My commitment to Tagg’s books started almost a year ago. Somehow I discovered her first book, Made to Last, when it was on sale. I loved Tagg’s writing style so much that I followed her on Facebook…and decided that we are besties. She just doesn’t know it. Yet.
She loves the kind of classic movies that I have always enjoyed and devoured (although her knowledge and commitment far exceeds mine). She’s the kind of hometown girl you want to have lunch with and then binge-watch Gilmore Girls with. Reading her books provides you with the same kind of community feel that she encourages and accomplishes on her social media sites and blog.
Anyway, when I saw that she was releasing a sweet Christmas novella, I pre-ordered it right away. I loved One Enchanted Christmas and when the option came to read an advanced copy of her latest, Like Never Before, I jumped on it.
While waiting not-even-a-little-bit patiently for the book to arrive, I caught up on the earlier books in the series: Three Little Words, an introduction novella, and From the Start. In all of Tagg’s books there is a strong sense of family, community, and real life issues without getting too heavy. She incorporates just the right blend of realistic life struggles and light-heartedness to make these books enjoyable with encouragement tucked away in an entertaining read.
I followed Melissa on Facebook as she wrote Like Never Before, and one entertaining detail stood out: this author fell head-over-heels in love with her main character, Logan. And it’s hard not to follow suit. A single dad who just can’t seem to get a handle on life after his wife dies unexpectedly, he is caring, smart, and so puppy-dog-adorably-tired and overwhelmed that you just want to rescue the guy. Thankfully, Amelia (the counter-part to the witty banter that Tagg opens her book with) is just the kind of woman this man needs. I was completely engrossed from the first witty page to the last.
I’m careful when I write reviews because I don’t want to A) just repeat what you can glean
-entertaining. It boasts a delightful mystery that is woven into the story with just enough twists to keep you guessing.
-fun: the dialogue and banter between not only the main characters, but the Walker family and citizens of Maple Valley, had me grinning most of the time. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, you’ll love the little town of Maple Valley—with all of its charms and…quirks.
-uplifting: As in her other novels, Tagg weaves redemption and the goodness of the Lord flawlessly into the plot. She does an amazing job of exploring hard truths without giving pat answers. I’m often surprised (pleasantly) by the solution her characters find because it’s not your typical easy answer. And isn’t that just how the Lord is with each of us?
I really, really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait for the next two books in the series to be released!
Melissa was kind enough to agree to join this humble little blog for an interview to answer a few questions:
Can you tell me where the idea for Like Never Before came from?
Okay, so the plot of this book is pretty much a merging of two things I really love: small-town newspaper reporting and history—specifically, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. I was obsessed with this children’s biography of Amelia Earhart as a kid. I find both Earhart and Lindbergh completely fascinating. The mystery of what happened to Earhart…I have no idea why, but one of my great hopes for my lifetime is that somehow someone figures out what happened to her, once and for all!
So those couple things inspired the bones of this book. But it was really getting to know these two characters—Logan Walker and Amelia Bentley that put heart into story. Once I connected with them, they pretty much started telling their own story!
He’s really not—at least, not entirely. But he definitely has characteristics of people I know. One of my favorite things about Logan is that he’s a listener. Yeah, he’s a speechwriter, a wordsmith…but I think he listens just as much, if not more, than he talks. And he has this way of seeing past surface appearances. He listens deeply and when he speaks, he speaks intentionally.
And I know people like that. I’ve been impacted by people like that!
You based your novella, One Enchanted Christmas, on your love for Logan and a slight crush on the cover model that brought him to life. Any chance you’ll ever meet the cover model for Like Never Before? 😉
Oh my goodness, how great would that be? Actually, no, it’d probably be more mortifying than great. LOL! This poor man out in the world somewhere has no idea a giddy author from Iowa is half in love with him. But no, I highly doubt I’ll ever meet the guy. Which is probably for the best, because if I did I might find out he’s nothing like my made-up Logan and then I’d be sad.
They’re very, very similar to my family, actually! There are four of us—just like the Walker siblings—except in our case, it’s three sisters and a brother. And thankfully, my mom is still alive, unlike the Walker family. But the Walkers’ close-knit relationships, their love for each other, many of their strengths and talents are definitely inspired by my family. Too, just the way they interact, make each other laugh, goad each other on, watch old movies together…that’s very Tagg family-esque.
Oh, that’s a great question. The day-to-day activities of my day job aren’t reflected all that much probably BUT I think what is reflected is the way my day job has shaped my heart for hurting people. I think in every story I’ve written so far, there’s someone facing a major injustice or medical challenge or social disadvantage. In my first book, for instance, there was a very low-income family in need of help. In From the Start, my characters talk about both international mission work and also local help for young people in foster care. In Like Never Before, Logan has a daughter with a speech delay.
All of that, I think, is influenced by my day job…it’s such a massive privilege to work where I work, to get to see God change lives through the staff and volunteers and donors of this ministry. So I can’t help but reflect similar situations in my stories.
Yeahhhh, that’s one of the hardest pieces of my writing life! My best writing times are when I’m able to take a few days off work at a time and just churn out scenes, one after another. I love being able to hole away from the rest of the world for a few days and really sink into my story.
But when I’m on deadline, I also need to carve out other writing times. I do quite a bit of early morning writing…lots of Saturday writing. The hardest for me is trying to write on evenings after work.
What sparked your love for classic movies?
My parents get the credit for that. They’re both fans of old movies, so I grew up watching them. The first classic movie I remember watching and loving is Bringing Up Baby with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Pretty sure I was hooked from that moment on!
You often have voting on your blog (Jimmy Stewart vs. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn vs Audrey Hepburn, etc.) so I’m here to ask who: Who is your favorite leading lady? Favorite movie? Favorite leading man? Favorite scene in your favorite movie?
Love these questions!
Leading lady: Katherine Hepburn, hands down! I think she’s amazing. But coming in as a close second: Carole Lombard. Also amazing and hilarious and it kills me how she died so young.
Leading man: Probably Jimmy Stewart. He’s just completely in a class of his own. But I also adore Cary Grant (who doesn’t?) and Clark Gable and Gregory Peck.
Favorite movie: This is just way too hard!! How do I choose between The Philadelphia Story and It Happened One Night and His Girl Friday and What’s Up Doc and Roman Holiday and…I could go on and on.
Favorite scene in your favorite movie: Well, I’m going to go with a scene in The Philadelphia Story when Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn are talking…and Cary Grant tells Katherine Hepburn she’ll never be a first-rate woman or a first-rate human being until she learns to have some respect for human frailty. It’s just this amazing take-down scene between the two of them…and you can see Katherine Hepburn’s character unraveling as she realizes who she’s become. (Plus, that whole bit about human frailty…it makes me think of my day job and tugs on my compassion.)
Team Jess ALL. THE. WAY. It’s not even a contest for me. And yeah, yeah, I know Jess was a total jerk as a kid. But he was also flawed and broken and hurting…and I am always going to be a sucker for the flawed and broken and hurting hero.
I love both, but if I had to choose one for the rest of my life, it’s coffee for sure!
Ummm can I say both?? Because I loooove both. If I can only have one, probably breadsticks and marinara.
Definitely night in with classic movies. I mean, I enjoy a night out here and there, but I’m definitely going to vote more often for any option in which I get to wear pajamas.
Ooh, this might be my first time publicly acknowledging this…but I think Beckett will be coming out later this year. Eeeeee!!! I’m so excited. I was honestly worried I wouldn’t enjoy writing his story as much after falling so hard core for Logan. But I’m happy to say I now fully adore him.
And we should be getting Raegan’s story in 2017…not entirely sure when yet, but definitely next year sometime.
(There’ll also hopefully be another Christmas novella this year. Woot woot!!)
And of course you can call me Melissa! Thanks so much for such a fun interview…yay for a new bestie!!