MELANIE HOOYENGA: THE TRAIL RULES

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I was excited to interview Melanie Hooyenga about her latest YA sports romance, THE TRAIL RULES—and I did learn a lot about the book, which sounds like a lot of fun to read!—but y’all, I made one very important discovery: Melanie has a 8-year-old schnauzer named Owen who has nearly 12,000 followers on Instagram. I checked Owen out, and he is adorable. But seriously . . . come join me as I chat with Melanie about THE TRAIL RULES, the secret to her work/life balance, and why she doesn’t edit as she writes.

Welcome to the blog, Melanie! Your latest book, THE TRAIL RULES, just came out. What’s it all about, and what was your inspiration for writing it?

Hi! Thank you so much for having me. THE TRAIL RULES is the second book in THE RULES series, so I got my inspiration from THE SLOPE RULES! In the first book, Cally is in a new school and must learn to be on her own without her friends back home. She becomes friends with a girl named Mike, who’s much quieter and unsure of herself than Cally, and I knew I wanted to write a book about her. Mike is the star of THE TRAIL RULES, and it’s about her figuring out what she really wants and how she’ll go after that. And there’s tons of action-packed mountain biking scenes!

Here’s the short blurb: Junior year’s looking up for sixteen-year old Mike. Her boyfriend adores her, her new BFF isn’t a sadistic control freak, and she’s learning to bike in the mountains without decapitating herself on a tree. But she needs to decide if she’s going to continue to be a follower or step out of the shadows and find her own trail. For fans of outdoor adventure, swoony kisses, and figuring out who you are.

You’ve written two series. The first (FLICKER, FRACTURE, and FADED) has a paranormal bent, whereas your RULES series books are sports romances. What made you decide to make this transition? Plus…which series have you found easier to write, and why?

I kind of stumbled into paranormal with FLICKER. I rarely read science fiction or fantasy, and don’t consider my books in those genres (which can make it tough to explain to people!), so I made things up as I went along. The FLICKER trilogy is kind of its own thing and I’m careful to tell hard-core time travel fans that she can only go back 18 hours, there’s no actual time machine, and I don’t explain how she goes back until book three. The series deals with heavier issues like bullying, suicide, and kidnapping, so after promoting it for almost five years, I was ready for something more light-hearted.

I’ve always played sports and I’m a romantic at heart, so once I had the idea for THE SLOPE RULES, it was really easy to write. I think it helped that TSR was the sixth novel I’d written, because as a writer, you learn more about yourself and your process with each book. I adopted a new outlining technique which really helped keep me focused, and each first draft has been cleaner than the previous. THE TRAIL RULES was fun to write in a different way because I’m not actually a mountain biker. I mean, I ride my bike, but my most aggressive move is cutting across my front lawn after going to the farmer’s market. I really enjoy learning things with my characters, and while I had to research mountain biking more than I did skiing, the end result is equally fun.

Book three in THE RULES SERIES is about snowboarding—another sport I’m less familiar with (meaning I tried it once in 1998). It’s already written and I’m excited to jump into edits in April.

Despite the fact that your two series are very different, are there common themes that exist in both of them? If so, what are they—and why do you think you’re drawn to them?

I didn’t realize it until after I published THE SLOPE RULES, but all my books have a common theme of a strong female main character who stands up for what she wants and what she believes in. Biz, the MC from the FLICKER series, takes a little longer to get there, but in the end she finds her place in the world. Cally from THE SLOPE RULES struggles a bit when she moves to a new school, but her skiing has made her so confident that it doesn’t take long for her to find her footing. Mike is less confident, but she has a solid foundation of knowing right from wrong and is determined to follow the path to being a better person.

As for why I’m drawn to them, I think it’s because I strive to be that type of person. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am today—happily remarried in my hometown, juggling two jobs I love—and I try very hard to learn from my mistakes and not regret my past decisions. Every experience I’ve had has led me to today, and I try to show that line of thinking in my characters.

Like many writers, you have a day job—you’re a communications director for a nonprofit. Having served for more years than I care to count in the nonprofit sector, I know how all-consuming that work can be. How do you balance your creative life with your nonprofit responsibilities—and how do you find time to write?

I’ve discovered over the years that I’m really good at compartmentalizing my time. I’ve always had a lot of interests and learned early on that if I broke everything down like a class schedule, I can fit it all in. So I write in the mornings before work (7-8am), go to work until 5pm, work out by 6:30, then my husband gets home from work and we walk the dog and cook dinner. There are always surprises that come up—either early morning meetings that cut into my writing time or extra promotion that leaks into the evening—but I try really hard to give each thing its attention when it’s the designated time, if that makes sense.

THE TRAIL RULES is your fifth book—and I bet you’ve learned a lot along the way. For writers who are at the beginning of their journey, what would be your best piece of craft advice and your favorite marketing tip?

Writing is such a personal thing and what works for me may not resonate with anyone else, but I’ll share the two things that help me get to The End:

1) I don’t edit as I write, and if I get stuck on a word, I don’t let myself dwell on it for more than a minute. Literally. I allow myself 60 seconds to think of the perfect word (this includes checking a thesaurus) and if I can’t pry it from the depths of my brain in that time, I put brackets around the next-best option and move forward. That way when I get to that part while editing, I’ll know I wasn’t happy with the word and I can spend the time to fix it. (Although more times than not it still jumps out at me and I know it isn’t the right word.)

And for those wondering how I don’t edit as I write, I simply don’t allow myself to re-read until I’m done. Sure, I may read passages if it’ll help with my current scene, but I don’t change things. I do keep a separate file with a running list of all the things I want to change in the next draft.

2) I’m an outliner, but my outlines are pretty basic. Each chapter gets anywhere from one to five sentences describing what needs to happen, and when I’m drafting, I copy/paste that chapter’s description into the bottom of the word doc. This helps keep me on track as I write, but it’s also a mental trick that makes it feel like I’m just adding a little in the middle of the scene rather than writing into the great white abyss of the blank page. I’ve gotten so used to it that it’s actually difficult for me to write without text at the bottom of the screen.

As for marketing, I think the biggest mistake debut authors make is building their brand around the book instead of themselves. Yes, when you only have one book, all the marketing will revolve around that, but your website and social media presence should highlight YOU the author. If your web domain, email address, and social handles reflect you, not one book, you’ll make things much easier on yourself when you publish the next one.

What didn’t I ask that I should’ve? Whatever it is, please answer it here!

This is silly, but my dog Owen is a bigger star than I am. He’s an almost 9-year old Miniature Schnauzer who I got when I lived in Mexico with my ex-husband. He’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had and since I’ve never had children, he is my baby. But most importantly, he has almost 12K followers on Instagram (@superowen_theschnauzer) and is known for his out-of-control beard.

BIO

Multi-award winning young adult author Melanie Hooyenga first started writing as a teenager and finds she still relates best to that age group. She has lived in Washington DC, Chicago, and Mexico, but has finally settled down in her home state of Michigan. When not at her day job as a Communications Director at a nonprofit, you can find Melanie attempting to wrangle her Miniature Schnauzer Owen and playing every sport imaginable with her husband Jeremy.

BACK COVER COPY

Junior year’s looking up for sixteen-year old Mike. Her new BFF isn’t a sadistic control freak, her boyfriend adores her, and she’s learning to bike in the mountains without decapitating herself on a tree.

Well, almost.

When she meets a group of riders who welcome her into their pack, she feels like she’s finally found where she belongs. One particular rider—a boy with an amazing smile and an even more amazing ability to see what she’s truly capable of—gives her the confidence to go after what she wants: her own life with her own rules.

There’s only one problem—he’s not her boyfriend.

Just as things seem to be falling into place, her parents put on the pressure to figure out her future—one that doesn’t include riding. Mike soon realizes that having everything isn’t that great when she’s not the one choosing it. She needs to decide if she’s going to continue to be a follower or step out of the shadows and find her own trail.

melaniehooyenga@gmail.com

http://www.melaniehoo.com

https://www.facebook.com/MelanieHooyenga

https://twitter.com/MelanieHoo

https://instagram.com/melaniehoo/

I was excited to interview Melanie Hooyenga about her latest YA sports romance, THE TRAIL RULES—and I did learn a lot about the book, which sounds like a lot of fun to read!—but y’all, I made one very important discovery: Melanie has a 8-year-old schnauzer named Owen who has nearly 12,000 followers on Instagram. I checked Owen out, and he is adorable. But seriously . . . come join me as I chat with Melanie about THE TRAIL RULES, the secret to her work/life balance, and why she doesn’t edit as she writes.

Welcome to the blog, Melanie! Your latest book, THE TRAIL RULES, just came out. What’s it all about, and what was your inspiration for writing it?

Hi! Thank you so much for having me. THE TRAIL RULES is the second book in THE RULES series, so I got my inspiration from THE SLOPE RULES! In the first book, Cally is in a new school and must learn to be on her own without her friends back home. She becomes friends with a girl named Mike, who’s much quieter and unsure of herself than Cally, and I knew I wanted to write a book about her. Mike is the star of THE TRAIL RULES, and it’s about her figuring out what she really wants and how she’ll go after that. And there’s tons of action-packed mountain biking scenes!

Here’s the short blurb: Junior year’s looking up for sixteen-year old Mike. Her boyfriend adores her, her new BFF isn’t a sadistic control freak, and she’s learning to bike in the mountains without decapitating herself on a tree. But she needs to decide if she’s going to continue to be a follower or step out of the shadows and find her own trail. For fans of outdoor adventure, swoony kisses, and figuring out who you are.

You’ve written two series. The first (FLICKER, FRACTURE, and FADED) has a paranormal bent, whereas your RULES series books are sports romances. What made you decide to make this transition? Plus…which series have you found easier to write, and why?

I kind of stumbled into paranormal with FLICKER. I rarely read science fiction or fantasy, and don’t consider my books in those genres (which can make it tough to explain to people!), so I made things up as I went along. The FLICKER trilogy is kind of its own thing and I’m careful to tell hard-core time travel fans that she can only go back 18 hours, there’s no actual time machine, and I don’t explain how she goes back until book three. The series deals with heavier issues like bullying, suicide, and kidnapping, so after promoting it for almost five years, I was ready for something more light-hearted.

I’ve always played sports and I’m a romantic at heart, so once I had the idea for THE SLOPE RULES, it was really easy to write. I think it helped that TSR was the sixth novel I’d written, because as a writer, you learn more about yourself and your process with each book. I adopted a new outlining technique which really helped keep me focused, and each first draft has been cleaner than the previous. THE TRAIL RULES was fun to write in a different way because I’m not actually a mountain biker. I mean, I ride my bike, but my most aggressive move is cutting across my front lawn after going to the farmer’s market. I really enjoy learning things with my characters, and while I had to research mountain biking more than I did skiing, the end result is equally fun.

Book three in THE RULES SERIES is about snowboarding—another sport I’m less familiar with (meaning I tried it once in 1998). It’s already written and I’m excited to jump into edits in April.

Despite the fact that your two series are very different, are there common themes that exist in both of them? If so, what are they—and why do you think you’re drawn to them?

I didn’t realize it until after I published THE SLOPE RULES, but all my books have a common theme of a strong female main character who stands up for what she wants and what she believes in. Biz, the MC from the FLICKER series, takes a little longer to get there, but in the end she finds her place in the world. Cally from THE SLOPE RULES struggles a bit when she moves to a new school, but her skiing has made her so confident that it doesn’t take long for her to find her footing. Mike is less confident, but she has a solid foundation of knowing right from wrong and is determined to follow the path to being a better person.

As for why I’m drawn to them, I think it’s because I strive to be that type of person. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am today—happily remarried in my hometown, juggling two jobs I love—and I try very hard to learn from my mistakes and not regret my past decisions. Every experience I’ve had has led me to today, and I try to show that line of thinking in my characters.

Like many writers, you have a day job—you’re a communications director for a nonprofit. Having served for more years than I care to count in the nonprofit sector, I know how all-consuming that work can be. How do you balance your creative life with your nonprofit responsibilities—and how do you find time to write?

I’ve discovered over the years that I’m really good at compartmentalizing my time. I’ve always had a lot of interests and learned early on that if I broke everything down like a class schedule, I can fit it all in. So I write in the mornings before work (7-8am), go to work until 5pm, work out by 6:30, then my husband gets home from work and we walk the dog and cook dinner. There are always surprises that come up—either early morning meetings that cut into my writing time or extra promotion that leaks into the evening—but I try really hard to give each thing its attention when it’s the designated time, if that makes sense.

THE TRAIL RULES is your fifth book—and I bet you’ve learned a lot along the way. For writers who are at the beginning of their journey, what would be your best piece of craft advice and your favorite marketing tip?

Writing is such a personal thing and what works for me may not resonate with anyone else, but I’ll share the two things that help me get to The End:

1) I don’t edit as I write, and if I get stuck on a word, I don’t let myself dwell on it for more than a minute. Literally. I allow myself 60 seconds to think of the perfect word (this includes checking a thesaurus) and if I can’t pry it from the depths of my brain in that time, I put brackets around the next-best option and move forward. That way when I get to that part while editing, I’ll know I wasn’t happy with the word and I can spend the time to fix it. (Although more times than not it still jumps out at me and I know it isn’t the right word.)

And for those wondering how I don’t edit as I write, I simply don’t allow myself to re-read until I’m done. Sure, I may read passages if it’ll help with my current scene, but I don’t change things. I do keep a separate file with a running list of all the things I want to change in the next draft.

2) I’m an outliner, but my outlines are pretty basic. Each chapter gets anywhere from one to five sentences describing what needs to happen, and when I’m drafting, I copy/paste that chapter’s description into the bottom of the word doc. This helps keep me on track as I write, but it’s also a mental trick that makes it feel like I’m just adding a little in the middle of the scene rather than writing into the great white abyss of the blank page. I’ve gotten so used to it that it’s actually difficult for me to write without text at the bottom of the screen.

As for marketing, I think the biggest mistake debut authors make is building their brand around the book instead of themselves. Yes, when you only have one book, all the marketing will revolve around that, but your website and social media presence should highlight YOU the author. If your web domain, email address, and social handles reflect you, not one book, you’ll make things much easier on yourself when you publish the next one.

What didn’t I ask that I should’ve? Whatever it is, please answer it here!

This is silly, but my dog Owen is a bigger star than I am. He’s an almost 9-year old Miniature Schnauzer who I got when I lived in Mexico with my ex-husband. He’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had and since I’ve never had children, he is my baby. But most importantly, he has almost 12K followers on Instagram (@superowen_theschnauzer) and is known for his out-of-control beard.

BIO

Multi-award winning young adult author Melanie Hooyenga first started writing as a teenager and finds she still relates best to that age group. She has lived in Washington DC, Chicago, and Mexico, but has finally settled down in her home state of Michigan. When not at her day job as a Communications Director at a nonprofit, you can find Melanie attempting to wrangle her Miniature Schnauzer Owen and playing every sport imaginable with her husband Jeremy.

BACK COVER COPY

Junior year’s looking up for sixteen-year old Mike. Her new BFF isn’t a sadistic control freak, her boyfriend adores her, and she’s learning to bike in the mountains without decapitating herself on a tree.

Well, almost.

When she meets a group of riders who welcome her into their pack, she feels like she’s finally found where she belongs. One particular rider—a boy with an amazing smile and an even more amazing ability to see what she’s truly capable of—gives her the confidence to go after what she wants: her own life with her own rules.

There’s only one problem—he’s not her boyfriend.

Just as things seem to be falling into place, her parents put on the pressure to figure out her future—one that doesn’t include riding. Mike soon realizes that having everything isn’t that great when she’s not the one choosing it. She needs to decide if she’s going to continue to be a follower or step out of the shadows and find her own trail.

melaniehooyenga@gmail.com

http://www.melaniehoo.com

https://www.facebook.com/MelanieHooyenga

https://twitter.com/MelanieHoo

https://instagram.com/melaniehoo/

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