Today I’m shining the Author Spotlight on Meg Eden and her debut novel POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST.
Title: Post-High School Reality Quest
Genre: Magical Realism, YA
Age Range: 14+
Launch Date: June 13, 2017
Please tell us a little bit about your book?
POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST 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!
What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?
One day a friend said to me: “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 out one day for fun. Once I started, I got hooked! The original draft of POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST was really just a hot mess with no plot, focusing on the main “group” of friends: Buffy, Merrill, Tristan, Chase and Sephora. It was pretty much just me playing with people I knew and experiences from high school but nothing really happened. When I started playing with the text adventure idea, I tried it on this old draft, and everything came together really fast—I think I finished that draft in about a month. I also got strep like, three times in a row, so I was more or less bed-ridden and writing was the only thing I felt like doing. Since I already knew the characters from the older draft, plugging them into the text adventure framework was easy—and gave their narrative structure. The text adventure format helped induce a plot, as it created a conflict between Buffy and the Text Parser. It ended up making perfect sense: examining a group of friends in video game culture through the lens of a literal game.
Everyone says writing is a process. Could you share a little about your writing and/or research process?
I write in pieces and I write with a lot of drafts. I write the first ten drafts of a book just getting to know my characters. Then I start trying to figure out what they’re actually doing. If I know my characters in a fully rounded way like real people, it makes it easier to see what they’d do in the situations given by the plot. I can’t plan novels—if I know what’s going to happen in the end, I get bored. My writing, like my reading, is an act of discovery.
I do a lot of research for my novels—even ones from largely my own experience. I try to make dates line up (a lot of my writing is in the form of journal entries), and use google maps to “revisit” places I’ve been to write about them more accurately. I try to not let research consume me though, because I totally could let it do that to me. I usually try to research on “down” days where I’m physically and mentally tired. I watch a lot of youtube videos and take notes. I observe, and prepare for when I’m ready to write next.
We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?
I’ve had a lot of amazing teachers along the way, but I think my writing started with my 8th grade history teacher. She’s the first person I remember commenting that my writing was good, and I felt like she took me seriously as an individual and writer, not just as a “student”. I remember when I went to high school I’d go back and visit her and have all sorts of discussions with her. I was inspired by her to work on my very first novel, a project inspired by some of the Saxon history from her class. I think she’s the first person I really shared my stories with.
What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?
I think POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST would be a great book in particularly the college classroom, but also upper level high school classes. The book deals with quite a range of topics: suicide, eating disorders, coping with change, mental health, faith, alcohol and relationships. I’d love to see this book used to open up conversations about these topics and how they relate to students and readers. These conversations could also lead to freewriting exercises where students can process the book and put themselves into it: which topics resonate with them most, and how do they connect to that topic with their own personal experience?
I’m a little dog obsessed here at www.patriciabaileyauthor.com. Would you tell the readers about your favorite dog (real or imaginary)?
I grew up with a dog named Wolfie, who was around before I was born and passed away when I was in 5th grade. Being an only child, Wolfie was like this rebellious older sister figure to me. She would run away to swim in the neighbor’s pool or the creek. She hunted gophers and chickens and brought them to our house like prizes. She wouldn’t let anyone tell her where she should be, and didn’t pretend that she liked people that she didn’t. I learned a lot from Wolfie.
Meg Eden teaches creative writing at the University of Maryland. She has four poetry chapbooks, and her novel “Post-High School Reality Quest” is published with California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.
You can grab a copy of POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST at your local bookstore or online.