Posted on 06/29/2016 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
For many authors we’ve interviewed, writing is the thing they love, and their success in it has enabled them to leave less-fulfilling jobs.
Melissa Keir, on the other hand, can say that being an author allows her to do both things she loves: writing and teaching.
Keir wrote poetry when she was growing up, then moved on to other first-person projects like reviewing books while she was raising a family and working as an elementary school teacher.
When an author suggested to her that she move from reviewing books to writing her own, she was surprised but intrigued. Fast-forward a few years and several successful box sets, and Keir was ready financially and emotionally to step back.
Because she still enjoyed teaching, though, Keir decided to stay in the district as a substitute teacher and tutor, giving her the flexibility to pursue all of her passions: write, spend time with loved ones, and educate the next generation of readers.
Here’s what the award-winning, best-selling romance novelist had to say about her journey.
SADYE: You described teaching as a 24/7 job — how did you find time to write?
MELISSA: Trick question, I see! There came a point when I couldn’t write. The stories had piled up inside me. I am one of those dedicated teachers who was always available for my families, so “have laptop will travel.” ...
Sometimes I would use what I was working on with the students as a teaching moment. We would discuss how to best show the characters’ actions, so by blending both jobs, I was able to juggle both careers for a while. ...
Many of the parents I had last year made the comment that their children developed a love of writing while they were in my class. That's the best compliment I've ever heard!
SADYE: When and how did you decide to finally end the juggling act?
MELISSA: I juggled both for four years. Summers and school holidays were when the writing would come fast and furious. I tried to jam as much as I could into those days off.
Eventually, I found juggling to be more and more challenging. With each book, I could see how writing was becoming more of a passion and career than a hobby. As I gained experience with publishing, I began to help others with formatting and had bought a publishing house three years ago because I didn’t want to see another small publishing house close. My health also began to decline. ...
(So) in January 2015, I had my "a-ha" moment and actually quit teaching, only to have my school allow me to continue part time through the rest of the year. It was a relief, and the stories began to flow once again. I smiled more, and my health improved.
SADYE: We heard from one author who was fired from her corporate job for publishing adult novels — did you ever have concerns about something similar happening to you?
MELISSA: In any line of work, people are going to gossip. With elementary teachers, parents expect them to be above reproach. While I have had some parents become upset when they found out about my writing, I have always been honest and upfront at work. ...
I’ve talked about my writing with my students and share all the skills I’ve learned. It helps them see the steps happening to someone they see each day. I’ve told the students that I write stories for adults about love. They wanted me to write a story for them, but middle grade writing isn’t so much about love and romance as it is about finding yourself — and seriously, I haven’t figured out who I am yet!
One mom came to me upset about an image of myself that was on my blog. She felt it was too racy for a kindergarten teacher. It turns out that her husband and his brothers (who used to be my students when I first taught) were making “hot for teacher” comments and she was jealous. We had a good laugh about the stories I could share about her husband in fifth grade, and she eventually came around.
SADYE: With hindsight 20/20, would you tell your younger self to give a writing career a chance?
MELISSA: I would tell myself to give a writing career a chance, but earlier! I wrote poetry in high school and college, then began writing my musings on life when my children were younger. I didn’t consider I had the skills to write a romance novel, even though I loved reading them.
But I suppose I needed to gain some more perspective and life experience before being able to put my stories on paper.
SADYE: Do you think you would’ve eventually come to writing novels even if that author hadn’t encouraged you to do so?
MELISSA: I would have written something but probably not romance novels. It didn’t occur to me to give it a try. I felt my poetry and musings were more my style, my strength.
Sometimes you don’t see what you can do until someone else points it out to you.
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Categories: Author Interview