Monday, May 11, 2009

MEET MELISSA NEAL (DR. MISSY)

Shari: As long as I have been on the Children’s Writers list you have been lurking there. Occasionally, when least expected, you have been known to burst from the bushes in your black cat suit brandishing a spear gun and shouting “You’re next Bushida!”. These infrequent outbursts have been known to make writers everywhere spit coffee through their noses and ruin an otherwise perfectly good computer keyboard. All of which leads me to ask “Who are you?”
Are you truly a children’s writer, or simply a gatecrasher?

Missy: My agent thinks I’m a children’s writer, although lately I haven’t been as active as I should. (Life sometimes gets in the way of writing.) I won the Kathryn O’Connor Memorial Scholarship from SCBWI-IL a few years back because they were so stunned by my children’s writing.

Shari: What are your credentials for writing?

Missy: I’ve been published in just about everything. I think the first thing I published was for the April Fools edition of the university newspaper, in which I conducted a bogus interview with the school president. I had him admit to stealing silverware from the faculty cafeteria and hiding under his desk singing show tunes, among other things. It was quite a hit with my fellow students.

The most recent thingie was a big people novel, as ace children’s book reviewer Sue Corbett puts it, because saying “adult novel” sometimes gives people the wrong idea. That novel was written under a ridiculous penname I have since come to regret. I can never remember how to spell it.

The best thing I ever wrote was an email in which I went on and on about a planet where everyone worships William Shatner. That night, I got an email from a man I didn’t know. He said he was sitting at his desk with a loaded gun, getting ready to commit suicide. By a strange karmic coincidence, my email popped up on his computer. He read it, started laughing, and decided not to die after all.


Shari: That must have been a very moving experience. It certainly demonstrates the power of words to touch people's lives.


Missy: I remember trembling and crying for an hour afterward. I had no idea emails could do something like that. It was almost too much to handle.

Shari: How did you happen to join the CW list? Was this a conspiracy put together by your cohorts Bev Cooke, Dotti Enderle (Old Butterfly Nose), and Jan Fields to infiltrate the ranks and shake things up a bit?

Missy: I searched the Yahoo lists one day, found CW, and Bob’s your uncle.

Shari: No, actually Bob's my husband. Where did you meet the aforementioned conspirators?

Missy: I didn’t know anyone on CW, or so I thought. Turned out that another member and I went to high school together. The other people became pals because they have a great sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. I did meet a member of CW in person around midnight in the parking lot of a Waffle House near Nashville, TN. I mean, it wasn’t a coincidence or anything—we meant to do it.

Shari: What have you written besides E-Bob and Toast and when can we expect to see that published? Will you illustrate it yourself? What have you had published so far?

Missy: I haven’t had any children’s books published yet. Right now, as far as I know, my agent is pushing Good Knight Chris, the tale of a girl who wants to become a knight in the kingdom of Knobsoggit. It is the only medieval story ever written that includes the death of a Los Angeles Angels centerfielder. It has a man named Oblong Larkspit, some space aliens, and a naked wizard. Oh, and a poodle named Dotti. I can’t draw so I won’t be illustrating that or anything else.

Shari: You have a delightful sense of humor. I suspect you are professor in real life and write only educational papers. Am I close? Is that why you occasionally sign Dr. Missy? Doctor of what?

Missy: In my younger days I was a television producer/director and had my own radio show. Eventually I stopped doing that stuff for some reason and earned an MA and PhD in Mass Communications. Then, as you so cleverly noted, I became a professor in real life and published all manner of books and articles under yet another name because I’m sneaky. (My academic stuff, for some strange reason, remains staggeringly popular in Germany.) I am no longer a professor because one day during Christmas break I woke up and realized I couldn’t take the politicking and bickering of my colleagues any more. I handed in my resignation that very day and went off to Florida to windsurf. So that’s why I’m Dr. Missy, plus it’s a lot easier to say than my real last name, which is incredibly convoluted and confuses people. I am also called DeeDee, by the way. No one knows why.

Shari: What tips can you offer our readers about writing?

Missy: Read lots of children’s books. Zillions of them. And then eat them, in order to make sure you fully experience the story and the craft that went into creating that story.

Shari: Tell us about your writing space.

Missy: I have a den to myself, featuring a lovely Tommy Bahama writing desk with an iMac perched on it and a small inspirational figurine of Señor Misterioso, among other things. Two walls and good chunk of the floor are taken up with books; the other walls hold my collection of animation cels. (Yes, I spelled that right.)

Scattered around the room are twenty or so Barbies, my fave being the Catwoman Barbie, the one wearing the leather catsuit and brandishing a whip. I still can’t believe Mattel authorized that one! The most recent Barbie is actually Tippi Hedrin from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. She has a huge black bird stuck to her forehead, trying to peck her eyes out, another on her shoulder trying to pluck out her jugular, and one yanking on the skirt of her very tasteful outfit. What is going on at Mattel?!

Shari: What do you wear when writing?

Missy: You aren’t one of those people who call up late at night, breathing heavy and demanding to know what the other person is wearing, are you? It’s okay if you are. I just wanted to know.

As we’ve discussed many times on CW, I always wear a black latex catsuit, clutching a speargun in one hand while typing with the other. Except for today, when I’m wearing plaid shorts and a t-shirt with a mermaid on it.


Shari: Please tell us about your family. Do you have any pets?

Missy: I have two teenage sons who are driving me crazy. I also keep a British trauma surgeon around the house, just in case. We have an oversized Staffordshire bull terrier who was, er, liberated from a jerk who trains fighting dogs. Our dog is incredibly strong and has about 3,000 teeth. It’s a good thing he likes us.

Thank you for participating in this interview. Your surprise visits brighten my day and I am sure others would agree. I hope we have shed some light on the real “Missy”.

Comments on this and other posts this week will be elligible for the e-book drawing on May 16th,2009.

4 comments:

Jody Jensen Shaffer said...

Missy,
Would you please get busy writing children's books because I know your agent probably needs a new Porsche or something.

Loved the interview, Shari. :)

Shari Lyle-Soffe said...

Jody

Thanks for checking in.

Shari

Margot Finke said...

Shari, you are a super interviewer. You asked Dr M exactly what we were all drooling to know about her.

And Missy, like great wine and cheese, time has matured you into a bigger, better, and crazier CW member.

Yeah, tartan shorts are a good choice,mate. Catsuits might look "cool" but those heat rashes are the pits!!

Spear guns ahoy, mate. Thanks for the great read!

Margot Finke -

http://www.margotfinke.com
http://margotfinke.blogspot.com/
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FREE: A Link to me reading any Autographed Picture Book you BUY from my website.

Christina E. Rodriguez said...

That intro and review are painting QUITE the hilarious images in my head.... and those comments are even better. Thanks for giving me a laugh today, as well as introducing me to a great new writer!