Melanie Harlow offers advice on whether or not to read book reviews, writing tips + her least favorite part of (self)publishing

Melanie Harlow is a USA Today bestselling author of The Speak Easy Duet, Happy Crazy Love, and Frenched New Adult series. After leaving her job teaching high school students she decided to pursue her dream of writing.

A voracious reader herself, Melanie enjoys reading books by authors including Liane Moriarty, Anita Shreve, and Kate Morton. When she’s not writing stories to entertain her readers, she lives a pretty active lifestyle as a mom and dance teacher. She also loves binge watching tv, Game of Thrones being one of her favorites.

Rachel Moulden/IndieReader (RM): You taught high school English and Social Studies, was a freelance writer, and are a dance teacher! What gave you the big push to pursue a writing career?

Melanie Harlow (MH): I had a dozen first chapters gathering dust on my computer, and after I made the decision not to return to teaching high school full time (I had two kids at that point), I just thought, “This is it. Either do it or stop talking about it.”

RM: How long have you been a dance teacher and what type dance do you teach? What do you enjoy the most about it?

MH: I’ve taught steadily now for the last nine years. Prior to that I taught off and on, but I was pretty busy when I was teaching school full time! I’ve cut back to one night a week since my writing career has taken off, but it’s something I enjoy, and both my daughters (they are 11 and 8 now) are very into dance. Plus it gets me out of the house!

RM: You’ve written numerous series over the years. Which series is your absolute favorite to write and which series would you recommend to readers who are unfamiliar with your work?

MH: There is no way I could choose a favorite! I enjoyed them all. I will say that writing the historical series (The Speak Easy Duet) was probably the most interesting and challenging. It’s set in Detroit during Prohibition, and I’m fascinated by local history at that time. The research was really fun for me. I was an American Studies major in college, so history is a huge love of mine.

RM: Have you ever considered writing in another genre? If so, which genre and why?

MH: Absolutely. I’d love to write another historical, or maybe a dual timeline story–Kate Morton is a hero of mine. I’d love to write a romantic suspense, maybe something like the Stephanie Plum series. I love Janet Evanovich’s combination of humor, suspense, and romance. And I’d really like to write women’s fiction in the vein of Liane Moriarty. I worship her!

RM: Tell us who designed your covers and how they came about.

MH: My historical and Frenched series covers were designed by Tom Barnes, a great guy who happens to be married to an author friend. I love those covers and think they’re perfect for my brand–feminine, flirty, romantic–and also for the series, since all the books are written from the heroine’s POV.

I switched to men on the covers of the Happy Crazy Love series, and those covers were designed by my publicist, Jenn Watson of Social Butterfly PR. Jenn “gets” a romance reader’s mind and knows the trends–I trust her judgment entirely. And I love those covers because that series is dual POV and the hero’s journey is just as important as the heroine’s…possibly even more.

The covers for Man Candy, After We Fall, and If You Were Mine were designed by Letitia Hasser at Romantic Book Affair Designs. I adore those covers–they perfectly capture the feel of each book!

RM: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

MH: I read reviews that readers send me, and I will respond to thank them. I don’t seek them out to read because I don’t feel they’re for an author–they’re for other readers. Occasionally, I will forget my policy not to look at them and see some bad ones, then I remember why I don’t look at them. I never respond to negative reviews. Ever. My advice would be not to read them! And if you do and regret it, then look at reviews for a book you LOVE, even a classic. Plenty of awful reviews for those books too! That always makes me feel better.

RM: What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?

MH: Giving myself permission to write utter crap was most helpful. I had to learn to stop censoring myself and get over the fear that I wasn’t good enough. I also stopped worrying about what my mother would think–because she is not allowed to read my books! Reading reviews can be pretty destructive. Writers are sensitive creatures.

RM: What is your least favorite part of the publishing and writing process?

MH: Self-promotion. It’s exhausting and nauseating. But you have to do it.

RM: What are some perks of independent publishing that aspiring writers might not know about?

MH: I love having complete control–over deadlines, covers, titles, blurbs, pricing, marketing. Something not working? You can change it. You can be nimble and adapt. It’s a ton of work, and I never had a desire to be a CEO, but that’s exactly what I am. And I certainly like getting 70% royalties!

RM: What do your friends and family think of your writing?

MH: My sister-in-law is the only family member who reads my books, and that’s how I prefer it. I loaned her my Kindle last summer and she gobbled them all up! My friends who read romance read them and say they love them–maybe they’re just being nice, I don’t know! Everyone is very supportive and happy for me, whether they read or not.

RM: Do you have any new novels or series planned for 2017?

MH: Later this month (2/28) I’ll release If You Were Mine, and after that I have a co-writing project planned for late spring release, and then hopefully two fall releases. All of those will be standalone novels.