At the Montagu Book Festival with Melissa A. Volker

MBF1I had been hoping to interview Melissa A. Volker at a literary event for years. I had no idea that when it finally happened, I would be speaking to her about her life and writing as her publisher, but that made the occasion even more special.

We travelled together to the Montagu Book Festival/Boekefees, which took place between 25 and 28 July, to speak about “Up Lit” and Melissa’s two novels, A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker.

Set in the Great Karoo, in Graaff-Reinet, A Fractured Land looked at home in the Little Karoo and received a very warm welcome.

Melissa and I first heard the term “Up Lit” from Kate Mallinder and, immediately, we both felt that it applied exceptionally well to Melissa’s novels. They are books which focus on kindness, empathy and a sense of community without shying away from difficult topics such as divorce, debt, grief, addiction or mental illness. They are stories of “redemption” and “second chances”. Above all, they are romances. In both novels, Melissa tackles vital environmental topics (fracking and wind energy respectively). Her protagonists find love while at the same time having to find some form of common ground when they end up on opposing sides of these environmental issues, as Melissa explained during our event. We also spoke about the innocence of falling in love, surfing, strong female characters, music, and perseverance. We had great fun talking to each other and engaging with the readers who came to listen to our conversation.

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We want to thank the Montagu Book Festival for hosting us, the Montagu Bookshop for selling our books, and all who attended our session for your infectious enthusiasm and for sharing the love of reading with us. May there be many more such joyous and inspiring occasions!

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Hope to see you all in Montagu next year!

Review competition: Caroline Gill reviews A Fractured Land by Melissa A. Volker

A Fractured Land_LR for webA Fractured Land_2018A Fractured Land rapidly encapsulates the reader in the vast expanse of the starkly beautiful Karoo setting. We become happily familiar with the well-rounded characters and their whimsical ways in a one-horse town, while they are like many of us, struggling for a chance at love and life.

It proceeds at a pace akin to the land it is set in, yet leaves your heart searing with emotion and turbulence of the drama as it unfolds. It also skillfully travels between the lands and cultures of the main characters, showing deep connections and knowledge of two completely opposite lifestyles, enhancing the storyline by the differences as they are shared.

There is a delightful smattering of life’s necessary daily activities, emotional and environmental issues and a well-dished up round of suspense woven throughout the novel, tightly connected with some lovely hooks and twists to keep you wondering if anything will ever work out.

Melissa A. Volker has a gift of carefully exposing the emotions felt by her characters, which inevitably mirrors those felt by her readers ⁠— we just don’t have the same finesse at expressing them as she does!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, was immediately transported into the story and enthralled with its development, and devastated when it had to come to an end!
I will be one of the first in line for her next offering as it comes off the press!

Review first posted on Goodreads.

Review competition: Natasha Alexander reviews A Fractured Land by Melissa A. Volker

A Fractured Land_LR for web A Fractured Land_2018I love a good romance but this book is so much more, filled with suspense and a gripping story, to say the least. Melissa’s scenic description is so wonderfully written, you can almost smell the dust and feel the blazing Karoo sun on your skin.

The two main characters are Carter from Texas, a former musician, trying to start over in the family oil business; and Lexi going back to her Karoo routes to rebuild her life, after a heart-breaking divorce which left her bankrupt. Their paths cross, at what seems, the worst possible time but as their story unfolds, Melissa keeps you hooked through their journey. Another character that kept me on the edge of my seat was Paul, the best friend/infatuated admirer of Lexi. Don’t want to give too much away, but his story/journey was brilliant too.

This is a must read, 5-star novel and I can’t wait for Melissa’s next one. (So, please hurry…no pressure.)

One more thing, LOVED the music references, Jack Johnson and Pearl Jam, two personal favourites.

Thank you for an awesome read, Melissa A. Volker.

Review first posted on Natasha Alexander’s blog.

Competition: Review one of Melissa A. Volker’s novels and stand a chance to win a book voucher worth R1000!

Review or comment on Shadow Flicker or A Fractured Land on an online platform of your choice (your blog or website, etc.), send the link to your post to karavanpress@outlook.com, and stand a chance to WIN a book voucher worth R1000* for a South African bookshop of your choice.

 

Reviews/comments have to be at least 150 words long to qualify.

We encourage reviews/comments that reflect your true opinions and feelings about the novels. (But we strongly discourage unkindness!)

Where applicable, use #KaravanPressReviewCompetition.

Use ‘Karavan Press Review Competition’ for the subject line of your email containing the link to your review/comment post.**

We will publish all eligible entries on karavanpress.com.

The winner will be drawn at random from all eligible entries.

Competition ends on 15 October 2019.

The winner will be announced on 16 October 2019.

 

*The book voucher is sponsored by Karavan Press.

**Your email address will not be used for any other purposes than to communicate with you should you win the competition.

Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker launched at the Book Lounge

davIt was quite a while ago that Melissa A. Volker and I sat at Jonkerhuis, discussing over cake and coffee a version of the manuscript that would eventually become her novel Shadow Flicker. During that conversation, I mentioned my dream of becoming a publisher. I also told her that I’d loved her novel; that it needed some work, but that I was convinced it would be published one day and that she should not give up on it… Over the years that I have known Melissa and her writing, I have also been telling her that one day I would be attending her launch at the Book Lounge.

Shadow Flicker has been published, and last night, this beautiful novel was launched at the Book Lounge like I have always known it would be. What I could not have predicted was that I would be the publisher launching it with her, and that it would be a first for both of us. But we all know that the best stories are full of unexpected twists and turns, and that they have satisfying endings. And this one is only a beginning, for Melissa and for Karavan Press.

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The Book Lounge was packed for the event last night, the warmth of the welcome palpable throughout the evening. Melissa was in conversation with Jacqui L’Ange, the author of the exquisite The Seed Thief.

Shadow Flicker launch at Book Lounge3‘I’m usually not a romance reader, but I gobbled these up. These are eco-romances. But they are also thrillers. They are eco-romance thrillers,’ said Jacqui, coining a wonderful term that describes Melissa’s work.

‘I would like readers to understand the issues without having to listen to an environmental lecture,’ Melissa explained. ‘If you package it all into a good story, you can get the word out.’

And a good story is what Melissa tells, in A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker. May there be many, many more. For her and Karavan Press!

‘I hope that my writing makes people smile,’ Melissa said. It does. Thank you!

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Book delivery: A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker

cofCelebrating our first booksIt is always a magical moment: holding your first book copies in your hands. They never feel entirely real, but the joy that is bubbling inside you is overwhelming so, always. Yesterday, that moment was particularly exuberant because Melissa and I were experiencing it together: she as author, I as publisher. Karavan Press’s first ever titles: A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker.

Ready for distributionAfter the initial trouble with the binding of the first printrun, the second turned out to be perfect and so worth waiting for. The delay was daunting and frustrating, but both Melissa and I knew that what we had imagined for these novels had to become reality in order for us to be able to share them with our readers with all the exhilaration these special books deserve. And now, they are here. And they are everything we have wanted them to be.

Salieri and first copy of Shadow FlickerWe hope to see the first copies in bookshops countrywide sometime next week, and we hope to see many enthusiastic readers at the launch of Shadow Flicker at the Book Lounge on 16 July. Melissa will be in conversation with the fabulous author and journalist, Jacqui L’Ange.

The feline community is already reading and we have the first paw of approval from Salieri, one of our literary cats. We can’t wait to see what Melissa’s Frosty has to say.

Melissa A. Volker at the Montagu Book Festival

Melissa A. Volker 1It is our great pleasure to announce that our author, Melissa A. Volker, will be participating in this year’s Montagu Book Festival, which is taking place on the last weekend in July. She will be speaking about romantic environmental fiction and her two novels, A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker, on Friday afternoon (26 July).

Between 25 and 28 July, Montagu’s KWV Building Complex and the Old Mission Church in Long Street will host a variety of authors and panelists as part of the annual Festival.

The Festival kicks off on Thursday evening, 25 July, with an official opening address by Prof Jonathan Jansen. Other authors participating include Anne Dreyer Erasmus, Colin Johnson, Patricia Schonstein, Jacques le Roux, Theo Kemp, Don Pinnock, Karina M. Szczurek, Irma Joubert, Finuala Dowling, Tania Smit, David Grier, Wilhelm Verwoerd, Duncan Brown, Jopie Coetzee and Shirmoney Shamia Rhode.

Analysts, commentators and activists like Jan-Jan Joubert, Leon Schreiber, Christi van der Westhuizen, Carel Anthonissen, André Bartlett, Spiwo Xapile and Michelle Newhoudt Boonzaaier will participate in panel discussions about the political landscape after the general elections, challenges for the agriculture sector, and the future role of religious institutions in an increasingly secularised world.

A food-and-wine pairing with a cabaret-style show dedicated to the writings of Adam Small will cater for the discerning cultural palate.

Ticket prices: R150 for the whole weekend; R100 for a single day; R50 for a single session (individual author’s talk or panel discussion). These tickets prices exclude the food-and-wine pairing and Adam Small show, which will be priced separately.

Tickets are available from the Montagu-Ashton Tourism Association office at 24 Bath Street, Montagu. Tel.: +27 (0)23 614 2471

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Author interview: Melissa A. Volker

‘You have to be present, mindful and in tune with the possibilities that lie before you on the page.’ 

– Melissa A. Volker

How and when did creative writing begin for you?

I’ve always loved reading, books and stories, but the first time I tried to write one of my own, it didn’t turn out to be the kind of writing I enjoyed reading. I was mortified and gave up immediately. But when I took a break from my career in beauty therapy, I decided to give it another try, this time with help. I took a creative writing course and it taught me that I still had a long way to go. I signed up for another one, and then another and things improved, but I still had no book. Finally, I signed up for a year-long supervised course, and the mere thought of the amount of money it cost forced me to write consistently until I completed the first draft of a full-length novel.

 

You write romance with a strong awareness of environmental themes. Please share with readers how important this aspect of your writing is for you.

I think we are all busy and get carried away in our day to day life and don’t realise the consequences of our lifestyle habits, like the use of single-use plastics. Maybe we don’t understand the complexities of some issues, like renewable energy, fracking or shark/human interaction. Even the seemingly innocuous things we take for granted with young children, like balloons and glitter, are not environmentally sound choices. While I don’t claim to have an in-depth knowledge of all these issues, I am acutely aware of them and try to make environmentally conscious decisions in my own life. I like to include these environmental themes in my stories to increase awareness in a way that the average person can digest and have a think about, without feeling disheartened. Maybe they will be moved to alter their thinking and habits? Maybe they will have a broader understanding of the issues from another point of view?

 

What is the greatest appeal of the romance genre for you as a reader and a writer?

I like happy ever afters. There is enough sadness in real life. And the one requirement of a romance is a happy ever after or a happy for now. (A love story, on the other hand, like The English Patient or The Notebook, does not, apparently, require a happy ever after.) I really love to feel the emotion with the character as a reader, and when I can feel my characters’ emotions as I write, I am equally delighted. I try to evoke positive emotion and feeling in a way that the reader can join in and become invested in the characters and the story.

 

How do you feel about the relatively new term ‘Up Lit’? Do you think it applies to your work?

I love the idea of Up Lit, of stories of kindness and of compassion. I am drawn to intelligent stories of people who have to get through quite serious issues, like emotional disorders or community problems, but they come out on the other side with hope. I think, because the world is so overtly divisive and fractured, regular people yearn for positive human stories to escape into. I do think my work is Up Lit, as my protagonists, although often flawed, ultimately treat one another with kindness and compassion, despite their differences.

 

In your stories, you create fascinating and independent women characters who overcome adversity with integrity and hope. Who are the women who inspire you and your writing?

My mother is a smart, organised, incredibly brave and positive person. She is a great reader and thinker, and has always just got on with the necessary business of life, despite adversity that might come her way. For the past fifteen years she has been doing that in the face of an incurable auto-immune disease. She presses on with such courage, love, faith, dignity and hope.

My maternal grandmother grew up in the United States, but in a notebook she gave me, she wrote that the happiest times of her childhood were when they had enough food. That stayed with me and after her death I found a lengthier memoir she had written. I was humbled and inspired to read a more in-depth account of the adversities she overcame to break with the cycle of rural poverty into which she was born.

 

You write about surfing on diverse platforms. Surfing also features strongly in your novel Shadow Flicker. Please tell us about the place this sport has in your life and work?

Is surfing a sport? Haha, I suspect it’s more of an obsession, a compulsion, much like writing, but possibly less plagued by self-doubt? I’ve been married to a surfer for more than twenty years, and initially I acquired a good beachside understanding of things. But four years ago, I stepped off the beach and learned to surf a stand-up paddle board. I have not looked back; I now plan my week around the surf report. Surfing is a most empowering experience; it has taught me that I am stronger and braver than I ever thought. I am grateful to have the opportunity to be in the water whenever it presents itself.

Melissa surfing

Significantly, the first editor who did NOT reject my writing was Calvin Bradley, of Zigzag Surfing Magazine. I entered a competition called Write To Surf, and wrote a story about my life as a surf widow called ‘The Thinking Girls Guide to Life with a Surfer‘. I didn’t win the competition, but they published the story online. It was my first ever published story and when it got over 1000 likes on Facebook I was beyond stoked. It’s been epic to subsequently write pieces for The Inertia, Zigzag and Wavescape, especially when I have had the opportunity to write about women’s interests in surfing. We have a bunch of smart and funny surf writers in South Africa and I enjoy reading their work and learning from them as well.

In some ways surfing is like writing. It’s almost impossible to impress your will upon a wave, instead you have to be in tune with it and adapt your movement to the possibilities the wave is revealing to you. Much like a story. Sometimes you can’t impress your will upon it or force it in a certain direction. You have to be present, mindful and in tune with the possibilities that lie before you on the page.

 

What other hobbies/interests are part of your everyday?

I’m a beauty therapist and operate a home-based salon. I am host to a cat who rules my life, and am raising two beautiful children who have quite busy schedules. They beat me consistently in Bananagrams and keep me up to date with new music trends. We are a spiritual family, so I try to take time to focus on that every day as well.

Frosty

 

What did winning the Strelizia Award mean to you?

ROSA-Strelitzia-Winner-BadgeI think most writers experience a bit of Imposter Syndrome, and I found that without an academic background I had little confidence in myself as a writer. When I first competed a version of Shadow Flicker, it was rejected by multiple publishers which was quite disheartening. But I pressed on, picking myself up after each rejection, getting advice and tweaking and rewriting the manuscript on multiple occasions. There was something inside me that kept telling me to keep going, not to give up. I really love the story and the characters and I knew if I could polish it properly, it would touch readers’ hearts. Winning the Strelitzia Award validated that. The very shiny, polished version of Shadow Flicker touched the judges’ hearts.

“The Romance is thoroughly believable and satisfying. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year!”
“I especially enjoyed the very real South African setting and characters, the unique surfing background, and also that the hero and heroine and their conflicts were not clichéd.”
“It was fresh, well written.”
— ROSA’s Strelitzia Award Judges, 2017

What would you like your readers to take away from reading your novels?

Life is complicated but kindness and love are the bomb. I would like readers to feel good and happy after reading my novels and be open to making a positive difference in their corner of the world.

First Karavan Press titles go to print

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A dream comes true.

The first Karavan Press titles –  A Fractured Land and Shadow Flicker by Melissa A. Volker – went to print last week. Official publication date is 1 June 2019.

Karavan Press wants to thank all the people who have made the publication of these titles possible, especially Melissa A. Volker who entrusted her beautiful books to our care. We are proud to publish her work in South Africa.

For further information, please explore karavanpress.com or contact us: karavanpress@outlook.com.

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