When Eila Mell first walked into the masquerade party, I immediately took notice of the massive silver ring on her finger in which she told me it reminded her of a disco ball, sparkling from every angle, capturing everyone’s eye, and shining in an elegant way. A great metaphor for Mell herself as I listened to her story.
Born in Howard Beach, Queens, Mell originally was an actress. She studied acting at Queens College and was up for a big role on a soap. Though she was denied the part, instead of casting herself away into pity, she decided to write her first book entitled, “Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film-by-Film Directory of Actors Considered for Roles Given to Others.” And just like that, Mell transitioned into the writing world.
“I said I’m going to do it and that’s it, it’s going to work out no matter what,” says Mell.
Writing her first book wasn’t as glamorous or romantic as the world may portray it. She bought a how- to- get- published book that was very informal, written as though the literary agent who wrote the book was talking directly to you. It described how to write a query letter and at the end of the book was a list of agents. More…
“The one thing that I knew, and I don’t even know how I knew, but I knew that I should write the book first and then try to tell it,” says Mell. “Don’t go to someone with an idea because no one knew me. It wasn’t easy. It took eight years from getting the idea to actually being published the first time, so you know you really have to be persistent and stick with it. That’s the lesson in that.”
She wrote a checklist with agents to whom she would send her query letter and every week she would send out twenty letters. Even though many of them were rejection letters, she was thrilled to get something, anything back. Eventually she found an agent however he couldn’t sell her book.
“I thought, well I’ll never get another agent, it’s so hard to get one, it’s never going to happen especially coming from a theatre background where it’s really hard to get an agent as well,” says Mell. “So I just felt like maybe I shouldn’t do this but I had to do it; I couldn’t leave it alone. You know I thought that for five minutes and thought the time is going to pass either way might as well try to do what I want to do. “
She did find an agent and her book was published. Rewind for a moment. Because while this is an incredible honor it’s also a reality check. A lot of books, like Mell’s, don’t make it into bookstores. They instead go through catalogs and are placed on the Internet.
Not discouraged, Mell set off to write her second book, which was published in 2008. It was entitled Mickey Rooney as Archie Bunker and Other TV Casting Almosts. It describes notable actors who were turned down for roles on television and how different our classic television shows may have been.
Fast-forward. For this year in 2011 Mell has published her third book, “New York Fashion Week: The Designers, the Models, the Fashions of the Bryant Park Era.” The inspiration came to her when she had the opportunity to go to fashion week several times and people who had no interest in fashion would accompany her. It was then she began to realize how much people were interested in fashion week.
The first fashion show that Mell attended was Custo Barcelona’s show where she said, “It just felt so right being there! I was lucky enough to be able to preview his collection before the show, and I interviewed him right before so that was really nice and he has a fun collection in general—it’s very colorful and just wonderful.”
While writing her book, New York Fashion Week, her favorite part was the interviews. She said the people she worked with were the absolute best part.
So what is her book New York Fashion Week about?
“It’s a season –by- season look at Bryant Park so the reader can feel like they were there for that season,” says Mell. “You get to see the fashions and there’s a section that tells you the gossip in the tents at the time. You see the fashion, the trends, it’s loaded with pictures, we’ve got hundreds of pictures in the book, close to a thousand photos and they’re beautiful and just for the photos alone you could spend a day.”
Mell lowers the tape recorder as our interview ends and her disco ball sends light dancing in every direction.
“Do you have any advice for young book writers?” I ask before the recorder stops and as I stare at the shimmers and then back at Eila.
She lifts the tape recorder back up.
“They should just do it. They should set a goal and don’t stop.”
~Written by Justine