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An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author: Meagan Shepherd

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Stack of books by Meagan Shepherd

Stack of books by Meagan Shepherd

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Taken by Maria Muscarella

Stack of books by Meagan Shepherd

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Meagan Shepherd is a New York Times Bestselling Author and the writer of The Madman’s Daughter series and The Cage series, both young adult and most recently a middle-grade book called The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. She has a degree in International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has also worked with the US Peace Corps living in a village in Senegal. She currently lives in a 125-year-old farm outside Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband, two cats, and dog.

What’s a normal day for you like?

“No day is the same! Most days I’m at my desk writing for 3-4 hours a day, and then handling the business of being an author, like signing contracts, updating my website, and putting together presentations. Other days I might be taking a research trip or speaking to a school group about my books.”

What/who inspired you to start writing? 

 “I was inspired to write after working with school children in Senegal as part of a Peace Corps project. I worked with the school’s teachers to put together a storybook of the village’s folktales, and seeing that process of how books came together, and how much the students loved the stories, made me want to write stories of my own.”

Did you originally want to write or did you look into another profession? 

 “I didn’t think about writing as a career until I was around 25 years old, which is ironic, because I grew up in a family that owned a bookstore! I wanted to work for international environmental organizations, so I could protect nature and travel the world, which are still two passions of mine.”

How does the original idea for The Secret Horses Of Briar Hill differ from the end product?

 “The original idea for The Secret Horses of Briar Hill was about a girl and a horse with a broken wing, but I wasn’t sure if it would be set in the United States or in England, or in the modern era or a historical time period. It took me a while to decide that the best setting for it would be wartime England.”

Which one of your characters do you relate to the most?

“I related a lot to Emmaline from The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. She’s much like I was at ten years old: curious about the world, often alone, a few very dear friends, artistic.”

How long did it take you to get published?

 “It took me four years to get published. My first published book was The Madman’s Daughter, but I had written three full manuscripts before that (and started many more) of other books that didn’t get published. Writing those earlier manuscripts was how I learned to write–each one got better and better until I wrote a story that was good enough for publication.”

Are any of your books being made into a movie? 

“Both The Madman’s Daughter series and The Secret Horses of Briar Hill have been optioned for film and/or TV, but there are still many hoops to jump through before either one would actually start filming. “

What’s the best cure for writers block?

“Taking some time away from the draft to get some fresh perspective is key for me. Sometimes that just means taking a walk outside with my dog. Other times it means taking several weeks off to work on something else, or just clear my head, and then come back to it with fresh eyes.”

What are the steps in-between the idea and a physical book?

 “This varies for every author, but for me, I start with an idea and brainstorm on it for a few weeks or months. Then I take about four months to write a first draft. Then I rewrite and edit that draft for another four months, and then I send it to critique partners and my agent for their feedback, and then I rewrite it more. (There is LOTS of rewriting happening.) Then I share the book with my editor, and if she wants to publish it, we rewrite it more for around six more months. (I told you it was a lot of rewriting!). Then the book goes through copyediting, proofreading, cover design, and marketing. The book is printed and shipped to bookstores, and sold to readers!”

Do you have any tips for young authors trying to get published?

“I have three pieces of advice for young authors. The first is to read EVERYTHING. Read the type of books you want to write, and books from other genres, too. Read bestsellers and award winners. Read often and varied. My second piece of advice is to write A LOT. Try to spend a few minutes each day writing, either in a journal, or as part of a story, or from a writing prompt. It will take a long time and lots of experimenting before you learn what your true writing style is. And my third piece of advice is to be sure you’re doing things that aren’t reading and writing: that are just living. Traveling, forming relationships with people, succeeding at some tasks and failing at others, etc. If you haven’t experienced much in life, you won’t have much to write about.”

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