Tips for Aspiring Authors from Maile Meloy

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Maile Meloy grew up in Montana.  She’s written award-winning books including novels Liars and Saints, A Family Daughter, and story collections Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, and Half In Love.  Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Slate, Sunset, O, and The New Yorker.

Maile is also a friend, and I previously interviewed her in person about the release of her first young readers book, The Apothecary.  The sequel, The Apprentices, is coming out in June.

This is a guest interview post by my daughter.  I have also read and enjoyed all of Maile’s books, but these questions are hers.

Between your first installment (The Apothecary) and the second (The Apprentices), you changed the point of view from first person to third person.  What made you change from purely Janie’s point of view to one that switches?Maile Meloy Picture 2

The Apothecary is narrated by a character named Janie Scott, and it’s the story of what happened to her when she was 14, in 1952.  I loved writing in Janie’s voice, and I think it really helped me write the novel.  But I’d never written a whole book in first person before, and I found it kind of frustrating after a while.  I could only write about things Janie experienced, so she does a lot of eavesdropping.  I could never cut away to the villains or include anyone else’s point of view.  The other main character is Benjamin Burrows, the apothecary’s son, and I briefly considered writing a second book from his point of view.  But the circumstances at the end of The Apothecary determined the form of The Apprentices: everyone is scattered.  Benjamin has gone off with his father, and Janie doesn’t know where he is.  So I started with Janie in boarding school, in close third person, meaning the narrator says “she” but is basically in her mind.  Then I could shift and have chapters where the narrator is in Benjamin’s mind (in the jungle), and Jin Lo’s mind (in China), and Pip’s, and even the apothecary’s.  It was very freeing.

Will there be a third in the series?  I hope so!

Yes!  I’m working on it now.  It begins not long after The Apprentices ends.

9780399162459Will you do a book trailer for The Apprentices like you did with The Apothecary?

That’s a great question—I had to ask my publishers.  They hired the very talented people at Crush Creative to make the fantastic trailer for The Apothecary, and they’re planning to update it to use for The Apprentices, too.  But there won’t be a separate trailer for The Apprentices, so if anyone wants to make one, please do!

You were a successful author for adults long before writing for young readers.  What made you decide to write for young adults?

Maile Meloy — Literature’s Newest Apothecary

I first met Maile Meloy in the pages of her first novel for young readers, The Apothecary.  Aimed at middle-schoolers, it’s a wonderfully entertaining story set in the 1950s and full of magic, spies, nuclear disaster, science and suspense.  It’s also beautifully illustrated by Ian Schoenherr.

Though new to young readers, Maile is far from a new writer.  Her work includes short stories and novels:Liars and Saints, A Family Daughter, and Half in Love.  She also wrote Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, which the New York Times named one of the 10 Best Books of 2009.  Her family is creative, too.  For example, her brother, Colin, is the lead singer of the folk rock group the Decemberists.

If you’re looking for a book to interest a young reader, look no further.  The Apothecary is a perfect gift.  But, if you’re like me, you may want to sit down and read it first before you pass it on.