Juanita: Good morning, Meg. It’s so nice to welcome you to my blog. I’m excited that we get to talk with you today and find out a little more about one of my favorite authors. I noticed from reading about you that you grew up in the Lutheran church. Tell us a little about your faith, and why you chose to write Christian books.
Meg: Thanks for hosting me, Juanita! Yes, I grew up in a Lutheran church. I remember learning about God’s love from kind teachers in Sunday school and VBS. Then, when I was a thirteen-year-old in confirmation class, the pastor assigned large chunks of Scripture to memorize. I believe that getting God’s word into my heart at a young age was instrumental in helping my faith grow. Since then, I’ve been in several other denominations.
I’ve always had a hard time with the label of “Christian books,” because as far as I know, books can’t become believers and go to heaven. J Seriously, though, because I’m a Christian who happens to write, my books will come from a Christian perspective.
Juanita: After growing up in
how hard was it to live in the cold state of California for many years? How did you keep
yourself busy? Did you write then, or were you too busy raising your children? Michigan
Meg: The climate was quite a shock. My first winter in
I was sorely disappointed when spring didn’t arrive in January like it always
did in Michigan .
But I have lots of great memories of cross-country skiing, the kids’ snow forts
in the yard, and the wonderful, laid-back people up there. But boy, did I stay
busy. We homeschooled, and we also ferried the kids around to a lot of extra-curricular
activities like 4-H, sports, and church events. Plus we had a huge garden and
animals. I started playing with ideas for novels long before I actually had
time to sit down and write them. California
Juanita: Sounds like you adapted well and kept busy! What part did books play in your life while you were growing up, and when did you first realize that writing was your calling?
Meg: I grew up in a family of booklovers, within walking distance of the library and surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of books that my father inherited from his parents. His mother had helped support her family through the Great Depression by selling her children’s stories, magazine articles, and poetry, and my parents always held her up as an example of someone who’d studied the craft of writing and put her talents to good use. From early childhood, I firmly believed I was already a writer, both because of my parents’ encouragement and because I truly loved to write.
Juanita: What is your most difficult obstacle, and how did you overcome it to become a published author?
Meg: Probably my biggest obstacle has been my introverted personality. I was a shy kid, and as a teenager I had a terrible stutter that often kept me from participating in class or even from telling the cafeteria ladies my choices for lunch. I got over the stutter, for the most part, but I still stutter when I’m nervous. Fortunately, I love my readers, and when I get a chance to meet with a book group, I see them as friends and I’m able to enjoy visiting with them.
Juanita: When I learned about your debut novel, When Sparrows Fall, I couldn’t wait to read it, and I was certainly not disappointed. Tell us a little about how you got your idea for this book, how you chose your setting, and what you hope readers will take away from it. Did you know a person in this situation, or was it something from the news headlines that drew your interest, or was it just an original thought with you?
Meg: I’m so glad you enjoyed it. The idea for When Sparrows Fall came from my years as a homeschooling mom. I think the idea of homeschooling started out as a wholesome and sensible alternative to traditional schools, but some strange beliefs crept into the fringes of the movement. When those beliefs began to tear apart some families I loved, I decided to write the novel as a way to point out the absurdity of the extremists’ beliefs and to encourage people trapped in legalism that they don’t have to stay there. Galatians 5:1 is the linchpin of the story: “For freedom Christ has set us free.”
We had moved to
by then, and I set the
story in the Georgia North Georgia mountains, partly
because they’re so beautiful and partly because a lonely mountain town was the
perfect setting for a story about people who live almost as if they’ve gone
back in time to a “safer” way of life. Or at least they think it’s safer, but
Juanita: I loved that setting. It was perfect for your story. Please tell us something about yourself that readers would be surprised to learn.
Meg: You might think that as an author, I would own some kind of e-reader. Nope. I love having real books on real bookshelves. My favorite books are like old friends, and they’re shelved where I see them every time I walk into my office.
Juanita: What are your hobbies, besides reading and writing? Who is your favorite author?
Meg: I enjoy gardening, birdwatching, and my very amateurish photography. I also love to go on motorcycle rides with my husband. (On his bike. I don’t care to be anything but the passenger.)
I don’t know if I can choose just one favorite author, but Frederick Buechner is very high on my list. He has written some fantastic novels as well as devotional books and memoirs.
Juanita: Your recent novel, Gone South, has some quirky characters in it. How do you determine who your characters will be and what is the progression as you write?
Meg: I usually start with a mixture of a premise, a setting, and a couple of characters, but those elements change as I play with the basic ideas. Although I always try to come up with a solid plot before I start writing, my brain doesn’t seem to work that way. As the characters come to life, the plot starts to form around them. It’s always a messy process.
Juanita: If you could give some advice to a beginning writer, what would it be?
Meg: Writers’ groups can be a wonderful way to learn from each other and encourage each other. Writing conferences are great too. They’re expensive, but they provide opportunities to meet editors and agents, and to learn what they’re looking for. There are many resources online and at bookstores, too. Most of all, I think that to be good writers, we need to read good books, to absorb the craft by osmosis, and we need to write and rewrite on a regular basis.
Juanita: What is next for you? Have you started a new novel or do have a new idea for one?
Meg: My next novel, A Stillness of Chimes, will come out from Multnomah in February 2014. Here’s a brief summary of the story:
When teacher Laura Gantt comes home to
settle her recently deceased mother’s household, the last thing she expects to
encounter is a swirl of rumors about the father she lost to the lake twelve
years ago—that he has reportedly been seen around town. Elliott Gantt’s body
was never found and he was presumed dead. Prospect,
Reeling from the sharp loss of her mother, Laura must now grapple with painful memories surrounding her father’s disappearance and the sense of abandonment she experienced after his death. Life-long friend and former beau Sean Halloran wants nothing more than to protect Laura from the far-fetched stories of Elliott’s resurrection and to care for her, but he has his own reasons, troubling echoes from his childhood, to put Elliott’s disappearance to rest. Working together, Laura and Sean begin to uncover the truth, one mired in the wooded peaks and deep waters of the
Blue Ridge Mountains
Juanita: That one sounds as good as your first two, and I can't wait to read it. Thank you, Meg, for taking the time to answer these questions for our readers. I wish you well in your next endeavor and I hope I get to be one of the first readers for your new book.
Meg: Thank you, Juanita. I've enjoyed getting to know you through our respective blogging efforts. The wonderful guest post you wrote for my blog made me want to dig into some of the hobbies I've been neglecting!
And thanks for stopping by!