Author Crush Friday: Merrie Destefano
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to Merrie Destefano, author of the YA dark contemporary, Lost Girls (January 3, 2017; Entangled Teen). Thank you for talking to us today, Merrie! We’re honored!
GLITTER: For those who haven’t read your book yet, how would you describe Lost Girls?
MERRIE: It’s a story about a 17-year-old girl who makes it home after being kidnapped, but she struggles with a form of amnesia brought on by PTSD. To everyone else, she’s only been gone for two weeks. But to her, she’s lost an entire year—and during that year, she turned into a different person. She has all new friends, wears only black clothes, cut her hair short and dyed it platinum blonde. She tries hard to remember her past, but every step closer to the truth takes her one step closer to danger. She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year, but she’s the only one to come back—and she’s desperate to find out why.
GLITTER: For those who haven’t read your writing yet, how would you describe it to a new reader?
MERRIE: I don’t think of myself as being a literary writer, but I’ve had readers say that’s what my writing is like. I tend to see my writing as dark, with a thread of hope flowing through it. Also, it’s very important for my writing to have rhythm. I can hear the beat in the words and I can feel the beat in my fingers when I’m writing. So I guess I would describe my writing—when it’s working properly—as having rhythm. Maybe that’s one reason why listening to music is so important to me when I write. It helps me hear the song inside the story.
GLITTER: Describe Lost Girls in 160 characters or less.
MERRIE: BLACK SWAN meets FIGHT CLUB.
GLITTER: Did you always want to be an author? Did you ever feel like giving up? Did you receive rejection letters in the beginning? How did you get over them?
MERRIE: I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. I should say, I’ve always loved stories. There was a point in grade school when reading stories turned into writing stories. I wanted to give up many times, most notably while I was writing Lost Girls. I almost quit writing altogether. But a dear friend and fellow author, Rachel Marks (author of Darkness Brutal) wouldn’t let me give up. She encouraged me, emailed me, called me, had lunch with me, read pages I had written, and all along she said, finish this book. She was adamant. Lost Girls would have been another manuscript in a desk drawer if not for her.
I’ve received many rejection letters throughout my career. I still receive them. Maybe there are a few authors out there who get all of their book ideas published, but I’m not sure who they are. That said, no book that has ever been written was a waste of time. Every time someone sits down to write a book, this amazing process takes place. Their brain distills down abstract ideas, research, and the wisdom/observations they’ve gleaned from their entire lifetime. It’s like poetry. You take all these things, edit out the unimportant things, transform them, pour a little magic on them, then bleed and cry on them (writing is like a crazy ritual!) and then you write it on the page. The process changes the writer. It’s cathartic. It’s healing. It breaks your heart and makes it start beating again. So, rejection letters? Yes, they’re painful. But in reality each one is either telling me, work on this story some more or go write a different story. Either answer is really a win for a writer. Writers should love the process of writing or they’re in the wrong business.
GLITTER: What one book do you wish you would’ve penned and why?
MERRIE: I wish I could have written Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. That book sings. It deals with important contemporary issues, the main character is so believable and likable and heroic, and the writing is lyrical. To me, it’s perfection.
GLITTER: Do you have any crazy writing rituals?
MERRIE: Yes, too many! Most of them deal with music, but not all. I need the absolute, perfect playlist when I’m writing. It has to resonate with my POV character, his or her challenge in the current scene, and it needs a tempo that fits the action or the romance. I’ve been known to search for this perfect playlist (which must change all the time or it’s not fresh) for almost an hour before I can even begin writing. Sigh. I wish I wasn’t so addicted to music, but I am. Also, I need a really good drink—either Coke Zero or an iced chocolate latte—plus a salty snack. On top of that, it doesn’t matter whether it’s winter or summer, I must have a blanket to snuggle in. I always get cold when I write. If I go to a coffee shop, I’ll take an extra jacket or poncho with me. I wish coffee shops provided lap blankets! I’d invest in a coffee shop that did that. LOL.
GLITTER: One thing you can’t write without?
MERRIE: This is a tough question because I seriously need about sixteen million things. My glasses? Critical. My iPad or laptop? Equally important. A table that’s exactly the right height or my back and arms will hurt? Also, up at the top of the list. I think the first two things are expected (glasses and laptop), so I’ll go with a table that is ‘just right.’ That feels very much like a Goldilocks and The Three Bears sort of answer, but I grew up on fairy tales. So perhaps that makes it the perfect answer.
GLITTER: What are you currently working on?
MERRIE: Secret things! LOL. Seriously, I wish I could say I was working on a cure for cancer or a cure for mental illness. If I had a super power, I’d want to be able to heal people. But I’m a writer, so I do my best to entertain my readers and help them to believe happy endings are possible. That said, I’m currently working on another dark, twisted YA story where the characters are put into a very dangerous situation and they all have a lot to lose. I always pick a setting that I’d like to spend time in, since it might take me anywhere from three to six months to write the first draft. So I can tell you that the location in my next book is incredibly beautiful!
Born in the Midwest, magazine editor Merrie Destefano currently lives in Southern California with her husband, two German shepherds, a Siamese cat, and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies are reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, and her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies, and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time.