotype myself and whatever I write seems to shapeshift across genres
4) Are any of your characters based on real-life people?
None of the characters in Decanted Truths is based on real people, even though my first idea for the book (begun 20 years ago) was to fictionalize the up-from-bootstraps life of my maternal grandfather. That idea quickly fell by the wayside, and the characters developed identities very different from those of actual ancestors. Admittedly, I exposed the fictional Gavagans, Harrigans and Costellos to some of the same (real) events that played out in my family’s history. But the impact of those events was necessarily different, because the characters are so different from any real ancestors.
5) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Advice for aspiring authors? Oy… First of all, be an avid and eclectic reader. Take note of which books appeal and which don’t. Figure out why something works (for you, at least) and why it doesn’t. Absorb, don’t emulate. Then find your own voice and stay true to it. I’m not a big fan of farming out a work-in-progress for input from friends and relatives, largely because their comments can pull you away from your own authentic style. Once you have some idea of what you want to write, commit to it fully. To the isolation. To that blank page. To the vagaries of character development (yes, characters really do have their own minds). Be ready to rip up pages of hard-written words and start all over again. Persevere, persevere, persevere — all while somehow keeping the faith.
About the Book
Title: Decanted Truths
Author: Melanie Forde
Genre: Literary / Women’s Fiction / Family Saga
For Irish immigrant families like the Harrigans and Gavagans, struggle has been the name of the game since they arrived in Boston in the nineteenth century. For twice-orphaned Leah Gavagan, who comes of age in the Depression, the struggle is compounded by bizarre visions that disrupt her daily life — and sometimes come true. She has difficulty fitting in with her surroundings: whether the lace-curtain Dorchester apartment overseen by her judgmental Aunt Margaret or the wild Manomet bluff shared with her no-nonsense Aunt Theo and brain-damaged Uncle Liam. A death in the family disrupts the tepid life path chosen for Leah and sets her on a journey of discovery. That journey goes back to the misadventures shaping the earlier generation, eager to prove its hard-won American credentials in the Alaskan gold rush, the Spanish-American War, and The Great War. She learns of the secrets that have bound Theo and Margaret together. Ultimately, Leah learns she is not who she thought she was. Her new truth both blinds and dazzles her, much like the Waterford decanter at the center of her oldest dreams — an artifact linking three Irish-American families stumbling after the American Dream.
Raised in a Boston Irish family, Melanie Forde knew her life was infinitely easier than that of her ancestors, refugees from the Potato Famine. The storytelling skills of her elders kept ancestral triumphs and tragedies alive, so that the Potato Famine and the Easter Rebellion felt as real as the Cold War. Inheriting the storyteller gene, Ms. Forde is the author of three earlier novels, her Hillwilla trilogy. She now lives far from her roots, on a West Virginia farm. She still maintains a potato patch—just in case.