Q: What inspired you to write Peeps, and how did you create your character Meg?
A: As my YouTube viewing history proves, I’m fascinated by van/RV life and I knew I wanted my next book to be about a middle-aged woman who takes a cross-country road trip.
All of my novels feature deeper themes that I’m personally exploring at the time: Cheer is about parenthood; Heads or Tails is about friendship; and Beshert is about faith. Like me, Meg is middle-aged and sorting out what the second half of her life will be.
Q: Why did you decide to focus on a podcast in the novel, and to include transcripts from your fictional podcast in the book?
A: Meg’s podcast Peeps, in which she asks everyday people the same seven questions as a way to uncover shared humanity, is the podcast I’ve always wanted to listen to.
Around the time I was plotting Meg’s journey, I was also exploring whether I should start a podcast like Peeps. I realized podcasting would actually be a perfect career for Meg – she could interview people as she traveled – so I gave it to her.
Including the podcast “transcripts” was a great way for me to enhance the themes of the book and to intersperse fun, short-story-like elements into the broader journey story.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I’m a huge plotter – the outlines for my novels typically run about 60 pages! Although outlining the whole story enables me to know how it will end, I do allow for shifts and changes if new ideas emerge during the writing process. I also have a wonderful cadre of beta readers who provide recommendations for changes to the early drafts so sometimes I pivot then too.
Q: Do you have any (other) favorite road trip novels?
A: Peeps is inspired by both The Wizard of Oz and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
In plotting Peeps, I realized those two iconic stories were, essentially, the same: one is about a young girl and the other is about a young woman; they both take a road (the Yellow Brick Road and the Pacific Crest Trail, respectively) on a journey to find themselves; they both meet people along the way who help them complete their journey and find their place in the world.
Peeps is an homage to those favorite road trip books – my version features a middle-aged woman who takes the interstate to achieve the same story goals as Dorothy and Cheryl. In fact, discerning readers will spot many name checks and symbols pulled from those beloved stories.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: In addition to getting as many eyeballs on Peeps as possible – my dream is to have Reese pick it up! – I’m sketching out my next story. This exploratory phase of novel-writing, in which the themes, characters and settings begin to gel, is my favorite.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’d love your book-loving blog readers to know how important they are to the success – or not – of a novel. If they love a book, they should review it, talk it up to their local book stores, and tell every fellow book lover they know about it. Reader enthusiasm can dramatically impact a book’s success.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Erin Gordon.