If you look at the dedication page for On the Island, it says 'For Meira'. Typing her name was one of the most satisfying and emotional aspects of writing the whole book because without her, I'm not sure anyone would be reading it today.
I met Meira online in the fall of 2010. I had posted my query letter for On the Island on Absolute Write's Query Letter Hell message board. That process is not for the faint of heart, and they don't call it hell for nothing. But it can be very helpful and I appreciated the feedback. I especially liked the private message Meira sent me a day or two later. It said:
If you're looking for a beta reader, I would *love* to read this story. I'm not a harsh beta reader. I'm good with punctuation, repetitive dialogue tags, and the general, "I don't get this".
She was totally being modest because she's one of the best line editors I've ever encountered (I couldn't sneak anything by her). I wrote her back and said something like, "OMG, yes! Please help me make this book not suck!" And that's how our relationship began. Meira pushed me and she pushed me hard. Revising the manuscript for On the Island was much more difficult than writing the first three drafts. It took six long months, 50-60 pages at a time, of going back-and-forth between us before the book was ready for the polishing stage. Meira painstakingly line-edited (by hand!) and sent the pages back to me in tidy little PDF batches. We got to know each other very well during this time. She is more than a critique partner: she is my cyber-sister and one of these days we're going to meet up, drink wine, and talk about how crazy this life is.
So without further ado, let's meet Meira!
Hi Meira! Thank you for stopping by my blog. Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi, Tracey. Thank you for inviting me! I live in Colorado with my Dutch husband named Emo. We have two daughters, one black lab, and two insane cats. I love to read everything from science fiction and thrillers to mysteries and children’s fantasy.
When did you first start writing? Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
I wrote my first manuscript in 2003. It was barely 50,000 words – not long enough to qualify as a novel – and it was frankly quite dreadful. But at the time I was blissfully unaware of those discouraging details. I danced around the room singing, “I wrote a novel!” One moment of self-confidence can launch a passionate career. I spent many years laboring over that first manuscript, perfecting my writing and editing skills. Then, in 2007, I tossed it aside and wrote FIREFLY BEACH. I was lucky that I made a friend who eventually forwarded my manuscript to the editor of Lyrical Press. The editor loved the story and the first edition of FIREFLY BEACH was released in March of 2009. Now, thanks to your inspiration in the field of self-publishing, I released the second edition of FIREFLY BEACH in 2012.
How do you conceive your plot ideas? How do you get inspired for it?
I believe you will identify with this, Tracey. The story ideas seem to descend upon me when I least expect them. Then the characters follow me around – in my car, late at night when I should be sleeping – and they tell me what they are going to say and how they are going to react to the next new development. I don’t know that I can explain it better than that.
Do you write an outline before every book you write?
What’s an outline?
Is your writing space messy, organized or somewhere in between?
Stuff is everywhere. It is organized, but only I know how to find it. When it comes to story ideas, I try to keep all of my notes in one black composition book, but post-its and random scraps of paper come in handy when an idea flashes in my mind and I am nowhere near my desk.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I honestly wish I could stick with a genre. FIREFLY BEACH is a paranormal cozy mystery and NINE-TENTHS is a dystopian science-fiction. I guess I kind of stumble into a genre when the right story comes along.
How long does it take you to write a book? Do you ever experience writer’s block?
It takes me about six months to crank out a first draft and another six to nine months to edit it. I read through the manuscript at least two times on the computer; then on paper, tapping on each word; followed by another couple of rounds on the computer; and eventually a paperback proof (backwards one page at a time) and a Kindle draft.
When I have writer’s block, I surf writer’s forums or blogs. One such evening, I met a woman who had an awesome idea for a novel about two people stranded on a desert island in the Maldives. She’s been my cyber-sister ever since ;)
She means me!
What are 4 things you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?
Much to my husband’s frustration, I often forget the phone. . . but I try to remember our youngest daughter. My oldest daughter created over twenty music CDs for the car. I never leave home without them. My dog rides along on almost every errand trip - his black-hair-covered, white sheet lying in the backseat as a testament to his enduring presence. That’s three. And (of course you were expecting it) pencil and paper.
What was the hardest part of writing Nine-Tenths and Firefly Beach?
Most of the time, I cannot type fast enough to put the words down, but on occasion I will deliberate over one paragraph for an hour, especially descriptive paragraphs. I have a picture in my head, but I can’t put it into words. A single word will elude me, driving me absolutely nuts. I actually sit there with my fingers poised over the keyboard. Eventually, I write an acceptable paragraph. Then when I go through the editing phase, I tweak the words until I’m happy with the final results. On the flip side, I love writing dialogue and never find it frustrating. My characters are always chattering away in my head.
What are the titles of your books and can you give my readers a short blurb for each?
FIREFLY BEACH - When Beth LaMonte rents a cottage on the coast of Maine, she wishes only to withdraw and paint. A mysterious ball of light disturbs her peace and leads her to a secret beach where she finds the diary of a girl who disappeared in 1975. Now Beth is on a mission, not only to bury her own past, but to put to rest the spirit of Firefly Beach.
NINE-TENTHS - Leonard Tramer and his family live in Colorado, trapped behind the walls of a totalitarian state. Dedicated to one another and determined to find the free world, they plan an escape which defies the odds and deceives their tyrannical government.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes! SARAH AND THE MAGIC MAYONNAISE JAR. It is a grade 3-6 fantasy – further proof of my genre-commitment-phobia. The novel should be available by the end of 2012. I am working with an outstanding new illustrator, Rachel Loftus, and I am excited to bring my daughter’s favorite story to life.
This book was vetted by my nine-year-old daughter Lauren. Verdict? OUTSTANDING. Plus Lauren thought it was super coolio to read a book in manuscript form.
Where and how can readers connect with you?
a. Blog: http://torchandsickle.wordpress.com/
b. Facebook page: http://www.blogger.com/goog_107134899
c. Goodreads author page: http://www.blogger.com/goog_107134902
d. Twitter: http://www.blogger.com/goog_107134905
e. Amazon: http://www.blogger.com/goog_107134908
f. Website: http://meirapentermann.com/
Thank you for stopping by today, Meira.
Thank you for everything.
P.S. I accidentally published this post last night before I'd edited or added pictures and live links. If you're wondering why you saw it but then it disappeared that's why. Clearly I have no idea what I'm doing here.