Thursday, October 12, 2023

Q&A with Tracy Hewitt Meyer




Tracy Hewitt Meyer is the author of the new young adult novel Generation Annihilation. Her other books include the YA novel The Reformation of Marli Meade. She also works as a therapist, and she lives in Virginia.


Q: What inspired you to write Generation Annihilation, and how did you create your characters Shaun and Cass?


A: I’ve always gravitated toward dark and gritty fiction as a writer, preferring the edgier side of story rather than the sweeter. And I like the macabre. Edgar Allen Poe is my inspiration. I am fascinated with cemeteries and preparation of the dead. I often think about ghosts and spirits.


When I was on a paranormal tour of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia, it’s not too far a stretch to say that the story simply came to me.


I was standing on a balcony overlooking a ballroom, listening to the guide talk about what the large space was used for during the time it operated as a psychiatric hospital.


For me, not only was I listening, but I was seeing—seeing the beginning of plot that eventually became Generation Annihilation. I could see the characters in that room. See what they were doing, how they felt, what their world was like inside those massive stone walls.


It’s interesting how one place can inspire an entire novel, but it did. Generation Annihilation would not have been written had I not found inspiration in that asylum, on that balcony, during that tour.


As for the characters, I’m a fan of snowboarder Shaun White, and created Shaun Treadway loosely based off his looks and what I imagine his personality would be like.


With the Olympic gold medalist as a grounding point, I created Shaun’s fictional character. Of course, my character’s life experience is vastly different from the snowboarder’s, but I had roots for the character, and I grew him from there.


Cass’ creation is more nuanced. When I create a character, I have to see them physically in my mind’s eye, or I have no foundation to work with.


Sometimes, if I can’t think of anyone in my life, or on TV or in movies that inspires me, I’ll do a simple search online for inspiration. I came upon a picture of a model who had the short hair and the angular bone structure Cass has. From there I was able to create her physical appearance.


As for her personality, she is a quiet soul, and I could relate to that part of her personality because I am too.


Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I was ruminating over the plot, thinking of structure, layers, arc, etc., when the idea of killing off a generation came to me. If I recall correctly, I was sitting in the afternoon carpool line, waiting to pick up my kiddos. I played around with the word generation, and eventually attached annihilation to it, and here we are.


The title sums up the story, simply and directly. The novel doesn’t really need a blurb or pitch. The title says it all, and I like that because those two words are like a sucker punch, full of power and pain. Just like the novel.

Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started it?


A: I don’t plot my novels, but I did have a vague idea of how it would end. And with an ending similar to the beginning, I feel it brings the novel full circle.


I realize that’s not a terribly interesting answer. I’ve tried to plot, but I am most creative when I am allowing the words to freely flow.


Sometimes I do venture far off the plot path, even tiptoeing into other genres or tone or voice. If I find I’ve lost my way, and I decide this by simple gut instinct, I turn to Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, and can get back on course, of course.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: That’s a tough question because it’s not necessarily a story where readers turn the last page with a life lesson learned. The novel is meant to be unsettling during the read, and after, when I hope readers are left with the question, What if?


So many things happen in life that don’t make sense. Many catastrophic and horrific actions are committed by humans against humans. I wanted this novel to leave the reader asking, What if this happened…Could this happen?


Even though this book is different than the others I have written, it does have one theme that all my novels share, and that’s the power of hope. Hope can create resilience and strength, and a will to overcome. As long as there is hope, anything is possible.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on final edits to Generation Retaliation, book #2 in the Blackthorn Peak Duology. That book will bring the series to a close, and will release in September 2024.


I’ve also started a new novel, Death and Daisy McDermott, about a teenage mortician. I haven’t decided if it’ll be dark, in the same tone as The Reformation of Marli Meade, or if it will have a hint of magic realism, which would be fun to explore. Stay tuned!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: How about quick five interesting facts about my novels to answer that question?


In the Rowan Slone Series, I modeled Rowan’s father off of a friend’s son-in-law, and Rowan’s mother off a friend’s ex-wife. No one but my husband and mom know exactly who these characters are in real life.


In The Reformation of Marli Meade, Marli’s hair is wild and red, just like the Disney Princess it was modeled after.


As I write Death and Daisy McDermott, I keep having urges to tour a funeral home. I know that is highly unlikely (and unethical?) to do, but I have that urge anyway. And I must admit, I have had a fleeting thought about returning to school to become a mortician.


Whereas Generation Annihilation’s setting is based on the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Generation Retaliation’s setting, though also based on the asylum, is set in an abandoned prison, based on the West Virginia Penitentiary.


I like to write young adult novels because I remember my teens and 20s very vividly, the raw emotion, the direness of every experience, the complete submersion in the ego. Into my 30s, life had sufficiently knocked me around enough to become humble, grateful, and even a little afraid.


But I was bold and powerful in my younger years, and my memories are so vivid that I feel like I can use them as a baseline in character creation.


Thanks so much for having me!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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