Fiction / Womens Fiction
I Need to Make Promises: a Novella and Stories is a collection of fiction writing about women overcoming childhood trauma and the tragic relationships of their adult lives to become their true selves.
The book opens with four short stories. In "The Break Up," Mena faces the collapse of an intimate relationship due to jealousy and on-going conflict. Meghan, the woman-child in "The Good Day," turns once again to her parents to save her from financial ruin. But this time she is held accountable for her poor choices and challenged to change.
"I Belong to Me" is the story of Marigold, a wife and mother of three who takes off on her own the day before New Year's Day for solitude and soul searching. In between manic calls from her husband, Marigold uses her time alone to wrestle with old pain and to re-gain possession of herself. In "You Were Supposed to Love Me," Andy - a young successful, yet troubled artist--is led out of one of a series of bad relationships by her therapist, Davis, who has his own reasons for wanting to terminate their professional relationship as quickly as possible.
The novella, "I Need to Make Promises," is the story of three times divorced Viva who has decided that change is the only way she can live her best life. Viva finds the courage to confront long held fears of being alone. She faces conflicts in her relationships with her mother and all three of her husbands. And she finally allows herself to surrender to the love she has long carried for the man who has been a constant in her volatile life.
Tell us about your current release.
I Need to Make Promises is a collection of short stories and a novella. Each of the stories features a woman trying to overcome some type of personal hardship. Viva is the lead character in the title piece. She has been married and divorced three times, and for the first time in her adult life, she is attempting to live her life without a man. Viva does the hard work of confronting her short comings as she strives to becoming a better person. This involves looking at her relationships with her parents, with men and with her friends.
Confrontation is the theme that runs throughout the stories. One woman admits to the jealousy she feels towards her developing teenage daughter. Another woman uses therapy to learn how to stand up to the men in her life who have hurt her, including her father. Not every character gets the lessons that the various events in their lives bring to their doorsteps, but each woman is forced to at least acknowledge the problems in their behaviors and decision making.
The title of my next book (which will be released in early May) is Small. It is the story of nineteen-year-old Ansar and his dysfunctional family. Ansar’s parents fight constantly, which leads to unresolved tension in the home. To cope, Ansar cuts himself. His parents are aware of this behavior, but it quickly becomes apparent that both of Ansar’s parents need their son to be “sick” for their own reasons. This is a story of generational abuse that ends in a revelation for one of the parents.
Who is your favorite author?
J. California Cooper is my favorite author. Her writing is simple on the surface, but underneath, Cooper digs deep into matters of love, pain and disappointment. She focuses on the lives of women, their relationships with their men and their children. The women in Cooper’s books discover who they are as individuals by absorbing the lessons of their environments and the people who make their way into their lives. One of my favorite lines in Cooper’s book, Some People, Some Other Place, is “You have to make the decisions that will decide and control your life.” It is symbolic of the life lessons that are abundant in all of Cooper’s writings.
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Getting started with the actual writing is the most difficult part of creating a book. I love conducting research and coming up with plot scenes. I can have the idea for a book running through my head for years, but when the time comes to sit at my desk, (or on the couch with my laptop) there is always a lot of fear that comes with facing that blank screen. The fear stems from my doubts of being able to recreate what is in my head on paper. Fortunately, I’ve learned that once I start writing, the fear dissipates quickly and I easily get lost in the process (which is sometimes joyful and often painful) of telling the story.
How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
My stories generally begin with a topic I want to write about, such as domestic violence, mental illness, or dysfunctional relationships. I spend a lot of time thinking about a story before I write anything down. By the time I start outlining the story, I will have the general idea for the plot, the name and image of the lead character.
I have discovered that I need a visual component when developing a story. So, I have taken to finding images that represent the characters in my stories. Once I have a solid storyline, I conduct research on the prominent topics in the story. I love the research part of writing because there is so much information available on any topic one can imagine, thanks to the Internet. I generally have to make myself stop researching so I can get down to the business of writing the book.
What are you passionate about these days?
The politics surrounding the new birth control requirements established by the Obama Administration’s healthcare bill has my full attention lately. Access to healthcare for women is significant not only to individual women, but to their families, as well. Women are the anchors of most families and should have access to services and medications that allow them to make informed decisions about their health and the number of children they want to give birth to.
What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?
Patience. Determination. Focus. Courage.
Do you have a Website or Blog?Yes. My website address is www.melissabrownlevine.com. I maintain a weekly blog on the site. I have also posted short stories and examples of my non-fiction writing on the site that are available as free downloads.
Melissa Brown Levine has published novels, contributed to magazines, and reviewed books for several years. Levine's primary writing focus is women's fiction. She explores the lives of women by creating dynamic characters that are open, vulnerable, and eager to grow.
As an essayist, Levine writes personal accounts of her own life experiences; experiences that have the potential to educate other women. Her work reveals the pain she has endured in many of her relationships, the joys and frustrations of motherhood, and the growth she has experienced as a woman through struggle, hard work and faith.
Learn more about Melissa Brown Levine at www.melissabrownlevine.com.