Melissa Ferguson is a cancer-fighting scientist who loves to explore scientific possibilities through fiction. She lives in Geelong with her husband, two children and two guinea pigs. Her short fiction has appeared in Island Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly and Postscripts to Darkness. Her debut novel The Shining Wall is available now. You can connect with her on Twitter @melissajferg or at her website melissajaneferguson.com
Melissa’s top tip for authors: Finish things and submit them.
Why do you write? Writing is a creative outlet for me. I used to love writing when I was a child, but then I gave up for many years as I pursued an education and a career as a scientist. My husband is a musician and a visual artist and I was always jealous of his creative pursuits. When I was in my early 30s I’d had my first child and some health problems that made me reassess my priorities. I took the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do. I completed a short evening course in creative writing. At first my writing was mostly memoir and realism and was a therapeutic exercise that helped me work through the events of a difficult couple of years. Then one day I’d had enough of that and started writing fantasy and science fiction and began having a lot more fun.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I began a Masters in Human Nutrition a few years ago, but it cut into my writing time too much and I exited with a certificate. If I wasn’t writing I would probably be trying to make a go of a career in nutrition.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? There’s a lot of luck involved with getting published. The industry is so subjective. I think you just need to keep honing your craft and putting yourself out there until your work gets in the hands of the right person.
How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Josh at Design by Committee came up with the cover for The Shining Wall. It was the first one the publisher showed me and I found it immediately visually stunning, but I wasn’t sure it fit the themes of the story completely. After a couple of tweaks I was more satisfied with the cover and we went with it.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect of my writing life is when someone genuinely enjoys a story I’ve written. You can’t beat that feeling.
—the worst? The sore neck and shoulders from being hunched over a keyboard so often.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have started earlier and not waited until I was in my thirties to take up writing again.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To go with my instincts when something doesn’t feel right.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? To finish things and submit them.
How important is social media to you as an author? Social media has been great for me for networking with other authors and publishing professionals and expanding my writing community. I can be quite shy in real life situations, so I get a lot more value out of my interactions in cyberspace.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? For me writer’s block often means that there’s a problem with my story that I need to think about for a while. While I’m waiting for the breakthrough (which often arrives while I’m in the shower) I work on other writing related tasks, such as proofreading, researching, or critiquing for other people.
How do you deal with rejection? A few mumbled swears and then I consider any feedback (if I’m lucky enough to have been given any) and decide if I need to do some rewriting or simply keep submitting.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Someone else once used these words to describe my writing and I quite liked them: A WILD RIDE
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I’d would have loved to have met Octavia Butler and told her how much her work has influenced me.