I have such a treat for you today, especially if you’re a fan of Melissa Tagg’s Walker Family series. If you are, you’ll know that September was a bittersweet month: Sweet, because we finally got to read Bear and Raegan’s story, but bitter—or at least sad—because it also means the Walker Family series has come to an end. 😭 What a perfect time to chat with author Melissa Tagg and remember the fun times . . .
~ Interview ~
KATIE: Thanks for being my guest today, Melissa. 🙂 As a famous governess once said, ‘Let’s start at the very beginning.’ First of all, for people who may not be familiar with the series, could you give us a brief introduction?
MELISSA: Sure! The series centers on the Walker family, a close-knit family that includes patriarch Case Walker and his four adult children—Logan, Kate, Beckett and Raegan. Each sibling gets his or her own book during which they come to grips with their individual emotional journeys, career struggles and other life circumstances. The bulk of each book takes place in the made-up, quirky town of Maple Valley, Iowa.
When did you start writing the Walker series, and what were the very first details that came to you?
Let’s see, the first full-length Walker book came out in spring 2015, so that means I started writing it in 2014. But planning for it stretches way back to the summer of 2013, when I first started dreaming of the series with some of my best writing friends! I think the first detail that really came to me was the idea of a family of four siblings with a widowed father. I don’t know why I decided to make the dad a widow, but I did and it ended up being a major factor in the books!
For those who haven’t read the series, it begins with the prequel novella Three Little Words featuring the Walkers’ cousin, Seth, and then the full length books tell Kate’s, Logan’s, Beckett’s, and Raegan’s stories in that order. How much of their individual stories did you know at the beginning of the series? Are you the kind of author who has the series outlined in sketch form from the beginning, or did you get to know their stories as the series unfolded?
Haha, honestly? I did not know anything of their individual journeys when I started out. No joke. LOL! I am sooooo not one of those writers who plans out an entire series from the beginning. Frankly, my process might be a lot less messy if I were one of those authors, but I’m just not. But what has been awesome about the whole journey is that truly, every story had this moment when I just knew, without a doubt, I was meant to write that story at that time. Each one became personal and reflected where I was in my own life during the writing of it. And I’m not sure that would’ve happened if I’d planned out all the details ahead of time. So though my process might be messy, it’s clearly what works for me.
I will say that writing the first book, though, did help lay the groundwork for future books. In the first book—Kate’s story—we find out Beckett hasn’t been home in years. We find out Logan is a widow. We find out Raegan is the one sibling who has never left home. I didn’t entirely know what each of those little nuggets meant or might lead to when it came time to write future stories, but they gave me a jumping off point.
Perhaps that’s why your books always have a spontaneous feeling about them!
Now that the series is complete, I thought it might be fun to go through and capture a few quick thoughts from you on each book.
Three Little Words
Why this title? A co-worker actually came up with this title before I’d even begun writing the book! It’s just the perfect title for a romance novella and I was able to incorporate it into the story, a story which ended up having an emphasis on the written word. 🙂
What did you love about these characters? I LOVED that Seth and Ava wrote emails to each other—and that that’s how they got to know each other. Emails led to friendship and then actually being together in person led to romance. It was just a fun little journey to write.
What surprised or challenged you about writing this story? Actually, this was one of the least challenging things I’ve ever written! It was my first experience writing novellas and I discovered I looooove writing stories of this length. It was so freeing not to have various subplots and layers tugging at me. What surprised me, though, was the character of Bear! He’s just a little side character in this story, but literally, from the moment he walked onto the page, I knew there was more to his story and that eventually he’d need a book of his own.
Can you share a favourite moment/scene? The final scene is by far my favorite! I don’t want to give it away, but the way in which Seth and Ava finally share their feelings for each other…it’s pretty cute, if I do say so myself.
You can totally say that! My heart did flip-flops ❤
Read my review.
From the Start
Why this title? My editor and I went through a LOT of back and forth with this particular title, trying on various phrases and throwing them aside. I can’t even remember how or why we landed on this one, but it ended up fitting the character journeys so well.
What did you love about these characters? To be honest, Kate Walker was hard for me to love solely because she is soooo much like me. I didn’t mean to basically write myself onto the page, but that’s exactly what I did. By the end, I did finally love her because writing her character helped me explore my own heart in a much-needed way. I love Colton because he just tries so hard. Sooo hard. And I love the way he dives into Maple Valley life even though it’s so foreign to him.
What surprised or challenged you about writing this story? This is by far the most challenging book I’ve written and that’s because of the reason I mentioned above—Kate being so much like me. I really, really struggled with this one and my poor editors probably wanted to wring my neck by the time it was over. (LOL, j/k! They were super gracious!)
Can you share a favourite moment/scene? I don’t even have to think about this one! Kate and Colton’s meet-cute is absolutely my favorite scene and I’m pretty sure it’s readers’ favorite too. I’m not going to give away what happens, but yeah…it was fun.
Definitely a favourite scene! And I may have even gone back to reread it, just to make sure. 😉
Like Never Before
Why this title? Because both Logan and Amelia have had and then lost great joy/love in their lives. For both of them, this story was about discovering a new love and a new joy “like never before.” It doesn’t negate their past experiences, but it’s new and fresh and reviving.
What did you love about these characters? Well, first of all, I’ve made no secret of the fact that Logan Walker is my favorite character I’ve ever, everrrrr written! I ADORE HIM! (KATIE: Um, definitely no secret! Lol!) I love that he’s not an alpha hero…he’s gentle and quiet and quite sad at times. I like how fiercely he loves his family. I love how he finally admits the depth of his brokenness to his dad. I love his ever-crooked ties. I really just love everything about him. LOL!
And I love Amelia because, for one thing, she sees Logan as the amazing person he is. She’s admired him from afar for his writing abilities for a long time. I also love her love for snow and reporting, two things I also love. And I love her tenacity.
What surprised or challenged you about writing this story? What surprised me is how deeply I fell for my own character. LOL! What challenged me was weaving in a very light historical mystery thread. That was new—and fun!—for me.
Can you share a favourite moment/scene? One of my favourite scenes is when Logan shows up at Amelia’s house and she’s in a robe and his embarrassment is just so great. Haha! (KATIE: I love how you managed to have meet-cutes, even when they already know each other!) OH and another favourite moment is near the middle of the book when Logan and Amelia are on opposite sides of a hotel room door, sitting on the floor, talking to each other through the door. *siiiigh*
That was definitely sweet! ❤
Read my review.
Keep Holding On
Why this title? It’s funny, if you’d asked me when I started writing the book, I’d say I picked that title because the book was about holding on to God in tough seasons. But by the end of it, I realized the book was really about how God holds on to us when we’re at the end of our rope, ready to let go…
What did you love about these characters? I love Beckett’s recklessness. I love how he just rushes into things. I love his passion. I love Kit’s loyalty. I love her occasional sarcasm. And I love both of them for their friendship. This was my first time writing a “best friends romance” and it was such a fun change.
Best friends to more is one of my favourite tropes, and I loved that about this story!
What surprised or challenged you about writing this story? I think what surprised me most is what I mentioned above about the theme. I almost never know what the emotional or spiritual theme of my book is when I start out, but I really thought I had a good grasp on this one right from the beginning. But once again, God and my characters surprised me.
Can you share a favourite moment/scene? The opening scene! I LOVE the opening scene in this book. It’s one of the first times I’ve written a book-opener from scratch and basically kept my first draft all the way through to the final. I might’ve changed a word or two here and there, but what readers see in the final version is nearly identical to the first draft. I especially love how that scene ends. 😉
I was hooked from the very first line of that opening scene: He’d tell his family tonight. After the wedding. Before he turned himself in to the police. And yeah, great end to a great opener!
Read my review.
All This Time
Why this title? Because Raegan and Bear have both been keeping secrets “all this time.” But also because readers have seen tiny bits and pieces of Raegan and Bear “all this time” in past books and hopefully now they’ll finally feel rewarded for waiting “all this time.”
What did you love about these characters? So, so much! I adore Bear. I love his desperation. I love the way he loves sacrificially…almost to a fault, at times. I love seeing him be the world’s greatest uncle. With Raegan, I love her crush on Bear for one thing. She’s such a soft-hearted person and she just couldn’t help going all gooey over Bear from the day she met him. (KATIE: Um, she’s not the only one! 😊) I especially love her journey toward vulnerability in this story.
What surprised or challenged you about writing this story? This is probably the most personally surprising book I’ve written! Even though Bear and Raegan showed up multiple times in past books, I truly had no idea where their individual journeys would lead when it came time to finally write their story. The complexity of Bear’s past surprised me and definitely led to plot challenges! And the depth of Raegan’s fear and personal struggles…I didn’t see those coming.
Can you share a favourite moment/scene? The epilogue. ❤ I actually don’t usually like epilogues in books, but this one just begged for one. It was so fun to write one final scene in which each Walker sibling sort of gets his or her moment and to give readers one more chance to swoon over Bear and Rae.
I think I can speak for all your readers when I say I’m so glad you did. Such a great way to bring the series to a close.
Read my review.
So, the end of an era. How does it feel?
I thought it would feel good and in many ways, it does. But I also honestly feel sad. I just adore these characters and even more, I love the way these stories have changed me personally. So it’s definitely bittersweet to realize it’s all over. And it’s hard to imagine ever feeling as strongly about future characters—though I certainly hope I do!
How do you think you have grown as a writer through this series?
As a writer, well, I think each story pushed me a little deeper. With the first book, I had the challenge of kicking off a series, trying to figure out how to introduce this sprawling family without overwhelming the story—it was definitely new for me. With the second, I got to thread in a little mystery. With the third, I had to navigate a new kind of a romance—a romance where the characters had been best friends for years and thus, had already been through some of the “getting to know you” phases I’ve written in past romances. And with the fourth, there was a slice of suspense and just a much more complex backstory and plot than in the past.
So each book challenged me in a new way as a writer and I certainly hope I’ve grown in the craft.
You’ve made no secret of the fact that you’re very attached to these characters. (And your readers are pretty attached too, I might add!) What makes the Walker family so appealing, do you think?
I think in large part it’s that they’re simply relatable. At least, I hope they are. (KATIE: *nods*) I can say that, personally, even though I’ve not been through most of the specific circumstances these family members find themselves in, I have definitely been where they are emotionally at different points in my life. I hope readers find them to be layered and multi-dimensional. I hope they can see themselves in the characters.
Too, I think there’s just something appealing about a close-knit family made up of flawed, but lovable people. As the author, I couldn’t help but grow attached and I’m certainly grateful many readers seem to have had the same experience. 🙂
Flawed but lovable characters are the best! ❤
And the inevitable question: What’s next for Melissa Tagg?
Writing-wise, I’m currently writing One Enchanted Noel, the final novella in my Enchanted Christmas Collection. That whole collection will finally release in paperback this fall! After that…well, I have a good inkling of what’s next, but I decided recently to let myself get through the rest of this year before too firmly committing to anything. I’ve really had a busy past four or five years, so once this novella is done, I’m looking forward to a nice long break with lots of family and friend time.
But I can say that I don’t think readers have seen the last of Maple Valley…and there are definitely some side characters who are antsy for their own stories… 😉
That’s so good to hear! Because I know I’m not ready to say goodbye to Maple Valley for good.
Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Melissa!
Have you read this series? Share one of your favourite moments in the comments. Haven’t read one yet? Why not let us know what makes you want to pick one of these books up!
~ About the Author ~
Award-winning author Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant-writer and total Iowa girl. The second book in her popular Walker Family series, Like Never Before, was named to one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Spring 2016 Top Ten lists. Her most recent releases include Keep Holding On (Sept 2016) One Enchanted Eve (Nov 2016), and All This Time (Sept 2017). Melissa has taught at multiple national writing conferences, as well as workshops and women’s retreats. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever–not that she’s biased–watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book.