No Shrinking Violet

The summer before I started high school, I spent a week in a cabin in Vermont with my family. The rain kept my cousin and me from entertaining ourselves at the lake or down on the tennis courts. "Let's write books," I suggested. We bought notebooks, ballpoint pens and snacks.

My first book, all handwritten on loose-leaf, was about an overweight 16-year-old who desperately wanted her popular crush to ask her to the prom. It was an unrequited love story.

In college writing classes, I found that I was still focusing on high school love, the most intense emotion I'd ever felt. 22-year-old crushes seemed more practical, more attainable --and somehow not as searing or sweet.

As I began a career writing and editing for magazines, I was again drawn to the teen genre, and I landed at ELLEgirl. I interviewed teenage actors, musicians and real girls who were doing amazing things.

But one group struck me: The models.

What must it be like to walk your first runway show, live in a small apartment with other pin thin girls and compete for jobs, recognition, acclaim and love? There was a rehearsed bunch of answers from models --"I love the travel," "I'm naturally thin," "Clothes are my life" --that didn't quite answer my questions. I wondered about the real girls behind the often-hollow eyes.

That was the seed that started my idea for VIOLET ONTHE RUNWAY. I wanted to put a real girl from a small town, one who had real insecurities and flaws, one who would go into this crazy, dark, beautiful world of fashion unsure of herself and come out having realized her own inner strength.

VIOLET ON THE RUNWAY will be released September 4, 2007, by Berkley JAM.

Visit Melissa at melissacwalker.com