How long have you been writing?
I have probably been writing since I was in elementary school, which began with poems and progressed into stories as a young adult. I only have recently decided to get back into the swing of writing by having a couple of my novels published.
Has writing always been something you wanted to do?
I have always wanted to write, and do receive a lot of enjoyment out of it. I feel like it is my way of expressing myself through stories.
What books or stories have you written? Published?
I have written a novel entitled The Great Empty, which is a contemporary fiction, coming-of-age book. I have also written another one entitled Ford At Valverde, which is a Civil War-era historical novel, soon to be released.
Although both are fictional adventure novels, they are different genres.
The Great Empty is a coming-of-age story about a rebellious youth named Donovan who leaves his home in Europe for a family trip to Australia. Once there, he quickly determines another course when he takes advantage of an opportunity to seek out adventure of his own. While slipping away from the care of his guardian and sister at the airport in Darwin, he decides to take a tour bus to a crocodile farm, which inadvertently continues to take him hundreds of miles deeper in the outback and into Kakadu National Park. His curiosity continues to get the best of him, when he sets off on foot to explore a trail to a waterfall and plunge pool. One mishap leads to another until he finds himself alone in the dark and unprepared to face the unknown that envelopes his surroundings. Once he discovers that he is lost, he continues to make his way through the bush, but not without its perils. Eventually, he befriends an Aborigine boy named Neji, who is on a journey into manhood. Together they fight against the elements and the mysteries of the dark, with beliefs and rituals as deep as the Dreamtime. All the while, a peculiar stranger continues to shadow them for unknown reasons. Pretty soon, Donovan finds himself on an unexpected course with this deliberate swagman, with his harsh ways and cruel intentions. Without warning, Donovan is forced to use all that he has learned, in order to survive this downward spiral that seems to be leading him nowhere, with his only hope of making it back to civilization again…
The Great Empty excerpt one
The lime-green stems of the water lilies kept Donovan pushing forward as the sun rose hot against his back. It wasn’t enough nourishment for the strength he needed, but it would sustain him until he could unearth something more. At least there had been enough water trapped inside the shoots to wash them down, but the aftertaste was awful. He hadn’t seen a billabong or natural spring all morning and with the rising temperatures, he hoped to find one, before something else found him.
Somewhere in the night he had lost his shoes, and the makeshift socks had gotten so laded down with mud that they had been shed too. The wound on his heel had caked dry so it didn’t bother him as much when he took full strides. If he could only find a way to avoid the prickly vines that swam across the ground and pierced his raw feet.
A few times he had tried walking in the grass, but the insects on the reeds made him itch too much. And he felt safer being able to see what moved around him. He reasoned that if something did creep up he would be in trouble, but at least he would have a running chance.
His backpack was with the spear, and he had no intentions of going back for them. His only mission now was to find a sturdy walking stick and to keep heading east, and as far from the river bank as possible. Whatever remained back there would stay behind him. If only he could convince his mind of the same.
The night had passed with his eyes wide open, but the nightmare never ended. The fear of being hunted was his constant companion. With the hours of silence that had followed the madness, he wanted to believe that the swagman was gone, but he couldn’t stop the delusions from coming. Images of the half-mangled predator seeking him out was as an apparition in his thoughts. And as much as he kept fighting against the loss of food and sleep, the enemy seemed to be winning the battle—whether dead or alive. So he held onto to the ax pick, and he journeyed deeper into the bush.
The further he went the more tropical it became with the changing landscape. Leaves stretched wider on thick rubbery plants and weeping foliage filtered out the direct light from the shade of tall paperbark trees. The ground turned soft with a mixture of sand and dark soil where long winding strands of lush green ferns swung coiled from branches. A big shell of stringy bark had fallen from the base of a trunk and he picked it up, comparing it with the vines that hung like trapeze ropes from the trees.
The air smelled fresher as he got to the base of the mountain. Among the few roots that were edible, Neji had recommended these in a pinch. Even though the shoots and nuts looked much better, he was careful to leave them alone because Neji had also warned that they were poisonous before being soaked in water or cooked. So he shoved the root into his mouth and continued scraping at the dirt with the pick in hope of turning up some yams.
After a while, he was too exhausted to dig so he laid back in the leaves, and his eyes followed the vines to the top branches. In his mind’s eye the tree became a towering skeleton and the thick strangling vines were veins, twisting to the top sockets of branches where light pierced the openings, exposing the green bulbous eyes, thousands of them.
The Great Empty excerpt two
In the most dramatic hours of dreaming, the Dreamtime came alive… A pack of snarling dingoes surrounded him while the Aborigine stood with one foot on his chest laughing with the spear pressed at his throat, all the while Mimi spirits danced in and out of consciousness… and the bubbling sound… must be too close to the creek… got to run… Viola can’t swim…
As daylight crept into the cavern, Donovan’s legs spontaneously jerked when he heard footsteps. But how could that be?… Neji didn’t wear shoes and each step was so… heavy.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes. They were puffy and stinging from the saltiness of his sandstone pillow. He twisted his aching back from side to side. The dry bones were still in the corner, the wooden bowls and cutting implements still scattered about, but where was Neji?
The footsteps grew cautiously closer and his knees began to shake. As much as he wanted to be discovered, he didn’t want it to be by a cannibal. What should he do? Call out? Hide? He considered his options. Then the opening was dark again as a man-sized shadow blocked the recesses of his slumber.
“Who’s there?” his sleepy voice wavered as he pulled the end of Neji’s spear towards him.
The shadow crouched and the light broke free above his head.
Donovan scampered backwards, but stopped when his foot hit the pile of bones. As the image moved into the darkness, what became clear was more horrid than anything he had dreamt all night.
The man leaned forward for a closer look, his sulfuric grin stretched wide as he sneered, “Well, now, if it ain’t the little pomme himself!” His eyes shifted to the pillage behind him. “I see you’ve met my friend Arnie,” he paused to speak to the skull. “Arnie, wave hello to the pomme if you can…”
Donovan pulled the spear inward, guarding the five feet distance between them.
A smaller shadow filled the opening. The tin of water was still boiling over the smoke stack as he said, “Hey mate. Get a look at what I found.” he cupped four small turtle eggs in his hands, anxious to show his friend the find.
“Wait, Neji,” Donovan called out, but it was too late. He had already entered the cavern and was surprised to see the visitor.
Buy The Great Empty on Amazon.
Ford At Valverde is a historical adventure romance of sorts. It is about one man’s attempt at dodging the war while on a treasure-seeking mission for gold, that leads him on a quest that he never imagined possible. As he crosses state borders from north to south, he is hell-bent on determining his own path, until circumstances continue to fuel his situation beyond his control. With each tacking pace of the train, he will eventually venture into the bayous of Louisiana where he is beaten and left for dead, until he is discovered by someone that can alter the course of his destiny forever, but not before many battles are waged against him. Eventually, he is brought to a place where he must choose to live as a soldier of misfortune or discover the real reason why he began his journey in the first place.
From the timber mills of Wisconsin, into the deep South and the rugged West, nothing will keep Daniel Stone from going after what he wants, neither the cruelty of strangers or the vengeful warriors of the plains, while the Civil War looms around him. He would rather die trying to get where he wants to go, than to live with the regrets of a life unlived…
How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?
I have always had a strong sense for adventure, and I believe that the characters journeys stemmed from my own curiosity of places that I thought were intriguing, along with the Indian cultures in both, as well as ideals that I thought were important. I do have a fascination with different places and different cultures, and believe there is a lot to be gained from learning what all of our experiences have to offer.
Are the books based on personal experiences?
My books so far are not based on personal experiences, which is not to say that I will not write about my own experiences at some point. I simply feel that my imagination can take me to places that my everyday experiences can not. I also like to get behind different character perspectives, so that my views aren’t limited to my own experiences and inclinations. I believe it makes for more interesting writing, and it takes me away from the everyday.
Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?
Advice that I could give to a young writer would be to begin at an early age, and don’t put it off until later years if you are truly passionate about your gift. I think that it is too easy to get caught up in the details of making a living or other life plans, and the writing can get pushed to the side. I often reflect on how much more I might have accomplished through writing, if I had focused on it more as an early adult and pressed on through. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way and create them when necessary. If you are passionate about it, pursue it. I truly feel the effort is worthwhile.
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?
There are certainly benefits for writing, even if a writer doesn’t become a well-known one. It is freeing to release something that you feel is bottled up within you, especially if you feel it is beneficial to those outside of your initial sphere of influence. I think there is a part of us that wants to connect with the rest of the world, through many different forms of gifts and talents. For the writer, writing is that expression.
Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?
What I feel is relaxing about writing is that it is a way of getting in tune with your inner self, much like meditation. It is a way of exploring the depths of imagination and is freeing to the senses. This is what makes it therapeutic.
Has writing made you a better person?
I feel that writing has made me a better person, only with respect to the ability to express myself through a talent. From my perspective, it would be the same if I was gifted in another area. I don’t think a person really feels complete, if they are not enjoying something they love, especially an art form.
Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?
I do like to read and wish that I actually had more time to read. I do like fictional novels, which involve adventure and different locales or periods of time. I also like psychological thrillers.
Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?
Reviews are important to writers because they provide exposure for a writer to express his/her point of view. It may even allow the reader to feel that a writer is more accessible or approachable based on their perceptions. Writer reviews can also help pave the way for new writers to find success through their advice. It also is an avenue for talking about a book that a writer has written to potentially gain more interest from readers.
Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?
I haven’t received a bad review as of yet, but I can only imagine that I wouldn’t feel very good about getting one. However, if the criticism is constructive, there may be something to be gained from it, as long as it doesn’t appear to be publically damaging or harmful. Pleasant and well-received reviews are the best!
I really appreciate the opportunity to be featured on your blog. I looked at it and am really impressed with your author features, and only wish that I had the list of published books that some of the others have. The Great Empty is my debut novel. I will have another, a historical fiction novel entitled Ford at Valverde, which will be released sometime in April.
About Anita Melillo
In addition to writing, which I wish I had the luxury of doing full-time, I also have a nursing career and am a volunteer firefighter in the community that I live in.