Today I have a fellow author as a guest on my blog. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Continue reading to find out more about her. But first, here’s more about her upcoming release, Post-High School Reality Quest.
Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.
After graduating high school, a voice called “the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to live her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.
While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares.
1.Would you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
My name is Meg Eden, and I’m a 25 year old all-around nerd. I love video game culture, and am really interested in the intersection between writing and video games in storytelling (e.g., what craft elements are the same between these two mediums? How are they different?). I have an amazing husband, who’s even more into video games than me. We also have objectively the cutest cat ever named CT, short for Chaos Theory, from Jeff Goldblum’s famous line in Jurassic Park: “That’s- that’s Chaos Theory.” She lives up to her name well.
2.Which project are you currently promoting?
I’m excited about my YA novel Post-High School Reality Quest (PHSRQ for short), which is coming out in June. PHSRQ is a novel in the form of a classic text-adventure game– if you’ve ever played games like King’s Quest or Zork, it’s pretty much like that.
3.Can you tell us what the book is about?
The book is about high school graduate Buffy, who is trying to cope with transitioning to college, making life decisions, and the changes in her friend group. During these changes, Buffy starts hearing a text parser narrating her life (e.g., “You are in a room. There is a piano. Exits are: out.”), and feels stuck in this video game that the voice is creating. Is she actually in the game? Is it all in her head? How does she escape? Read the book and find out!
4.How did you come up with the title for this book?
I was thinking about how epic game titles used to be back in the day—how everything was a quest, or an adventure. I was thinking about what PHSRQ was really about: it’s about finding your identity, purpose—and really “reality”— outside of the structure of high school. So I threw it all together and it became Post-High School Reality Quest.
5.What inspired you to write this book?
I get a lot of ideas from my friends. One friend was like, “Hey, you should write a novel in the form of a text adventure game.” I honestly didn’t think much of the idea but tried it one day for fun. Once I started, I got hooked! The original draft of PHSRQ was really just a hot mess with no plot. I was inspired by a bunch of different snippets of memories, friends, social dynamics, and weird moments in high school. I pretty much just had all these little non-cohesive bits. But once I added the text adventure framework, that gave the story some structure. The text adventure format also helped induce a plot, as it created a conflict between Buffy and the Text Parser.
6.What made you decide to become a writer?
I grew up on books—my mother lived off books, so much so that I’d open the pantry for cereal and instead find an omnibus of CS Lewis. When I’d ask Mom where the cereal was, she’d say it was behind the Brit Lit. And I’d have to pull CS Lewis out if I wanted to eat. I used to hate books (because they weren’t brightly animated TV shows) but came to love them as my mother literally paid me to read books and give her reports on what I learned. I began to love these conversations we’d have, and felt motivated to read without the pay. Then I knew I was hooked!
I’ve always loved telling stories and creating. I used to do that more through visual arts, but I’ve found that words have helped me process my experiences and convey them in a more direct way than visual art.
7.What genre do you generally write?
I write mostly poetry and YA, namely magic realism. But really, I write what excites me, which can be anything.
8.Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I used to want to be paid to draw all day—an animator, manga artist—anything where I could tell stories through drawing.
9.When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s a really tough question. I’ve been writing for a long time. I think I only started calling myself a “writer” when I pursued it professionally, which was high school. I think once I started getting published and had an agent I felt like I could really be called “a writer”—though honestly, I think it’s much healthier to not put your writing identity in the publications: you’re a writer because you write. So looking back, I think now I’d say I’ve always been a writer.
11.How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to the culmination?
This varies, but I’ll say no matter what it takes multiple iterations. I usually do a first draft in a Nanowrimo style: just get the words out, and I try to do that within a few months. I usually let it sit and ferment (like wine) for a while. I usually write several drafts where there’s usually little to no plot (I’m terrible at plot) and I’m just exploring and getting to know the characters. Once I know the characters, I try to find a plot (usually the hardest part for me). But I’m the kind of person who feels like my characters are real people, so I feel like if I know my characters and have them, I can tackle anything. Most of my books have—so far—taken several years of on and off work. But I’ve also juggled things like school, getting married, poetry, and multiple projects at the same time, so I’m sure that’s affected my process.
12.How do you deal with negative reviews?
It depends on the kind of review–when it’s just pure trolling, I can more or less laugh it off. Like, there was someone on fanfiction.net that in high school said I was a terrible writer, should never write again, etc. I wanted to go find the quote and get it as a back cover review, in an ironic sort of way, as if saying “See? I kept writing anyway. Deal with it.” When my chapbook “A Week With Beijing” came out, I got this really odd review along the lines of “This was too accessible for me and read like it came out of the New York Times.” Kind of a weird unintentional compliment there, if you ask me. But for my “launch party” my best friend and I fixed the review to a pinata and whacked it, then feasted on the candy inside. It was a really fun activity that let everyone feel like they were a part of my journey as a writer–the good and the bad–and was cathartic for me. It was a way to transform something that was largely negative into a positive memory. I love when I see youtubers do this about their negative comments, and so I strive to also transform the negatives into positives.
People can say what they want–I can’t control what they say. Considering that I’m a control freak, this is a really hard truth for me to swallow. I can control how I handle reviews, and what I do with them. I try to listen to what the root concern is in a review: is it a personal preference against the book, or is there a legitimate concern I need to address? I mean, I came from academia and workshops, so I’m all about getting feedback and listening. I’ve had professors tell me things like “You f*ed up this poem!” and “Why are you writing this project? You should go back to writing X poems” so I’ve gotten harsh criticism in the past, and had to weigh: what is true, and what is opinion? This is so hard, but it’s part of the job of a writer. In the end, I’m writing to edify, encourage, speak out truth, and uplift others. If people do not feel fairly represented in my books, or don’t feel safe reading my work, I feel as though I have failed my duty as a writer. If people have these concerns with my work, I want to listen and learn how to write better. I can always learn how to do things better. The great thing about feedback is that it often comes from perspectives different than our own, and it can help us see our writing in a new way. This is an opportunity for learning! I owe so much to the people in my life who have been willing to tell me harsh truths about my writing. They didn’t have to do this, but because they took the time to point out problems, I have grown, and will continue to grow, carrying their wisdom inside me.
13.What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on what must be the 13th, 14th draft of an old YA project about a love advice columnist who finds herself in an unhealthy relationship. The novel is composed entirely of found materials: tweets, texts, snapchats, journal entries, homework assignments–so it’s an interesting challenge to give myself: how to tell a story with the fewest number of words possible. I’ve got a poetry manuscript I’m trying to shop around, and am playing with some video game inspired poetry. I’ve got a sci-fi novel concept sitting in the back of my mind, and I’m hoping to get started working on that soon!
14.When you begin a new MS, does it start with an idea, concept, or both?
Usually a character. To me, characters are my friends, they’re real people. They inhabit and haunt me. When I find a character I love, I start getting to know them. I spend a lot of time with them by drawing them, finding music that evokes their presence, and placing them in situations and seeing how they respond.
15.Is there a message you’d like to get across through your story?
I hope that readers will see a message of redemption and reconciliation in this story. I know that in writing this novel, it made me think of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life, how I’ve let guilt over them haunt me, and how I wish that like Buffy I could go back and relive certain moments. The reality is that none of us—not even Buffy—have any control over changing the past, even though we might feel like we might. I’d love my readers to think about those who pursue after them, who desire what’s best for them. I think emotion-wise, I hope people read this, walking away with hope—that even if we can’t respawn at save points, there are always opportunities to start over and grow.
17.What is your least favorite part about getting published?
Being a writer is a heavy responsibility. Only now am I really processing that people are reading my writing–it’s not just sitting on my computer. Especially with YA, our writing may be influencing and informing reader’s worldviews, and that’s a terrifying honor! It’s both my favorite and least favorite part of getting published: that people may be influenced by my writing. I can’t necessarily control how people translate what I write, or what they take away from what I write, so I just have to pray that God will use all of that for good despite all the imperfections that inevitably still remain in my writing.
18.Was the road to publication a long one for you?
YES. I could write a whole article on my publishing experience! In short, I got my first agent in high school (a little less than nine years ago). We sent around some other projects for years, and nothing really happened. I’ve been sending my work out to litmags for about the same amount of time. When I got my agent, my goal was to have my debut out before I graduated high school–ha, as if we have any control over when our books come out! Let’s just say God had different plans, and that I’ve had to learn that the publishing process doesn’t go on our own timeline–and that it takes some patience.
20.Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope I’ll still be writing and teaching creative writing. I’d love to be a full time professor, still doing YA and poetry. Still being a total dork.
21.What is the best advice you can give to a new author?
If you really love writing, keep doing it. A career in writing is possible, but it takes hard work and a tough skin. Put yourself out there, go to conferences, volunteer at local literary magazines or events, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Send your work out, and send persistently–even to places that reject you five, ten times. I wouldn’t be where I am now if amazing people didn’t encourage and mentor me along the way. There are so many ways to get your work out into the world, but it can’t happen if you don’t have aren’t filled with determination (please let someone who gets that Undertale reference read this and appreciate it!). I teach some phenomenal writers who are self-conscious about their work or afraid to show it to anyone. Show your work to people, send it out to magazines, listen to feedback and edit until you find the right fit. Publishing is a lot like dating: the connection between you and an agent or editor is often subjective, and you “just get that feeling.” Don’t be discouraged if someone isn’t a fit–just keep going out on dates until you find “the one”!
22.Where can the readers find more information about you?