Episode 22

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin Creates a New Marriage System in Her Dystopian Book

On today’s episode we get to chat with Melissa Gowdy Baldwin, a Dystopian Fiction author with a penchant for pairing music and astrology signs with all her characters. A veteran teacher, mother, cat and dog lover, Melissa has taken her educational experience in American Studies and English and Creative Writing and channeled it into her first novel. A book that engages in dialogue about social issues and expectations of both men and women, The Marriage Wars: Book One is part of a larger project which includes a trilogy, two prequels, and a novella if the audience asks.

Not long after having her first child, Melissa started writing longer length novels as a way to process her world and the new identities she was embodying. When marriage equality became a focus in the country in 2008 and again in 2012, Melissa created a world highlighting the hyper-focus obsession the country has with ideas of marriage. With her background in gender studies and research on marriage, race, and sexuality, the dystopian world and its rules came natural to her. After putting the book on the back burner because of a second child and a successful teaching career, Melissa went back to school for another Masters and finished writing the book during the pandemic. As the world unfolded around her, she was able to channel observations in her post-pandemic, post Roe v. Wade, and post equal marriage law setting.

By including relatable morally gray characters in a not too distant future, Melissa creates a dystopian story that speaks to universal truths about choice, voice, and power. Eager to finish book two of the trilogy as well as write her first romantic comedy, Melissa hopes her readers see themselves in the characters and the situations asking for those characters to make a choice even with the consequences.

You can learn more about her on her website www.melissagowdybaldwin.com/ and follow her on Instagram www.instagram.com/melissagowdybaldwin/ -which will be the best place to be kept up to date on her book release


Support your local bookstore & this podcast by getting your copy of The Marriage Wars: Book One at https://bookshop.org/a/

A little about today's host-

Shawna Rodrigues left her award-winning career in the public sector in 2019 to consult and publish her first novel Beyond the Pear Blossoms. Her desire to connect and help others led to the launch of her podcast The Grit Show shortly thereafter. When she learned women host only 27% of podcasts, her skills and passion led to the founding of the Authentic Connections Network. She now helps mission-driven entrepreneurs better connect with their audiences by providing full-service podcast production and through a community for Entrepreneurs & Podcasters – EPAC. Podcasting is her primary focus, so she continues to support the writing community through this podcast, and her writing time is mostly focused on anthologies.

She offers a free 7 Steps to Perfect Your Podcast Title to anyone interested in launching a podcast. You can also follow her on Instagram-@ShawnaPodcasts, and learn more about the network and community at https://linktr.ee/37by27.

Be sure to follow or subscribe to Author Express wherever you listen to podcasts and to follow us on Instagram @AuthorExpressPodcast

Learn more about our hosts, the guests we've had, and their books -



We feel it is important to make our podcast transcripts available for accessibility. We use quality artificial intelligence tools to make it possible for us to provide this resource to our audience. We do have human eyes reviewing this, but they will rarely be 100% accurate. We appreciate your patience with the occasional errors you will find in our transcriptions. If you find an error in our transcription, or if you would like to use a quote, or verify what was said, please feel free to reach out to us at connect@37by27.com.

Shawna Rodrigues 0:00

Welcome to Author Express, where you get to discover the voice behind the pages of your favorite book. I'm your host, Shawna Rodrigues, and I'm so glad you chose to be here with us. I'm looking forward to the author we have to chat with us today.

Shawna Rodrigues 0:16

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin's debut Dystopian novel, The Marriage Wars: Book One, has been called a must-read. Because it covers so many hard social topics that need to be talked about. Early reviewers are saying they're obsessed, can't put it down, and I cannot wait for the book to release so everyone can read it and we can all discuss how much we've loved Jude. Melissa's educational background in American studies helped create a modern-day critique about gender roles, marriage expectations, race, social class, and power within governments. And although the book is considered dystopian, there may be a new genre emerging, dystopian romance because of the amount of spicy romance scenes found in this book. The Marriage Wars: Book One cause reader to consider the everyday systems we participate in, and reflect on how our choices impact ourselves and others. This is so exciting. I can't wait to learn more about this. Melissa, thank you so much for being here today.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 1:14

Thank you so much for having me here. And just you reading that, it just makes me all excited and it's very exciting. So, thank you.

Shawna Rodrigues 1:21

Yes, the fun part is we're having this interview before the book comes out. So, she gets to have this like, anticipatory excitement. And y'all are getting to hear it after the book is out. So, you can immediately get a copy. So, it's like the best of both worlds. We have the pre excitement from the author, and then you guys getting immediate reward to be able to just grab the book as soon as you hear this interview.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 1:41


Shawna Rodrigues 1:42

I mean, that's the best, right?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 1:44

Oh, for sure.

Shawna Rodrigues 1:44

For sure. So, we're gonna start with you just telling us something interesting, or the most interesting thing about where you are from.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 1:52

So, I'm kind of from all over the place. But like, foundational years, we're actually spent up in the foothills in California, on property. And so, there's pieces of that in the book, too. Yeah. So, from there, and then I went to UC Davis. And then I lived in New Mexico for my graduate work and then came back to California. And now, I'm just a NorCal girl.

Shawna Rodrigues 2:13

Oh, nice. It's kind of fun. So, I liked it. It's all over, we have a lot of that. We intentionally leave it really open is where you are from. So, people can talk about where they're now or where they grew up, or wherever they want to talk about. And a lot of authors we're discovering are from a lot of places they feel like.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 2:27

Yeah, I think that's kind of what helps the writing process too, because you can draw from so many locations and settings, and then kind of more fun. So, I love it. I appreciate my moving around existence as I was coming of age.

Shawna Rodrigues 2:39

Yes, the imagination has lots of fertile ground that way, I think it adds to the author's mindset to some extent. So, I'm catching you after your workday as a teacher. Can you tell us more about how you balance your roles as a teacher, as a mother, and as an author? Like, how do you manage to balance all of that?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 2:58

Yeah, it's a pretty crazy life. I like to stay busy. So, I think that's kind of something that helps. I'm not a sit on the couch. I mean, I am when I like, I'm sick or something like that. I teach during the day, Monday through Friday, I teach English and Gender Studies. And then at night, I come home and I'm a mom half time. So, I have my kids 50% of the time so that, you know, I focus on them. And then when it's time for them to go to bed, I write until about nine or 10 o'clock at night, or I write on the weekends. And then the time I don't have my kids, I'm writing whenever I want. I can go to the cafe, I can go to a new restaurant and I just bring my computer and I put my headphones in and whatever playlist I'm listening to, and I draw from like, the crowd. So, there's all these like, new characters that kind of entered my world when I'm out.

Shawna Rodrigues 3:45


Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 3:45

I try to write as much as I can. And then also trying to like, make a living. And being a mom.

Shawna Rodrigues 3:52

Yes. balance it all, work it all in.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 3:54


Shawna Rodrigues 3:55

So, with that, with your writing, did you first come up with this book? Because of the idea for it? Because of the work you do around gender studies and teaching? Do you feel like, it's like, ideas that come from what you've learned in life, with your studies? Or where do you first get that idea?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 4:10

s, so, I started this book in:

Shawna Rodrigues 5:35

Oh, exciting.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 5:36


Shawna Rodrigues 5:36

10 years later, and then a year or two, you finished it. It's coming out. It's so exciting.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 5:42

Yes, it is so exciting. It's like surreal. It's totally surreal.

Shawna Rodrigues 5:45

Oh, that's so wonderful. And so, with your journey, do you think if you would have finished it five or 10 years earlier if you magically had a sabbatical and got to write it all at once that applies it open that up, do you think would have been a lot different if you'd finished it sooner?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 5:58

at it's like to be a woman in:

Shawna Rodrigues 6:39

Yes, that's incredible. And who do you think are the readers is going to connect with the most? Like, what people do think we're gonna be like, this is a book that they need to read and need to feel.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 6:49

I think it's anybody who has either felt like, they didn't have a choice and felt pressured into a certain situation or system, or having to follow a particular path, because that's what we're supposed to do. You know, it's also going to be for people who want to feel seen or heard. Right away, it's probably going to be women my age, 30s, 40s, who either have been married a long time, or chose not to get married or chose to leave their partner to live their own life, and then probably, somebody who's wanting to feel validated for the choices that they're making. And maybe even somebody who's trying to like, figure out the choice of like, should I get out? Or should I not get out? I think that's probably the target market or the audience here.

Shawna Rodrigues 7:34

Hmm. Very cool. So, people making decisions and figuring out, finding their way. That's very cool.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 7:39

And people who just want to read dystopian spice too. I mean, there's that piece.

Shawna Rodrigues 7:45

There is that piece, there's that piece. Dystopian spice was definitely,

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 7:50


Shawna Rodrigues 7:50

So, what is one of your favorite trips or adventures you've ever taken?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 7:53

Oh, my gosh, I love traveling. If I could travel all the time, I totally would. But about six or seven years ago, my husband at the time, we took a trip to Belfast and it was magical. We went to a bunch of distilleries and we drove around the countryside, we were driving a stick shift on the opposite side of the road, and then the stick shifts that, you know, everything's all like, reversed. We got stuck in this one road at one point where this guy was yelling at us because we were on his property. And it was an amazing, amazing adventure, just being in a different country with a different kind of car. And, you know, just having really cool experiences and being open to that. So, I want to go back to Belfast. I want to take my children to Belfast.

Shawna Rodrigues 8:36

Oh, wow. That's incredible. Yes. Are you working on writing anything else right now?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 8:41

I have two books I'm working on right now. I'm working on the second book of the trilogy. It's Marriage Wars: Book Two, but it has a different name. And then I'm working on a romcom right now to kind of lighten up my writing process because the dystopian can be really dark and sad. So, I'm working on a romcom about a woman who is a writer, and she uses a dating app for her research.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 9:07

That is kind of fun. I like it.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 9:09

It's funny.

Shawna Rodrigues 9:10

You mentioned about how you listen to music while you write and you're out in public. And you've always been, do you have playlists for your characters and scenes? Can you talk more about that?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin 9:19

Yes. So, one of the ways that I create the mood of certain scenes is through music because the music helps channel my creativity into really feeling deeply whatever's happening in the scene. So, I'll have one playlist where one song will be on repeat. There's actually a violent scene in the book. And a song came on and I was like, Oh my gosh, that is this, the song for the scene. And so while I was writing the scene, for an hour, I listened to this one song on repeat over and over again to really get out that feeling because, you know, music and writing and it's so emotional, and books are emotion, and we need to be able to capture that in a really particular way. So, each character has their own playlist, it's in the back of the book. And then it's also on Spotify on my website. And there are smaller lists because I had to, the publisher, I had to make the list a little smaller. Like, in real life and on the playlist, the playlists are actually much, much longer.

Shawna Rodrigues:

So, go to Spotify to find that out. That's wonderful. What is the best place to find you and to find all of this?

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin:

So, the best place would be my website, which is www.MelissaGowdyBaldwin.com. So, that's M-E-L-I-S-S-A-G-O-W-D-Y-B-A-L-D-W-I-N.com. It's a long name, sorry.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Yes, no worries. It's in the show notes. If we could kind of, I love people to hear it. So, I'm glad you spelled it out. Because it's nice to be able to have that association that well, that's perfect. And so, then, tell us what book or story inspires you the most.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin:

Yeah. This one, it's so hard because I feel like, I have to commit to something and it's like, there's so many wonderful pieces of literature out there especially that I read within the last year. But I think like, stories that highlight the complexities of women, and they don't put us into these like binary categories, it's, we're gray and morally gray and not morally gray. And so, I love Carley Fortune's books. I love Emily Henry's books, the romantic comedies. Glennon Doyle's, Untamed really resonated with me last year. Margaret Atwood, Bryn Greenwood's books. Any books that have a character who is trying to either overcome something or figure out who they are in not a very linear way. Those are the ones that just captured my heart. And I'm like, I give a copy to everybody. I'm like, you need this book. You need this book, read this. Or I have it in my class library at school for my teenagers.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Yes, I thought of Margaret Atwood, when you were talking about your dystopian book and kind of what it was examining. It made me think of her series. And looking at that, but she doesn't have the spice in the same way. So, I hope you incorporate that. So, everyone who gets to check out your book, and so, it's Marriage Wars: Book One.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin:


Shawna Rodrigues:

the one that's coming out. So, it's out. So, you guys can check that out. It's in the show notes. There's a link for that so, you guys can all get a hold of that. Thank you so much for coming and sharing with us about it and telling us a little bit about you. It's been wonderful to get to know you a little bit.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin:

Yes. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Yes. Take care. I can't wait to hear about the next one.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin:

Thank you. You too.

Shawna Rodrigues:

Thanks for joining us. I hope you take a second to give us a review or a couple of stars on your favorite podcasting platform. And we'll be here again next Wednesday. Follow us on Instagram, at Author Express podcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget, keep it express but keep it interesting.

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