Violet by Design cover image

We have a guest today on The Book Lady. Young adult author Melissa Walker stopped by to discuss her newest book, Violet by Design, the sequel to Violet on the Runway, which came out last fall.

Hi, Melissa. Thanks for coming to talk to us. Could you please tell us a little about the Violet books?
Thanks for having me. Violet on the Runway is about a gawky wallflower from NC who gets scouted to come to NYC and enter the fashion world of runways and magazine shoots. She deals with a lot — from the jealousy of best friends at home to the drugs-and-eating-disorders world of modeling in the city. Ultimately, she’s not SURE she wants to continue.

But in Violet by Design, a chance to travel internationally lures Violet back into the fashion fray. She falls in love, gets criticized for gaining 5 pounds, speaks out to the press (much to the dismay of her agent) and has to decide once again if this shallow but beautiful world is right for her.

Other than the intriguing premise and fabulous reviews, why should people read the Violet series?
Well, lots of people have read some shallow fashion titles in the past. But I tried to make Violet about more than stacked heels and It bags (although those are always fun to throw in the mix). The fashion world has serious sides — the weight issue, the competition among girls, the sometimes over-the-top party scene — and I hope that watching Violet struggle with navigating those things will resonate with readers.

Like many of your characters, you’ve worked in the fashion industry. I assume much of your research, and even your inspiration, came from that background?
As an editor at ELLEgirl, I interviewed a lot of fashion types and up-and-coming models. Peeking into their world was fascinating, and the idea to put a real girl into that madness was too appealing to ignore! That’s also how I did my research — right in their model apartments.

I know everyone takes a different road to publishing. What was yours like?
I did things backwards. I’d been at ELLEgirl magazine writing and editing for a few years, so I put together my magazine clips and a one-page summary of what I imagined Violet on the Runway would be about. I sent that out to an editor, who asked to see the first two chapters, so I sat down to write those.

She came back with an offer! I was thrilled, but also scared, so I asked her to give me a week to find an agent. I asked friends and people I knew in publishing for advice on which agents I should talk to. I found a fantastic agent and we went from there… It was a fun process!

So now that you’re agented and editored (I’m reserving the right to make up words), what’s your writing scheduled like?
When I’m working on a book, I set it up this way: I eat breakfast, then write. I don’t allow myself to have lunch until I have 1000 words on the page. (I hope that doesn’t sound weird/food disordery!). They don’t have to be good words, but they have to be there. I do that five days a week, ideally; afternoons are spent working on magazine stories. Of course, some days I play hooky and watch Oprah — I have to let myself enjoy the perks of being freelance every once in a while! But in general, I am pretty consistent with the 1000-word rule.

Where do you write? In an office? A coffee shop? A comfy chair in your living room?
Comfy chair! It’s pink with little yellow flowers and it catches the sunlight really well.

I’m sure you spent plenty of time thinking about what life would be like when you were published in book form. How has it been similar to or different from what you had expected?
It’s a total dream that someone will actually pay me to write, so I just want to say that I feel completely grateful for my career! That said, when people ask me why I’m not on the bestseller lists yet, or where my big book tour will take me, I feel like I’m disappointing THEIR ideas of what “being published” is. It ain’t all first class and bon-bons… it’s more like working REALLY REALLY hard to find readers for your book, because you’re the one who cares the most.

Any advice for writers out there hoping to become published, too?
I wrote a quick guide for teens here, and I think it goes for adults too…

So what’s next? Another Violet book or something else?
Violet in Private is book three — it comes out in August! I’m trying to start work on a new idea, but I’m still at the “taking suggestions” stage. Anyone?

Well, Melissa, I’ve asked a ton of questions, but there must have been something left out. So, what should I have asked that I didn’t?
Um, maybe you should ask me what my favorite wig color is. It’s blue.

Have questions or comments? Melissa will stop by to respond throughout the next few days. And if you want even more info on Melissa and her books, be sure to stop by her website, or check out Violet by Design and Violet on the Runway on Amazon.com. And, of course, don’t forget to visit her blog for fun updates, insights into the fashion industry, some great contests and, of course, writing about…writing!