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Friday, 20 October 2017

Interview: David Meredith

Sci-fi and fantasy combine with a unique young adult twist to create author David Meredith's latest novel, Aaru. To celebrate, David stopped by The Writing Greyhound for a chat and a catch-up about books, writing, and all the other important things in a writer's life.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.
I’ve been a teacher of English now for about 18 years. Half of that time was in the US and the rest of it was in Japan. I just finished my doctorate degree in educational leadership this past summer and continue to write and teach English here in the Nashville area.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I’ve always had an interest in writing. It started with an awful fan-fic back in middle school or high school, (that I’d be really embarrassed if anyone read now), and I had several false starts before I actually completed a novel, but I’ve always had the feeling that I’ve got these stories inside that need to come out. I just needed the writing and life experience to express them in a way other people would want to read.
aaru, david-meredith, book
Image: David Meredith
Tell me about Aaru.
Aaru is first and foremost an entertaining and emotional YA/NA SyFy/Fantasy novel. It is, at its core, a story about the love of two sisters, and how they struggle to cope as the paradigms of what they’ve always been taught is true and good is challenged and shifted in a monumental way. 
However, Aaru also explores a number of what I think are fundamentally human questions: What happens when we die? What happens when religion and faith conflict with technology and science? Is there a way to reconcile the two? What constitutes a human being or human soul? What would happen to religion and faith if the fear of death was removed from society? How would that change the way individuals choose to live their lives? In a world where people in power can essentially choose who is and is not saved, how should that determination be made? Who should be saved? Is the act of choosing winners and losers - judging who is righteous and worthy vs. who is not - in and of itself even moral at all? I suspected that the answers would be a lot messier and more complicated than the utopian realization of John Lennon’s 'Imagine' lyrics and would lead to a great deal of conflict as people tried to hash it all out. 
In the end, Aaru doesn’t really answer any of these questions, nor is it intended to, but it does speculate on what the answers of different people from different circumstances and indeed society at large might be. What I want people to get out of Aaru is an intensely emotional experience that stimulates some productive introspection even as they enjoy it as a compelling story about the fierce love of two sisters that transcends even death.
What’s the best thing about writing YA fiction?
There’s a lot of wonder and discovery in adolescence and young adulthood that I think really enriches the emotional impact of a given story. There is something compelling about youthful characters trying to come to grips with the world in which they find themselves. It’s a difficult and formational time of life that virtually anyone can relate to – younger people because they are going through it, and older people because they can remember what it was like.
How do you get inspiration?
I get inspired from many sources. I often feel the creative juices flowing right after reading a great book or watching a really good movie. However, I also derive inspiration from real life experiences - both my own and those of others I hear about. I’ve even based a couple of pieces on dreams.
What draws you to writing sci-fi?
I actually haven’t written a lot of sci-fi, but everything I write is some sort of speculative fiction. All of my work includes an element of fantasy. Those were the first books I read as a kid and I’ve continued to enjoy the freedom the genre allows. There are just lots of things you can do in speculative fiction that you can’t in other genres. Sci-fi has a great deal of that same freedom, but it requires a lot more research. I did a great deal more research for Aaru than I have for anything else I’ve written to make sure that the fictitious elements of the story still ring true.
Do you find it difficult to write fantasy?
I think it’s easier than sci-fi for the reasons I described above, but at the same time, I think it’s important that your world, magic system, politics, etc. are set down in a coherent and logical way. That can take some time and thought but is very important to make your reader believe in your world. That belief, in turn, is vital in drawing them into the story.
What’s your writing process?
Usually, I have a plan, at least up to a point, but I also try to leave myself open to going where the story leads. Quite often I end up very different places from where I thought I was going at the beginning, but it always ends up being better that way, I think. Once the first draft is done, I easily spend at least twice as much time on editing and revision, until I’m satisfied the piece is as close to perfect as it can possibly be.
author, david-meredith
Image: David Meredith
What’s the hardest thing about writing?
I actually find it most difficult to churn out that initial draft. Once the bones of the story are in place, however, reading through and tweaking things are a lot easier. That is actually the part of the process I like most. What I like least is probably promoting my work, however. It is a necessary evil if you ever want anyone to read what you’ve written, but it takes a great deal of time and energy away from writing things that are a lot more fun.
What do you love most about writing?
I like sharing stories that other people enjoy. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in creating something that never existed before until you thought it up and then have other people like it.
Which authors inspire you?
I have a number of favourites. Most of my reading lately has been required course material for my doctoral program, but some of my favourite authors are Tad Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Robin Hobb. I also like work by Robert Jordan, Liza Dolby, and James Clavell.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Keep at it. False starts and failures are all part of the process. Mind your craft. You can always get better. Don’t publish too soon. Get lots of eyes on your work first, so that when you do release it’s as close to perfect as it can possibly be.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
Probably the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy by Tad Williams. I generally reread it every year or two. I also really appreciate Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It is one of the most creative and well-executed pieces of fantasy literature I’ve ever read.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’d still like to be traditionally published at some point. The freedom of indie publishing is certainly a plus. Whatever you put out there is all you and only you, but I wouldn’t mind the added exposure of a large, traditional publishing house either. I think my writing up to this point has been a literary success, but not so much a commercial one. It would be great if writing could be my day job.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I’ve been so busy with my doctoral program and dissertation the past couple of years that I haven’t had much time for other things. I’m trying to get back into working out and staying fit again. Now that I have some free time open up, this might be an area I explore more thoroughly.
What are you currently working on?
I’m about 110 pages into the Aaru sequel: Aaru: Halls of Hel. It will delve deeper into the world of Aaru and the lives of the people who live there as well as all the controversy surrounding it. I’m hoping to put it out sometime in 2018. I also have a fantasy series on the back burner that I want to release at some point. It’s based on Japanese mythology and legend instead of the European model that is so prevalent in fantasy literature. The first three volumes are basically done, so as soon as I can find some time to sit down and polish them, they’ll be released as well.
What are you reading at the moment?

Life has been pretty hectic, so I haven’t had a lot of time for pleasure reading, but I am still about two-thirds of the way through the first volume of Game of Thrones. It’s good, so hopefully, I’ll find some time soon to sit down and finish it.

For more about David and his writing, you can find him on Facebook or Goodreads. Aaru is available to buy now.

Will you be reading Aaru? Let me know in the comments below!

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