HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Melissa DeCarlo

Author of The Art of Crash Landing


  • Story Structure: How Scenes Are Like Legos Except It Hurts Less If You Step On One
  • Truth In Fiction: Do We Write What We Know, or Who We Are?
  • Confessions of a Late Bloomer: Being a Debut Novelist at Fifty-Something
  • Singing in the Lifeboats: Writing the Funny-Serious Story
  • She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not: The Joys and Pitfalls of Unreliable and Occasionally Unlikable Narrators
  • Reading About Writing: A Discussion of Some of My Favorite Writing How-To-Books
  • What Studying Visual Art Taught Me About Writing



Melissa DeCarlo was born and raised in Oklahoma City. Growing up she wanted to be a writer, an artist, and actress, and one of those people wearing bright yellow helmets who get to climb telephone poles. Then one day she looked around and discovered that she was all grown-up with a degree in computer science and working in an office where she had to wear panty hose every day.

The Art of Crash Landing (Harper Paperbacks) tells the story of Mattie Wallace. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make. When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Sometimes in life, as in the best stories, do-overs are possible. DeCarlo now lives in East Texas with her husband and a motley crew of rescue animals. She learned how to paint and sculpt and has worked as a freelance writer, grant writer, and graphic designer. She’s even done a little acting in community theater.

A few of DeCarlo’s favorite things are: reading, writing, making art, hanging out with her husband and their awesome grown-up kids, and watching that YouTube video of the goat that sings like Usher. The Art of Crash Landing is her first novel, but some of her short fiction and essays have appeared in print and online literary magazines.

After she managed to break her foot climbing a flight of stairs, she decided that climbing telephone poles was probably a bad idea. She no longer even owns a pair of panty hose.

Praise for The Art of Crash Landing:

The Art of Crash Landing is full of heart and sass. It’s about forgiveness, self-understanding, and the complicated love between mothers and daughters. Readers will root for DeCarlo’s goofy, sharp-tongued heroine.... This is a sparkling, funny, and moving debut.”
--Edan Lepucki, author of California

“I fell in love with Mattie, with all her sass, her snark, her bad ass ways. The best compliment I can give this talented new author? I wish I had written this novel. You nailed it, Melissa DeCarlo. And you deserve legions of very happy readers.”
--Ellen Sussman, author of A Wedding in Provence and French Lessons

“Mattie describes herself as a natural disaster, and she may on to something…Melissa DeCarlo’s storytelling is strong and sure, genuinely moving and genuinely funny. Like her unlikely heroine, she’s a force to be reckoned with.”
--Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

“Behind the smartass mouth of Mattie Wallace, our troubled protagonist, is a whole lot of heart, soul and humor…You won’t stop reading THE ART OF CRASH LANDING until all the great mysteries of Mattie’s messed-up life have been unraveled by the ever-wise Mattie herself.”
--Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer

“A dazzling debut that truly soars, about figuring out the tug of the past, about family mysteries and the marvels of forgiveness, and all of it features a spunky heroine readers won’t be able to stop falling in love with.”
--Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“Mattie’s voice is fresh, her penchant for off-color language balanced with a revealing earnestness and vulnerability. Gandy’s other residents are vibrant and well-developed…DeCarlo’s debut is confident and accomplished, filled with heart and humor.”

“DeCarlo manages to make her heroine endearing despite her many flaws: she creates clever private jokes with the reader and slips in the occasional heartbreaking memory between brash shows of pushiness...DeCarlo’s writing bristles with Mattie’s vibrant personality...a triumphant first novel.”
--Publishers Weekly

“DeCarlo deftly weaves in flashbacks about Mattie’s childhood and creates a cast of wonderfully full-blooded, fallible characters…Best of all is Mattie herself, who has cultivated a measure of humanity in addition to impressive survival skills and whose briskly told story is instantly involving. An impressive debut.”