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Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:38
Mark Thwaite: What gave you the idea for How We Were Lost?
Megan Taylor: How We Were Lost is a dark coming of age story, centring on Janie, a lonely, precocious teenager whose obsession with finding two missing girls leads her into the tangled mysteries within her own family ...
I wrote the novel partly in response to the haunting and often iconic images of missing children in the media. Like many others, I found these images difficult to shake off – but as devastating as stranger abduction cases are, they’re thankfully rare and I wanted to look beyond the tabloid hysteria to the ‘quieter’ tragedies of domestic abuse that make little impact in the news.
More generally, I’m also interested in exploring the individual isolation that can exist even within a family, and the skewed perspectives and misunderstandings that can arise out of such loneliness.
Mark: How long did it take you to write it?
Megan: The first complete draft took about a year to write, mostly in short intense bursts during the evening and in the 2 hours a day when my daughter was at nursery. I then spent around another six months rewriting and editing.
Mark: This is your first novel, have you been pleased/surprised with the response to it? What have you learnt?
Megan: I’ve been overwhelmed by the response! The positive feedback has been amazing – to be honest, I still can’t believe that I’m a published author; it really is such a dream come true (huge apologies for the cliché!) I’m not really sure what I’ve learnt yet, except that I’ve been reminded how generous people can be.
Mark: Your book is written from the perspective of 14 year old Janie -- how difficult was it to make her real and get inside her head?
Megan: It was actually surprisingly easy – this probably says something about my lack of maturity, I’ve never really felt like a proper grown up! She was very real and complete to me right from the start and I think writing in the present tense as well as in first person helped to keep her character immediate and grounded.
Mark: How do you write? Longhand or directly onto a computer, straight off or with lots and lots of editing?
Megan: I write both longhand and directly on to the computer, but at the beginning, particularly when I’m trying to capture characters, I prefer a pen and notebook. Although I later revised How We Were Lost, it was mostly written in a headlong rush. These days I seem to spend much more time editing as I go, perhaps because I’ve grown more aware of potential readers.
Mark: What do you do when you are not writing?
Megan: I love reading as much as writing. I also like being out, walking, in parks and the Peak District. I love country pubs – pubs generally! - spending time with friends and family. I have two amazing children (aged 11 and 5) to keep me busy and I’m also studying part time for an MA in Creative Writing with Manchester Metropolitan University.
Mark: Did you have an idea in your mind of your "ideal" reader? Did you write specifically for them?
Megan: I didn’t have a specific ideal reader in mind. I’m afraid that I think I wrote How We Were Lost mostly for myself, though perhaps for a 23 year old me.
Mark: What are you working on now?
Megan: I’m currently halfway through the first draft of a new novel, another dark domestic drama, though it’s very different from How We Were Lost. It’s written in the third person, from the viewpoint of several family members and most of the action is set over the course of a single cataclysmic night.
Mark: Who is your favourite writer? What is/are your favourite book(s)?
Megan: This is a tough one. There are so many writers who I admire and books that I love. I think Joyce Carol Oates is a genius and William Faulkner is stunning. I also really enjoy Daphne DuMaurier, J D Salinger, Helen Dunmore, Lesley Glaister, Julie Myerson, Jon McGregor, Ellen Gilchrist, Don DeLillo, Alice Hoffman, Joy Williams, Anne Marie Macdonald, Angela Carter, Sarah Waters ... I could go on!
Mark: Do you have any tips for the aspiring writer!?
Megan: Mainly, keep going! Take on board others advice and criticism, but write the story that you want to write. Don’t let rejections get you down and never forget how completely wonderful writing can be - all those brilliant moments when you are lost entirely in your story.
Mark: Anything else you would like to say?
Megan: Just a shameless plug, if that’s ok? I’ll be reading from How We Were Lost at Manchester Central Library on Thursday 27th September at 1pm, along with fantastic debut authors Caroline Smailes (In Search of Adam) and Shanta Everington (Marilyn and Me). Everybody’s welcome!
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