Double take. How did a blonde-haired, green-eyed, All-American girl with the given name Melissa Bourbon get the pen name Misa Ramirez? See Frequently Asked Questions to find out the answer to that!
What you’re about to read is the all-important bio that’s required on every author web site. For the professional version, be sure to visit the Press info area for a little less formal and a little more entertaining version.
First, a little background. I was born in Southern California to amazingly devoted and talented parents. (Note to self: A person is never too old to give a parent plug.) Dad is a mega superstar Silicon Valley Executive and Mom is an über-talented watercolor artist. I pulled a pretty good parent card, in my opinion.
The middle child, between two brothers, I learned early that being the only girl gave me ‘that special something’ in my family. Mothers and daughters. Fathers and daughters. They are unique bonds that can’t be explained. I know that all my books will have strong mother/daughter and father/daughter relationships–family is what I value most in life.
My dad’s career took us to Northern California when I was in sixth grade. College, marriage, kids have all been rooted here. Until they weren’t. With a recent move to North Texas, we are now learning new lingo…”y’all”, “fixin’ to” [the official verb of Texas, in case y'all are wondering], and “chiggers”, a fun little bug that bites and bites and bites, to name a few.
Get on with it, you’re saying. How’d you start writing? (Note to self: Stay focused.)
My major in college was French—for the first year. Then I realized that I was far more interested in communicating in English. (My aptitude for language is strong—I just didn’t want to put in the hours in the lab! Shhh…don’t tell anyone…)
I’d always been interested in writing, always kept diaries–long burned by now. (Note to self: destroy all evidence of lame behavior and thoughts.) Once my Shakespeare professor wrote on one of my college papers, “never change my captivating style”. Wow. The power of a teacher is huge.
Unfortunately, power can be positive and negative. Whatever boost I’d felt from Professor Levin’s comments, a grad student who taught creative writing my junior year of college effectively quashed. Once I wrote a story about my roommate stealing her ex-boyfriend’s truck while wearing fingerless gloves—all completely and pathetically true. I got a C- on the story and the grad student wrote, “Write about things you know. This is completely unbelievable.” Even though he clearly had zero imagination, my confidence went out the window.
During college I met a great guy named Carlos. We dated, broke up, dated some more, broke up again—typical young love. We eventually got our act together and got married. I went on to teach middle school Language Arts. He was an elementary school teacher. Eventually his career ventured into school administration and we relocated from the Sacramento area to the San Francisco Bay Area. We had two kids by then, another on the way, and I went on hiatus from teaching.
The big question for me was what I could do to keep my brain functioning now that I wasn’t teaching. The thing that called to me, the only thing that inspired me in fact, was writing. I started writing a young adult historical fiction book–by this time I had overcome the scarring of that grad student’s remarks. (Note to self: burn all college papers) It took me three years to finish that book—it’s now sitting on the shelf in my bedroom, destined never to see an editor’s desk. (In its defense, I did send it out once to Scholastic and received a VERY nice rejection—no, not an oxymoron—there are levels of rejection and a nice one is a good thing.) But by that time I’d had my third son and we were moving again. The book went onto the back burner.
Short stories for children kept my creative juices flowing while I was busy having a daughter, carpooling, moving to and remodeling yet another house, and balancing the busy life we’d carved out. By pure luck, one of these stories was published and made in to a beautiful book. I thought I’d struck gold and found my second career.
Not. Even. Close.
The children’s publishing world is brutal—unless you can really relate to kids. Even though I had a passel of them living with me, I apparently didn’t. Huh.
Obviously I hadn’t yet found my niche or my voice.
We eventually moved back to the Sacramento Valley, I had one more child (in case you lost track, that makes five altogether), and had written close to twenty-five children’s stories. I’d had no luck selling any more of them though, and was ready to throw my hands up and quit writing altogether. But it’s not that easy to give up something you love. I couldn’t stop writing. (Note to self: find another addiction to give up—maybe chocolate? Or coffee? Okay, okay, twist my arm…I’ll give up cauliflower.)
A friend and I started an informal Monday night writing group. Since I was not willing to give up writing altogether, though I’d given up any thoughts of having a second career in publishing, I was stuck. With no inspiration for kids’ books in my befuddled brain, I decided to write something for grownups. A book with a mystery and love and swearing—and sex.
Oh, it was fun! Eye opening! Liberating!
I wrote the first draft in six months.
And just like meeting Mr. Right (Note to self: Give supportive husband Mr. Right a kiss), I knew this was the one. Maybe I would have a second career in publishing after all.
That book, the first in the Lola Cruz mystery series with Minotaur Books, has been through about a gazillion revisions since I finished it—and I still love it. I think that’s a good thing, right?
Now that I’m in the Dallas Metroplex area, I’m living my calling, silly grad students aside. Whatever else happens in my life, I know I was meant to be a writer and nothing’s going to stop the story that’s knocking around my brain from being told. Writing has spread its root into the very depth of my heart—and it’s there to stay.