Joanna Ruth Meyer
author of Beneath the Haunting Sea
Author, I Never is a new segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I try to mix it up a little and ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never (kid friendly version) to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Joanna, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was about six, I decided I wanted to be a poet when I grew up. That quickly morphed into wanting to be an author (thank goodness!). I wrote my first story at seven, and it was about four female mystery-solvers investigating a string of neighborhood pet-nappings. The villain was a guy in a gorilla suit. For obvious reasons, I never finished it. :D But I continued to write all through my childhood and teen years, and was submitting things to magazines pretty early on. My crowning childhood achievement was getting published in Stone Soup when I was thirteen. I didn’t do a lot of writing during college, but the summer after I graduated, I finished my very first novel, inspired by the discovery of NaNoWriMo. I haven’t looked back!
Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
Signing with my agent! I had been querying off and on since late 2008, and I started another round of querying with my newly-revised manuscript in August 2014. After riding that emotional roller coaster for months on end, I had my first (miraculous! unexpected! amazing!) offer late in March 2015. This snowballed into three more offers, and I was left with the ridiculously wonderful stress of having to choose between four phenomenal agents. After months (years, really!) of being a wallflower, I felt suddenly like the belle of the ball! :D I agonized over the decision, and signed with Sarah Davies, who I’m pretty sure is a wizard. I couldn’t stop smiling for WEEKS.
Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
Well I’m definitely not there yet… I kind of feel like a poser, to be honest! I suspect I’ll never feel like I’ve made it, but it will be more real to me, I think, when I hold a finished copy of my debut in my hands!
Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
I had a few agents respond with encouraging feedback while I was querying, which was super helpful and spurred me to keep going. I made a lot of contacts and friends on Twitter, which is where I found my critique partner Jen Fulmer in 2014—that friendship and partnership was (and is!) invaluable, and I’m not at all sure I would have finished revising my manuscript, queried it, and signed with my agent without her!
Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
So many times! On the writing end of it, I feel like giving up every time I’m faced with a massive, horrifying revision. On the publishing end, I constantly felt like throwing in the towel while I was querying, and being on submission sent me into the absolute depths of despair. Luckily, ice cream and fuzzy cats and Netflix and hugs from my husband exist!!
Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
Hmm either during a piano lesson (I teach) or while I’m driving.
Question the seventh: Can you give us hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
There’s a reference to Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series in my book—the series served as partial inspiration, and I’ll be tickled pink (as my mother would say) if any fellow fans spot it! (Side note: if you haven’t read this phenomenal series, do yourself a favor and read it immediately! You’re welcome.)
I will! And now it's time for the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
Not a word per se, but I definitely stood by some unconventional capitalization and purposeful sentence fragments!
I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
Guilty! “I’ll remember and write it down in the morning,” she said foolishly to herself as she drifted off to sleep. Reader, she did not remember, and consequently did not write it down in the morning.
I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Guilty of beginning with a character waking up! I was trying to be clever about it—my MC wakes up, startled that he would have fallen asleep the night before his execution…
I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
I’ve attempted it! But I always fail miserably and end up focusing on just one.
I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
Many, many times!
I never wrote "for a long moment.”
Ummmmm too many times to count. :D
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
Guilty! One NaNo I continued writing a novel I’d started a previous year. It still isn't finished!
Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
Thanks so much for having me! My debut novel, BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA, releases January 9th, 2018 from Page Street Publishing. It’s a YA fantasy about a banished girl who finds herself ensnared in a series of ancient myths as she tries desperately to deny the mysterious call of the sea—I like to think of it as a cross between Jane Austen and The Silmarillion, with kissing.
That sounds so fascinating. Sold.
Bonus question. If Beneath the Haunting Sea had a theme song, what would it be?
While first drafting, I listened to KEANE's album "Under the Iron Sea" constantly—it was a huge inspiration. Theme song would have to be Of Monsters and Men's "Black Water" off their "Beneath the Skin" album. I listened to that album as well as their other one "My Head is an Animal" nonstop while revising.
DJ Spotify, don't let me down.