Author Interview With Melissa Tagg and Book Review of Now and Then and Always

I am so excited and happy to welcome Melissa Tagg to my blog today.  I have been a forever fan since I read her very first book and intend to remain so.  Melissa’s latest, Now And Then And Always, releases today and she takes us back to Maple Valley!!!  Yay!  I want to at least visit, if not live there.  Melissa is going to be answering some questions about that book for us today, so join us. 

When did you know that you wanted to write books?

I’ve truly wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. I’ve been reading books since I was super young and pretty much as soon as I could string sentences together, I’ve been writing. I wrote story after story as a kid—usually in Mead 5-Star notebooks and almost always featuring a) orphans or b) pioneers or c) both. Haha! So though I started out after college as a reporter before transitioning into nonprofit work, I always knew that somewhere along the way I’d want to try my hand at writing novels on the side. I got serious about it in 2009, attended my first writing conference in 2010, and sold my first two books in 2012.

When you write a book, do you have a theme running through your mind for each book?

Well, yes and no. 🙂 Sometimes I think I know what the theme of a book is when I start writing, but 100% of the time, that theme ends up changing by the end of the book. (And honestly, I don’t even know that my books have just one solid theme.) I’ve learned to not hold any of my plans for the story too tightly…to be flexible enough to go where God, my characters, and my own creative whim takes me as I’m writing.  It’s amazing how the process of telling the story always begins intertwining with my personal journey (whether I want it to or not!)—spiritual, emotional and otherwise—to form the theme(s) of the story. 

How do you prepare for writing the book? Prayer? etc?

I definitely pray about it. I also spend a good amount of time digging into my characters. I’ve learned from an amazing author mentor (Susan May Warren) to get to know some really important key things about my characters before I start writing—their greatest dream, greatest fear, the lie they believe, the dark moment that shaped who they are and what they believe today, etc. Lots of other character traits pop up and surprise me as I’m writing. (For instance, I didn’t have any clue that Mara is obsessed with cereal until I wrote her first bite of cereal into an early scene. Haha!) But the big things, the heart issues, the past struggles—I often have those at least somewhat figured out beforehand. I don’t outline my books in detail, but I do often have some sense of the major plot points—although, again, I’ve learned to be flexible because more often than not, the story ends up taking turns I didn’t see coming as I’m writing. 

Does God ever just deposit something in your spirit for a book? 

That has happened before. I can’t say that it did with this one. This one was more of a normal writing process in that I had an idea of where I wanted to go, but I got surprised along the way and did some early rewriting. Maybe those surprises count as God depositing something in my spirit. But I’ve had other more concrete experiences of truly feeling like God just, boom, dropped the story in my heart. For instance, I was working on a Christmas story once and truly had no clue where I was going with it. I went to bed at night frustrated at the whole thing. I woke up in the morning with, literally, the whole story in my head!

What do you hope readers will take away from Now And Then And Always?

This is such a funny and interesting question to me because I used to be able to give such firm answers to questions like this. But over the years as I’ve received reader letters and messages, I’ve so often been surprised at what people take away from the story. A lot of times it’s not what I expected them to take away! I really strive hard NOT to write “message” or “agenda” fiction…not because I have anything against that kind of fiction, but because I really believe the strongest stories can say different things to different people. So I don’t want to shoehorn a message or moral into my stories.

But I guess to answer the question, I just want the reader to take something away—something personal and memorable. Maybe it’s a reminder that, like Mara, even when they don’t see God at work in their life, He still sees them…He’s still working. Maybe, like Marshall, it’s confronting their deepest, darkest pain…wrestling with the questions and doubts that pain produces…and maybe, hopefully coming to a place where they’re willing to at least consider that God is still good, that He still loves them, that life can still hold moments of joy. For one person maybe the takeaway is examining the “hallway” of their life, learning to see the good even in closed doors…for another, the takeaway might be finding the bravery to step through an open door. And maybe for another reader, the takeaway is simply the fun of a few hours of entertainment in the form of clean romance and a happy ending!

Meet Melissa

Melissa Tagg is the award-winning author of the popular Walker Family series, the Where Love Begins series and the Enchanted Christmas Collection. She’s a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. Her recent releases include a Carol Award winner (One Enchanted Noel), an RT Book Reviews TOP PICK (All This Time) and a Publishers Weekly Spring Top Ten Pick (Like Never Before). Melissa has taught at multiple national writing conferences, as well as workshops and women’s retreats. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at http://www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Instagram.

Now for the rest of the story:

It all started when my dad, at the ripe old age of sixteen, picked up my mom for their first date. She was thirteen. Thirteen!* Dad drove a cherry red car up the lane to my grandparents big ol’ green house and honked his horn…whereupon Mom jumped out of the apple tree she’d been waiting in and off they went…fishing. True story. (I’d give more details, but I’m saving it for a novella I plan to entitle Two Leaves…which is an inside joke…which means I really hope you’re reading this, Mom and Dad.)

Fast forward a few years and they got married and then a year and a half later I came along.

In addition to trying to take at least slightly better photos (but generally failing), today I also work full-time at a homeless non-profit while playing author on the weekends and sometimes early in the morning, occasionally in the evening…but never late at night because apparently I’m now an old woman who can’t stay awake past 10.

So far, my books include the Walker Family series (Three Little Words, From the Start, Like Never Before, Keep Holding On, All This Time), the Where Love Begins series (Made to Last, Here to Stay), and the Enchanted Christmas Collection (One Enchanted Christmas, One Enchanted Eve, One Enchanted Noel). Also, my novella, A Place to Belong, is free for newsletter subscribers! Look for my next full-length novel in early 2019.

Sometimes people ask why I write romantic stories. The short answer is because it’s fun. The longer answer is because I love the idea of making people laugh, making them swoon…and maybe, hopefully, inspiring or encouraging or challenging them in the process. I believe laughter paves the way for truth. It gets us all comfortable and settled in and prepped for the heavier stuff. And romance tugs on our vulnerabilities. Stories, no matter the genre, change us. They make us think, they get under our skin, they get us to ask questions we might not otherwise. They get us to feel things we might not otherwise.

Other than stories, I love, love, love talking about faith, my insanely cute nieces and nephew, classic movies, baby goats, Pop-Tarts and the bookworm life. Finally, I probably love Needtobreathe, flannel and candy corn more than any other person you will ever meet.

*****

*Um, when I was thirteen, I had braces and glasses that took up two-thirds of my face…and stretch pants with stirrups were a staple in my closet. Yeah, not so first-date-ready. Though, I did rock the slouch socks.

You can find Melissa at: www.melissatagg.com

My Rating:  5 Stars!

‘It was a whisper. A prodding. A conviction. In another life, in hi sold one where he was a man of deep faith, he might’ve believed that was a divine murmur. God’s voice. Saying his name. Letting him know someone saw and heard and cared.’

Melissa Tagg takes us back to Maple Valley in this first novel in a new series. How I love that town! There are but a few fictional places I would like to visit or even live, and Maple Valley is one.

Mara Bristol has ran from a devastating experience and was taken in by Lenora, who bought the old Everwood Bed and Breakfast, with the intent of fixing it up completely. But now, Lenora has left and five weeks have passed with no sign of her. Mara is still taking care of the B&B when one night a stranger passes out on her porch in the midst of a terrific storm.

Detective Marshall Hawkins has been given three months’ of administrative leave because of his erratic job performance. Marshall has lost his 6 year old daughter to leukemia and cannot seem to get past his grief, not even two years later. It rules his life. So he gets in his truck and drives and ends up at the Everwood, head throbbing with a migraine and a storm brewing. For some reason, he feels he should stay and help Mara fix up the place and turn it into a thriving bed and breakfast.

As these two begin to work together, both experience something wonderful as their burdens seem to be shifting . Marshall is broken, oh so broken, and Mara, too, is broken and we are allowed the blessing of seeing them both journey into healing. There is even a mystery, at which Tagg proves herself a dab hand in creating.

Every time I read a Melissa Tagg book, I completely bury myself in it and hate to come up for necessary tasks. She causes her readers to simply fall in love with all her wonderful characters in this precious town. I want to go to Maple Valley so badly! She does add her trademark thread of humor throughout also, along with a powerful spiritual theme. I smiled, I laughed, I shed tears as Tagg once again proved her writing is classic inspirational romance, fit for the keeper shelf and destined to be read again and again. Well done!

*My thanks to the publisher and author for a preview copy of this book. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. I was not encouraged nor expected to leave a positive review.

Publisher: Larkspur Press
Publication Date: May 28, 2019

Get The Book Here: https://amzn.to/2ZLbbAD

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