Shadow Flicker & Other Things – Melissa A. Volker

Melissa Volker - Author of Shadow Flicker
Melissa Volker – Author of Shadow Flicker

I think I met Missy Volker, author of Shadow Flicker, on Twitter (quelle surprise) through author and publisher, Karina Szczurek where we bonded over our love of books and cats. I then met her IRL at Karina’s house and subsequently at the launch of my first novel Ms Conception at the Book Lounge where Missy was kind enough to paint my nails (yes, at the book shop) and mend a bra strap that decided to give up the ghost just before we began (it was an eventful launch). Missy has supported me on my writing journey right from the get-go and it gives me great pleasure now to return the favour – and not only because she is a friend – but because I really LOVE her writing. Her books could be categorised as up-lit – literature that uplifts and they are EXACTLY what people need to read right now.

Tell us about your day job and how it’s been affected during #lockdown. Also, any grooming tips for us like how to paint our own damn nails??

I’m a beauty therapist. I work from home, but we were closed in lockdown. The sector reopened on Friday but I decided not to open just yet as I work from home and have family members with comorbidities. Also the husband has set up his WFH office in my salon. Maybe it’s time to finish that pesky first draft? Grooming tips?  Always wear sunscreen and, if you decide to wax yourself, remember once it’s on there’s only one way to get it off. And it is not 123NOPE.

Missy doing my nails before my book launch...
Missy doing my nails before my book launch…
Did you study creative writing? If so, tell us how your course helped you. If not, how did you wind up writing?

I studied creative writing online through GetSmarter, and then I did Claire Strombeck and Mike Nicol’s Master Class full year course. I don’t have an academic background, I went to college to study beauty, so I had no idea about the technical side of writing, like point of view, character, plot and dialogue, so  covering those kinds of things in the GetSmarter course was invaluable. The Master Class made me get my bum in the seat and write 80 000 words in 10 months.  I did a few writing courses at UCT Summer School as well. Writing class, besides teaching me about writing, taught me not be too precious, as most of the courses involved peer review. One needs to get over oneself as soon as possible if one wants to be a writer (sad but true.)

Missy's post about surf rage recently went viral. Check it out
Missy’s post about surf rage recently went viral. Check it out –
What is Shadow Flicker about?

Shadow Flicker is the story of an engineer called Kate, who goes to St Francis Bay, the place of a previous haunting trauma, to work on a windfarm set to be built on an enigmatic farmer’s land.  She meets with parochial opposition from the townspeople,  but also meets a sexy surfing widower. She must negotiate escalating violence and escalating chemistry, until she finds herself having to face her worst fears in order to  fight for her life and love.

I know that you are passionate about conservation, but was there anything in particular that inspired you to write this book?
Melissa A Volker

I grew up going to a shack on a farm on the Kromme River for holidays, so I feel a deep connection to the beach and the bush in the St Francis Bay area. After living in bigger cities since, I appreciate the unspoiled beauty of the area even more. 

Some years back, a developer proposed a windfarm nearby, and despite the threat of a nuclear power station at Thyspunt, many people opposed the windfarm. I realised that some people protect an area only because it suits them or their economic interests.

I wanted to explore that concept in the book, the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yarders), people who are for conservation until it is inconvenient or poses a financial threat.

You write eco romantic thrillers. Is that an actual genre or have I just made it up?

It’s made up, but everything is made up in the beginning, isn’t it? It could be an  excellent sub-genre of eco-fiction. Or a new category in Romance? My first book, A Fractured Land, is also an eco romantic thriller set in the Karoo. 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.

Tell us about your journey to getting published. Talk us through both your lowest point (when you’ve been ugly crying on the bathroom floor) and your highest point (cracking open the prosecco).
The Highest Point
The Highest Point

This is where the part about getting over oneself comes in. I first wrote Shadow Flicker during Mike and Claire’s Master Class. They loved it, so we polished it up and sent it out, but it was rejected by everyone in all the land, and beyond.  After rewriting it a *million* times, it was still rejected, so I set it aside and wrote another book, A Fractured Land. I sent the completed, edited, beta read manuscript out to three publishers and had two offers.  So that was one of the prosecco moments. I signed with an American digital publisher, Literary Wanderlust.

Then I sat back down and rewrote Shadow Flicker and entered it in the Romance Writers of South Africa’s competition, which it won. Another prosecco moment, but short lived. I had a few roadblocks still, one included signing a contract that didn’t work out, and that is the moment that I did end up literally sitting on the floor, (kitchen not bathroom) ugly crying.  Final prosecco moment came last year when I had the honour to have had both books published in South Africa by Karavan Press. They are beautiful books and I am proud and grateful for the work that my publisher, Karina Szczurek, put into them.

I know that you received an award for your writing, please brag about that. 

That was the aforementioned ROSA Strelitzia Award, which Shadow Flicker won for the most promising manuscript of 2017.  I’d rewritten it, Shadow Flicker, AGAIN, but I’d been rejected so many times, I had pretty much run out of self-belief and hope. I couldn’t go to Johannesburg for the awards dinner as it was the same day as the SA SUP surfing champs. My family and I were at a restaurant because I’d won the SA Champs in my age group, and then I got the message from ROSA to say I’d won the Strelitzia too.  I was still bedraggled and salty from the surf, but so very happy.

Talk us through your writing process. Do you plan our your books, have a daily target? How do you fit in writing with your day job and your family?
Missy's Shadow Flicker on her bookshelf

I’m so bad. I’m a binge writer. I get on a roll and then no one gets dinner or even a glance.  But I really need to improve my habits and get more of a daily routine. I do plan, but I find writing is organic so it kind of grows sideways out of my best laid plans and then I have to replan.

It sounds mad, but I found the drought hard because I do all my best thinking in the shower. And I need more than two minutes to sort out a plot problem.

What’s next for you?

I’m half way through a book with the working title Switchfoot. I should have finished it in lockdown, but the internet is hypnotic during these stressful times and has stolen so much of my time. I have to sit on my bed where the Wifi can’t reach me. Also it feels like it gets harder to write the more you write. Perhaps one becomes more exacting with oneself?  Maybe it’s hard because I’m trying to avoid three million rewrites by writing it right the first time, and that’s not really possible? (Nope. Tragically, writing is rewriting ☹)

Advice to aspiring writers (you may not say ‘go and work in a bank’)?

Don’t waste time on the internet. Write the book. Finish the book. Polish later. Get in a writing routine. Read a lot and widely. Write what you like to read.  Read what you like to write.

Any book recommendations you have to share with us?
Whats in the box

At the moment I’m reading The Burnt Country, by Australian Author Joy Rhoades, it’s the sequel to The Woolgrowers Companion. Her books are wonderfully atmospheric with a great sense of place.  I also like British author Lucy Clarke’s books. I’ve just read You Let Me In, about an Air B&B guest who may not have truly left.

I have Andy Martin’s Surf Sweat and Tears in my Kindle, and I’m frothing to read Gail Schimmel’s new book, Two Months and Helen Moffett’s Charlotte.

How are you keeping sane during the #coronalockdown? Have you managed to write/read during the lockdown?

I haven’t read or written as much as I’d hoped. I’ve exercised a lot, in mad Strava circles around my garden, and then mad circles around my neighbourhood.  I watched Netflix and Wild Earth, and did mountains of laundry. Now our family is in a better routine. It seems the adrenaline of the beginning of lockdown has settled into the new normal and we are learning to get on with it.

Where can the fans get your book?

…and it’s also available at Exclusive Books

Thank you so much for taking part in #FridayReads, may your books fly off the shelves! Happy reading, everyone xxx