Hello my favorite little munchkins. How have you all been? I have been okay. I am on my last day of the week for school thankfully and I have picked up on all of the homework I missed so I am actually doing good withe everything that I have missed. I really hope you guys like this post.
Anyways, Why don’t we get ahead to this interview?
What made you want to write Death Island?
This novel has had a long journey. It began during the summer of 2003, after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time in the theater, where I unintentionally ignored my high school crush at the ticket line–a truly embarrassing moment. But these events started to spark a storyline in my mind, which I became obsessed with. Becoming a haven for my thoughts and emotions.
Throughout high school and college, I studied maritime history of England and the Americas, extending my knowledge of the world explorers from 15th to 18th centuries. My mother also continued to help inspire me with trips to London, England and the colonial east coast; including Mystic Seaport, Salem, Williamsburg, and Sturbridge. By the time I moved to North Carolina, Death Island was nearly 1,000 pages. There were major bumps in the road between my school years and the final publishing of the novel, but I wanted to see this novel published world. Mostly because it’s a major portion of my life, my emotions, and my heart. It was grown and adapted with me over the years, much like a childhood friend. Now, it’s time for it to go out into the world.
What Hogwarts house would the main character of your book be sorted into?
As a woman living in the 18th century, Meriden is a very complicated and conflicted character. But some of her best traits are that she is independent, passionate, and works hard at everything she does. While at sea, she works to learn the ropes, literary and figuratively, of sailing and insists on being treated as one of the crew. She is also stubborn as heck, likes a good challenge from any of the men, and is free with her words. Because of these traits, I feel she would be sorted into Hufflepuff.
Because of Greg’s family history, I see Greg being initially sorted into Slytherin, but I also see him asking to be sorted into Gryffindor instead. Like Sirius Black, Greg is not proud of his family lines. In fact, he distances himself as far as he could from them. However, because of a family heirloom, he has to brave his family and their tainted, bloody history.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your character?
Most of the real people I base my character’s traits on are long gone. Some traits Meriden portrays are from historical figures, such as Anne Bonny and Grace O’Malley. Mostly, their personalities and hints of their backgrounds. While the cats and corgi mentioned in my novel are my pets throughout my life. All have passed away, the last being Richie. He died in February 2018, shortly after this novel was published. But the biggest influences for this novel were two members of my immediate family.
Meriden’s father and her great grandfather are based on my own father and grandfather, both of whom passed away when I was 7 and 9—along with several other members of my family. Along with that, the backstory originated from a tall tale my father shared with me as a young child. Back when, for the first time in my life, I seen my grandfather with his eyepatch over his eye. It freaked me out a bit and ran to my parents. I think I already convinced myself my grandfather was a pirate, because of the eyepatch. But my father didn’t discourage my thoughts either when he took me aside to talk. After all, we were both fans of pirate movies such as Against All Flags, Caption Blood, The Crimson Pirate, and Cutthroat Island. I secretly believed for years my grandfather was actually a pirate, and the memory influenced my creative life. Since I lost my father as a young girl, writing this novel was a great way to stay connected to him and my grandfather.
While you were editing your book what were some thoughts that were going through your mind?
As I mentioned before, Death Island had a bumpy road. During my graduate years, I started to send out queries to 199 agents, and when represented, the manuscript was reviewed by 26 publishers. All of whom rejected it with feedback. When I had the strength to pick up Death Island, again, I rewrote it, applying the feedback the publishers provided plus a few new twists that came to mind. I decided to change it from young adult to new adult and wrote the novel in first person, rather than third. I also wanted to add in a little Mayan mythology that lined up with some of the original manuscripts aspects.
So, during the editing, all my mind could do was reflect on everything this book had been through. How much it had grown. I didn’t regret the process or the length of time it took to get it to that stage. I only was proud that it was going to be finally published. It deserved to be published after everything it had been through.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
For the first draft, I take notes, do research, and write scenes and sections of chapters in a journal. Then I start writing full chapters on my Surface Pro, where I use the handwriting recognition feature. A real convenience since I physically write much faster than I type. Edits and formatting take place on my laptop.
How did you decide to pick out your book cover?
I have all my covers custom made by design artists who use stock art. The one for Death Island was designed by Desiree DeOrto. I provide her with couple of descriptions of what I would like to see, including characters with their physical description (even send a model if I have one), settings, related objects, and actions. Afterwards, I get a mock-up design and I provide my feedback, requesting any needed changes. Then I receive the final product.
I’ve been very impressed with the cover design artists I’ve worked with. Each have done an amazing job bring to life my requests. I can’t wait to see how the cover for my next book will turn out.
Do you think the cover plays an important part of the buying processes?
Yes. As a reader, myself, it’s the cover that first catches my attention of any novel. For instance, I prefer book covers that reflects an aspect or scene of the novel, rather just the main character and/or the love interest. I’m also not a fan of headless shots. If you are going to show the characters, I want to see their face. Even if they are not exactly what I imagine.
However, covers are to each individual’s taste. What one person might like, another might not. So, yes, it’s important when selling a novel. But having a great synopsis and a great first chapter are even more important.
What is your favorite quote of your book?
“It’s complicated,” I admitted.
Matthew shrugged. “With you, what isn’t?”