For most of her life, Melissa Macfie has pursued artistic endeavors such as drawing, painting, and sculpting. She holds a M.Ed. in English Education from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, and has spent the last sixteen years as a public school English teacher. She also spent a short time serving as the co-host of Alpha Centauri & Beyond, an Internet talk radio show about science and science fiction. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Donald. Their children, Elizabeth and Donald, are grown and pursuing their own dreams.
What kind of books do you write?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with the extraordinary in everyday life. Rainbows, birth, the affinity some seem to have with animals, to name a few - all scientifically explained, but yet there is still something more to each. Call it magic, miracle, or divine intervention; it is a mystery for which I don’t want or need a plausible explanation. I would much rather think of what we conceive as reality as layered, and much like the color spectrum, we, with our imperfect eyes, cannot see all. There may be multiple layers for all I know, but the most real is our everyday life. We know this reality all too well - struggling to pay our bills, find a job we can at least tolerate, raise our kids, and find a healthy relationship. It’s easy to lose ourselves here, but there are glimpses and traces of something else, another layer. This is the mystery. In it lay coincidence, destiny, and purpose. So, as a result, I write about a fantastical, layered world, and one woman’s quest to find where she belongs.
Can you describe your writing why?
My motivation is tied to my choice to become an author. In the beginning, that choice wasn’t a conscious one. I had a particularly bad day at work, the kind that makes you reassess your career choice. Everyone has those days, the kind of day that really makes to reflect on what you were thinking when you decided to be a … It doesn’t matter how you finish that sentence. The funny thing is I can’t remember what it was that had me so upset, but certainly then it was earth-shattering. I remember thinking on my way home, “What if I quit my job, and ran away from home?” I never meant to follow through with the idea; it was a fantasy. Everyone has them or so I’m led to believe, and at this moment in time, this was my fantasy…quitting my job. The other part was a reaction to not wanting to go home, even in my fantasy world, to tell my family that I quit. I didn’t quit. I am still at the same job, and I truly love being a teacher. I just had a bad day.
But at the time being the responsible person I am, I did the next best thing. I closed the door to my office, sat in front of my computer, opened a Word document, and typed, “I’ve quit my job, and ran away from home,” in quotation marks. For two years, this was the first line of my secret manuscript. I went out to buy a USB the next day and transferred all evidence of this document to it. I was perfectly happy keeping it secret until I overheard a conversation between two colleagues at work. That conversation was about a middle-grade book one of the teachers was writing. I listened, asked questions, and became comfortable enough to venture forth that I too was writing a novel. The resulting shift in the conversation and their genuine interest gave me the courage to tell my family.
Now three and a half years after my first publication, I write because I love it. It is a world I control, (or at least my characters allow me to believe I have control, most of the time.) There are no external mandates stating when and how it has to be done other than ones that I impose myself. It is so unlike my teaching profession and I have come to find that I have indeed broken free and I am actually living my fantasy when I write.
Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most
Excerpt from Fate’s Hand: Book One of the Celtic Prophecy
The mile and half mile marker signs for the Darian rest stop taunted her. She could see it in the distance, its Golden Arches lit, as if from an ocean away. An hour later, she finally pulled into the only available spot in the parking lot. The vibrations of shifting gears woke Spencer and he jumped up and danced around the front seat. Brenawyn could barely hook the leash onto his collar.
“Hold still, dog. Oww! Stop stepping on me. Ouch! Remind me to get your nails trimmed.”
Spencer licked her face and whined. “All right, I know. Five hours is a long time to be stuck in the car. I know. I have been stuck in here too. I couldn’t help it, though.” Throwing a glance back at the congested highway, “People who can’t drive should stay home.”
Yanked by her dog the second the car door opened, she swore that she’d leash train him yet, no matter how long it took. Tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, he pranced in circles around her, bumping her legs and stepping on her toes. Adjusting her hold on his lead, Brenawyn led him to the scalped grass.
Here, she let out the retractable leash enough to allow him to sniff everything within a five-foot range. She glanced around, her father’s voice in her head - always be aware of your surroundings, Bren - and saw the odd shadows the cars cast in the poorly lit lot. Faceless silhouettes moved on missions to and from the building. Music thumped from an open car somewhere nearby; she could feel the bass in the soles of her feet. No one looked threatening. No one looked friendly, either.
“Okay, time to go, Spence.” Turning around, she dragged the dog back to the car, opened the door, and struggled to get him in as he whined. “Just hush. I’ll be right back.”
She opened the restroom door and, a fetid odor hit her. Lazy gnats buzzed low over the stagnant water pooled beneath the sinks and around the toilets. She hesitated for a moment, considering her less than adequate foot attire. Why had she drunk the whole extra-large coffee in the car? It left her no choice but to brave the bathroom. “God, I hope that’s water,” she prayed as she navigated around the larger pools. She inspected the stalls - no paper, no paper, not flushed, no paper, God knows what on the seat, and no paper. Rooting around in her purse, Brenawyn excavated the last two tissues from their plastic sleeve. If only she had replaced them with a new pack before she left, though two were better than nothing. Choosing the first stall with no paper, Brenawyn closed herself within the small space.
The adjacent stall’s hinges squeaked as she turned to flush the toilet with her foot. Hands braced on either side for balance, Brenawyn glimpsed an arthritic hand reaching under the stall wall. “I’m sorry, there is no extra paper in here. I had to use a tissue myself.” But there was no other response than the hand withdrawing.
Brenawyn jumped and dropped her purse when a screech bellowed out from the adjacent stall. She knocked on the stall wall, concerned, but as she bent to retrieve her fallen bag, the gnarled hand darted under the wall again to clamp onto her ankle. Heart pounding, she pivoted and wrenched herself loose from the bony claw’s vise-like grip.
The shrieking continued and the claw found her again. Shit, this was just the sort of thing her father had warned her about. She pulled the handle. The door didn’t budge. Panicked, she yanked on it. Nothing. The latch. Undo the latch first. Brenawyn stomped on the wrist, feeling a wet pop reverberate through the sole of her shoe.
She flung the door open and dashed out. I fall, I’m dead. Her flip flops slipped and squeaked across the floor; she lost one along the way. She left it. She crashed into the door and pitched herself into the arms of an unsuspecting man walking into the shared restroom vestibule. “Are ye hurt, lass?”
Dazed, Brenawyn clutched the wall of muscle, finding brief comfort, and she looked up into bright blue eyes, but she had to get away. “Sorry. Don’t go in there.”
The safety of the car beckoned in the distance; Spencer was barking and clawing at the window. She threw her bag on the hood and frantically searched through it, dumping half its contents before she found her keys. She fumbled, her fingers stiff and awkward, before finally grabbing the keyless remote. Pressing both the unlock and panic buttons, she scooped up her purse, whisked the wallet, passport, and other junk strewn across the hood into the bag, and threw herself into the car, jabbing the buttons over and over again long after the first contact locked the doors. Spencer stood over her lap, hunched low, growling out the window.
The panic alarm screamed. No one in the packed lot paid attention. Finally finding the right button, she disengaged the alarm before she jammed the key into the ignition, started the car, and revved the engine. Wrestling the dog to the passenger seat, she didn’t see the woman approach. Her head whipped to attention, eyes locked with the old hag as the car rocked from the impact of the woman’s fists on the hood of the car.
“Shit.” Brenawyn threw the gearshift in reverse without looking and careened out of the parking space, the smell of burnt rubber filling her nose. Spencer rushed into the backseat and growled at the woman.
Brenawyn craned her neck to get another look, but the woman was gone. A car horn blared and she slammed on her brakes seconds before plowing into the hag. She ripped through the gears as she threw the car into first. Twisting her neck to judge the distance, “What the fuck is going on?” Three hundred or more feet between the car and the parking space—no one could move that fast.
The old woman stood in the middle of the bypass road, cradling her arm, ignoring horns and screeching brakes. She raised her arms, the left wrist hanging at an impossible angle. Eyes glowing with red incandescence met Brenawyn’s stare.
“Oh, hell no!” She popped the clutch and whipped the wheel to swerve around the woman.
A line of cars waiting for their chance to sit in traffic materialized beyond the building, but Brenawyn leaned on the horn and took the shoulder. Gravel hit the undercarriage like machine gun fire as she flew past the stopped cars at breakneck speed. #
Tell us about your latest project
I am working on the fourth book in The Celtic Prophecy series, Amergin’s Covenant. In it, Brenawyn must broker a peace between gods and humans, and uncover the remaining members of the Coven who covertly machinate to seize divine power.
Amergin’s Covenant will be published in June 2019.
What's your favourite cake?
I can’t decide which I love more -
A - Chocolate cake (Duncan Hines with the pudding preferable) with a homemade chocolate whip cream icing.
B - My mother’s homemade strawberry shortcake. The shortcake recipe has orange zest in it and comes out so light, with homemade whip cream and fresh strawberries (in-season.)
Strawberry shortcake is a lovely summery choice. You can connect with Melissa on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.
Join me next week when I'll be having a slice of cake with Nix Whittaker.
If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please fill in the form found here. I'd be delighted to have you.
You can also support my writing endeavours and buy me tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!