November 17, 2009

Guest Post: Author Melissa Senate

Today I am pleased to welcome Melissa Senate, author of the newly released The Secret of Joy, to Psychotic State!

The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate

What is the secret of joy?

For Rebecca Strand, the 28 year-old main character of my new novel The Secret of Joy, the secret begins with her father’s deathbed confession of a long-ago love affair, a baby that he turned his back on, and a stash of unsent letters he’s written every year on the child’s birthday. Shocked to discover she has a half-sister she never knew existed, Rebecca is now the keeper of the secret. What will she do with it? Her overbearing lawyer boyfriend thinks she should excise the secret—a sister!—from her mind, as her father did. “Just forget the women exists—lest she try to get her possibly trashy hands on your father’s fortune,” is his lawyerly advice.

But this secret stirs something in Rebecca. Her mother is gone. Her father is now gone. Her live-in boyfriend, is, well, trying to run her life. And her job as a paralegal at a divorce mediation firm, where her boyfriend is a partner, is all about endings. Rebecca needs a beginning. And that beginning is dependent on setting things right, on finding 26 year old Joy Jayhawk in a small coastal town in Maine. In delivering those letters.

So when Rebecca knocks on Joy Jayhawk’s door and doesn’t receive the warmest welcome from the separated mother of a little boy who wants nothing to do with Rebecca or the “guilt” letters of her late “father,” Rebecca doesn’t just turn around and go home. Because she’s about to discover the many facets to secret of joy and it isn’t about giving up. Thanks to some help from the Divorced Ladies Club of Wiscasset and one very hot carpenter named Theo, Rebecca does discover the secret of joy (and so do several other characters). I don’t think I’m giving away the ending there, since it’s the how and the what that are important.

When I tell people what gave me the idea to write The Secret of Joy, they’re surprised to discover how autobiographical the premise is. Several years ago, I received an email that said: I think you might be my half sister. And I was. Part of my own journey in discovering the secret of joy for myself involved figuring out how I felt about that email, about this half-sibling, about the biological father I haven’t seen or heard from since I was a little girl. Writing this novel helped me sort through it all. The story isn’t autobiographical; I just took that nugget of an idea, but the burning questions, the emotional issues, are very real. A good part of the secret of joy for me is being a novelist and explaining myself to myself through fictional characters. Throw in my seven-year-old’s son laughter, fudge, a good book, friends, and a thousand other little things that add up to joy, and the secret is usually in those little things adding up, up, up.

Lori, thank you so much for having me on your blog!

Melissa, many thanks to you for stopping by my blog today and for writing such a warm, wonderful and witty book!

About author Melissa Senate:

A summer baby born in a Catskills bungalow colony, Melissa lived in New York City as a kid, New Jersey as a teenager, Connecticut for college, Brooklyn for those first few post-college years, then the Upper East Side of Manhattan for 14 very interesting years until five years ago, when she moved to a small coastal town in Maine for a quality of life experiment (for her young son, not for her). Melissa admits that the quality of life in Maine is pretty great. 

Melissa worked as an editor for Harlequin Books for ten years, then moved to two young adult book packagers, working on everything from the New Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley ("We'll solve any crime by dinner time!") to Sweet Valley University (Elizabeth and Jessica were in junior high, high school and college simultaneously!).

When Melissa sold her first novel, SEE JANE DATE, in 2001, she took a huge leap of faith to write full time. SEE JANE DATE was made into an adorable TV movie (starring Charisma Carpenter and Holly Marie Combs) for ABC Family and is now on DVD, and it's also the subject of and answer to a question in the 20th Anniversary Edition of Trivial Pursuit. Next came: THE SOLOMON SISTERS WISE UP (about three sisters under one roof); WHOSE WEDDING IS IT ANYWAY?, which reunited Melissa  with the characters from SEE JANE DATE (it's Eloise's story); THE BREAKUP CLUB, Melissa's first novel to include a male main character (there are 4 main characters), and THEODORA TWIST, Melissa's debut novel for teens, which Teen magazine hailed "a hot (and fun) summer read."   Melissa's sixth novel, LOVE YOU TO DEATH, is her first whodunnit, complete with a break up scene in L.L. Bean. And her last novel from Harlequin's Red Dress Ink imprint, QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE MARRYING, about two very different twin sisters on a long and bumpy road trip from Maine to Las Vegas, was a finalist for RT Bookclub magazine's Reviewer's Choice award for best chick lit of 2008. 

You can also read essays Melissa has written in the anthologies IT'S A WONDERFUL LIE: 26 TRUTHS ABOUT LIFE IN YOUR TWENTIES and EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, a tribute anthology to one of Melissa's favorite authors.   She also contributed a short story to the anthology AMERICAN GIRLS ABOUT TOWN, and a story to FLIRTING WITH PRIDE & PREJUDICE: Fresh Perspectives On the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece.

Arriving today (November 17) from her new publisher, Simon & Schuster, is Melissa's new novel, THE SECRET OF JOY, about a New Yorker who discovers she has a half-sister she never knew existed in a small Maine town. Off she goes to find her. And next-next is THE MOSTS, Melissa's second young adult novel for Random House/Delacorte, which will be published in June 2010.

Melissa is busily writing the next-next-next novel for Simon & Schuster, which involves Italian food, the tiniest bit of magic and lots of romance. Feel free to email Melissa with questions or comments or just to say hello: melissasenate at (use the little @ symbol) - - she says she loves hearing from readers and writers!