Melinda R. Cordell writes YA and MG fantasy. After 20 years of trying to be traditionally published, and after getting close many times — but never close enough– she began self-publishing in September 2016. Now she has over 30 books out in the world, and she’s having the best time ever.
Her latest series is the Dragonriders of Fiorenza, about Fia, an enterprising dragonrider, and her dragon, Ryelleth, who are trying to rescue her kidnapped father and stop an all-out war. Assassin’s Blade, the first book, will be out on May 7th!
Under her pen name Rosefiend Cordell, she’s publishing a series of gardening books, the Easy-Growing gardening series, drawing on her 20+ years as a municipal horticulturist, rose garden potentate, landscape designer, greenhouse manager, etc. She has a bad back now, but the memories live on! Visit her on Twitter.
What is your writing life like?
A series of distractions that are perpetually interrupted by different distractions. I have a seven year old kid who wants me to play with him, an 18 year old kid, and a husband who’s recovering from a long hospitalization. Also various pets, including a few chickens. To add to the fun, I have a full-time job, and I make feeble attempts to keep up with housework and cook something like a meal so we make good use of our quarantine food. So writing gets pushed to the back burner a lot.
What is your writing routine?
Routine? What is a “routine?”
I have an Alphasmart Neo, which is a dandy little keyboard originally made for schoolkids, and it runs forever on three batteries. I use this for my fiction, and will type on this little device in the dark and get my daily (??lol) words written this way.
What advice do you have for folks?
Be willing to give up one dream for another.
For years I wrote books that I tried to get published. I wanted to work with a great editor, I wanted to get those 27-page editorial letters, I wanted to win a Printz award. But after 20 years of getting at least a thousand “You have an excellent grasp of craft but I don’t feel that spark” rejections, I had to give all that up. But I gave it up because writing is what I need to do, and after 20 years of being told I wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t write any more without looking over my own shoulder – couldn’t believe that I was good enough.
Then I started publishing my own books, making my own luck, putting my work out there. I’ve built a little following, have some true-blue fans, and I’m making a little money every month. I get a nice email now and then from folks. I’m busy creating and making these cool little worlds. I’m selling gardening books (these are my bread and butter) and I’m happy with this.
When I rage-quit traditional publishing, I gave up that dream of those 27-page editorial letters, of working with excellent editors who helped me to dig into my craft, and that Printz award. But it beat the paralysis and gloom unto death that I was feeling from all those rejections.
And now that it’s all up to me – now that success or failure is from my efforts, instead of being out of my control – I feel so much better. I am building up new dreams. When you achieve one dream, you can go on to bigger dreams and tackle those.
So, overall, it’s a win.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I should be a plotter, and I try very hard to be a plotter, but then I get tired and frustrated and then it’s pants everywhere.
What have you been working on?
Right now I’m working on a series of books about a young woman and her dragon in an alternate version of Italy in Dante’s time. I’ve written various novels based on Dante’s Vita Nuova through the years, and now it’s going to happen again. After I finish the first trilogy, the second trilogy is going to be my take on Dante’s Vita.
I’m also working on a new gardening series at last, which is long overdue (the gardening books pay for all my other publishing exploits at this time – though I am working to change that with this new series). It’s going to be the Hungry Garden series, about all these different ways you can grow your own food – container gardening, indoor gardening, permaculture, gardening in small spaces.
In the future I want to write a series about a group of friends in a symphony orchestra, but I haven’t figured out what genre these books are going to be. Self-publishing is more about writing to market, and it helps to know what audience you’re addressing before you jump in and spend $200-$300 for your first book cover.
What do you love most about your most recent book?
The relationship between Fia and her dragon. And I like the worldbuilding aspects, even though the factional infighting in medieval Italy is confusing as hell. I’ve ready about Guelfs and Ghibellines for, really, over a decade, and I still can’t keep them straight. And then you mix in the different alliances/enmities between the different city-states, along with the church, and it’s just nuts. I’ve had to simplify that way down so I don’t send my reader (or myself) into paroxysms.
What was the hardest part of this book to write?
Well, it was all hard to write, because I’m one of those writers who doesn’t like what comes out of her pen/keyboard until it’s all fixed up and fun to read. I’m one of those writers who likes “having written” to “writing” so I’m kind of in agony until I hit the “having written” part – which takes entirely too long.
How did you find your agent/editor?
Ha ha ha! I publish my own damn books, so I don’t have one. I’d love to have one, but I’ve been trying to get one since 1996, and stopped trying in 2016 because I can’t keep waiting for one to take an interest in me, and traditional publishing moves at such a glacial pace. I am not getting any younger, people. I do like self-publishing. I love being prolific, and even if my books aren’t perfect, I want to keep creating new things and have fun with ‘em. So I do.
What’s next? What are you working on now?
p style=”font-weight: 400;”>I’m trying to write part two of the Italian dragon series, and also I’m starting my second gardening book series with a little book about container gardening. I want to move into new territory with the next gardening series, as I’m seeing a lot of new organic techniques coming into play that are way more sustainable because they take into account how nature actually works. Instead of man imposing on nature, this kind of gardening works with nature and her processes, which is a lot healthier overall, when you think about it. These books will also have a lot of the old “back to the earth” vibe that you see in the old organic gardening books you’d see from the 1950s to the 1970s. Like the old Organic Gardening magazines when they were crammed full of useful info, before they got all sleek and changed their name and got all gentrified.