Did you know that in addition to Meg Welch Dendler’s best-selling Cats in the Mirror children’s series, she has now written her first adult novel? Yes, after the many successes of her children’s books, we can look forward to reading At the Corner of Magnetic and Main. (Pen-L Publishing, September 2015).
I invited Meg to visit with us and asked her a few questions. But before I share her answers, here’s a synopsis of At the Corner of Magnetic and Main:
Penny had been stuck in the same diner for decades—ever since she died in 1952. Her diner was comfortable and safe. Serving ice cream to those who dropped in on their way to the next level of existence, she helped to ease their transition into The Light, the one place she can’t go. Her afterlife was perfect.
But when the ridiculously handsome, bad-boy biker Jake Thatcher shows up and becomes stuck as well, Penny rediscovers feelings that she thought had been buried with her body.
Life is still life, and love is still love. But was her existence really perfect, or was it something else entirely?
Now, let’s get to know Meg:
JAN: You’ve charmed readers with your Cats in the Mirror series (cats from outer space!) and the companion book, Max’s Wild Night, about your dog’s adventures during his unexpected freedom in the Ozarks. At the Corner of Magnetic and Main (love the title!) is a paranormal love story. Your previous books are based on your real-life pets. Was this story inspired by a real life event? Do tell!
MEG: It was not inspired by true events, but some of the characters and definitely the location and the diner itself were inspired by reality. Angelina the Magnificent was inspired by my friend, artist/writer Angela Larsen, and the diner looks very much like the real diner that stands at the corner of Magnetic and Main and got the whole thing started with their delicious food and Coca-Cola wallpaper and memorabilia.
JAN: Tell us about your writing journey. When were you first bitten by the writing bug, and when did you first consider yourself a “real writer?”
MEG: I was bitten by the writing bug in elementary school. A picture book I wrote won a contest at the University of Illinois, and I kept writing sequels for it all year. I wish I’d kept those! I started doing more serious writing in the 1990’s with freelance work and interviews and shopping around a picture book (that has yet to be published). I’m not sure there was a “real writer” epiphany moment, it was just sort of always there.
JAN: If you could give one piece of advice to a new writer, what would that be?
MEG: Go to conferences and meet other writers and work on the craft of writing. There is always something more to be learned, and other writers are generally very free with support and encouragement. Keep writing and keep reading. Reading really good books can teach you so much about story and flow and how to put it all together. Among whatever else I am reading from independent authors or what I am editing for someone else, I pay attention to the books that are considered at the top of their game and make sure to read them. And I don’t just mean best-sellers. Sales and good writing don’t necessarily go together. I watch the reviews and listen to readers/writers I respect. Those authors they are talking about are doing something right, and I pay attention.
JAN: Tell us about Penny, your main character in At the Corner of Magnetic and Main. What part of who you are (or who you want to be) did you create in her character?
MEG: Penny and I are very similar in our desire for quiet and love and family. And I think pretty much every woman of a certain age understands getting caught up in wanting to take care of those around us and be useful and taking on more than we really should. There have been many times in my life when I’ve had to pull back and be clear about what really needs ME and what I need to let go of. As a parent, as a wife, as a child to an aging parent—those are things that are always right under the surface. And there are many times I have felt “stuck” in a place or a job or a situation. I think that’s a pretty universal moment for most people. We have to question: “Is this all there will ever be? Is this it? Am I on the right path?” Maybe you love where you are. If not, what will get you moving again? That kind of questioning is really at the core of human existence, I think. We ignore it, or we act on it.
JAN: As you may know, I love haiku. Can you summarize your book in a haiku (3 lines, 5-7-5 syllables) and share it with us?
Sweet Penny is dead.
Handsome Jake will change her life.
What is in The Light?
JAN: What are you working on now?
MEG: I’m just wrapping up a final draft of the fourth book in my Cats in the Mirror series, Slinky Steps Out. That should come out in April. Any moment now, Pen-L Publishing will start final work on my biography of Betty White for kids. I’m very excited to see that and how it will evolve. And then I’m working on a final draft of a middle-grade book that could start a new series, with a princess and a dragon. There are more adult books on the horizon, but I have other kid projects to finish up first.
JAN: What answer would you like to share with us for a question I haven’t asked?
MEG: I suppose one question that goes along with the story is: Do you believe in ghosts? All I can say on that front is that I have had some weird experiences in my life. I’m honest enough to admit that I believe there is more than what we go through in this whole human/earth time. I sure hope there is. And the thought that some spirits get stuck in-between this life and the next doesn’t seem that farfetched to me. I’d like to think they are more like Penny and her friends than the scary Halloween type. Both a friend and my husband reported an odd female presence in two different houses we have lived in. Maybe I have someone haunting me. Perhaps I should leave out some ice cream.
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