Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Wonderful Wednesday with Megan Kelley Hall


Megan Kelley Hall is the debut author of Sisters in Misery, a successful freelance writer and a founding partner in Kelley & Hall Book Publicity and Promotion. She studied creative writing at Skidmore College under Steven Millhauser. Megan lives in Salem, Massachusetts (near the setting of her novel!)
INN: Sisters of Misery is set in Hawthorne, Massachusetts, a place wherewitch-hunting was almost as common (and scary!) as it was in Salem. Why did you choose to set your novel there?
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MKH: 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. Plus, what better place to set a modern-day version of the Salem witch hunts than a fictional town right next to Salem, Mass?
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INN: Your book has been called "stunning," "amazing," "unforgettable" and "superb" by readers and reviewers alike. What's it like to read reviews of your own work?
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MKH: Completely surreal. Before your book gets published, you have no idea whether or not people will like it or connect with the characters or enjoy the story. The feedback that I’ve gotten from readers has been amazing and has gotten me through some tough days. I don’t think that readers realize the impact they have on writers. Their opinion means more than any review or magazine mention, at least in my opinion.
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I love hearing directly from readers (and I always try to respond) because that is why I started writing in the first place: to connect with others. 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.
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INN: How did you break into publication?
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MKH: Hmm… Let’s see, the book started off as an adult fiction. Then I had a preemie (2.5 pounds at birth) who stayed at Mass General for 60 days (I was there 8 hours a day for sixty days with her). Then a few years later, I had series of mini-strokes, lost partial vision in one eye, had a carotid stent, discovered that my carotid arteries were aged from radiation therapy I received when I had childhood cancer and had to undergo open heart surgery and a sternotomy. It was a nine hour procedure where they basically flatlined me for 96 minutes.
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It was during my recovery period that I dusted off my manuscript, turned it into a YA, got and agent and sold it in a two book deal all within the same year. So….just a typical first book story, I guess. But seriously, I’ve been freelance writing for years for major mags like Glamour, Elle, Boston Magazine, etc. I’ve had a lot of jobs—advertising, radio, public relations, event planning. And I’ve found a way to incorporate writing into all of them. I am also a founding partner in Kelley & Hall Book Publicity, an independent literary publicity company (http://www.kelleyandhall.com/) that I started with my mother and sister a few years ago.
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While I was at Skidmore College, I studied under Steven Millhauser for a few semesters in his fiction and creative writing courses. This was before he won the Pulitzer Prize for Martin Dressler. He was pretty inspiring and very supportive, but I didn’t realize at the time that I was studying under such an incredible writer. Writing has always been a huge part of my life. I like having control in a world that at times feels completely out of control. I enjoy creating characters and places and relationships. 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). Writing has gotten me through many difficult times in my life.
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INN: If Alfred Hitchcock made a movie out of *Sisters of Misery,* who would play Kate, Maddie and Cordelia (either contemporary or old Hollywood
actresses)?
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MKH: My dream cast (although they are too old to play teens now), would have been Jennifer Connelly as Maddie, Gwyneth Paltrow as Kate, and Angelina Jolie as Cordelia. And for the boys, I’d pick Josh Holloway as Reed and Johnny Depp as Finn. Again, they are about twenty years too old to play those parts.But if I were to cast it using age-appropriate actresses/actors, here’s my picks:
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Cordelia: Blake Lively (though she’d have to dye her hair red)
Maddie: Rachel Bilson or Kristen Stewart (even though she’s already Bella in Twilight)
Kate Endicott: Katie Cassidy (Supernatural) or Kate Bosworth
Finn: Jared Padalecki (Supernatural)
Trevor: Chace Crawford (Gossip Girls)
Reed: Henry Cavill (The Tudors)
Rebecca: Julianne Moore
Abigail: Laura Linney or Sandra Bullock
Tess: Shirley MacLaine
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INN: Who's your favorite Gothic author?
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MKH: I’m inspired by “gothic” writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and William Faulkner. Today’s gothic writers that provide inspiration would be Stephen King, Donna Tartt, and Alice Hoffman. I’ve always loved suspense novels, especially as a teen. So many YA suspense novelists like Lois Duncan, Christopher Pike and V.C. Andrews inspired my writing.
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INN: Any advice for teen writers?
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MKH: Three tips: First, if you want to be a writer, stop talking about it and just do it. The more you talk about it, the less writing you actually get done. Believe me, I know from first-hand experience!I’ve heard people say again and again that they don’t have the time to write. NOBODY has the time to write (unless you’re James Patterson or JK Rowling). You have to be like Nike and JUST DO IT!
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Second tip—an important one—develop a thick skin and expect rejection—it happens a lot in the publishing industry. The third, and you’d think this is strange, but READ. I’ve been to so many houses of people who want to write or be an author and there isn’t a book to be found. If you want to be a writer, you have to read endlessly, in different genres, in different time periods. If you’re not writing, you should be reading.
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Thank you, Megan!
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As I write this, the Phillies have just won the World Series and our beloved city of Philadelphia is going bananas. I'm going pretty bananas myself because my *#$%ing mousetrap car has just travelled the 3m required for an Acceptable Grade and it appears I will enter postsecondary education. It is a Wonderful Wednesday.

2 comments:

Yan said...

Yes it's true. The city of Philadelphia is in chaos but it's a happy chaos~ Everyone in the city is going be out today and joining the parade on Board St!

Thanks for the wonderful interview =) I'm dying to read this book!

Megan Kelley Hall said...

Thanks for interviewing me for your blog, Gabrielle! Have an enjoyable hiatus and congrats on moving ahead into postsecondary education (as well as your car getting an Acceptable Grade). :)
Looking forward to reading your blog upon your return.

xoxo
Megan