MELT is a brutal love story set against the metaphorical backdrop of The Wizard of Oz (not a retelling). When sixteen year old Dorothy moves to the small town of Highland Park, she meets, and falls for Joey – a “bad boy” who tells no one about the catastrophic domestic violence he witnesses at home. Can these two lovers survive peer pressure, Joey’s reputation, and his alcoholism?
Told in dual first person, Joey's words are scattered on the page - reflecting his broken state. Dorothy is the voice of reason - until something so shattering happens that she, too, may lose her grip. Can their love endure, or will it melt away?
MELT is based on true events. It is both a chilling tale of abuse, and a timeless romance. It will hit you like a punch in the face, and also seep through the cracks in your soul.
Selene CastrovillaUncommonYA. Selene holds an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. Visit her website www.SeleneCastrovilla.com for book excerpts and more information!
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Interview with Selene Castrovilla
1. Being a HUGE fan of all things Oz, this story really stood out to me. The original novel by L. Frank Baum has spawned many adaptations, yet you've chose to write MELT in a way that sets Oz as a metaphorical backdrop to the story. Of all things, I have to ask, why Oz?
It really wasn’t a choice. At least consciously. I will share first that I have always been struck by the themes in Oz and how they relate to humanity. The search for home, for acceptance, for love. Being a stranger in a strange land. Trying to overcome what seem like insurmountable obstacles. These are problems most souls dwell on. Mine certainly does.
I have referred to Oz in smaller ways in my previously published novels. Even in those instances, I didn’t plan on inserting those lines. They just came out, seemingly on their own. That’s how much I identify with those themes.
A few weeks before I knew that I was going to write MELT, a voice in my head told me to buy The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I always listen to that voice! So I bought the book, but got busy and stuck it on a table in my living room. I figured I’d get to it, but didn’t know when.
I take boxing lessons, and got close with my trainer, Joe. He told more than once, “My dad used to beat my mom.” That was sad, but a little too vague to be inspiring. Then one day he looked me in the eyes and said, “My dad used to come home every day and shove a gun down my mom’s throat.” That was a specific image that stuck in my head. He also told me about becoming a teen alcoholic, and how violent he was while drunk. He was tagged a “bad” kid – but no one ever bothered to find out what was going on inside. Finally, he told me about the one girl who believed in him, and loved him.
One night he said to me, “You’re gonna write my story. I just know it.”
I went home, and the voice told me to open The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The page I turned to was the scene in which Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City. The Guardian of the Gate is shocked to see them, saying:
“But I thought you had gone to visit the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“We did visit her,” said the Scarecrow.
“And she let you go again?” asked the man, in wonder.
“She could not help it, for she is melted,” explained the Scarecrow.
She is melted. That line resounded with me. I wrote it three times a piece of junk mail. Then I wrote, “Melt.” And I knew that was the title of my book. I started writing Joe’s story – it just came pouring out – with quotes from The Wizard of Oz interspersed. The first section is called “No place like home,” and we witness the father abusing the mother in front of Joey and his brothers. In “Munchkinland,” the second part, Joey meets good-girl Dorothy in Dunkin’ Donuts. This unlikely couple heads down the metaphorical Yellow Brick Road looking for a way to beat the odds and be together. But what’s waiting for them ahead?
Writing this story was simultaneously terrifying and calming. I was scared for Joey and Dorothy, but I knew that I was doing what I was meant to do. I was setting out on my own Yellow Brick Road.
I hope that answers your question, because it’s the best I can do. I don’t understand the entire process myself, but I trusted it and still do. I know this was meant to be.
2. Romance isn't always easy and fun. MELT is described as a "both a chilling tale of abuse, and a timeless romance". What do you believe that MELT will add to the YA genre? What, in your opinion, makes MELT unique?
Well, I don’t know every book in the YA genre, but I think that any book that “tells the truth” in its own unique way adds something to the mix. The most unique thing about MELT is the uniqueness of Joey, his situation, and his subsequent outlook on life. As I’ve revealed, these things really happened. How many other kids are witnessing a form of domestic violence, and how are they being shaped by their environment? This isn’t the first book about abuse, but I think the combination of love story and abuse hasn’t been used much. And I think having two points of view adds to the richness of the story – we learn Dorothy’s truth as well. You see, there is no “ultimate truth.” Each of us lives by and is bound to our own. I think dual truths also makes MELT unique, and adds something to the YA genre. But it’s all up to the reader to decide.
3. From childrens historical books to YA romance reads, your scope of writing really is unique. As a history buff I am so excited to be working with a fellow history nerd. With such diversity between your genres, how do you find balance?
I don’t! LOL. Well, the stories are all about humanity. I try to explore people and their motivations. Why do they hurt each other? My history books all take the human approach. In By the Sword, George Washington loses at the Battle of Long Island, but instead of surrendering he tries – and succeeds – to save his remaining men in an amazing overnight escape from Brooklyn! And Benjamin Tallmadge – an untried soldier horrified by having to hurt another human being – risks his life by returning to save his horse! A feel good story in the midst of a war, with a dual happy ending. Wow.
And my next book will explore Benedict Arnold’s betrayal of George Washington – a man who loved him like a son. Arnold is a real life Darth Vader!
So you see, the same principles of writing apply to both genres for me. Tell a riveting story, and concentrate on the people.
Practically speaking, the writing process is very different for the two genres.
I spend about three years researching each history book, consulting every primary source and visiting places when possible. I can’t run all over the page willy-nilly. I have to stick with the facts, and mold them into a compelling story. I sometimes get a headache when writing my history books, and I think it’s from the stress of confinement.
Writing my novels, my mind runs free and wild. It’s my heart that aches, from what I my characters must endure – and because I don’t have the answers for the questions I raise.
As far as finding balance, I try to be working on one of each at all times. When I get temporarily burned out on one, I switch to the other. It’s like working out with weights, and then doing cardio.
4. You have recently announced that MELT will have a sequel. Can you give us some insight to what's next in the story? Do you plan on setting it to the backdrop of any other famous literary works? More Oz perhaps?
I know the path the story will be taking, but I’m not comfortable revealing it because I’m not yet steady on my feet – and there’s always the chance that it will take a different turn. I will say that I’m excited, and there’s a different focal point in the story which came as a surprise to me. You will learn what happens immediately after MELT ends – but there’s a lot more, and the more is what really interests me. When I finished writing MELT I thought I’d said enough – that I’d resolved the dilemma in the story, and any loose ends could be surmised. I like readers to have an active role too – and I figured they could decide for themselves how things played out after that. Through feedback I have learned that readers want more – that they want to continue their journey with these characters. At first I was apprehensive. What now? But then the universe presented me with everything I need – just like last time. My frustration comes from not having enough time to work on it right now. I will carve the hours for it soon!
As far as a backdrop – nothing has come to me yet. Maybe it won’t at all. We’ll have to wait and see.
5.Do you have any words of advice for anybody interested in taking their own journey down the publishing path?
Write the best manuscript you can, and then share it with a writing group. Fellow writers you can trust, who work in a similar genre. (The group can be on-line of you can’t find anyone in person.) Don’t submit too soon – you don’t get a second chance with an editor or an agent!
Read books you love and study the passages to see how the writers seduced you. Good books are the best teachers!
Of course, writing classes are awesome if you can afford them. If not, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is amazing. It’s the best book on writing I know. Stephen King’s On Writing is wonderful, too – and fascinating.
When you’re ready to submit, go to writing conferences. I met my first editor at one!
Enjoy the journey – it’s your own personal trip down The Yellow Brick Road!
6. Random fact about yourself?
I love coffee. I used to love Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but either their blend or brewing method changed – or I did. It tastes weak to me now. So sad. I grind my own, and drink it with coconut creamer.
I love to write on my deck, over-looking the water. There’s no place like home!
I have several cats, some of whom don’t get along. They’re all rescues in one way or another – I’m a sucker! I have one living in my bedroom and one in my office – while my fifteen year old son has one living in his room. We also have two outside cats that my son often lets sleep in his room as well. Then I have one who comes and goes – basically using me for food and water.
I love quotes, and have them all over my house. (I also post a quote a day on my Facebook page.)
My home has been rebuilt from Sandy, and the rooms are different shades of lavender and purple – my favorite color!
I love flan. If I had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life, that would be it.
I am a Howard Stern super fan.
I like quirky things, like rubber ducks in funny outfits.
I once met Jerry Maren – now the last surviving Munchkin. This was a chance encounter!
Thanks for having me on your blog, Ethan! I want to apologize for the error in my book which you privately pointed out to me: I combined “The Lullaby League” and “The Lollipop Guild” into the erroneous “Lullaby League.” It turns out I’ve been singing the song wrong for years. Very sorry! I will correct it in future editions.
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Alright readers, that's all I have for you on the topic of MELT by Selene Castrovilla. I have read this book and plan on posting my review here in the coming weeks! I cannot wait to share my thoughts with you all! Be on the look out for that! If this sounds like the read for you, be sure to get yourself a copy and be sure to enter the giveaway before you mosey on out of here! HUGE thanks to the Selene Castrovilla for the interview and to the awesome team at Jen Halligan PR for allowing me to participate in this blog tour. Until next time, Happy Reading!