Book Spotlight | Melody Carlson
Hope for Women recently had the opportunity to talk with award-winning Melody Carlson. The prolific author has written more than 200 books, including her Girls of Harbor View series, which was recently re-released.
Tell me about your series, Girls of Harbor View.
I wrote this series about 15 years ago for middle reader girls. Originally it was eight books but later condensed into four. Because I already had quite a few books for teen girls, it made sense to offer something for the younger readers. I wanted the series to feature a diverse group of characters so that readers could identify with them, so I came up with four 11-year old girls from varying backgrounds and ethnicity, and had them form a club. The stories are set in a mobile home park on the Oregon Coast.
Why did you decide to write it?
Like I said, I wanted to reach out to younger readers, but I also wanted to write stories about girls with some challenges—whether it was poverty, dysfunctional families, or prejudice, I didn’t want their lives to go “smoothly.” Perhaps because that was how I grew up. And I wanted these girls to be more interested in creativity than social networking, and I wanted to show strong bonds of friendship.
Why did you decide to focus on younger readers for many of your books?
Most of my books are not for younger readers. I primarily write for women and teens, but in this series I took it down a notch or two. Interestingly, the “rules” of writing apply to all ages. And my 86-year-old mother is a big fan of the Harbor View girls.
Why do you think your stories connect so well with readers?
I try to keep my books “real.” I want readers from all walks of life to relate to my stories. I also try to include hope and grace in each book.
Why did you decide to focus on Christian fiction?
Originally, I just wanted to write “good” books, but because my worldview is Christian, it can’t help but be part of my stories. Sometimes the “message” is very subtle (like in women’s novels), but if I’m writing a teen novel that deals with heavy issues (like date rape, human trafficking, drug addiction…) the “message” gets stronger and louder.
What is the biggest lesson you want readers to learn from your stories?
One of my pet peeves with Christians in our culture is our tendency to leap to judgment. As a result, I try to write stories that show different layers in my characters—in the hope that readers will become more patient and understanding of the layered people in their own lives—and hopefully they’ll show them more grace and forgiveness.
What advice do you have for women juggling raising a family while pursuing their dreams?
I know exactly what the juggling act feels like. My boys were in grade school and I was running a group home daycare center when I started writing seriously. What I didn’t fully appreciate at that time was that God had given me a gift (of writing). Fortunately, my husband believed in me and the gift. That helped a lot. But for women without that, I would say you need to believe in your gift. God gives us all different gifts, and he wants us to use them. Dreams are usually related to our gifts, and we will be most fulfilled when we pursue them, so go for it.
What's next for Melody Carlson?
I’m just finishing a women’s novel in my Follow Your Heart series. Each story is set in a different location, and this one is in Savannah. (Once Upon a Summertime is available and All Summer Long released in May). As soon as I finish this book, I’ll start the first book in a historical series (set in World War II). And then it will be time to write my annual Christmas novella. Thankfully, I have plenty to do!