An Interview with David Meredith
I’m going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?
Actually I’d say my favorite is one I haven’t published yet. It was one I started WAY back in 2004 that is mostly complete. It is a fantasy series based upon Japanese myth, legend, and folklore, rather than the European model that is so prevalent in fantasy literature today. Originally it was a 406,000 word behemoth, but I’ve edited it down to three volumes that are between 95,000 and 120,000 words each. It’s still kind of my baby, so I’ve been holding back on publishing, but I think that time is coming. I wrote most of it while I was living in Japan. It is based on many of my experiences there and borrows heavily from the mythology and folklore of Northern Japan where I spent the bulk of my time. It is probably the one thing I’ve written that is the most personal to me so I’ve been reluctant to release it until I’m sure it’s perfect.
Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?
Well, I definitely had several false starts, (I think I got 50+ pages into four separate novels before abandoning them for various reasons) and those are probably well and deservedly dead, but they were all extremely important in helping me develop as a writer, especially in terms of learning what didn’t work. However, the piece I mentioned before was the first novel that I actually finished. It has gone through countless rewrites and now 13 years after starting it, I think I finally have the writing chops to realize my original vision in a way that other people will actually want to read and the knowledge as an Indy writer to promote it the way it deserves. It will definitely be published at some point. It’s just a question of when.
Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?
I probably could, but I don’t think I’d be very happy with the final result. I easily take at least twice as long editing and revising my completed work as I do writing the initial draft. Maybe others are different, but I really need to see that complete final vision to truly understand where it’s working where it’s not and how to tighten it up. I don’t really let ideas percolate, per se. I do however, try to get new ideas down as soon and as quickly as I can, but I don’t like to release until I’m sure a piece is as solid and tight as it can possibly be.
I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?
Especially since I just finished my doctorate degree, I’ve been pretty busy. I usually work on my laptop whenever and wherever I have a couple of free minutes. Home, office, coffee shop, kids’ sports practice, even parked in the car! I can’t afford to be fussy if I want to get anything done.
Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?
I impose often on talented friends and family. My wife is my first proof reader, and she offers a lot of valuable insight. Other friends also offer their two cents, but recently I’ve started doing Beta-Trades through Goodreads. I Beta-read theirs. They do mine, and that has been an enriching experience so far. I infinitely prefer Beta-Trades to review swaps, which I really don’t like doing. In trading reviews I always feel compelled to spin a book as positively as possible or risk hurting someone’s feelings. Telling someone their completed masterpiece is awful never feels good. With Beta-Trades on the other hand, I feel like I’m offering valuable constructive criticism that will hopefully make the final product better. I have a great deal more freedom to be honest, and feel much better about myself in the end as well. Then of course, the feedback I receive is extremely valuable too. It has been a great way to get a number of diverse perspectives on my work, and see things in a way I might otherwise not have.
I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?
The smell of my dad’s office growing up is a foundational memory for me, so I understand what you mean. I do like physical books. Given the choice, I honestly prefer them, but as time has gone by I find myself reading more and more electronically. My favorite shop though is actually a used book store named McKay’s. They have several outlets here in Tennessee and are all opened in old warehouse buildings stacked floor to ceiling with used books. It definitely has the smell you’re talking about.
I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from:
I read mostly fantasy for my own entertainment though I have branched out some in recent years. It’s still my strongest inclination and preference. In terms of my own writing, so far all of my fiction work has had some kind of fantastical element to it. I really enjoy the freedom that speculative fiction offers. Most of my reading lately has been required course material for my doctoral program, but some of my favorite authors are Tad Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Robin Hobb. I also like work by Robert Jordan, Liza Dolby, and James Clavell. I still reread Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy every couple of years.
- childhood? Dr. Suess – Wacky Wednesday (I wore that book out) and the Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. I also spent a lot of time at Number 32 Windsor Gardens J.
- adolescence? I read A LOT of Dragon Lance and Forgotten Realms novels.
- young adult? LOTR by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn Trilogy by Tad Williams
- adult? I really liked Shogun by James Clavell and The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby. They helped me make sense of the Japanese people and culture I found myself immersed in for nearly a decade. Both are great stories, but even better resources for getting into the nuts and bolts of the Japanese psyche in a way that is easy for westerners to understand.
Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?
I was not a natural in terms of using social media to promote my writing. I still struggle with it honestly, but make regular use of Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads in particular. It is admittedly however, an area where I still have a lot of room to grow.
If you manage your own profile, please tell me as much as you are comfortable with in regards to your preferred platform and an estimate of time you spend doing it.
After a book is released I easily spent two or three hours or more a day sending review requests (I use Twitter heavily for finding book review sites), working on my Facebook writer page and monitoring sales and promotions. I easily spend as much time and effort on online promotion as I do actually writing the book if not more. I’ve gotten to where I have accepted it as a necessary evil, but I enjoy working on the promoted pieces themselves much more than their promotion.
Answering interview questions can often take a long time! I try to make my questions as interesting as possible, is there anything else you wished I had asked? And tell me honestly… Are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?
Maybe, “what do you want Aaru to accomplish? What do you want people to get out of it?”
Aaru is first and foremost an entertaining and emotional YA/NA SyFy/Fantasy novel. It is at its core a story about the love of two sisters, and how they struggle to cope as the paradigms of what they’ve always been taught is true and good is challenged and shifted in a monumental way. However, Aaru also explores a number of what I think are fundamentally human questions: What happens when religion and faith conflict with technology and science? Is there a way to reconcile the two? What constitutes a human being or human soul? What would happen to religion and faith if the fear of death was removed from society? How would that change the way individuals choose to live their lives? In a world where people in power can essentially choose who is and is not saved, how should that determination be made? Who should be saved? Is the act of choosing winners and losers, judging who is righteous and worthy vs. who is not in and of itself even moral at all? I suspected that the answers would be a lot messier and more complicated than the utopian realization of John Lennon’s Imagine lyrics and lead to a great deal of conflict as people try to hash it all out. In the end, Aaru doesn’t really answer any of these questions, nor is it intended to, but it does speculate on what the answers of different people from different circumstances and indeed society at large might be. What I want people to get out of Aaru is an intensely emotional experience that stimulates some productive introspection even as they enjoy it as a compelling story about the fierce love of two sisters that transcends even death.
And as to the other question… Sometimes… J