The “Roswell” File

Thanks to Heather for sending in this article that she did for the Miss Click site. Go check out that site when you can!

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The “Roswell” File

by Heather McLatchie

To anyone who’s a fan of the WB, the names Liz, Max, Michael, Maria, Isabel, and Alex are immediately identifiable. If you aren’t on a first-name basis with the characters of the WB’s “Roswell,” get thee to a TV come Wednesday night.

Launched last October, “Roswell” is the latest teen hit on the WB network. The characters of “Roswell” weren’t only born to television, though—they were adapted from a young adult book series called “Roswell High.” The series focuses on a group of six friends at Roswell High in modern-day Roswell, New Mexico. What’s unique about the book series is that three of the aforementioned teenagers are not of this Earth.

MissClick recently chatted with “Roswell High” author Melinda Metz about herself, the books, the show, aliens, and what she’s working on next.

How did you get started as an author?
Well, I did it sort of backward. As a kid I read everything I could get my hands on—I loved books. After college I came to New York from the West Coast because I wanted to work in publishing. I started out as an assistant editor at a publishing house, where I edited all kinds of books— romance, mysteries, and then young adult.

How did you make the shift to writing?
I knew I wanted to write but I couldn’t actually envision doing it and I think I was just afraid to jump into it. I edited for 10 years. One of the authors I was the editor for was R.L. Stine [the “Goosebumps” guru]. I decided to take a chance on writing a young adult book with a “Goosebumps” novelization based on a television episode that had been adapted from one of his books—so I essentially adapted an adaptation.

How did you come up with the idea for “Roswell High”?
The idea actually came from an executive at Pocket Books. She wanted to do an “aliens in high school” kind of book series and she sent the idea to 17th Street Productions, which is a packager. In publishing terms that means they package series of books—find the author, create the cover designs, etc. So they sent it to 17th Street Productions, who started shopping the idea out to authors—they were asking for two sample chapters from each one.

At that point I was an editor at Parachute Publishing, another book packager, but I really liked the idea for the series and did a little brainstorming about it with a friend who was an editor at 17th Street Productions.

Which one are you working on now?
I’m writing number nine, and I’m contracted for 10.

Do you have a favorite?
I really like number five—I think it came together the easiest. But I hope it’s not my favorite when I finish 10 —I’d hate to think I topped out in the middle.

How long does it take you to write each book?
Anywhere from two weeks to three months—I’d say it averages about six weeks per book.

Do you have any set writing style, like time of day?
Not at all. I’m much more freeform. I write in spurts when I have a lot to say. Sometimes I come up with things while I’m walking my dog.

Which character do you most identify with?
Probably Liz. I was a biology major before I switched to English, and I lost a brother before I was born, so I can relate to Liz wanting to please her parents to make up for a sibling who’s not there. But I think she’s cooler than I am. In that respect I think I’m more like Alex.

Who’s your favorite character to write for?
Depends on the day you ask me. I like Alex and Maria and I like writing the romantic scenes.

Have you ever been to Roswell?
Yes. I have a brother who used to live there. I went once before I started writing the books and once after. I visited the high school and talked with some of the students.

Is there really a Crashdown Cafe?
No. But there is the alien-themed snow cone place, that’s in the book, and the UFO Museum is real.

What else have you tried to incorporate from the real Roswell?
When I visited the high school, the students gave me a phone book so I could see the mix of names that were true to the town, and I’ve started trying to add a few to the books as supporting characters.

How involved are you in the show?
I’m not really involved at all. They have copies of all the manuscripts from the books I’ve completed so far so they know where that’s going, but I’m not a consultant to the show and I think that’s fine. I watch it every week and I really like what they’ve done with it.

Would you want to write a script for the show?
I don’t know. That might seem a bit strange, but you never know. I might do a novelization of an episode if they ever did that.

Is there anything that’s been changed from the book that you wish they’d brought over to the show?
Not really, I tend to agree with all of their ideas. The only thing that was sort of a drag was that in the book I named the head of the UFO Museum after a friend’s dad and they changed it on the show. And they made a conscious decision to leave the auras out because they thought it might be too distracting on-screen and I think that was the right choice. [In the books, Max, Isabel and Michael see specific-colored auras around their human friends and enemies that work as sort of an emotional barometer.]

You’ve been very active with the fan base on a couple of the “Roswell” Web sites. What made you decide to do that?
I guess it came about because I wanted to see what people thought of the show. At first I was afraid people wouldn’t be direct or honest or would be intimidated, but that hasn’t been the case at all. On the fanforum site we even had a contest to assign character birthdays and I’m going to put a few of those in the books.

What are you working on now?
Well, with a partner I’m working on a television pilot script for the production company that does “Roswell” and I’m starting a new young adult book series called “Fingerprints,” about a teenage girl who can pick up people’s thoughts from their fingerprints.

Do you believe in aliens?
I don’t know. I haven’t ruled it out.

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