My interview with Meg Lelvis, author of Bailey's Law about all things writing, her process, and what we can expect from the poet turned novelist.
- What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve enjoying writing stories since grade school, and after teaching English I wanted to try it out, first as a hobby. Then I joined writers’ groups and wanted to fulfill a life-long dream to publish a book.
When did you complete your first piece of writing? What was it? How was that process?
Eight years ago I wrote several free verse poems and short stories which I shared in critique circles.
It was a humbling experience because I didn’t realize how much I needed to learn!
What is your favourite genre to write? Why?
I’ve always been interested in psychology and characters’ motivations, and found that the
crime/mystery genre worked well to bring my characters to life and to send a message.
What kinds of sources do you take inspiration from?
I am inspired by established writers, both present and past. Charlotte Bronte and Tami Hoag are two examples. I read all the time; sometimes two books concurrently.
Do you model characters after real people?
Yes, sometimes I do. For example, Erna Baumgartner in Bailey’s Law is Jack Bailey’s meddling,
but good-hearted housekeeper. She’s patterned after my own Aunt Erna, who was a real character!
What does your writing process look like? Did it take you a while to develop?
I use the process which works best for me, and don’t adhere to exact rules or advice. Unlike many writers, I don’t outline for instance. I draw my own rudimentary story arc which looks like a lop-sided hill. I keep a running hand-written log of notes I jot down about the main events and characters introduced in each chapter. It may not work for others, but it’s what I know!
What does you editing process look like? Do you allow others to read your writing?
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading and re-reading my pages. I’m in a couple critique circles, and after they’ve given their suggestions, I later use the changes I agree with, and ignore the ones I don’t. Critique groups are essential to me because of the feedback and it urges me on to write.
Do you take criticism hard or do you have a thick skin? Have you ever received criticisms that you felt were unjustified or too harsh? Are you your worst critic?
I think I have a thick skin. Years ago I sang in a chorus and quartets where we had to accept constructive criticism or else give it up. It’s not easy being told you’re flat or hit the wrong note! My critique groups are all in the same boat; we want to become better writers, and they are quite diplomatic for the most part. At times certain people are ‘nitpicky’, but I hide my irritation and go on with my life, ha! Only once did I secretly disagree with someone’s criticism of a scene I’d worked hard on. I thought it was damn (you can omit this word if you’d like) good, and this person had problems with it. But I still like it!
Have you ever felt like quitting writing? If so how did you overcome those feelings?
There are times I need a break from writing, especially if I’m stuck on a scene I don’t want to write. Rewarding myself with reading good books or streaming episodes of UK detective stories help, and then I’m ready to return to the keyboard.
Do you have favourite characters from your own writing? What made them so special to you?
Yes, I do love Jack Bailey, whom I made a Liam Neeson look-alike. He has that brooding, tragic look about him that I like in Irish or Nordic men. Beneath a stony exterior, he has a good heart.
I also like Denise Williams, a patrol cop who’s smart and sassy. These characters are not passive personalities, which makes them special to me.
How do you keep motivated to finish a writing project?
I like to set realistic goals for myself; small enough so I can accomplish them. Some writers have a certain number of words or pages per day. I have to adjust my goals to my life in general, like trips, book club meeting, etc. Some days I have more time than others.
Have you ever written something you didn’t like, but felt necessary for the overall story?
If you mean involving research, yes. I’m not interested in nor know anything about guns, but I had to include information about them because my main characters are cops. There were one or two scenes involving investigations that I didn’t care for, but were essential for a realistic plot.
Is there any question you are tired of getting as an author?
Yes. After having my book published, people ask how my sales are going, which annoys me no end! Or how much did I pay an editor or publicist when the price is tailored to each writer’s own needs. As Dear Abby would say: MYOB. Why can’t they ask about writing or characters or themes?
What do you wish people knew about life as an author?
I wish they knew how many thousands of books are out there, and how many writers. I’m happy to say, though, that most of my friends and acquaintances respect what hard work it is to write, even though it’s a labor of love.
What would be your advice for aspiring authors?
Read a lot and write a lot. Read established authors in your genre of interest with a critical eye. Join a critique group, but it that’s not feasible, find someone who will be brutally honest in their comments about your writing. Show them a few pages or if you prefer, the entire first draft. Stephen King has his IR (Ideal Reader) who has always been his wife.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you became an author?
It’s a difficult balance between the joy and challenge of writing and the practical publishing process. The entire process of submitting to publishers, signing a contract, going through the timeline of publishing, like edits, cover design, etc. Then marketing expectations. Of course, it was a whole new world and learning curve, and it’s been a fun ride. Writing for me is a passion which I hope will always stay with me.