Guest Post: Melissa Douthit

Melissa Douthit grew up in North County of San Diego, California. After graduating with a Computer Science degree in Southern California, and working for a summer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico, she moved to the Bay Area to work at NASA Ames Research Center for a year and then at Lawrence Livermore National Lab for another four years.
From there, she moved to Monterey, California, to work at the Naval Postgraduate School on a government project for two years. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, working with the Army Corps of Engineers on another government project. Since high school, she has been a voracious reader of books of all genres, with an emphasis in fantasy and science fiction. Her literary work is strongly influenced by her professional experience and includes many elements of her scientific background. You can find out more about Melissa on her website.

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Excerpt from The Vanishing, pages 49-51:

“She lowered the cowl of her cloak and held out her hand to help him up. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you that it isn’t wise to sneak up on a Cantonese?” she asked.
Grabbing her hand, he said: “A Cantonese?” She pulled him smoothly to his feet with very little effort. He marveled at her strength, still goggling at her in amazement. She was so strong for someone so petite. Then he furrowed his brows in puzzlement. “You don’t look Cantonese,” he added. It was true. She didn’t. The Cantonese were dark of hair and skin. Their eyes were usually dark as well, although some did have lighter shades of brown, hazel, and even green, but they were never this bright, nor this blue, like the sky on a cloudless, summer day, and they were never accompanied with the fair skin and the blond hair like the young woman before him. Stop gawking at her! he told himself silently. You look like an idiot! Yet, who was she? And why did she seem so familiar?
“Yeah, I hear that all the time but I was born and raised there,” she replied. “It’s the truth. I grew up with my Grandfather, Sebastian, and my Grandmother, Naelli. I don’t remember my mother and know virtually nothing of the rest of my family …” As she spoke, a memory of when he was eleven years old flashed in his mind. They were in the wine cellar of the Pandretti Inn and Winery, playing a game. Of course, she had been cheating at the time, as she always did. She had just jumped out of an empty wine barrel and tagged him the ghost when he said …
“Chalice?” She cocked her head in surprise at hearing her name. “Your family owns the old Inn and Winery on Canton Run, right?” She nodded and he continued: “I thought you were one of the Lost Ones. I couldn’t tell with your hood up. Wow, you have really gotten a lot bigger since the last time I saw you …” He paused, wincing as he moved his shoulder and felt a sharp pang. “… and a lot stronger too,” he added, rubbing the sore spot, hunching over slightly, with a pained expression. Apparently, the knock she had given him bruised a little more than just his pride.
Her face softened. “I’m sorry for that,” she said, gesturing toward his shoulder. “I don’t know my own strength sometimes.”
He shrugged it off as if to tell her not to worry about it. “Well, I learned my lesson, didn’t I?” he said. “I’m never going to try that again.” It did hurt but he wasn’t going to let her know. He had to act tough, he told himself, on principle.
She eyed him curiously. “You say you’ve seen me. Have we met before?”
“You don’t remember?” he asked with raised eyebrows. He was puzzled that she didn’t remember something that was so clear to him. Nine years earlier, when they were children, he had spent three years in Canton with her and her grandparents. His parents had had to leave on a search mission and his brothers had gone to stay with the Corbins. There had been no room for Jeremiah there and as Sebastian Pandretti had been in town visiting at the time, it was, according to his father, the best solution for him. He suddenly remembered Canton and the games she and he played when they were young. It seemed as if it were almost yesterday. “Ghost-in-the-Graveyard,” he continued, “in the wine cellar of the Inn? You cheated all the time.” He laughed. “You really don’t remember?” Sighing, he finally said: “Ah well, you were pretty young then.”
She studied him for a moment and then, suddenly, her face lit up in recognition. “Oh my gosh, no, I do remember!” she exclaimed. “Jeremiah?!” she asked and he nodded. “Jeremiah Maehbeck! How could I have forgotten?!”
He smiled as she said the words and caught a twinkle of joy in her eye at seeing him again. Then he suddenly realized what had been missing in his life this whole time. After all these years, he finally understood the emptiness inside of him and realized what could fill it – the only thing that could fill it. It was her.”

As stated in the excerpt, the two main characters, Chalice and Jeremiah, knew each other as children.  When they meet again, they remember the friendship they shared as kids.  It begins to grow and blossom into something stronger throughout the first book, coming to fruition at the end.  In so many other YA stories I’ve read, a meet-cute is usually between two strangers who fall in love, but I wanted this one to be different.  The Vanishing is particularly romantic because Jeremiah feels something deep down, something missing from his life that he describes as a hole in his chest, and then finally learns what it is when he sees her again.  That is, his heart remembers.

After asking so many people their opinions on romantic relationships in YA stories, I decided I wanted Chalice and Jeremiah’s relationship to progress and mature in the second book.  I wanted it to be real.  I wanted the reader to see how close they are, not just emotionally but also physically, while at the same time maintaining the sweetness of their relationship, keeping it very mild and tasteful.  I’ve read so many YA series where the two main protagonists seem to be stuck in this kiss-and-talk-only mode.  For me, this seems a bit unrealistic for an 18-year-old and 21-year-old who want to be married.  But there is also another reason for the maturation of their relationship and it has to do with something that happens at the very end of the trilogy.  That’s all I can say on that because I don’t want to spoil it, but I believe readers will love it and find it very sweet … at least I hope they will.  I do.

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Contest ends March 10, 2012.  Winner will be announced March 11th on Melissa Douthit’s Blog.


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