Her name is Meagan, and she is a debut author.
Meagan Spooner's novel, Skylark, is due for release August 1, and as a part of her
I am seriously psyched for this novel's release. Actually. Truthfully. Honestly. Completely. Totally. And here's why.
Vis in magia, in vita vi.
In magic there is power, and in power, life.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.
Lark did not expect to become the City's power supply.
For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she's ever known...or face a fate more unimaginable than death.
Absolutely smashing, right? So, without further ado:
Hi, Meagan! Skylark, your upcoming debut, sounds incredible! What can we expect from it?
Thank you! I've had a really great team of people designing the cover, the trailer, the jacket copy. They all really fit with the story well.
Skylark is about a girl who wants nothing more than to fit in—she lives in a world where fitting in is the ultimate expression of adulthood and success. But she’s different, and always has been, and when she’s finally offered the chance to become a fully adult member of her city, she becomes an outcast instead. She flees into a world full of darkness and shadow, but also containing a kind of beauty and hope she never would’ve found had she stayed within the walls of her city. I think on the one hand it’s a dark story—full of fear and uncertainty and, of course, a generous handful of crazy twists. But I think it’s also a hopeful story, too. It’s about learning to have strength, because none of us are born with it. As one reviewer said recently, “stuff has to happen to make you steel".
Simply from the synopses of Skylark and your 2013 release, These Broken Stars, it's clear you've got an enviable imagination. Where do these ideas come from? You don't snack on children while they sleep or anything?
Only when I have writer’s block! ;) It’s funny, this ends up being a question writers get a lot, and I think it’s because people want there to be a magical secret way to come up with story ideas. But I honestly think Edison’s words of wisdom hold true here—that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. (Though I snort to call it genius.) Everyone has random thoughts here and there—writers are the ones who chase those random thoughts down, probe into them, ask the who/what/where/when/why/how of those strange ideas. The idea for Skylark came from a random thought while listening to NPR: what if we could discover magic, and solve the energy crisis that way? But the book came from deciding consciously to pursue that thread, and add other threads, and keep adding until the fabric of the story began to come together.
Let's hear about your origin story, the Cliff Notes on Meagan if you will. Did you always want to be a writer, or how did you get into writing?
I've wanted to be a published writer since I was four. It was the moment I realized that books came from real people—that their imaginations had created something that was sweeping me away—that I was hooked. It was later, when I was about 9 or 10, that I really started writing as opposed to just telling people stories verbally. I wrote all through high school, and while I desperately wanted to be published, I never pursued it—in equal parts because I wasn’t ready, and because I half-expected someone to just discover my awesomeness and beg to publish me. (HAH!) After going to college and then working for a while at a desk job, I pretty much woke up in the middle of the night one night and said “Okay, it’s time.” So I quit, went to a workshop, learned about revision and craft, moved to Australia for a year, wrote my book, got an agent, and then got a book deal. I went at it very consciously and methodically—I made up my mind when I was ready.
Tell me about your very, very first story.
I told a lot of stories orally as a child, and I don’t remember those. The first actual story that I remember writing and caring about was when I was seven or eight, and it was about a marine biologist living by the sea and hearing mermaids calling to her in the night. It was an oddly dark story for a child to write (though perhaps not surprising for me, given what I write now). The mermaids were not the kind, pretty, Disney Little Mermaid creatures. It was very much like Dracula—my protagonist was very slowly dying, and a mermaid was slowly taking her place… each night she lost a little more of what made her human. I think about that story a lot—maybe some day I’ll resurrect it and rewrite it as an adult. I like mermaids better as dark, twisted creatures. (Hell, I like pretty much every mythical creature better dark!)
What crucial advice did you learn between this story and Skylark?
STICK TO IT. In all honesty, one of the biggest differences between published writers and unpublished writers is that published writers just didn’t give up. Stories almost never come easily to me the whole way through—I’ll write the first 10-15k in a storm of inspiration and glee and then I get a little bored, or I think of a new idea, or I decide I want to take up ice fishing. The hard part is ignoring all those other things, and sticking with the story. You have to work on it and invest in it if you want it to go anywhere good.
Your next release was co-authored. What can you tell us about that experience in comparison to writing Skylark on your own? And if you could co-author with any writer, living or dead, famous or unknown, who would it be?
Honestly,if I could pick anyone alive or dead, it’d probably still be my co-author, Amie Kaufman. There are so many authors I’ve love to work with, but I just don’t think I could do the whole thing, from inception to publication, with anyone but her. We’ve known each other a long time, and we’re so close that we literally do finish each other’s sentences and read each other’s minds. And as writers, we have different styles—we each bring something different to the table. Amie is incredibly clever and funny, and she’s able to get that into our stories and bring a lightness that makes the darker moments far more pronounced. Whereas she’s not as willing to do terrible things to our protagonists as I am, so I can bring that darkness that cuts the humour.
Show us a picture of your workspace.
Overall, my workspace is boring. Dual monitors, for easy editing and looking between two manuscripts (I highly recommend this!). Can of soda. Water. Phone. Sharpies. Little speak-no-evil monkey sitting on my monitor. But the real important part of my workspace is shown in the picture. Usually, most days when I’m working, my cat Icarus sleeps in his bed on my desk. Every so often he’ll reach out and touch my hand, not asking for anything, just saying hi. It’s like having someone there to keep me company!
What do you hope people get from Skylark? Likewise, what did you get from writing Skylark?
I had so much fun writing this story. I felt completely carried away by it at times—I feel kind of silly admitting it, but I react while writing much the way I think/hope readers will react. I cry at the sad bits, I get scared at the scary bits, I grin like an idiot when good things happen. I think writing can be a very visceral experience. There were some scenes where I had to stop halfway through and take a break because it had gotten too hard to continue. But whenever anyone reports back that they finished the book in one night, that I kept them up past their bedtime, that they couldn’t put it down… I always think to myself, “Now you know what it felt like to write it!"
Who/What are you inspired by at the moment?
Right now? Shakespeare. I get a lot of my inspiration from the classics—particularly fairy tales and mythology, but also classic literature as well. I’ve been rereading a particular Shakespeare play and mining it for gems, for use in my current (secret) project, and it’s leading to all kinds of spin-off ideas.
Describe your sense of humour, and tell us the funniest thing you've heard lately.
I have a pretty dumb sense of humor sometimes. I’ll sit and giggle for far too long at a picture of someone doing something stupid on the internet, for example. I also get a sort of masochistic pleasure out of bad puns. Well, and clever puns too, for that matter.
What's on your nightstand right now?
I'm in the middle of reading SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo. (Ohmygoodness so am I. I just feel asklga;sghnl about the bloody thing. It's absolutely smashing.) It’s fantastic. I don’t have anywhere near as much time to read these days as I’d like, and usually when I go to bed I fall asleep more or less instantly. So lately I’ve been blocking out time and reading for at least half an hour before I sleep. And I’ve got some others in my TBR pile that I can’t wait to read—Diana Peterfreund’s FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS and E.C. Meyers’s FAIR COIN are high on my list of priorities, after hearing friends rave about them.
What does your book collection look like at the moment? Do you have a favourites shelf?
Right now I only have this one bookshelf for fiction/fantasy/genre stuff. Out in the main room of my apartment is the bookshelf I share with my roommate, where we keep classics, cookbooks, coffee table books, etc. A bunch of my children’s books (The BFG, Watership Down, etc.) are out there. And then the other bookshelf in my room/office is my reference bookshelf, with all my nonfiction and craft books.
This means that I have a stack of about twenty books that aren't on my bookshelves...usually I keep the ones I haven't read yet in the stack, and put them on the shelf when I finish.
Describe your go-to writing outfit.
Pajama pants, tank top, ratty bathrobe covered in cat hair. It's a glamorous life, what can I say?
Routine or whimsy?
Routine, punctuated by whimsy.
What music are you listening to right now? And what music inspired you while writing Skylark? (Bonus question: music while you write, or silence?)
I'm not listening to anything right now, because I get distracted when I hear music. Which answers the second part of the question—I need silence to write. If I listen to music with lyrics, I get distracted by the words of the lyrics. If I listen to music without, then I start inventing new, different stories to match the tone of the music. Or if it’s a movie soundtrack, I start playing the movie in my head.
But while I'm not actually listening to any music right now, I've got Human by the Killers stuck in my head at the moment. So maybe that counts.
What was the last movie you saw? Or, recommend me a movie.
The last movie I saw was Brave, the new Pixar movie. Reviewers were saying it wasn't as good as the others have been, so I was worried, but no, it's lovely. It's a mother-daughter film, too. So girls, take your mums and go see it.
List 10 things that make your heart happy.
In no particular order:
- My cat.
- That first fall day where the heat has broken and you can smell the leaves.
- Falling asleep listening to the rain.
- Organising my bookcase.
- Fans (The "we-love-your-book" kind, not the kind that makes the aforementioned wind. Though I like those too.)
- Snow. (Wow, a lot of these are weather related!)
- Stars. The night sky in general. Thinking about infinite space.
The absolute, greatest, singing-its-praises-until-you-bleed dessert?
Flourless, chocolate torte. The really dense, cold kind that slightly crumbly, usually comes with a dusting of powdered sugar...omg. Kill me now.
One question you would like to ask the nindogs readership?
What sorts of things do you like to see from authors you like? Extra content/deleted scenes on Skype? Interaction on Twitter? Q&A sessions/live chat? Physical, public events at bookstores? As new authors, we're bombarded with all these options for ways to promote ourselves and our books, and it's hard to know what works, and what readers really like to see!
The Avengers or Justice League?
The Avengers, hands down. I love Batman, but I loathe most incarnations of Superman, so they tend to cancel each other out. Whereas I love the Marvel universe in general. I’m a big X-Men fan, and I read Ultimates (which is all about the Avengers) before any of the movies started coming out, and thought it was completely awesome.
Greatest play you've ever seen, or something that had the biggest impact on your idea of storytelling.
Medea by Euripides. I saw a production of this play… must have been fifteen years ago now, but it’s still with me, as vivid as if I saw it last week. It starred Fiona Shaw (the actress who plays Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies) and she was… horrifying. In a good way. If you don’t know the story of Medea, the short version is that her husband, Jason, betrays her and out of revenge she kills her children. As is traditional in Greek plays, the “action” takes place off stage and we only really see the aftermath. So we don’t see her kill her children—but in this production she carries them out, covered in blood. Real children actors, too. It was one of the most horrifying, gripping things I’ve ever seen. It scarred me. (Clearly, if I can remember it vividly fifteen years later.) But it taught me so much about drama. About how it’s not always the action that’s gripping—in fact, it’s never the action on its own. It’s how the characters respond and shape what’s going on that’s interesting to viewers/readers.
A woman after my own heart.
Now, time for some linkage and portkeys and suchness. For instance, if you're pretty stoked for Skylark and you like to win some free stuff (and everyone should be raising their hands right now, or else you need to go to some counselling to sort out your denial issues), Meagan, like the total Jedi she is, is holding a HUGE Skylark giveaway on her blog, like HUGE. Everyone who enters wins. I'm not even kidding. It's open internationally and all incredibleness. So climb that like a tree.
And don't forget to check out the rest of the sights on the Skylark tour!
Meagan on Twitter
Meagan on Facebook
Skylark on Goodreads