Friday, August 15, 2008

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Megan Kelley Hall

I have a bad case of gymnastics hangover today, as I not only stayed up to watch the all-around, but I also watched the local news afterward for reports from Nastia Liukin's gym and then the interviews during the overnight coverage. A big congratulations to our local gal for making it two gymnastics all-around golds in a row to North Texas (and, come to think of it, all three American all-around golds have gone to Texas. We could field a pretty awesome Olympic team as a state). I also loved that one of the Russians used the floor exercise music I always mentally choreographed my dream routine to. Of course, I was too big a chicken to be much good for gymnastics. I mostly just liked dancing with less restriction than we had in ballet class, and I loved doing poses on the balance beam. Ironic, isn't it, that all these years later, I ended up back in ballet class.

I have to confess that I cried quite a bit last night. I'm quite the Olympics weeper. I cry when someone loses. I cry when someone wins. I cry for medals ceremonies. I cry when they show parents in the audience. The Phelps family is going to dehydrate me. I cry for the sappy athlete profiles. I was a big, weepy mess last night. I pretty much have to watch the Olympics with a big box of tissues handy.

So, while my bleary, red-rimmed eyes are recovering, I've got a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit interview with Megan Kelley Hall, author of the young adult modern gothic suspense novel Sisters of Misery. This novel tells the story of Maddie Crane and her quest to unravel the mystery surrounding her cousin Cordelia’s disappearance.

Hawthorne, Massachusetts, a seaside town born in the shadow of the witchcraft trials, has not changed much throughout the years, and persecution and ostracism are still an active way of life within this cloistered community. So, when Cordelia LeClaire and her quirky, free-spirited mother, Rebecca arrive, the community’s brief curiosity over the newcomers quickly turns to disdain and jealously.

It is no surprise that The Sisters of Misery—a secret clique of the most popular, powerful girls in school, with the vindictive Kate Endicott at its helm —trick Maddie and her cousin into spending Halloween night on Misery Island. But when Cordelia disappears, questions arise as to what happened. The town would like to believe that Cordelia, always impulsive, simply ran away. But Maddie knows that more is at stake and others have something to hide. Now Maddie must choose between the allure and power of the Sisters of Misery and her loyalty to her beloved cousin.

Now the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
I live right next to Salem, Massachusetts and I’ve always wanted to write something that captured the essence of the gothic undertones of growing up in a place that had such a dark history. Plus, I wanted to show how people really haven’t changed all that much—that persecution and ostracism are still alive and well in today’s society.

The book actually grew out of a recent local legend. There’s a stone wall in a neighboring town that supposedly was the site of a car crash not too long ago. Three kids were killed in the car crash and some say that if you shine your headlights on the wall at a certain time of night, you can see their faces in the wall. I’ve never actually seen it, but I decided to build my book around that haunting image.

Describe your creative process.
I’m the anti-thesis of the disciplined writer. I try to squeeze in writing whenever, wherever. With a five-year-old, a writing career and an independent literary publicity company, it’s a tricky thing to do. I’m not one of those people that can fight through writer’s block and just write to get something onto the page. I let thing percolate in my mind until things come out in an explosion. The only problem is that it could be in the middle of the night when all of the words are trying to get out and I need to let them. I just channel my days of all-nighters that I spent in college finishing term papers the day before they were due. Some things never change.

The best way to describe me as a writer (and as a person) is chaotic. Due to the fact that my daughter never wears matched clothing and often goes to school in a tutu over jeans and her various collection of tiaras and the fact that I’m always late, scatter-brained and living in a state of confusion, my husband could write the book on living with a free-spirited, creative, chaotic, procrastinating, chronically late for everything writer. That pretty much sums me up.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I write in an office in our house (really a third bedroom—if we ever have more kids, I’ll have to find another spot) that serves as a catch-all for toys, clutter, files, books, stacks of magazines, games, and other random objects. I have the Writer’s Desk calendar and I’m always so envious of other writer’s offices. My office always looks like it was hit by a tornado. Completely crazy and haphazard. My office is piled high with magazines, clutter, papers, folders, toys, books, mail, and all the spillover from the other parts of the house. I look at Martha Stewart and Real Simple magazines and drool over the clean, uncluttered work spaces. My workspace is in a perpetual state of confusion and chaos.

(Ah, sounds like I have a kindred spirit here! -- SS)

The only thing that is an absolute necessity is a cup (or many cups) of coffee.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
I’m not as cool as Cordelia, not as wishy-washy as Maddie and definitely not as mean as the girls in the Sisters of Misery. I’m probably somewhere between Cordelia and Maddie. Like Cordelia, I was never a follower and I’ve always stood up for myself and others, but I was similar to Maddie in terms of being a bit shy and quiet at times.

Did you have any experiences with high school cliques -- on either side of the equation?
Like Maddie, I often got stuck in the middle. When I was younger, I knew things that certain girls did were wrong or unfair, but I was always afraid of being on the receiving end of some of the horrible things I’d witnessed. Girls can be very cruel. Boys can punch each other, get into a fight and it’s done with. Girls stretch things out and torture each other mentally, emotionally and psychologically. I tried to stay out of those traps as much as I possibly could (but I witnessed enough to write a book about it!) But, don’t be fooled by sweet, innocent demeanors, some girls (and women) can be terribly cruel.

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Dark, of course. All those anti-oxidants and free radicals. It’s the healthiest thing out there (that’s what I tell myself as I chow down on Godiva chocolates)!

What are you working on now?
I’m working on the second book in the SISTERS OF MISERY series. It’s called THE LOST SISTER and will come out in August 2009. I’m also playing around with a nonfiction memoir describing how I overcame major health setbacks (open heart surgery two years ago) to fulfill my dream of being a published author. Additionally, I am a partner in Kelley & Hall Book Publicity, an independent literary publicity company that I started with my mother and sister. It’s a challenge to keep authors (especially fiction authors) in the news, but we’ve worked with some great authors – NY Times bestselling authors to self-published debut authors – and it never gets boring.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this book or the process of writing it?
I like having control in a world that at times feels completely out of control. I enjoy creating characters and places and relationships. What makes me happiest about writing is entertaining people with my stories and giving them a little escape from their own lives. That’s what reading has always been for me. An escape. Writing has always been a form of therapy for me as well. When I was recovering from my recent open-heart surgery, the only way that I got through those difficult and painful months was to work on my novel and to write on my blog (as well as in my personal journals). I also wrote a lot when my daughter was a 2.5 pound preemie and I had to spend 8 hours a day with her for sixty days in the NICU of Mass General Hospital. Writing has always been a way for me to get through difficult times in my life. It’s been my life saver.

For more info, check out Megan's web site, or buy the book from Amazon.

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