Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Melanie Robertson-King, A Shadow in the Past

AUTHOR:   Melanie King writing as Melanie Robertson-King
BOOK TITLE:  A Shadow in the Past
PUBLISHER:  4RV Publishing LLC
Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?

Thanks for having me here as my blog tour winds down, Penny. I've lived my entire life either in or around Brockville, Ontario, Canada, which is located on north shore of the St. Lawrence River about an hour south of Ottawa. I make my home in a cozy little house with a view of the river (well you have to go out the front door and stand on the sidewalk but you can catch glimpses of the lake and ocean going ships passing by) with my husband of 37 years, my son, my oldest grandson, and my dog with the $1000 ear (a story in itself). In addition to my son, I have a daughter, 3 grandsons, and 2 step-grandchildren.

            When I originally wrote my novel, I thought it fit the "chick-lit" genre or as it's currently referred to "women's fiction," but I thought because my protagonist being nineteen, she was too young to fit in that category so thought that perhaps YA was a better fit, and then I thought she was too old. When the term YA Crossover came into being - I knew instinctively that's where my novel belongs - suitable for ages 13-25 and those of us over that age but remain young at heart.

             I've tried my hand at other genres, but this is where I feel most comfortable, most likely because I was a teenage girl, and raised a teenage girl. They say write what you know... 

Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.

My novel's title is A Shadow in the Past. It's set in the Aberdeenshire area of Scotland where my father was born.  It's a YA/YA Crossover with time-travel and romantic elements. This is a bit longer than the "TV Guide" version but here goes... Sarah Shand is a nineteen year old who finds herself thrust back into the past where she struggles to keep her real identity secret from a society put off by her strange comments and ideas, not to mention the forwardness in her speech and actions, unlike Victorian women. When Sarah confronts their confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, she makes a number of powerful enemies. As a result, she finds herself comitted to a lunatic asylum from which she later manages to escape. When she realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, Robert Robertson, she is torn between finding her way back to her own time and family and remaining in the past with him.

How long have you been writing?

            Off and on since I was about twelve. The stories back then revolved around hockey players from our local team and their girlfriends. Guess, I always fantasized that I was one of those lucky girls. These stories were even illustrated, so you could say they were a precursor to today's graphic novels.
What got you interested in writing, and what inspired you to write your first book?
            I've always loved the written word and have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. It wasn't until much later, in the last fifteen years, that I became serious about writing. This was soon after I discovered the Outlander series. A friend and co-worker thought I could write something just as good, so I tried my hand at it. A year later, I enrolled in a creative writing course and in the beginning turned my hand at writing non-fiction articles and had reasonable success with them but it wasn't until my instructor told me he thought I could write a "cracker" of a novel, that I turned my hand back to fiction.
Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?

            I don't do formal outline but I do jot down key points that I want to cover during the course of the story. I know the ending before I start and for my first draft, I give myself lots of leeway getting there then tighten things up in subsequent drafts.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
            They come about the same time. In A Shadow in the Past, the characters came long before the plot. On a trip to Scotland, a half-cousin gave me a photograph of my grandfather and his first wife presumably commemorating their marriage in 1876. I knew I could write a story around that and did. That's when A Shadow in the Past (then Sarah's Gift - a rather overgrown short story) came to be.
            In a project that is still very much a WIP, it was the plot that came before the characters. I guess it just depends on the circumstances. Had I not had the photo before my first manuscript came to be, it likely would have been the plot before the characters.
 What was the hardest part of writing your book?
             The Scottish setting during the Victorian era. There is loads of information on the Victorian era but primarily for England and not so much Scotland which made it a bit more difficult. Luckily, I'd traveled to my father's homeland many times and have a huge collection of photographs taken on those trips to look at. Google’s street views now has almost every road in that area available. The virtual touring isn't as much fun (makes me pine for the Old Country even more if the truth be told), but it isn't as expensive as the real thing.
Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?

This one took a long time because the majority of it is set in the past. When it first arrived as a short story, there was no research at all but I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I had to know more about the Victorian era and not just the history but the social aspects as well. Thankfully, I had resources in Scotland I could call upon – the Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society and the main branch of the Aberdeen library, and a friend in the specific area of Aberdeenshire who shares a love of history.

What books or authors have influenced your writing?

I grew up reading The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. Then I discovered Alfred Hitchcock's short stories. Once I was old enough to get my own library card, I spent many happy hours borrowing and reading books from there. I still love to visit my local library. I don't have any one favorite author but listed among them are Ian Rankin, Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, Barbara Erskine, and more recently my friend Chris Longmuir (winner of the 2009 Dundee International Book Prize for her crime novel Dead Wood), Stuart MacBride, Janice Horton, Rosemary Gemmell, and true crime author Jeannie Walker and the list goes on. As you can see, my tastes remain as varied now as they did then.

Has my writing been influenced by them? Perhaps but with the eclectic choice of authors I like to follow and my reading tastes I would have to say the only influence they’ve had on me was believe in myself and persevere.

What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for release?

            Currently just this one although I do have a sequel planned for it and another in the wings that I’ve written the beginning of it and the end but I’m really torn about writing it. Since I like to set my novels in Scotland, I thought it would be great to write one about a helicopter ditching in the North Sea. I got the beginning and ending written and then a helicopter did ditch in the North Sea (thankfully with no casualties) then one of the east coast of Canada with one survivor, and another of in the North Sea where everyone perished. It’s kind of put a damper on my writing, especially since it happened again earlier this year – at least everyone survived.

What is your marketing plan?

In addition to being a featured author at since June, having my official launch there on September 28, followed by my blog tour – which, by the way, culminates on October 12 when I stop in at, I will use my website and blog (links below) to promote my novel.

On September 22, I had my first launch in my hometown in Brockville, where I read some of my favorite passages (with lots of cliffhangers) and afterwards, sold and signed copies of my book. I’m also going to visit bookstores and libraries where I’ll do readings and signings.

            A date hasn’t been finalized as yet, but I’ll be doing a recording for the local cable company’s program Reader’s Corner. The host of the show, Doreen Barnes, has been excited about doing this since I first approached her. I’ll also do radio spots, and newspaper interviews.

             I’ve had postcards made up for my book and will be doing bookmarks as well. I created a trailer for my novel which has been uploaded to YouTube and previewed by my fellow featured authors and associate readers.  

 Probably the most important aspect is to take advantage of Social Media. I’m currently on Goodreads (most recently with an author page), BookBlogs, Festival of Romance Online, SheWrites, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

Practice, practice, practice. Attend workshops. Attend the same one more than once because you’ll always pick something up the second time around that you missed in the first. Join a writers’ group. Get yourself at least one critique partner who will be brutally honest about your work. Believe in yourself and be persistent. I love the comment Stephen King put in his book “On Writing” about having to change the nail he hung his rejects on for a spike. Even he had a hard time in the beginning and look where he is now. The other thing you have to do is read. You can’t write well if you don’t. When I’m not writing, I’m reading.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

I maintain a website at and I blog at Celtic Connexions on a number of topics.

I joined, an interactive reader-writer website, in 2011 as an Associate Reader but in June of this year, I became a featured author with them. My page there is

I’m on Twitter as @RobertsoKing at!/RobertsoKing

A Shadow in the Past is Melanie Robertson-King’s debut novel. Prior to turning her hand to fiction, she wrote articles and has been published in Canada, the US and the UK. In addition to writing, her interests include genealogy, photography and travel. On one of her trips to Scotland, she had the honor of meeting The Princess Royal.

Melanie is a member of Romance Writers of America and their Ottawa Chapter.

She lives in Brockville, Ontario, Canada along the shore of the majestic St. Lawrence River with her husband, son and oldest grandson.


  1. Thanks for hosting me here today, Penny.

  2. My pleasure, Melanie. I love the idea of this book.

  3. I learn a bit more about you each blog tour stop, Melanie. You are such an interesting person, as well as an exceptional writer.

  4. Tou're making me blush, Vivian! So glad you're following me around the world... well at least from one side of the pond to the other and back again.

  5. Very nice interview, Penny and Melanie. I'm looking forward to reading your book. Time travel and romance hooked me. :) Best of luck to you.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Beverly and your good wishes. I hope you enjoy my book when you read it.

  6. Surprising how many of us readers/writers started off with Nancy Drew!

    Nice interview!

    1. Hi Cheryl! Nancy Drew kept me occupied for hours. Sometimes, I could read one in a single sitting.