Friday, 22 May 2015

Author interview: Marti Melville

I got together with Marti Melville, the author of the Deja Vu Chronicles to talk a bit about her series and her writing process.

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Hi Marti, thanks for meeting with me! Your latest novel, 'Midnight Omen', sounds really interesting! Can you give us an idea of how you developed the concept?
Hi Nichole. Thanks for having me with you today. My novel series came about as the result of sleepless nights spent worrying about my sons who were deployed to separate wars. I would spend evenings with my laptop researching my Welsh relatives from the 18th century and happened upon a pirate by the name of Captain John Phillips. I decided his story was too good to pass up and wanted to write it for posterity. The Deja vu Chronicles was born.

Writing historical fiction can be difficult, but even more so when an ancestor is involved. How did you deal with trying to combine fiction with your own family history?
Fortunately, Captain Phillips is not part of my family tree (he's a pretty rotten pirate). However, his last name is a common one and a similar version of a great-great-grandparent of mine from Scotland. I found Phillips' story amazing and, prompted by my love of history, I was able to write it as a fictional twist on real historical events. I love the idea that history is only as accurate as the person who tells it. That concept leaves me the opportunity to take real events, add fictional elements, and create the "possible." My tools are the paranormal and my imagination.

When you began writing, did you know you would be writing a series or did it turn into something more than you planned?
My initial plan was to write a children's book, mostly for my grandchildren. That manuscript was found by an agent on the East Coast who advised me to "beef it up" into an adult novel. She then suggested I write a series, "Get back to the Caribbean and finish this story."  I listened to her and have written three novels thus far (the 4th book in the series is in the works now). In addition to the novel series, I was approached by a Hollywood producer who showed interest in the books as possible feature films. I've since written (with my writing partner, Kevin Du Toit) two adaptation feature film screenplays from the first two books.

It's amazing how a project can transform into something so different! You mentioned that one of your tools is the paranormal, and there obviously seems to be that theme in the series. Can you expand on that?
Absolutely! The paranormal aspect is one of the themes of the novel series. I've taken real 18th century superstition, nautical folklore, Celtic and Caribbean beliefs (aka: Voodoo and Celtic diety), and woven them into the story. The antagonist is the Celtic goddess, Morrigan.  Kathryn, the main character, discovers her powers as a witch and develops them as she sails the Caribbean, meeting a vodoun priest and Obeah priestess during her travels. There's an undercurrent of overcoming death and the grave throughout the story. I really like good, creepy ghost stories so there is a lot of that in The Deja vu Chronicles as well.

During the 18th century, there's quite a bit of religious persecution, especially when it comes to...well, basically anything other than Christianity particularly due to the Christian revivial. Do you touch on that at all within the series?
A little bit. I do dabble with the witch issue of the time (i.e.: healers who cure the sick are paid under the table, those who don't are tried and hung for witchcraft). I also use "pagan" rituals and terms that are appropriate for that time period. However, I tried to stay historically accurate - although this is loose fiction - and write about the diverse practices of the cultures in the Caribbean. Obeah and Vodoun practices filled the Caribbean islands during that time so there is a lot of the island practices in the Chronicles.  

The titles suggest omens drawn from the moon (astrology). Deja vu, also in the titles, is that experience everyone has when something feels uncannily familiar — as if we've "been there before." I tie that concept into past lives and the possibility that we never really die — instead we return to live adventurous lives again with the people we are meant to be with. Deja vu happens.

Kathryn's "gift" as a witch has its foundation in healing (I am a retired emergency RN and draw off of my experiences). I've researched the healing practices of the 18th century and link it to superstition, which is what happened back in those days. It all makes for great storytelling!

Definitely! I think it's always great when an author can pool together research, life experience, and imagination into one novel. Or in your case, a series! I've asked this question to other authors and I've always gotten varied responses, so I'll try it on you! Have you put any of your own self or beliefs into the characters, or do you try to keep it separate and let the concepts/characters evolve on their own?
I would like to believe that I am able to keep "me" out of my characters but alas, I cannot. In fact, my kids and several of my closest friends accuse me of writing Kathryn as an extension of myself. Some believe I am telling the story of my own past life (which would be awesome — I'd love to be a pirate reincarnated). If what they say is true, it wasn't intentional. I am not clever enough to create pure fiction so I draw on reality — history, my own experiences, and others.

I think the rest of the characters in The Deja vu Chronicles are based on history. Most of the pirates are actual pirates who lived during the Golden Age of Piracy. The events that happen are real, as are the ships and their travel locations. Most of the women are fiction, however. In fact, three of the main female characters have the personalities of some of my best friends. So, I guess I am guilty of stealing my characters from people I know, including myself.

Hopefully you didn't write your friends as any villains!
I did! One of the villains is my dearest friend. She is gorgeous, feisty and brilliant. She was a perfect model for Jacquotte Delahaye (a real pirate). My friend knows how much I love and respect her so writing her into a villainous character was something we both could laugh about because it's absolutely not true.

Oh, that's great! I love that she was able to enjoy that.
Let me add one last comment — the characters really do evolve on their own.  I have had ideas about what I wanted to happen and to whom, but that's not what the characters wanted and the story evolved differently, as did the characters themselves.

Characters have a way of taking control, whether we like it or not. And it's not necessarily a bad thing! I have one last question before we wrap up! What's the one thing that you want readers to walk away with after reading your novels?
I want readers to walk away feeling that they have the ability to overcome anything — to have faith in fate, in themselves, and in undiscovered individual strength. Of course, I want readers to enjoy the romance and swashbuckling adventure of the Caribbean and perhaps garner interest in Caribbean history along the way.  

The Deja vu Chronicles is a dark, adventurous novel series that will take the reader through time to meet ghosts, pirates, voodoo priests, witches, and monsters. Overcoming these is a choice — something we each do as we create our own moments and deja vu memories.

...Because everyone should experience love in the Caribbean at least once in a lifetime!

That's a great goal, and I'm sure your readers can say that's exactly what happened. I want to thank you so much for getting together with me to talk about your writing.
Thank you for this opportunity Nichole.

Visit Marti's website for more information about her, and the Deja Vu Chronicles, and click here to follow Marti on Facebook.

You can buy books from the Deja Vu Chronicles on Amazon.

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