Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Meg Mims:The IAN Interview

Meg Mims is an award-winning author, artist and amateur photographer. Her book, Double Crossing, won the prestigious 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from the Western Writers of America. She loves writing blended genres – historical, western, romance, suspense, mystery with a touch of inspirational elements. Meg infuses historical details and vivid imagery into her writing. Her heroines usually have artistic talent to some degree. Being an artist, Meg loves to incorporate her own experiences of sketching, painting or crafting into the stories she writes. Her romance novella, The Key to Love, published in February of 2012, features an artist who creates collages. Meg earned her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. A lifelong Michigan resident, she also writes non-fiction articles about lighthouses and keepers for Lake Effect Living, a west coast of Michigan on-line tourist magazine. Her article, “South Haven’s South Pier Lights” depicted the life of James S. Donahue, a one-legged Civil War veteran and lighthouse keeper, and appeared in The Chronicle of the Historical Society of Michigan.

IAN. Please tell us about your latest book.
MM. Although I had received more than 25 wonderful reviews on Amazon.com and Goodreads, I was stunned when I noticed a “tweet” on Facebook that mentioned my name and Spur Award in the same 140 characters. I had hoped to get recognized as a finalist, of course, but I also knew the competition would be tough. I quickly checked my email and saw the congratulatory email from my publisher, Astraea Press, followed by the official “letter of recognition” from the Western Writers of America Spur Award chairman. It’s been a blur since then, with preparations to attend the June convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a book signing at Seton Hill University’s Alumni writer’s workshop plus an invitation to speak and sign books at the South Dakota Book Fest in late September. I’m excited!

Here’s a brief preview of Double Crossing:
In August of 1869, Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.

As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

One recent reviewer said, “I was swept away from the very start. I was constantly trying to figure out who did what.. The book was packed with action, betrayal, mystery and had a little love mixed in. I really think a lot of men would enjoy this book.” I hope that’s true—the men who told me they read it did enjoy it. And I know women, young and old, can identify with Lily’s “journey” and sympathize with her quest. I loved researching the details of the 1869 transcontinental railroad and incorporating them into the story. I’m a stickler for accuracy, and I’m so grateful for readers who have mentioned learning so much about this era in America.

IAN. How long did it take to write the book?
MM. I wrote Double Crossing during the hot summer months before undergoing foot surgery in September. After I finished a rough draft, I set it aside to earn my M.A. I’d come close to publishing a historical romance about ten years before, but knew I was missing that elusive “something.” Seton Hill University’s program was intense and yet incredibly helpful; I devoted myself to reviewing crafts books I’d read in the past, like Dwight Swain and Robert McKee, reading whole series of books to study story and character arcs, receiving and giving critiques with partners, plus interacting one-on-one with published author “mentors” – it forced me to identify both the strengths and the weaknesses in my writing. I wrote a cozy historical mystery as my thesis over two years, and decided to revise Double Crossing as well. When it reached the finals in over three different RWA contests, I knew it was ready for submission.

IAN. What inspired you to write Double Crossing?
MM. The 1969 movie, True Grit, planted the seed. I loved the sweeping cinematography and John Wayne’s portrayal of Rooster Cogburn—who seemed larger than life as a character. The heroine’s determination also impressed me. But hands down, the Charles Portis’ novel was far more of an inspiration. From the authentic dialogue, the heroine’s journey and determination, plus the action/adventure, I loved it all. I decided to adapt the premise (the theme of revenge) for Double Crossing, but added my own “spin” with the transcontinental railroad and an older, yet more na├»ve, heroine.

IAN. Talk about the writing process.
MM. My best time is early morning. I’ve adapted to writing any time of the day or night, however, depending on the deadline—but I’m freshest in the morning. I call my method “the ocean wave” because I start writing, go back, write further, go back a bit more, then resume—over and over. Sometimes I’ll go back to the very beginning and revise. By the time I’ve finished a “first draft,” it’s more like a second or third draft. I still revise at least twice more to polish it into submission readiness.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
MM. I normally start the first few chapters (set-up) and that gets me ready to plan out the story arc as a whole. I also do extensive character sketches before I resume. I’ll redo the outline if necessary, and develop it I get stuck. But I did “pants” my novella, The Key to Love. That was the first time I’d ever written out of sequence! It worked, but I had much more revision in the end. So I’d rather plot as much as possible.

IAN. How is your book different from others in your genre?
MM. Because Double Crossing doesn’t fit in one genre, that makes it unique. I call it a “blended genre” book, basically a historical western suspense (if you can call that basic) with elements of mystery, adventure, romance and an inspirational tone as well. So it has something for everyone!

IAN. Is Double Crossing published in print, e-book or both?
MM. Both,

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading Double Crossing?
MM. With the same stirrings of adventure, heartfelt enjoyment and a niggle of “what’s next for these characters” that I felt after watching the movie and reading True Grit. Portis’ novel ends with more finality, but Double Crossing promises further adventures in a sequel.

IAN. Where can we go to buy your book?
MM. Double Crossing is available at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and AstraeaPress.com.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand alone?
MM. Double or Nothing is the conclusion of the “Double Series” I’d planned.

IAN. Any other links or info you'd like to share?
MM. Check out my IAN page!

Double Crossing by Meg Mims
264 Pages
Historical Western Suspense
Astraea Press

Chapter One
Evanston, Illinois: 1869

I burst into the house. Keeping the flimsy telegram envelope, I dumped half a dozen packages into the maid’s waiting arms. “Where’s Father? I need to speak to him.”
“He’s in the library, Miss Lily. With Mr. Todaro.”
Oh, bother. I didn’t have time to deal with Emil Todaro, my father’s lawyer. He was the last person I wanted to see—but that couldn’t be helped. Thanking Etta, I raced down the hall. Father turned from his roll-top desk, spectacles perched on his thin nose and hands full of rustling papers. Todaro rose from an armchair with a courteous bow. His silver waistcoat buttons strained over his belly and his balding head shone in the sunlight. I forced myself to nod in his direction and then planted a quick kiss on Father’s leathery cheek. The familiar scents of pipe tobacco and bay rum soothed my nervous energy.
“I didn’t expect you back so early, Lily. What is it?”
With an uneasy glance at Todaro, I slipped him the envelope. “The telegraph messenger boy caught me on my way home.” My voice dropped. “It’s from Uncle Harrison.”
Father poked up his wire rims while he pored over the brief message. His shoulders slumped. “I’ll speak plainly, Lily, because Mr. Todaro and I were discussing this earlier. My brother sent word that George Hearst intends to claim the Early Bird mine in a Sacramento court. Harrison believes his business partner never filed the deed. He needs to prove our ownership.”
“Hearst holds an interest in the Comstock Lode, Colonel.” Todaro had perked up, his long knobby fingers forming a steeple. The lawyer resembled an amphibian, along with his deep croak of a voice. “His lawyers are just as ambitious and ruthless in court.”
Father peered over his spectacles. “Yes, but I have the original deed. I didn’t plan to visit California until next month, so we’ll have to move up our trip.”
“Oh!” I clasped my hands, a thrill racing through me. “I’m dying to visit all the shops out there, especially in San Francisco. When do we leave?”
“We? I meant myself and Mr. Todaro.”
I stared at the lawyer, who didn’t conceal a sly smirk. “You cannot leave me behind, Father. I promised to visit Uncle Harrison, and what if I decide to go to China?”
“Lily, I refuse to discuss the matter. This trip is anything but a lark.”
“It’s a grueling two thousand miles on the railroad, Miss Granville. Conditions out west are far too dangerous for a young lady,” Todaro said. “Even with an escort.”
“The new transcontinental line has been operating all summer. Plenty of women have traveled to California. I’ve read the newspaper reports.”
“I’m afraid the Union and Central Pacific cars are not as luxurious as the reports say. You have no idea. The way stations are abominable, for one thing.”
I flashed a smile at him. “I’m ready for adventure. That’s why I’ve considered joining the missionary team with Mr. Mason.”
Father scowled. “You are not leaving Evanston until I give my approval.”
“You mean until you dissuade me from ‘such a ridiculous notion.’”
“Need I remind you of the fourth commandment, Lily?”
“No, Father. We’ll discuss this later.”
My face flushed hot. Annoyed by being reprimanded in front of Todaro, I ignored the rest of the conversation. I’d always wanted to see the open prairie and perhaps a buffalo herd chased by Indians, the majestic Rocky Mountains and California. California, with its mining camps, lush green meadows and warm sunshine, the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco that had to be as exhilarating as downtown Chicago. I’d pored over the grainy pen-and-ink drawings in the Chicago Times. Uncle Harrison, who’d gone west several years ago to make a fortune and succeeded, for the most part, would welcome me with open arms. I plopped down on an armchair and fingered the ridges of the brass floor lamp beside me. Somehow I needed to persuade Father to allow me to tag along on this trip.

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