Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Melanie Novak!

Today we’re welcoming Mermaid Melanie Novak, 2016 Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense with RUBY RED!

Melanie Novak lives, reads, and writes in Pittsburgh. Though she lives with only her sixteen-year-old cat Jasmine, she has a posse of friends and family close by to rescue her when her toilet overflows or she locks herself out of the house. When not reading and writing, Melanie enjoys walking, going to the movies, and following Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. She can’t decide if she’s more excited about Outlander finally coming to the small screen or the upcoming Gilmore Girls revival.


When a multi-million dollar ruby belonging to Marie Antoinette is stolen from Lamont Auction House, Addison Merritt’s career—and the survival of the boutique house—is on the line. Addison teams up with sexy U.S. Marshal Michael Wright, but they are not the only ones looking for Rosette’s Ruby.

And others are willing to kill for it. 

As the danger mounts and time runs out, Addison takes a bold gamble and risks everything—including her heart—to recover the ruby.

That sounds thrilling—and you KNOW the Rubies are psyched to have a ruby-centered story out there in this year’s Golden Heart! We’ll be cheering for you in San Diego, Melanie!!

Melanie’s here today to talk with us about first times…with romance novels, that is.

Take it away, Melanie!!


Novak_Melanie HeadshotYou Never Forget Your First

I don’t remember how old I was when I read my first romance novel, but not old enough to know that what went on between the hero and heroine behind the closed bedroom door was a lot more than kissing. I read in absolute amazement as the scene unfolded. This was an eighties romance novel with all the trimmings—bodice ripper cover, politically incorrect hero, a not-entirely-willing-but-completely-satisfied-afterwards heroine.

I still didn’t understand everything that happened in that scene, but one thing was certain. 

I was hooked. 

When my mother sat me down to tell me about the birds and the bees, I informed her that I knew all about it. When a brief round of questioning confirmed this, she asked, “Did Cousie tell you?” Cousie was—of course—my beloved cousin and senior by four years. 

I will admit Cousie provided a few details and clarifications, but she hadn’t told me. Valerie Sherwood and her swashbuckling buccaneers and corseted ladies already had. 

I first tried my hand at writing a romance novel in 2006. I was twenty-five, and I’d read dozens of romances by then. Inspired by the Torino Olympics, I made my hero and heroine star-crossed figure skaters who were paired with the wrong partners. 

With FIRE AND ICE, I proved to myself that I could maneuver around work and life, overcome a dismal first draft, and research all the things I didn’t know about skating. 

I could finish.

I typed the final sentences of FIRE AND ICE on the fourth of July. As I did, fireworks exploded outside my window. Oh please. Personal fireworks for my finale? How cheesy is that?

Hey, don’t blame me. I didn’t write the scene. This was real life, not fiction.

FIRE AND ICE, it must be said, was met with deafening silence from the publishing world. I read it now, years later, and I see its flaws. But I still see those fireworks.

2016 is shaping up to be a year filled with firsts. My third novel, RUBY RED, has garnered a Golden Heart nomination. This is more than my first Golden Heart. This is the first external recognition I’ve received for one of my original works. Lack of external recognition wouldn’t stop me from writing—I’m not sure anything would stop me from writing—but let’s not lie to each other. External recognition is wonderful.

In July I’ll attend the Romance Writers of America conference for the first time, and in the process I’ll see San Diego for the first time. For the first time, I’ll be querying agents with a bona fide feather in my cap.

And this, dear reader, is my first blog post.

You can bet I won’t forget it.

Your turn readers! Tell me about a first in your reading or writing life: the first romance novel you read, the first book that made you want to write, or the first book you wrote. I can’t wait to read your responses in the comments.


Find Melanie on the Web 

Twitter: @MelanieNovak31

Instagram: novak_melanie


33 responses to “Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Melanie Novak!”

  1. Melonie says:

    Hey fellow Mel and sister Mermaid! Wow, that’s a lot of firsts 🙂 Go big or go home, right?

    I’ll never forget my first romance novel, I was babysitting, and after the kids were in bed a paperback on top of the tv caught my eye (it was probably the fiery red-headed heroine that did it…or the naked man chest, maybe both) it was Johanna Lindsey’s Savage Thunder, and oh I was hooked. Every time I went over to babysit, I couldn’t wait til bedtime so I could read more chapters! 🙂
    See you in San Diego (my first time on the west coast!)

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Oh, my goodness! Can you imagine if they’d moved the book off the TV before you had a chance to finish it?

    • Melanie Novak says:

      Back to back “Mel” posts! I think that might be part of the appeal to romance novels for those of us who found them early. There’s a bit of the forbidden appeal!

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    Yay, Melanie!! Congrats on your first blog post!!

    My first romance novels were the seminal (in more ways than one, LOL) Kathleen Woodiwiss novels. Oh, how I loved them. They made me FURIOUS with the heroes, and I remember crying at the injustice of how the heroine was treated….and then feeling so satisfied when the guy finally fell to his knees and groveled his guts out. And, of course, made her gloriously happy for the rest of her life…..

    Sigh. I’d probably feel very differently about those books if I re-read them today, but I’ve never lost my taste for ANGST and INTENSITY in romances.

    • Melanie Novak says:

      Thank you Elisa! I’m thrilled to be here. Yes, Kathleen Woodiwiss!!! I still have The Flame and the Flower on my bookshelf. I do pull out an 80’s novel every once it awhile. when I read them, I kind of feel the same way I do when I watch the Bachelor…like, I know I’m not supposed to love this, but I do! 🙂

  3. Seana Kelly says:

    Great blog, Melanie! Your books sounds fantastic!
    Firsts, huh? I can’t remember the title of my first romance. I was in 3rd-ish grade, and it was a teen romance. I LOVED it sooo very much. I reread it many times, often daydreaming the afternoon away, pondering the scenes. Those daydreams were the non-written version of fan-fic. I took her story and ran with it. ❤️
    I hope you have a wonderful time in SD!

    • Melanie Novak says:

      The “non-written version of fanfic”…I love this! And it is so true. I found myself doing that so much as a kid…imagining different endings, or what happened after the ending. Today I mostly find myself doing that with the TV shows I watch. Nothing better than falling asleep coming up with my own plotlines…for my work or someone else’s!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      “non-written version of fanfic”! Yes, love that line!

      No matter what I’m reading (or watching on TV or the movies), I’m constantly daydreaming alternate versions. Must be the writer’s brain!

  4. Hi Melanie!

    Loved your blog, and your book sounds great. 😀

    My first adult romances were my mom’s Harlequin Presents from the seventies. But before I ever read one of her books, I remember staring at the cover on one of them years earlier and thinking the heroine was so beautiful. Later on that day, I played Charlie’s Angels with two other little girls on my street and when it came time to choose what Angel to be, instead of choosing Sabrina (whom I always chose), I chose to be the girl on the front of my mom’s romance novel! LOL!

    My first book with romance was the Anne of Green Gable series (love Anne and Gilbert), my first book with sex in it was Seventeen by Judy Bloom (that blew my mind), then I remember tons of my mom’s Harlequins (my favourites being the ones by Janet Daily).

    The first historical that inspired me to write historicals was Julie Garwood’s medieval-set romances in Britain and Scotland. Soooo good.

    Must go reread…

    • Melanie Novak says:

      Hi Alyson!

      You know, I have never read “Anne of Green Gables” or “Seventeen.” It seems like a huge hole in my reading list. I’m not sure why…I actually may go back and read “Seventeen” as I’ve always wanted to.

      But I have fond memories of reading Julie Garwood’s “The Bride” with a textbook wrapped around it so I could read it at the lunch table!!

  5. What a wonderful post, Melanie! Congratulations. I had a similar fireworks experience. My first historical was based on Cinderella. I typed the final words, on my birthday, the day the Drew Barrymore movie version of Cinderella opened. Of course, mine had an RS plot. Lol. It stayed in a drawer for years, but last year “Midnight” was nominated for the Daphne du Maurier award! So never give up on those first efforts.

    Can’t wait to give you a big hug in SD!

    • Melanie Novak says:

      Thanks Diana! It’s so fun to remember finishing that first manuscript. And your Cinderella story sounds great! I loved that Drew Barrymore version! Can’t wait to see you in SD!

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Hee! AN RS version of Cinderella would be so much fun!

  6. Tracy Brody says:

    Melanie, San Diego will be first time we meet – but hopefully not last time we’ll see and cheer each other on!

    “The First” I remember as really impacting me was the first time someone said they’d stayed up late reading my first movie script. “I was only going to read a few pages then go to bed but I stayed up until 2 AM.” I didn’t apologize for keeping them up. Think I may have done a happy dance – still love hearing that from people.

    • Melanie Novak says:

      That’s so cool Tracy. I think that’s probably the holy grail for writers – even beyond awards or publication, that moment when someone just can’t stop reading your stuff!

      See you in SD!

  7. Sharon Wray says:

    Congratulations on your final, Melanie! I love stories of perseverance. 🙂

  8. Carrie Padgett says:

    Great post, Melanie! I don’t remember my first romance novel … probably a Danielle Steel though, in high school. My first love was mystery. I read Donna Parker, Trixie Belden, and Nancy Drew, then Agatha Christie and Dick Francis. I’ll still open up a Christie or Francis when I need a “comfort” read.
    Good luck in San Diego!

  9. Nicole Hohmann says:

    Love the fireworks! The universe telling you something! Good thing you kept at it! Look forward to meeting you and best of luck at nationals!
    I don’t remember my first romance novel. I started reading them in earnest after I discussed Outlander with a woman at book club and she told me about Smart Bitches Trashy Books.

  10. Gwyn says:

    Valerie Sherwood, Sylvie Sommerfield, Pheobe Conn, Kathleen Woodiwiss (no late century list is complete without her!), and a host of others fed my insatiable love for romance novels back in the day when my children were young. Your post brought back a lot of great memories of those earlier novels.

    I hope you enjoy you trip to RWA. The first time can be overwhelming—so much to do, so many people who share your passion—and being a GH finalist adds to the chaos, but take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. You only get one ‘first time’. Oh, and Go Phillies! 😉

  11. Diana Layne says:

    Congratulations on the Golden Heart final! And as a Ruby, I do love that name Ruby Red! I guess my first romance was Gone With the Wind, which I read 8 times in the 8th grade (and every time, Scarlett never did have a lick of sense concerning Rhett.) I also read Gwen Bristow and I think Calico Palace was my favorite book of hers…and yeah, that’s way back there before the bedroom doors were opened. When I was 12, I snuck my mom’s copy of Rosemary Rogers Love Cherish Me out of her room and read it at night under the covers with a flashlight. Wow, was that an experience! Then I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss, and from there, as they say, it’s history. I still have a real soft spot for historical romances.

    Good luck and enjoy the conference! And thanks for stopping by!

    • Melanie Novak says:

      Gone With the Wind…one of the greats.

      I’ve never heard of Gwen Bristow…I’m adding her to my Amazon wish list as we speak!

      Thank you for stopping by!

  12. Elizabeth King says:

    Hi Melanie
    Love the sound of your book and looking forward to meeting you in San Diego.
    I have some of the same firsts as you – first blog ever as a GH finalist on the Ruby site and first time to San Diego. My first romance was Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Ashes in the Wind and I still have all of her books on my keeper shelf.

  13. Addison Fox says:

    Melanie – congrats on all these first!!! Wishing you all the best in San Diego!!!

    Addison (who is totally enamored of your heroine in RUBY RED…) 🙂

  14. Jenny Matthews says:

    Loved your blog! It’s great to have good reading material on the bus! I can’t wait to read Ruby Red! Wishing you all the best in San Diego!

    I think my first romance novel was Nancy Drew! I fell in love with Ned Nickerson. That was my G version of romance. Then I remember on my gram’s dining room table, there was some Harlamquinn novels and a set of free wine glasses. I don’t remember the title, but OMG I learned a lot from that book. Lol!!

    • Melanie Novak says:

      Ah, Ned Nickerson! One of my first loves as well. When I was in college, there was some sort of TV movie on about Nancy Drew. I was so excited to see it and my roommates were so perplexed. I don’t remember it being any good, really, but I got to “hang out” with our girl Nancy again.

  15. Hi Melanie!! I loved your blog post. So you know I write YA sports romances so I really want to read FIRE AND ICE. 🙂 I can’t remember the first romance novel I ever read. I know it was something I found in my grandmom’s house. And it probably had a cowboy on the cover. Looking forward to meeting you in SD.

    • Melanie Novak says:

      You can definitely read Fire and Ice 😉 It’s got such a special place in my heart. As do novels with cowboys on the cover. See you in a few weeks!

  16. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I decided to try to write a book when my younger daughter entered kindergarten. I had this great idea–and thought I would give it a shot.

    Writing turned out to be way harder than I expected. I was really slaughtering the idea. So I abandoned the idea and moved onto something else. Did badly at the 2nd try and 3rd and … Finally–I got the GH call in 2009, and met my Rubies. (Mermaids, one of the best things about being a finalist is the automatic support network it will give you!)

    I’ve resurrected that first idea and it sold. It will release in Sept!

    Don’t give up. It may takes years (12 in my case) but you can create the writing career you want.


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