At age 10, avid bookworm Melanie Stephens wrote a short story about a boy who mistakenly cracks open a dinosaur egg in a quarry for homework. Her teacher was so impressed he suggested she turn the tale into a book. As soon as Melanie learnt it was possible for anyone to write a book if they had the imagination, the only thing she could ever imagine becoming was an author. She started writing every day and learning the craft.
Melanie released her first publication in May 2020 after being inspired to use her passion for writing to help the NHS during the Coronavirus epidemic. Isolation Tales was written in just 16 days, and Melanie donated all her royalties to the NHS Covid-19 appeal and will continue to do so with every copy bought.
Her story of writing and publishing her first book during lockdown to help the NHS attracted local and national media and the press. As well as depicting the world dealing with Covid-19, the stories also shone a spotlight on many key workers who didn't feature in the news headlines. Each story was based on real accounts, so it portrayed each fictional person as true to life in that extreme period. Although the book had a serious subject matter, it was relatable and funny. The book received five-star reviews. Many readers kept the book as a memento of the unique year 2020 had become.
The following December, seven months later, Melanie released an anthology of works showcasing her range and journey as a writer. She described it as "the most challenging but also the most incredible experience" in her writing career. The Collection was released with photos from the author's own personal archive and featured pieces from autobiographical to current events, such as George Floyd. One of the highlights was an article on human rights schoolteacher Jeanne Manford, the recipient of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal personally chosen by President Barack Obama. Working closely with PFLAG and permissions from Jeanne's family, the piece was several weeks in the making with calls in LA. The Collection also received five-star reviews.
The high praise continued for her third release, The attempted demise of Augusta Walsh age 15 years, 4 months and 6 days in August 2022. After reading about the worrying rise in ill teenage mental health since 2020, Melanie felt it was important to tackle the issue and provide young people with a novel with a relatable character that showed the pressures of being a teenager in the modern world.
"A lot of people with anxiety or depression don't talk about it as they worry how others will see them afterwards. This is especially true for teenagers," Melanie explained on the day of publication. "Unspoken thoughts and emotions have a massive detrimental impact on a person's mental health. I wanted to make people feel less alone with Augusta; if I could do that with just one person, I would achieve my main goal."
Through email and messages to the author, we know that goal was quickly reached several times over by many people of all ages. The book's unique presentation of no page numbers and Augusta's artwork emphasising the emotions of the story were incredibly popular in this visual age and continued to expand readership by being the first of Melanie's books to be in school libraries.
Melanie is now writing full-time and has an increasingly strong presence online, where she uniquely publishes full-length short stories and poems free for her readers to enjoy on her Facebook author page. Her little thank you for their continued support.
Currently, Melanie is working on her first picture book, Dudley the Dodo, which is due to be published on 21st January 2023. Also, she is in the midst of writing Comic Book Guy, an adult fiction novel due for release in late 2023/early 2024.