Marissa Monteilh

Marissa Monteilh
The Chocolate Ship

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
September 8, 2003

Q. What inspired you to write “The Chocolate Ship”

A. I'd gone on a cruise back in 1997 and was amazed by the concept of cruising on a luxury ship. An all inclusive vacation to beautiful ports of call, with entertainment and food and fun to be had by all. Even though I saw quite a few African American's onboard, I wondered what it would be like to own a hip-ship and tailor it as an AA getaway with all of the decor and nuances of our culture. And so, the title was born in my mind, but I didn't begin writing until I went on a few more cruises. The research was a perfect excuse to get away and sail to paradise.

Q. How did you come about the title?

A. Years ago I remember thinking about possible titles, but the title The Chocolate Ship just popped into my head and it stuck with me. I thought the title was catchy, unique and fun.

Q. How did you come about Mia and Miles's character?

A. I wanted a couple who had established a relationship and who had issues because I knew I wanted to focus the theme on temptations. Mia to me is like a lot of women who want to trust their men, but sometimes listen to the opinions of others. I wanted to create two main characters who had trust issues, who were adventurous and who were at a crossroads in their relationship. I felt that Miles was mysterious enough to keep Mia, and everyone else, guessing.

Q. What type of research did you do in order to be so specific about the details of the ship?

A. Not only did I cruise a few times, but I also scoured the Internet to learn basic terms like aft, bow, etc., and I called a few cruise lines to learn about their rules and safety procedures, as well as envisioning in my head what the itinerary would be every day, and if it would be realistic. I wanted it to be as if the reader was on the ship eavesdropping on the charterers.

Q. What method do you use to develop your characters?

A. First I name them - giving them names that are uncommon and distinctive, and then I like to get to know my characters by first identifying their issues and weaknesses. Particularly their childhood and past experiences. I seem to bond to them quicker if I learn their downsides. And then I assign professions, physical descriptions, goals, etc. I've learned to not only write an outline, especially for my main characters, but to also interview them and let them ramble on through my fingertips before I even begin page one. Once you get rolling, it is amazing what you can discover and how they come to life. But a lot of their development comes through just writing the story. I often surprise myself by uncovering aspects of the characters that I never anticipated ahead of time.

Q. How long did it take you to write “The Chocolate Ship” ?

A. It took me almost a year and a half. I started writing it through the entire year of 1999, but put it on hold while I self published my first novel, May December Souls. Once I sold The Chocolate Ship to HarperCollins in 2001, I completed it in about six months.

Q. Will there be a sequel to “The Chocolate Ship” ?

A. Absolutely! I've had many, many requests for a sequel. And it will definitely pick up where the first one left off. I'm writing an outline for that right now.

Q. When will your next novel “Hot Boyz’ in Ladera Heights” be available to readers?

A. Just recently, the title was changed to simply, Hot Boyz for simplification purposes. HarperCollins has scheduled it for a May 2004 release. Hot Boyz is a family drama about three well-to-do brothers who experience life's ups and downs while living in an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles, and it is filled with celebrity, sex, money and violence.

Q. What message would you like readers to obtain from Miles and Mia’s relationship?

A. I'd like readers to learn to base their experiences on an individual based upon how they have been treated, not based upon the projections of others. People tend to want to protect you, so they warn you or give their opinions regarding your relationship. Usually, the main people who don't trust your man, are the ones who have been cheated on themselves. Unless there is a true burning feeling in your soul that something is wrong, make sure you have proof, and that you make final break up decisions on what you know and see, not on what you suspect and/or hear.

Q. Are there any messages you would like readers to receive from any of the other character's experiences on “The Chocolate Ship?”

A. Mainly, I'd like readers to simply cruise along with the other characters on The Chocolate Ship and to enjoy their wild escapades right along with them. But if there is any other message received, it would be that even though we all desire excitement and pleasure in our lives, sometimes there's a price to be paid for a split second of weakness. Make sure it's worth the consequences once the thrill is gone.