Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Author Interview: Meira Pentermann

Today I have an interview with Meira Pentermann, author of Firefly Beach. Meira enjoys reading a cozy novel on slow, snowy days in her Colorado home. Intrigued by the paranormal and drawn in by a captivating mystery, she strives to write stories that deliver the unexpected. She prefers down-to-earth characters that look and behave like regular folks. The prom queen and Adonis take a backseat to reclusive, soul-searching heroines and quirky, introverted gentlemen.

When not competing with her mischievous cat for use of the keyboard, she enjoys life’s little moments with her family – the quiet wisdom of her artistic eighteen-year-old, the trials and triumphs of her petite third grader, and the unlimited encouragement offered by her Dutch husband.

Natasha: Tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been writing? When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

Meira: Hello, Natasha. Thank you for inviting me.

I live in Colorado with my husband, two girls, a couple of cats, and a devoted dog. I have been writing since I was twelve, keeping journals and jotting down an occasional poem. Writing has always been not merely a pleasure, but an intrinsic desire. Nevertheless, I was thirty-nine before I made a serious attempt to write a full-length novel. As a matter of fact, I wrote an entire novel in one month out of the blue. It wasn’t any good (smile), but I played with it for many years and learned much about writing and editing in the process. Furthermore, just knowing that I was capable of stringing together 70,000-plus words gave me the confidence to start a new novel.

During my free time, I love to read. (What a surprise!) I’m especially fond of YA Fantasy, but I gobble up just about anything from romance to history.

Natasha: Your novel, Firefly Beach, is available as both an e-book and in paperback. How did it feel to be published?

Meira: I will never forget the moment I received the email from Lyrical Press. After fifty rejections of my query letter, I had developed a thick skin and low expectations. I did not believe anyone would ever read the manuscript. In fact, I intended to shelve the project after submitting to Lyrical Press. Believe it or not, when I noticed the email in my inbox, my heart sank. This is it, I thought. The final rejection and the end of the journey for Firefly Beach. When I read it, I didn’t quite understand. Where’s the but? I wondered. I reread the email looking for the words “but it’s not right for us” or “but we are not taking on new authors at this time.”

When I finally digested the fact that there was no but, my head spun. Not only did someone read the manuscript, they actually wanted to publish it! I screamed. Then I brought my family members in, so we could all scream together. Finally, I found my best friend at the neighbourhood pool and casually handed her a printout of the email as if it were just another rejection. The look on her face? Priceless.

Natasha: Can you tell us a little about Firefly Beach? How long did it take you to write the story?

Meira: Firefly Beach is a paranormal cozy mystery.

In an attempt to renew her spirit, recently divorced Beth LaMonte gathers her art supplies and rents a cottage on the coast of Maine. Soon after her arrival, Beth encounters a mysterious, marble-sized ball of light. The silent, glowing creature overwhelms her with a series of puzzles – first guiding her to a secret beach and, later, a hidden diary. Beth’s curiosity leads her on a quest to uncover her reclusive, elderly landlord’s past. As she diligently pursues the fate of a woman she never met, she is forced to confront and process her own painful memories.

I began writing Firefly Beach in February of 2007. The original draft took about six months to complete. Then I put it through an extensive editing process. I didn’t start mailing query letters until January of 2008. Just before I submitted to Lyrical Press in July, I did another thorough edit and cut about 5,000 words to pick up the pace. I’d like to think that sealed the deal :)

Natasha: What was your favourite scene to write? What was your least favourite scene?

Meira: What a great question! I had to give it some serious thought.

I really enjoyed writing Beth’s dream segments. I love how dreams can take twists and turns during their voyage through the subconscious. I also had a lot of fun writing a funeral scene. Sounds creepy, I know, but it made me laugh. One of the matrons of the community throws her hand up and says to the out-of-town minister, “Hold it, Reverend.” . . . Katherine’s diary was also a blast. Ah, to be sixteen again.

The least favourite is more difficult to pinpoint. I am drawn to the story and the characters, and I really enjoyed writing Firefly Beach. Perhaps descriptive paragraphs give me the most trouble. I don’t go on for three pages describing the front of a house. Nevertheless, I belabour over the few sentences I do write to flesh out a garden or a room. I can compose a dozen pages of action and dialogue in the same time it takes me to write one paragraph of descriptive details.

Natasha: Do you have any public events scheduled for your book?

Meira: I will be doing a dozen syndicated radio programs this spring. Scary, but exciting. I do not have the schedule yet, but I will post the information on my website.

Natasha: Do you have any advice for beginning writers that are trying to get published?

Meira: Beginning writers are my favourite people. I often drop by writer’s forums to say “hi” to the new members and read about their current projects and aspirations.

Thinking about what made the biggest difference in my journey, I offer beginning writers the following counsel:

Build a fortress. Not to shut out helpful criticism or honest feedback, but to hold off the demons of doubt. When you put an idea out into the universe, don’t expect to be greeted with gushing enthusiasm. It is more likely you will encounter criticism, rejection, disregard, or doubt. Of these, criticism is your best friend and doubt your worst enemy. When a person criticizes your work, they actually believe you’ve got something worth evaluating. Someone who is willing to read your manuscript and give you tough, honest feedback is like gold. Hang on to such a friend. Send her flowers. Take her out to lunch. Don’t lose her because your ego is sensitive. Doubt, on the other hand, is the monster against which you must hold your ground. When someone looks at you as if they know you will never amount to anything, that’s the time to let your ego stand in defiance. Do not ever accept doubt from anyone. . . especially not yourself.

Natasha: What is the best way for readers to contact you? (e-mail, facebook, twitter, etc)

Meira: I prefer email, since my Facebook account is getting cluttered and I might miss something. I haven’t set up a Twitter account yet (I know, I know, I hear you, but I fear I will become obsessed.) So please contact me at: meira@meirapentermann.com. I am happy to answer questions, chat, or meet a new cyber writing buddy.

Thank you, Natasha. It’s been great talking with you.

Natasha: Thank you!


Aubrie said...

I loved Firefly Beach! Meria has written a masterpiece of a mystery that kept me turning pages until the very end :)

Nerine Dorman said...

Firefly Beach was the first Lyrical Press novel that I read, which made me very happy to know that my own novel was in such good hands.

Keep up the work, Meira. I really, really enjoyed your novel and will definitely look out for your future works.

You are so spot-on about a good critique buddy.

Rose Pressey said...

Great interview! I loved Firefly Beach--a fantastic mystery!