Today I have Meira Pentermann , author of Firefly Beach, visiting The Life and Lies today!
Why and when did you begin writing?
Hello, Haley. Thank you for inviting me to The Life and Lies of an Inanimate Flying Object!
I have been writing since I was twelve, mostly journals and poetry. During my thirties I had several story ideas, but I never got past a couple of chapters. In 2003, I sat down and wrote an entire novel in one month! At least I thought it was a novel. It was barely 50,000 words – not long enough to qualify as a novel – and it was frankly quite dreadful. Thankfully I had no clue at the time. That first manuscript, which I shelved in 2007, allowed me to believe I could write a full-length novel. Faith in one’s self is a powerful thing.
What inspired you to write your book?
FIREFLY BEACH developed in stages before it took off in my brain and wouldn’t leave me alone. I first envisioned the firefly in 2004 when my husband and I were on a retreat. We participated in a relaxation seminar. The instructor asked us to imagine a very safe and quiet space – a room, a meadow, whatever came to mind. I pictured a small beach secluded by high cliffs. But, honestly, relaxation exercises and I do not do well together. Thoughts run around in my brain in spite of my efforts to quiet them. Shortly after arriving at my special beach, a firefly joined me dancing around the cliff. Then a diary and the idea that it belonged to a long-lost girl.
That concept drifted to the back of my mind while I worked on another manuscript from 2004 through 2007. As soon as I declared that manuscript finished, the firefly returned to me, flooding me with ideas. I could not write them down fast enough. I realized that Beth’s story was far more compelling than the words I labored over for three years. At that moment, the old manuscript found its way to a shelf in the back of my closet, and I passionately dove into FIREFLY BEACH.
How did you come up with the title?
The title was originally THE FIREFLY, but since I was having trouble getting past the query letter stage, I decided to poll some other writers. Maybe the title would make a difference. Why not? After a few rounds, the consensus was to try the title FIREFLY BEACH. I did receive a contract from Lyrical Press shortly thereafter, so who knows?
What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?
I have so many favorite authors as well as individuals who have inspired me over the years, but I will choose one woman who recently inspired me to self-publish FIREFLY BEACH after it went out of print (the first edition was released in March of 2009). I believe many of your readers will have heard of her – Tracey Garvis-Graves. Tracey and I met on a writer’s forum called AbsoluteWrite. She had this interesting story idea about a teenager and his tutor trapped on an island in the Maldives. I sent her a message asking if I could read it. She wanted to finish the novel to cross it off of her “bucket list”. We became writing buddies (call each other cyber-sister). Now she has a best-selling novel called ON THE ISLAND. She is delighted to be an indie author. In fact, she has turned down some interesting proposals, saying it is not worth it to have someone else choose her covers, set her deadlines, and tell her what to write. This really inspires me to embrace the personal power of indie publishing.
How do you go about researching for your books?
First, I do a lot of research on the Internet, especially following the roads by using Google Maps. I bookmark phases of the moon charts and sunrise/sunset calculators. In the case of FIREFLY BEACH, I researched slang and products available in the seventies, flowers and vegetation, the unique governing practices in Maine, models of cars, housing styles, sailing terms – everything I thought might need double-checking.
I also did extensive research on lighthouses, but during the editing phase I cut the lighthouse-related story elements from the manuscript. I had a chapter about Rod Thompson’s parents and grandparents managing the lighthouse, but it was difficult to follow and didn’t add much to the story.
Finally, the fun part, I get to visit the location! I dragged my hubby through the underbrush in Maine. Literally. I did. . . drag him through the underbrush in Maine. And he’s quite pleased to remind me of that fact if I complain about the mosquitoes in our backyard.
Enjoying the hospitality of the gracious women from the Wildfire Inn in Searsport, Maine, we traveled the coast during its most rainy, least flattering season, but it was one of my favorite vacations. Virginia Point was primarily inspired by two coastal towns – Camden and Searsport, Maine.
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
I think there is a blend of people I’ve met in all of the characters I create. Still, they are definitely hybrids. For instance, I wouldn’t say, “Mary Schmidt is exactly like so-in-so,” because Mary Schmidt has a little bit of several people I’ve met or encountered as well as my imagination of what a boisterous b&b owner might be like.
What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?
I am thrilled to receive a heartfelt email or read an enthusiastic review. I cherish each reader and appreciate every review. That is definitely the best part. The hardest part has to be when I suddenly, out of nowhere, doubt myself. It is sort of a crippling feeling and I’m not sure where it comes from. My guess is that knowing there are hundreds of people out there somewhere reading the book, I feel like I’m naked on a stage; something like that. So I have to practice belief until the doubt dissolves.
Do you have any other books planned in the future?
I recently published NINE-TENTHS, a dystopian science fiction, and I am currently working on a grade 3-6 novel called SARAH AND THE MAGIC MAYONNAISE JAR. I have genre-commitment-phobia. I can’t seem to help myself. The novel should be available by the end of 2012. I am working with an outstanding new illustrator, Rachel Loftus, and I am excited to bring my daughter’s favorite story to life.
Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?
I like them all. . . Well, I enjoyed writing all of them. Most of the characters are flawed or damaged in some way as well as gifted or insightful in other aspects of life. My favorite character is Kenny McLeary, the jeweler. The character I dislike the most is Mack McLeary, Kenny’s father.
What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?
I could give aspiring authors pages of concrete device about editing and querying, but there are thousands of websites and blogs which give excellent advice in more detail than I could do here. So I’ll focus on the one thing I know. You must first believe that it is a very real possibility.
The achievement of any dream begins with the assertion, “I will do this.” Dreams that remain sheltered under words like “I wish” or “I’m not sure” will never see the light of day. I’m not saying a doubt or two won't rear its ugly head from time to time, but it is important to swat that doubt away as soon as possible. It is a pesky little gnat, a poisonous distraction.
Practice belief. Dispel doubt. If no one comes to your aid in a moment of despair, you must be strong and hold out until the doubt passes. Write your goals on paper. Post them on the wall. Declare them and never give up.
Just for fun:
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Read, read, read!
Do you have any pets?
Yes. One black lab who is my best friend. Two cats who often sit in my office while I’m writing :)
What are your favorite (and least favorite) foods?
I love Mexican food and don’t care for Thai food. They are both spicy, but I prefer peppers and cilantro.
Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
Most of the time I write in my home office, but I actually really enjoy taking a laptop to the library. Also, my family has treated me with several writer’s weekends. I go to a hotel on Friday night and return on Sunday morning. Both of my published books were launched during a writer’s weekend.
If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?
London. We visited last year and I would love to go again!
What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject was astronomy and my least favorite was P.E.
What book are you reading right now?
My daughter (12) is obsessed with a fantasy series called FABLEHAVEN, and every day she asks me, “Where are you in FABLEHAVEN?” There are five books in the series, so I will be reading it for a while. It’s very clever – a fun read.
Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
I’m afraid of clowns ;)
Thanks for visiting Meira!
On slow, snowy days in her Colorado home, Meira Pentermann enjoys cozying up on the couch with a novel. Naturally, snow is not a requirement; neither is the couch. In fact, she sees no reason not to indulge in reading three-hundred-and-sixty-five days a year. Apocalyptic science fiction, mysteries, and young adult titles top her Kindle list, but legal thrillers and chik-lit make an appearance now and then.
When not absorbed in writing or reading, Meira enjoys life’s little moments with her family – the love and devotion of her black lab, the quiet wisdom of her artistic twenty-one-year-old, the trials and triumphs of her petite sixth grader, and the unlimited encouragement offered by her Dutch husband.
Meira 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.
About Firefly Beach
When Beth LaMonte rents a cottage on the coast of Maine, she wishes only to withdraw and paint. A mysterious ball of light disturbs her peace and leads her to a secret beach where she finds the diary of a girl who disappeared in 1975. Now Beth is on a mission, not only to bury her own past, but to put to rest the spirit of Firefly Beach.