Interview: Merrie Destefano

NRR: How were you  inspired you to become a author?
Merrie: Wow. That’s a tough question. I really don’t know. I do know, however, that I’ve been drawn to fairy tales and fantasy and science fiction from a very young age, but when and how and why I crossed the line and decided to write my own stories is a complete mystery to me. When I was younger I wanted to be an artist when I grew up and I did fulfill that dream. I was a graphic designer and illustrator for about fifteen years before I became an editor. I guess I would have to say that the books I read as a child and teenager inspired me to write my own stories. I have a natural storytelling ability and can turn almost any event, like why my husband was late for dinner, into a full-blown catastrophic blow-by-blow event in my mind. I also grew up in a family where the women were very expressive and dramatic and humorous. Someone was always telling a story that made you laugh until your sides hurt. I think I must have picked it all up by osmosis.

NRR: What would you say is the hardest and the easiest part about being a author?
Merrie: Believe it or not, for me the hardest part is finding time to write. There are so many other things that authors need to do. For instance, right now I’m in the midst of promoting my second novel, Feast, and I’m also in the midst of editing my third novel. The easiest part? Hmmm. I don’t know if any of it’s easy, but my favorite part is when the main character comes to life and begins to have a voice of his/her own. At that point, he/she takes control of the story and I almost feel like I’m journalist, chronicling their exploits.

NRR: How were you inspired to write Feast?
Merrie: I was working on another book, one that was a bit too creepy/scary, and it was causing me to have some sleepless nights. So one night, while laying in bed, I tried to come up with a creature who never slept. Then I began to explore who and what he was, and what was he doing when humans were sleeping. I soon came up with the predecessor for my Darklings, creatures who creep in open windows at night to harvest our dreams. The story built from there. 

NRR: What is your guilty pleasure?
Merrie: Yikes. I have so many! Right now, my worst guilty pleasure is my addiction to brownies. I just adore them. They’re like heaven wrapped in chocolate. Even confessing my addiction makes me want one. 

NRR: What was the most challenging part about writing Feast?
Merrie: The fact that I hit a wall half-way through the book. I couldn’t figure out how to push through it, so I started over. I threw away the first 150 pages (big ouch!) and started completely over. Not fun when you’re on a deadline! In retrospect, I can see now how I could have fixed the story and pushed my way through the problems. But in the end, it became a completely different story and I’m really pleased with the final result. However, I did decide that I would never do that again. I vowed that from now on, I will make it all the way through the first draft before I begin a major rewrite. It’s much easier to fix the plot and character problems when you’re working with a completed manuscript.

NRR: What is a day in the life of Merrie Destefano like?
Merrie: I have two completely different schedules: one for when I’m writing, one for when I’m not. I try to plan large blocks of time—like months—for writing, so I end up with some months where I’m not writing at all. When I’m not writing, I eat a quick breakfast— usually something like toast and tea—at my desk while I’m reading e-mails. First, I answer my e-mails, especially those that are time-sensitive. Then I spend a short amount of time online, either on Facebook or Twitter. After that, I begin whittling away at my to-do list which can contain a wide variety of things such as writing a guest blog post, finishing a blog tour interview, mailing prizes to contest winners, purchasing and/or designing ads, updating my website, writing content for my newsletter or setting up speaking engagements. 

When I’m writing, my day goes a little differently. I try my best to avoid all the things I listed above, except eating, of course. I become invisible to almost everyone, except my husband, and I dive feet first into my story. I write anywhere from five to fifteen hours per day and I only take breaks to eat or to edit what I’ve already written. Part of my process involves printing out and reading the previous day’s work. First, I flow the text into a graphic design program and then I print out the pages, using a different layout than the one I used for writing. Seeing the story in a different format forces me to hear the music of the story. It’s easier for me to catch a sentence with bad rhythm or to find paragraphs that don’t relate to one another when I use this technique. 

NRR: What is in your to be read pile?
Merrie: I’m currently reading two books at the same time. They are: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. Other books on my TBR pile include Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

NRR: Can you share with us the storyline to Feast?
Merrie: Sure! A broken-hearted young woman goes to Ticonderoga Falls, a mountain village, hoping for inspiration. Instead, she discovers that the town is filled strange creatures that no one but her seems to be able to see. Before long she learns that the creatures have come to this forest wilderness to hunt humans—and, unfortunately, she’s the one they’re after.

NRR: What can fans expect to see from you next?
Merrie: I'm currently working on an e-book novella that would be a prequel to Feast. It's titled Cursed and I hope to have it out soon.

Thank you so much for inviting me here! I’ve had a wonderful time.

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