Melinda Wells

Meet Melinda Wells

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Melinda Wells
I was born in Georgia and grew up wanting to be a writer. Because my father and I worked together in local little theater productions while I was going to school, my focus was on becoming a playwright. Dreaming of glory on Broadway, I moved to New York City, but I couldn’t interest anyone in the plays I was writing. Then I read an interview with a Hollywood producer who made low-budget horror films. In the article it said he was willing to look at the work of any new writer.

Immediately, I wrote a letter to him at his office in one of the Hollywood studios, telling him that I’d written a horror story and wanted to submit to him as a possible movie. This was shortly before e-mail came into our lives, so my letter had to cross the country the old-fashioned way, in a stamped envelope.

I like to think I’m an honest person—I tell the truth about everything except hair color and weight—so I’m embarrassed to admit that what I told the producer was a lie. I’d never written a horror story, but I was sure that I could write one if he would agree to read it. Why not, I reasoned. I’d grown up enjoying horror movies.

A week later I was stunned to receive a phone call from his secretary, telling me that her boss would like to read my story. She asked, “How soon can you send it?”

Foolishly, I said, “Tomorrow.”

I worked all night, writing a story that I thought was great, and mailed it off with high expectations.

One more week later, the producer’s secretary called again, and told me that her boss was coming to New York the following Tuesday and would like to have a breakfast meeting with me in the Trianon Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel at eight-thirty AM on Wednesday!

Wow! I felt light-headed. My pulse began to pound.

Then another thought occurred to me and I calmed down. While I was certain that my writing career was about to take off like a rocket, the only thing that worried me was what I’d heard about “evil Hollywood producers” who preyed on na´ve young women. I spent hours coming up with the perfect excuse to give him for not going upstairs to his suite. (I was sure he’d have a suite, and sure he would make the suggestion.) It had to be an excuse that would not prevent him from buying my story, but would keep me out of danger from this strange man, the first Hollywood person I had ever met.

The producer was tall, built something like a bear, had close-cropped silver gray hair and a nice smile. The Trianon Room, with its grand chandeliers, looked like a palace to me, who had never been inside a real palace.

We were seated in a booth against the wall and ordered breakfast. When the waiter left, he turned to me and said gently, “Melinda, you wrote the worst horror story I’ve ever read.”

At that moment I learned that hearts really do feel as if they’re “sinking,” and that the pain of a face-to-face rejection is even worse than when it comes by mail. What an idiot I’d been! I fought to control my face and conceal the agony I was in.

He added, “I wanted to meet you because I like the way you put words together. You can write, but I don’t think horror is your genre. Keep at it until you find out what type of writer you are.”

That kind man treated me with respect as a writer, and never did he put a hand on my knee, or invite me upstairs.

It took quite a few more years to find out where I belonged in the world of writing. Along the way, I learned that I wasn’t meant to be a playwright. As I matured, I realized that the reason my plays were rejected was that they weren’t very good.

I was supporting myself as a photographer specializing in children and their pets. (Photography was an art I’d taken up at age sixteen, when I won a camera in an “I Am An American Day” speechwriting contest.)

There was a lot of creative satisfaction for me in capturing the personalities of children in photos, especially when it made the parents and grandparents so happy. That was a thrill.

Through a mutual friend, I met a cute and very smart man with a wonderful sense of humor. We fell in love, and a year later we were married. Because he was an agent who represented television producers and actors, we went out to dinner most evenings with his clients, but one night early in our romance, when he had no business obligation, he suggested that we order take-out. I told him that I’d rather cook dinner myself. Did he like beef stroganoff?

He liked it so much he raved to his friends and colleagues that I was a terrific cook. What he didn’t know was that beef stroganoff was the only thing that I knew how to make. His pleasure in the meal made me so happy that I enrolled in a New York City cooking school the next day.

It’s such an amazing irony that learning to cook, and enjoying cooking and creating dishes so much, eventually led me back to writing—and they’re culinary mysteries. This new chapter in my life is a particular joy because mystery novels have always been my favorite form of entertainment reading. It never occurred to me that writing what I loved to read might be where I belonged.

In addition to the cooking and murders—and a dash of romance—in this series, there are recipes in the books. Most of the recipes are mine, developed over the years, and tested on people who are still alive and still speaking to me. Other recipes in the books and on the site have been contributed by friends, and readers. In fact, it was a reader, Myra Morehouse in Depaw, New York, who gave me the concept for the cake that my heroine creates in book number two in the series, DEATH TAKES THE CAKE. It’s about a baking competition.

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