Melina Druga is a multi-genre author with a lifelong love of music, books and writing. She is the author of The Rock Star’s Wife series, six historical fiction novels and nine nonfiction books. Based in the Midwest, Druga lives with her husband, daughter, black cat and CD collection.
Recently, Melina opened up about how music has influenced her career and enriched her life.
At what age did you discover your love of music?
When I was in my early teens, I started listening to my dad’s record collection from the ’60s and ’70s. My favorite was Steppenwolf, especially their famous songs “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Born to Be Wild”. I was the only kid in my tiny school listening to classic rock, and I had no idea who the “it” bands were at the time, so this made me a bit of an outsider.
I was bullied throughout my school years and entered adulthood with zero self esteem. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, as I began to make my way in the world without my classmates’ constant judgement, I discovered contemporary artists. Music taught me to love myself and to stop caring what the negative people and naysayers would say – although even today that is sometimes easier said than done.
One of the songs that helped me was Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” in particular these lines:
Yeah, just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough (good enough)
For someone else
In 2005, I had cable TV for the first time, and Fuse still played music videos. That’s when I started listening to hard rock and metal, and I found my community.
What role does music play in your life?
After my family and health, music is probably the most important aspect of my life.
As I mentioned, music helped me define myself. I also learned long ago that music is my therapy and the only thing that keeps me out of depression during periods of stress and self doubt.
In fact, I’m not the only one. There actually is a scientific basis for this. The website Cognition Today cites a study that was done in 2016 that concluded “listening to music (heavy metal included) helps people who have been traumatized. It helps them regulate their emotions, overcome suicidal thoughts, and occupy their sensory environment. Extreme forms of music give people a sense of relatability and shared communal support (death metal, doom metal) if they are predisposed to negative outcomes.”
Pretty cool, huh?
In addition to keeping me sane, it has gotten to the point that I cannot write without music. It keeps me awake, alert, motivated and productive. When I am on my office computer, I stream music. For years, I streamed alternative rock station KROQ out of Los Angeles. But management has made too many changes to the station and now it’s too poppy for my tastes. Now, I listen to the Loudwire app, or put a CD in my computer’s CD-ROM drive.
When I’m writing in the living room, I visit the TV’s YouTube app after my family has gone to bed and put on music videos. I love music videos. Some are incredible. They’re three- or four-minute movies.
When I write, the mood has to be just so to achieve maximum creativity. I listen primarily to four bands: Chevelle, Three Days Grace, 10 Years, and Breaking Benjamin. In recent months, Seether, Godsmack and Pop Evil have entered the mix.
Music has even inspired my fiction. And not just The Rock Star’s Wife series. The My Chemical Romance song “Mama” was the inspiration for my historical fiction novel Angel of Mercy.
What is your favorite instrument and why?
I don’t play an instrument, but my favorite instrument to listen to is, by far, the electric guitar, especially dropped tunings. Those riffs are amazing.
As a side note, did you know the guitar tops the list of sexiest instruments? I wholeheartedly agree.
What is more important: the music or the lyrics?
That’s a tough one. I pick lyrics but just barely. The songs I enjoy the most are the ones I know every word to, and I lean more toward lyrics that have a message – whether it’s political, social or about the human condition – or are poetic in some way. After all, song lyrics are simply poetry set to music. But unlike the poetry I read in school, I actually understand song lyrics.
That being said, I do prefer a certain type of instrumental music – guitar and drum heavy.
What is your favorite band and why?
I’ve only considered four bands my favorite in my entire life, so it’s an exclusive list.
When I started listening to contemporary music, my favorite band was Matchbox 20, then when I started listening to metal and hard rock, my favorite band was Green Day.
My Chemical Romance was my favorite band starting with Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, and I consider The Black Parade to be my favorite album of all time. In the fan community, there’s a saying, “MCR saved my life,” and I completely understand what that means. For me, it came in two forms. The revelation that it’s okay to be fucked up and you can still be loved, and Gerard Way’s comment in the liner notes about not taking any shit from anyone. I had been taking people’s shit the majority of my life, and it was liberating to hear that I shouldn’t put up with it. No one had told me that before. I always had been told to ignore it.
The band broke up in 2013, and kind of like going from one long-term relationship to another, it took me a while to find the one that fits. I didn’t replace them until 2019. Unbeknownst to me, I did this mere months before My Chem reunited, and for a while I felt like a woman torn between her current and former lover.
My current favorite band, from 2019 forward, is Chevelle. I had been listening and was a fan since 2002, but like a sleeper agent awaiting instructions Chevelle didn’t fill that void in my life until 17 years later. I’ve been inspired watching interviews of the band. They talk about how, early in their career, they played music for the love of it and how they were spending money as opposed to making money just to get their name out there. I see parallels, in that way, between the music industry and the publishing industry.
The bands’ members may never know it, but they were keys to my mental health and I owe them a great deal.
What other bands do you like and why?
Three Days Grace, Green Day, AFI, 30 Seconds to Mars, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots round out my favorites. I also enjoy 10 Years, Evanescence, and Staind.
They all have a combination of lyrics and instrumental that I enjoy. Also, I can listen to them repeatedly and not get tired of their music.
Do you attend a lot of concerts?
Not as many as I would like to, no. Not even close.
What was the last concert you attended?
Projekt Revolution on August 17, 2007, at Blossom Music Center in Ohio. I went to see My Chemical Romance, but other cool bands performing were Linkin Park (the organizer), Taking Back Sunday, HIM, Placebo and Saosin.
My husband and I had tickets to see Chevelle in November (2021), but the concert was cancelled. That would have been my first live show in more than a decade.
What was your inspiration for the Rock Star’s Wife series?
I like to imagine how my life would would have been if my circumstances were radically different. I suppose it’s the author in me, trying to envision what it is like to walk in another person’s footsteps. Eventually, these musings led me to wonder what it’s like to have a husband who is in a band and on tour for a good portion of the year. What sort of strain does that put on a relationship? How does it affect how the kids are raised or how the household is run? A woman in those circumstance would need to be independent and emotionally strong. That was the basis for The Rock Star’s Wife. For the first two books in the series, the main character, Cassandra, is not yet a rock star’s wife, but every decision she makes pushes her in that direction, although she doesn’t realize it at the time.