P.S. Meraux is a writer based in Georgia. Her Luminary series is the recipient of a Silver Readers’ Favorite Book Award. Her most recent novel, Without Merit, received a Gold Readers’ Favorite Book Award. In this interview, P.S. uses the terms YA which refers to Young Adult, typically teenagers, and NA which refers to New Adult – readers who are older teens up to about age 30. As many of you know, I spent several years working as a college reference librarian. I’ve always been a fan of YA literature. Some of these books are the best written and well-worth a read, no matter how old you are!
You describe yourself as a writer of YA (young adult) paranormal romance novels. What drew you to write for this age group? What’s the attraction of the paranormal to you and your readers?
I stumbled into it actually. One day I read an interview that Stephanie Meyer's muse was an image from her sleep. Well, the green-eyed monster was upon me. My dreams are so predictably boring with topics like; Did I pay the phone bill? Was the chicken in the marinade? Or sometimes I go to the gym in my sleep -- nothing remotely inspiring as a vampire-werewolf-human love triangle.
Several weeks went by with me being grouchy at my dreams for their lack of creative input. You may scoff at this but I really was. Then I awoke in the middle of the night with a full bladder, not only were the dreams not stepping up but drinking wine before bed didn't help either. Or did it?
I had this image dancing behind my eyelids of an immortal, a witch and an animated candelabra rushing down this amorphous corridor that was being created as they went forward by the candelabra's lively attachment. I didn't understand where it came from. I couldn't recall seeing anything online, on my phone, on the big screen or small -- that could have been the root of it. I wondered where they were going? Why the rush? Why were these different character types in this cluster?
I jotted a note to myself and went back to bed, wondering if more would be revealed in my sleep. It wasn't. Oddly enough, I didn't need the note. When I awoke I remembered the images in vivid detail. Over a morning cup of coffee. or perhaps half a dozen, I sat at my desk and found myself outlining the story of these characters. That initial image, while similar to one in Luminary, actually led me to reverse engineer this epic story. That 'dreamed image' is actually something in the last book in the series.
I suspect that I write for YA and NA readers because that's where my mindset is. I might try my hand at a more mature story someday. I have an idea for a series, but I don't have the character firmly set up in my mind; how she speaks, what her motivation is, what ticks her off -- and I need to get that set so she'll be authentic.
I think people like to believe in magic and the paranormal. Maybe it's not the bib-bidi-bob-bidi-boo kind, but unexplained things happen all the time. Running into that cute guy a second time on the subway, meeting a new friend who will talk straight to you-- just when you need it, or getting insight into how to write a better novel -- from strangers you meet online. Sometimes the stars align and presto -- you get just what you need.
Do you have a favorite author in this genre? or a favorite author in another genre?
Asking me that is like asking if I have a favorite pair of shoes. And if you'd ever seen my closet, your eyes would pop in absolute shock -- and you'd know that I have more than one pair. Much more. I have eclectic tastes and like: Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead, Lauren Kate, in addition to the above mentioned Stephanie Meyer -- all are great paranormal romance authors. I also read: J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, J.R. Ward, Diana Gabaldon, Sara Donati, Agatha Christie, Laurie King, Robert Ludlum and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Your most recent novel, Without Merit, is described as a “supernatural, mystery thriller.” The teenage girl in the story wakes up in a hospital with near-total amnesia. What gave you the idea for this story?
I was sitting in Gatwick International Airport (London) waiting to board a plane for home. I'd been in Scotland visiting my relatives and castle hopping. A guy sitting next to me was playing a Liam Neeson movie, "Unknown," on his iPad. It's basically a derivative of the Jason Bourne series. There are so many books about "amnesia victims searching for their identity" it's almost a trope by now.
I remember thinking, "What if the amnesia victim wasn't human?" Suddenly a whole bunch of possibilities opened up for a story. I pulled out a notebook (yes, I travel with one) and outlined the first book before I boarded the plane.
The protagonist in Without Merit starts out thinking that she's this ordinary teen without a memory or parents. And as she learns the disturbing details of Merit's life, she has to wrestle with acceptance because Merit is not a nice person.
Without Merit seems to be essentially about her search for self-identity. She’s looking for a lot more than just learning her name and where she came from. Do you think this is a central issue for most teens – trying to figure out who they really are?
No matter your age, we all get bombarded with all kinds of messages every day from television, social media, magazines, coworkers, friends and family. This is especially true for kids and teens. It takes a while for each of us to figure out who we are, what we stand for, and how we want to live our lives. Until a person has all of that sorted out, it can be easy to be influenced by outside voices. Some of those voices are benign; some have ulterior motives.
I intentionally let the protagonist in Without Merit make some mistakes, believe in people who shouldn't be trusted, and have her ideas about people blow up in her face. It was my way of testing her mettle and making her real. I wanted her to fail, fall and get back up, which she does. She learns that she's stronger than she knows.
Your ability to write suspenseful action scenes and to create a sense of mystery is very impressive. What do you think is the key to creating suspense and making your readers want to keep turning pages?
Wow, thanks for the compliment, I really appreciate that. I read a lot of books! I think about what intrigues me in a story.
I'm not afraid of having a character go off in one direction -- the wrong one -- if I can use the action to drive the story forward later on. I've been told that I write with a great deal of detail -- this from readers who like my work. (Smile).
I find that if I make a sequence of events believable, the reader will be carried along with the main character and when something happens or is 'about to happen' that heightens the reader's response.
I invest in my characters' emotions; fear, hope, ambition. I've written chapters where I began weeping while I was typing out the story. There are some particularly heart-tugging scenes in my book, Flare, the final book in the Luminary series.
What are you working on now?
To be honest, I am quite shocked that I've written eight books so far. I didn't know that I had that many words in me. Right now, I'm outlining the second book in the Vessel series. Without Merit was book one of what will be a two-book series. And I'm writing my first vampire novel at the same time. It's weird to be doing both but the vampire's story is entrenched in my head and he won't some bugging me until I get it finished. Hopefully that will be done by the first of the year.
Extra: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There's something uniquely self-satisfying about writing a story. Whether you're looking at a blank sheet of paper or a blank document on a computer screen, the act of creating a new universe, a country setting or a single character on that flat surface and making that place, person or thing become real and three dimensional, is just so frigging cool!
Corralling all those words is like rounding up wild colts, who insist on bucking and jumping about. Then I strap on a saddle and allow the characters to take me for a ride as I figure out where the story goes. Maybe it's a commentary on the way my mind works (or perhaps doesn't) but I find it absorbing, fulfilling and invigorating at the same time.
If what I write makes someone laugh or cry or think, then all the better. I've done my job. Giddy Up.
Learn more about P.S. Meraux at https://psmeraux.blogspot.com/