Interview with Melanie Shankle
Whether you are newly married or have been in a relationship for decades, it comes as no surprise that marriage takes work. Finding a way to blend two unique personalities under one roof can be challenging for some couples. Yet, when the stars align, there is no better feeling than the comfort of falling asleep in the arms of your soul mate. Being in a faith-based relationship filled with love and respect is truly one of life’s most cherished blessings.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels Melanie Shankle addresses this very topic in her latest release, The Antelope in the Living Room. This popular blogger and New York Times bestselling author of Sparkly Green Earrings is back sharing her hilarious perspective on the ups and downs of marital bliss. Through her tongue-in-cheek wisdom and hilarious advice for surviving difficult times in today’s real world, Melanie encourages the reader to embrace the joys and conflicts involved with finding your one true love.
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Jen: As a New York Times bestselling author, your path to publication is a story in itself. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please briefly share with us your educational and professional background.
Melanie: I graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communications. I chose that major because it required the least amount of math classes, but it turned out to be a good choice because I really had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. Ultimately, I took a job in financial sales right out of college (I was horrible at it.) and that eventually led me to a career in pharmaceutical sales that lasted for twelve years.
Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as a writer.
Melanie: I don’t know that I had one big “Aha!” moment as much as just little moments along the way. The first step was when I started blogging in July of 2006. It was totally on a whim, but I rediscovered a part of myself that had been dormant for a long time. Writing again was the creative outlet I needed and as the blog grew I began to realize that I might have the chance to do it for a living and not just a hobby.
Jen: In 2006, you started the Big Mama Blog. For my readers who may not be familiar with its content, please tell us how it evolved.
Melanie: I originally started the blog with the sole purpose of keeping track of family memories. My daughter Caroline was two at the time and was growing and changing so fast that I wanted a way to keep track of our lives and writing seemed like the natural way to do that. And so the blog is truly just about our everyday life. Or as my dad says, “It’s the Seinfeld of blogs.” Which means it’s a blog about nothing.
Jen: Please take us on a brief tour of your blog highlighting points of interest.
Melanie: There isn’t much to highlight. It really is just a journal of our everyday life. However, if you’re a fashion lover, then you might enjoy Fashion Friday. Each Friday I post ten things I’ve found that week in stores and online. I try to make it a good mix of price points and styles.
Jen: In 2013, your first book Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turnwas published. How did you arrive at the premise?
Melanie: Sparkly Green Earrings is a memoir of my days of early motherhood and it seemed like the natural choice. The whole reason that I initially began blogging was to record memories of the time in my life when I was raising a toddler and the book was a natural extension of that. My family is the heart of my blog.
Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long does it take for you to write a book? And, what is the most challenging part of the writing process?
Melanie: It depends. If you factor in all the time I waste on Facebook and Twitter and watching funny videos on YouTube and alphabetizing the ingredients in my pantry, then it takes me anywhere from six to eight months to write a book. But if you take all that away and just factor in real writing time? I would guess about three months.
So much of my productivity depends on the day and my mood. There are times I can write a chapter in one day and other times that a chapter takes two to three weeks. I wish I knew why because I far prefer the former over the latter. Ultimately the key is to make myself sit down and write something every day, even if it all ends up being terrible. Writing is all about the discipline, which has never been one of my strong suits.
Jen: Your latest release The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life is an addictive, humorous read about your marriage. What inspired you to write this book?
Melanie: When I was writing SGE, I kept thinking of so many funny moments from my marriage that didn’t necessarily fit into a book about motherhood. And I feel like there are so many books out there that tell us how to be better wives or how to pray for our husbands, but what about just something funny that can make women laugh about how absurd it sometimes feels to share a house and a life with a boy.
Jen: How do you manage to balance your work, marriage, and faith with such a demanding schedule?
Melanie: I don’t know that I always do it well. My goal is always that my faith and family are my top priority and everything else falls in line behind those things. Part of achieving that is that I really try to stay off the computer and social media when my people are around. I write when my daughter is at school and after she goes to bed at night. But it’s a constant push and pull to figure out how to manage it all. Some days I get it right and other days I don’t. The key is to give myself grace.
Jen: What has been the most essential life lesson you have learned from being in a committed relationship?
Melanie: That it’s not all about me. I think one of the most humbling things about marriage is realizing how selfish you can be. I always feel like Mother Theresa until things don’t go my way and then I feel that thing rise up in me where I just want things to be the way I want them. And that doesn’t always happen when you’re sharing a life with another person. But in the long run, the payoff is huge because being married to my husband has made me a better person than I’d be without my husband. He sharpens me and makes me better.
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next book? If so, what may you share with us?
Melanie: I just signed a contract for a third book. I’m still not sure of all the details but I believe it is going to be about my journey of faith from the time I was a little girl until present day. It will be the stories of how I’ve realized God finds us no matter where we are and draws us to him.
Jen: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with my readers. I absolutely loved The Antelope in the Living Room. I highly recommend it to my Jen’s Jewels readers. Best of luck in all of your future projects!
Melanie: Thank you!
Next month, I will be chatting with six-time RITA Award winner Barbara O’Neal about her upcoming release, The All You Can Dream Buffet: A Novel. You won’t want to miss it.