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An Interview with Megan Hart

Conducted by Jennifer Booth
May 2003

Megan Hart has given us the delights of down to earth femininity swept into a climate of moving romance, so subtle and touching that waves of smiles and deep empathy become an integral part of the ride. A combination of talent across different themes and a welcomed quick wit have no doubt helped her literary success, which has earned her not just popularity but a Golden Wings Award. We asked Megan not only where her life as a writer began, but how she sees it today, and for the enticement of her fans, a little about the book of tomorrow…

FF: Did you read a lot as a child and if so, do you think it helped inspire you?

Megan: I read very early, before going to kindergarten. The first book I remember reading on my own was “This is the House That Jack Built.” I’ve been a voracious reader ever since. I’ve been writing almost as long — usually stories based on ones I’d read and enjoyed. Reading has definitely been a source of inspiration for me, from the first Ray Bradbury story I read to discovering The Stand by Stephen King when I was twelve. That’s what made me decide I wanted to become a writer.

FF: I understand a high school boyfriend lay behind the plot of “Exaltation of Larks,” but in terms of your desire to become a writer has anyone been particularly inspiring to you?

Megan: No one person has particularly inspired me to become a writer, but I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the people around me.

FF: You say it never occurred to you that you might not be published, has this indeed been relatively trouble free for you?

Megan: Did I say that? No, it hasn’t been relatively trouble free. I sent my first book, An Exaltation of Larks, to just about every publisher I could, and was rejected by all of them. Finally, I rewrote, reworked, reworded, re-everything, came out with a stronger book, and sent it to Wings ePress, who at the time was looking for more fantasy submissions. I’ll have six books available at the end of 2003, but I’ve had more rejections than acceptances. To quote Vin Diesel quoting Al Pacino, Al said that he’d become an overnight success after ten years. Vin said he became an overnight success after twenty years. I hope I’ll soon be an overnight success, too — before thirty years!

FF: Romance, albeit realistic and not slushy, seems a pervasive theme in your career. Is it what truly interests you?

Megan: I like writing about relationships. Romances are all about the relationship between a man and a woman. No matter what else is going on in the book, the relationship between the hero and the heroine is the most important part. I like happy endings, too, which writing romance allows me to have. I’m writing a lot more sf and fantasy right now, and though they wouldn’t qualify as a romance, exactly, the stories are still all about relationships. I’m working on an sf trilogy right now that takes place in the future, and though the story is about a man and a woman and their journey across the United States, the book is about how their relationship grows and changes over the course of the trip. How they deal with the addition of a child to their couple, and how it changes them. The sorts of things we all face…I guess now I’m more interested in writing about what happens beyond the happily ever after.

FF: I love your twists of humour that appear rather subtly in the text, would you say this ability has been fostered by your love of classics like the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ whose humour is similarly subtle?

Megan: Thank you for calling my humor subtle! At the risk of sounding like a super-geek, the Rocky Horror Picture Show was a huge influence on my life. “Don’t dream it, be it.” How can you get any more inspirational or profound than that? The character of Maximillian in An Exaltation of Larks was directly inspired by Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank ‘n Furter. As for humor overall, I don’t think life would be bearable if we weren’t able to laugh at ourselves once in awhile. I guess that comes through in my work.

FF: Naming characters per se is a troublesome area for many writers, only becoming harder in fantasy genres. Do you find the same?

Megan: I have about half a dozen baby name books and naming sites bookmarked on my computer. Sometimes I’ll do a reverse search on a name’s meaning to name a character. Often times, I just look at names until I pick one that sounds right, or I’ll choose a name that has personal meaning for me. Perion (An Exaltation of Larks) is a name I read in Stephen King’s extended reprint version of The Stand. Mason was the name of my favorite character on an old soap opera called Santa Barbara. I’ve named two heroes Alex because of a huge crush I had on guy I used to work with in college. I’ve used my children’s middle names. So no, for me I don’t find naming the characters difficult at all. I also enjoy using a lot of Celtic and Hebrew names, which sound unusual to the modern ear but are real names despite not being commonly used.

FF: I noticed that you quote Nietzsche on your website: do you feel creativity does truly come from intense/conflicting passions?

Megan: I’m constantly filled with intense/conflicting passions. I am not, by nature, calm and reflective. I have a fiery Aries temper, and I’m half Irish, so I’m always stirred up about something. My highs are high and my lows are low, but goshdurnit, they’re my highs and lows and I wouldn’t change one of them. I think my creativity is directly related to the intensity of my emotions. Thank goodness I have a creative outlet in my writing or I’d be even harder to live with than I am now.

FF: Some writers -unlike myself- stick religiously to predetermined plot lines, which probably saves on editing time. How would you describe your style?

Megan: Seat of the pants. Totally. I might know where to start, and I might know where to end, but the middle is one vast wonderland of “what if?” Now I’m quoting myself! But it’s true. I plot a chapter or two in advance, but even that usually changes. I’m a big “eureka!” type writer. I’ll be driving along, and I’ll suddenly get the idea for the next scene. I dream a lot, too, and use that in my writing.

FF: Do you try to reserve a certain time every day to write?

Megan: When my kids were smaller and took naps, I wrote every day. Then they got older and didn’t nap, and so I didn’t write every day. Now I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of toddlerhood, and when they both go to school I’ll have time again to write every day. Currently I have two days a week I write, and if I can squeeze in any other time, I do. I’ve learned to write very fast and edit later.

FF: Is there a particular writing atmosphere you need? Either in terms of your own mood or the physical accompaniments you need around you?

Megan: If my house is too messy I can’t concentrate. I’d rather not write at all one day and clean up, so I can sit down at the computer and not have dirty laundry waiting to be taken care of. I like to write to music, and have soundtracks for most of my books. For when they’re optioned for the big screen, of course. 😉 But basically, I’ve learned to write wherever, whenever. I’ve been taking my son to an indoor playground on the afternoons while my daughter is in full day school. He plays, I write. There is chaos and cacophony all around me, children screaming, mothers chatting, babies spitting up…and I just sit at the table and write. Tune it out. Otherwise, I’d never have any time at all! Sadly, the playground closed for the summer and I’m lost until the fall.

FF: You write that to be true to characters you need be true to yourself. Do you think it can help the realism of your story lines if they delve into your own experiences?

Megan: Mostly everything I’ve written has been taken in some way from my own experiences. The feeling of falling in love, of being betrayed, of holding your child for the first time. This doesn’t mean that everything my characters do, I have done, or that I can’t try to imagine what it might be like to be a blind man or whoever the character is I’m writing about. But I do try to take my own experiences and use them for my characters.

FF: The idea of women who’ve been hurt in love is inherent in parts of your writing, is this something you think your female audience in particular will bond with?

Megan: If you’ve ever fallen in love without being hurt, you’re a lucky person! That’s why they call it falling, you know, because it hurts. 🙂 Even the best and happiest relationships have moments of pain, which is good. Otherwise, how could we appreciate the beauty if there wasn’t any ugliness to compare it to?

FF: I definitely find it appealing when your female characters seem at odds with the world of beauty, such as the image of Perion ‘battling’ with her hair in a scene from “Exaltation of Larks.” Do you intend your female characters to be so aesthetically unconcerned?

Megan: I’m not going to say that looks are unimportant, because I’d be lying. I just think there is more to a person than her bra size or the color of her eyes. I suffer the same self-doubts as many women, about weight, hair, etc. It wouldn’t seem right to me to write about a female character who didn’t have some of that self-doubt, as well. I think true beauty comes from a sense of self-confidence and being able to love oneself, and that’s what I try to portray my heroines as discovering.

FF: To be honest your male characters break the aesthetic illusion equally well. Do you think characters like Alex that display depths beneath their good looks encourage people to think twice about judging attractive people as shallow?

Megan: I hope so! Then again, I think I just fell in love with Alex myself and thought he could do no wrong. I must have done a good job with him, because a lot of women who’ve read Nothing In Common fell in love with him, too.

FF: I do like the fact that you have a mix of male characters, sorcerer Mason de Cimmerian being far from sugary sweet. From where did your inspiration for such a character arise?

Megan: Oh, Mason. My goodness. He’s got a very bad attitude, doesn’t he? He is a mix of several inspirations. One was the character Mason on Santa Barbara from back in the 1980’s. If anyone watched the show, they might remember Mason was the black sheep son, the unloved one, the mean and nasty brother who was finally redeemed by the love of a good woman. My Mason was also influenced by a man in my life as a teenager, who constantly belittled me, yet once told me I had a lot of potential and could really go far in life. There’s even a bit of me in Mason, which might sound unusual since he’s the hero, but haven’t most people felt angry and unloved at some point? Lashing out at other people can be the only way to make yourself feel better, but when someone loves you despite that facade of anger, you just melt. Mason arose out of my own turbulent feelings during a rather rough period of my life.

FF: We have your new book “Riverboat Bride” released into our hands this summer, would you be able to give us a tantalising titbit on what to expect?

Megan: Sure, I’d be happy to! Anyone who wants to read the first chapter can
send me a note at talktome@meganhart.com, with “RB” in the subject. Here’s an excerpt:

Hallie pushed away from him and got off the bed to stand on trembling legs. She pressed her hands to her cheeks, seeking to cool the heat there. She took several deep breaths, calming herself. Alex said nothing.

“If I let you make love to me,” she said at last, not turning, “I could
never forgive myself. It would be so wrong, Alex.”

He still said nothing. She risked a look at him. He hadn’t moved, not even to look at her. His hair fell untidily over his forehead, obscuring his face. She couldn’t read his expression.

“I meant what I said about feeling good when I was with you. I liked talking to you. If I let you touch me–” She broke off, then gathered the courage to speak her thoughts. “If I let you make love to me, we could no longer be friends. Everything I like so much about you would be lost. Wouldn’t it?”

He nodded grudgingly. “Probably.”

She went to him, sitting beside him on the bed again. “I don’t have many friends. I’d hate to lose one.”

A wisp of a smile tugged at his mouth. Was she imagining it or was
there real regret in his face?

“So that’s how it’s going to be then.” A statement, not a question.
“It’s the only way it can be.”

His gaze made her shiver. “All right, Hallie. I’ll be your friend.”

Relief surged through her, followed immediately by dejection. She’d made the right decision. Why, then, did she want to take it back.

Closing: So readers get you’re eyes feasting on a copy of “Riverboat Bride” released this July by Amber Quill Press:

www.amberquill.com

That leaves me to say a great big thanks to Megan for her honesty, humour and time, and for those of you want to get started on Megan’s appraised collection you can visit her fondly named world of chaos on the web:

www.meganhart.com

Or visit the publisher:

www.wings-press.com

Copyright © 2003 by Jennifer Booth

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