10 Questions for Melissa Croce

Melissa Croce traded in the gray skies of the Pacific Northwest for the hustle and bustle of working in New York City. When Melissa is not on the job helping spread the word to librarians about books, she might be found pursuing any one of a number of her interests, which include sleeping, seeking answers to life’s questions with a tarot deck, or engaging in social media, which is not the same thing as wasting time on the internet.

Who is Melissa Croce?

Oh, wow, this question definitely caused an existential crisis! Haha. I’m definitely a lot of different things, but in this context I’m a single millennial who accidentally became a published author.

Tell us about your new book, Single and Forced to Mingle.

Single and Forced to Mingle is a part-guidebook, part-advocate about how great it is to be single, and how, as a single person, you can not only survive but thrive, despite what some people might say or think. And (hopefully) it’s delivered in both a humorous and thoughtful way!

Your writing is infused with a delightfully dry sense of wit. How challenging was it while writing Single and Forced to Mingle to find the right balance between practical advice and zingy humor?

You hit the nail on the head; this was incredibly challenging! I was really conscious about this when writing, especially considering that Single was born from a random tweet—it’s one thing to be accidentally funny, it’s an entirely different thing to try and be funny on purpose! I also didn’t want my tone to be too flippant, nor did I want to take myself too seriously.  It was definitely a fine line to walk (write?) for sure.

While your day job is in publishing, what surprised you the most about the whole process of seeing your first book come into print?

My job is marketing books to librarians; that means I usually come into the publishing process very late and see a pretty polished, near-complete version of the book, so it’s been a really cool experience to see what happens leading up to that point. I think seeing the nitty-gritty of publishing has been the most interesting for me, and I’ve so enjoyed the editing process, actually. For example, my copy editor gave me a style sheet to go with my second round of edits, which included which guides they used to edit my grammar and spelling (Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, by the way) and any exceptions that were in-line with my personal style (as you can imagine, there was a good amount of slang in this book). It was really fun to see it all spelled out like that for me. I also want to give a big shout-out to all copy editing and production teams, particularly my own: they do so much and are so detail-oriented! They deserve all the recognition in the world for making my book as clean and cute as it is.

Has social media made it easier or more difficult to be single and happy?

I think it’s a double-edged sword: on one hand, it’s harder because so much of social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook, make it easy for people to showcase a seemingly ideal life, and it can make people feel really awful about their own lives. On the other hand, there’s a certain equalizer to social media, and you can also find people who feel the same way as you do about a lot of things, including being single, and so you don’t feel so alone. I really recommend cultivating both social literacy skills and curating a feed that’s full of content that makes you feel good rather than bad about yourself! (The mute button is your friend, including using it to mute your own friends, if need be.)

What are your own top three benefits to being single?

1) Indulging in habits you know would drive other people crazy. Do you like to stack pyramids of empty LaCroix cans in a corner of your room? Or maybe you like to make corned beef and cabbage for dinner once a week? You are free to do any of those things (well, if you live alone) without guilt or worry!

2) Not having to deal with even more people you don’t care for. Obviously if you have a significant other you presumably like them, but what about all of the people in their life that come with them? Their creepy coworker, their obnoxious best friend, their overbearing parents, their snobby siblings? If you’re single, you don’t have to deal with any of them! You can focus all of that energy on people in your own life.

3) Making plans without having to consult anyone. After getting out of my last relationship, I realized how much time and energy I spent coordinating schedules with my S.O. and making them a huge priority in my life, sometimes at the expense of other relationships. It was, and still is, so freeing to realize I can spend my time exactly how I want to, especially since the older I get the more precious time seems.

What are your top three favorite books?

This is so hard! And I have to admit, I feel a lot of pressure since a good chunk of my job (and my favorite part, honestly) is recommending books to librarians! Okay:

1) Check, Please! By Ngozi Ukazu. I am not exaggerating when I say that this webcomic series-turned-graphic novel got me through 2017 (the year I discovered it). It follows a small, gay, Southern boy named Eric Bittle as he comes of age at a liberal college in Massachusetts and plays on their men’s hockey team, despite his fear of both bros and the physical aspects of the game. It is an absolute delight—it’s about friendship and acceptance and has my favorite romantic trope, enemies to lovers!

2) Persuasion, by Jane Austen. I’ve read all of her books and this one is my all-time favorite. I re-read it every year and I think that it deserves as much love as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility—I’m convinced it’s constantly overlooked. I love that this is a book about second chances and I think that Anne Elliot, while definitely not a vivacious heroine, is the most wise, self-assured, and steady of Austen’s heroines, and I love that she never feels the need to prove anything to anyone! True goals.

3) Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. I considered myself a reader before my school librarian recommended this to me, but up until then, I don’t think I’d ever loved a book like I loved that one. I still own my same copy, 20 years later—it is very well-loved and well-taped.

If you could be any character in fiction for a day, whom would you choose and why?

I don’t know if I would want to be Lyra Silvertongue from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, but I would love to spend a day in that world. It might be due to the isolating nature of the pandemic, but I’ve definitely spent a good chunk of time recently wondering what my daemon would be—the idea of having a constant companion who understands you is enticing!

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

My mom told me a lot as a kid/teenager/okay, fine, she was telling me this the other day, to slow down. It’s usually because I want to do a lot of things at once and make a lot of silly mistakes/lose track of things/break things, but I’m trying to also apply this to life in general. I want to be really intentional about who and what I spend my time and energy on as opposed to getting constantly caught up in a flurry of things. I don’t want to look back and wonder, “Wait, what did I do? What happened to me?” I want to be present in what I do as much as possible.

What is next for you as an author?

Great question! Again, all of this came about accidentally, so thus far I’ve been experiencing everything with a wide-eyed wonder and basically no plan, haha. I’ve been writing a lot of fiction lately, so we’ll see if anything comes of that. I’ll keep you posted!

About the Author:

The Romance Writers of America 2002 Librarian of the Year, Charles has been reviewing romances for Booklist since 1999 and is the author of Romance Today: An A to Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance. After working for the Scottsdale Public Library System for 30 years, Charles retired and went to work for Scottsdale's independent bookstore the Poisoned Pen, where he still gets to push books but has to deal with far fewer computer questions.

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