Guest: David Meredith & The Reflections of Queen Snow White

Welcome, David! Please tell us about yourself.
I am an independent author living in the Nashville Area where I also teach English. Prior to this I taught English in Japan for nearly a decade. 
Q: Japan... how interesting! Please tell us about your new release.
A: The Reflections of Queen Snow White is a very personal book for me. It is based on an award-winning short story that I wrote back in 2006. It is about an aging, unexpectedly bereaved Snow White struggling with grief and trying to sort through her own difficult past to find direction and hope for the future. It attempts to answer the question: What happens after “happily ever after” has come and gone?
 I think that it deals with a time in life that most of us would rather not think about, but that half of us or better will definitely live to see. Reflections… is unique in that your average romance or fantasy/faerie tale novel tends to deal with the struggles of relationships at the very early stages - all the awkwardness and uncertainty associated with really feeling out a brand new person who you think you might kinda, sorta like and want to be with. Then the characters fight for then succeed in loving and having their love returned. My novel is at the other end of that journey. Snow White and Charming have already shared a lifetime of deep and sustaining love. The Reflections of Queen Snow White explores what happens when you've had all of this wonderful, perfect time together, then suddenly one day, it's all over.
At present it rates 5 stars on Amazon. :)

Q: That's fantastic! What inspired this story? What is the story behind the story?
A: Well, I think to properly answer this question, you should really know something about where I was emotionally back in 2006 when I originally wrote the source short story. In the space of about three or four months, both of my grandfathers died unexpectedly. During the same period, my wife also lost a grandmother and a grandfather, so there where a lot of funerals going on over a very short amount of time. Now funerals, by their very nature lead to a certain introspection about one’s own mortality, but particularly with the sudden passing of both grandfathers and, as a consequence, how hard my grandmothers took their deaths, it led me to wonder on their behalf  – “So… What now?”
They had both had wonderful, loving relationships – many long, happy years together (both had been married over 60 years). In the case of my maternal grandmother and grandfather, they had never loved anyone else, having married straight out of high school. There was no question in my mind, nor indeed anyone who knew them, that theirs had most certainly been a real-life “happily ever after”. Now it was over. It made me wonder, “When your life has been so closely tied up with and centered upon one other person for so long, what do you do when they are no longer a part of your life? Where do you go from there?” That was the original kernel of the idea for The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

Q: Sorry to hear about your loss. Why do you choose to write romance?
A: I actually write mostly fantasy, although much of what I write would probably be considered romance/fantasy crossover. I like fantasy because I feel like it gives me more creative freedom to tell a story unconstrained by many of the limitations we experience in the real world. However there is almost always a significant romantic element included in my writing.
I think that there really are two absolutes in the human existence. First is the knowledge that we will one day die. The idea that we have a limited amount of time can and should inspire us to make the most of each and every day – to strive for something more or better in our lives. In that struggle can be found great emotion, which is by its very nature a great resource for story-telling.
The other absolute is the basic human need to love and be loved. Life is about relationships (friends, family, lovers, co-workers, even chance encounters with strangers!) and most of the joy and/or drama we experience in our lives can generally be traced back in some degree to whatever is happening within those many relationships. Therefore I think relationships and romance absolutely MUST be a focus of good story telling.
Taken together these two truths – recognizing our own mortality and seeking to share our limited days with people who love us are significant motivators in almost any story – real life or fiction. Stories that delve into these great human longings or really bring out these commonalities of the human condition that we all share, tend to touch us in ways that really make stories and characters meaningful and personal. Whatever the genre I happen to be writing in at the moment, that’s what I want people to get out of all my writing – I want readers to FEEL something and who do you feel more strongly about than someone you love?
Q: I agree! Why did you choose your setting and why was it perfect for your book?
A: First, I think that the decision to tell a story about Snow White sort of chose the setting for me. However, having said that, I felt like the whole faerie tale feel was important to help the reader immediately connect with Snow White. I think the idea of “it really happens to everyone, even someone like her” was instrumental for telling this story. I also believed that making it feel like as natural a transition as possible from the original Brothers Grimm tale was vital to the emotional connection and impact I wanted the reader to have.

Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: Except for Snow White herself, all of the other characters either have traditionally German names (like Stina the chamber maid or Queen Bemadette, Snow White’s mother) or they are adjectives in German (for example, Erfruet, Snow White’s last surviving dwarf, translates as “Happy” and the portly Lord Stolz is described as “The Earl of Schweinefett”, which basically means “Earl of Pig Fat” or “Earl of Lard”). It’s a German story anyway, so I thought I’d have a little fun with the names.
Q: How cool and funny! Did you choose the title of your book and if so how did you do it?
A: Yes, I chose it. I knew the magic mirror would be central to the story. Also the introspective nature of Snow White’s journey made the title seem obvious to me.
Q: Please tell us about your favorite character in the book.
A: This story is very much an introspective told almost exclusively from the perspective of an elderly Snow White. I understand upon initial examination, she might seem a little bit vanilla as a choice. After all, she is probably the first faerie tale princess that comes to our minds when we think of the faerie tale genre. She’s been nearly exploited and merchandised to death by the Disney Company. There have already been almost innumerable retellings and riffs on her story in modern media – TV, movies, other novels, short stories, and even an old Rammstein music video. Who doesn’t know Snow White?
However, I felt like this intimate familiarity we all have with her actually works perfectly in helping the reader connect with her older self in Reflections... To me, it felt rather like catching up with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years and years and just like friends from childhood, I think people still care about her.
Having said that, I think what really makes the story is the fact that she is so caught up in herself - her own misery, her own pain and grief, her own loneliness and depression - that she fails to see all of these wonderful people around her who could really make her burden less and her life better. In that respect, I suppose my vote has to go to the whole supporting cast.

Q: Which element of story creation is your favorite?
A: I think it has to be the characters. As a reader, I love stories where you get caught up in the characters’ lives – when they start to feel like people you know. With really well-written characters you share their successes and failures, their joy and their pain. If a character is especially engaging, it almost doesn’t matter what happens to them, because you’re already hooked. That is not to say that plot and setting are not important, but if your characters aren’t enticing and interesting to your reader, the story is likely to fall flat.
Q: That's true! Which element of this story was the hardest for you?
A: I’ll include a little bit of a spoiler warning up front, so anyone who is afraid I might give away too much might want to skip ahead, but…
To be honest, it was Snow White and Charming’s Honeymoon scene. It’s the first really graphic sex scene that I’ve ever put in a novel, and it took me a while to get comfortable with it. I suppose I could have gone with a door closing and fade to black type nudge, nudge, tee hee they’re having sex now but we just won’t talk about it, kind of gimmick, but I came to feel strongly like the scene was necessary to the telling of Snow White’s story. These are Snow White’s private, introspective musings! Who censor’s their own head?
It needed to be explicit to make the reader really believe that they are right there with Snow White getting an intimate look at her internal dialog. I also wanted readers to understand the depth of Snow White and Prince Charming’s relationship, particularly from Snow White’s point of view and how significant Charming was to her. It needed to be graphic to illustrate how hard she falls for her husband, how profoundly miserable Snow White becomes after his death, and why. At the same time, I didn’t want it to come across as voyeuristic or seedy. Making it graphic, but not come off as trashy and cheap was a challenge, but I think I got it.  J Maybe “graphic” isn’t even the right word. Perhaps I should just call it “truthful”.
Q: What inspires you? What motivates you?
A: Having a vision and sharing it with others. Making people feel something through my writing gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Discussing it with me is just an added bonus – at the risk of coming across as narcissistic, I could do that forever!
Q: Please tell us about your other books.
A: As a matter of fact, I have a HUGE project I started WAY back in 2004 that is nearly complete. It is a fantasy series based upon Japanese myth, legend and folklore, rather than the European model that is so prevalent in fantasy literature today. Originally it was a 406,000 word behemoth, but I've edited it down to three volumes that are between 95,000 and 120,000 words each. Here's a synopsis:
On the happiest day of the year, Taro’s world ends. His people and his family are slaughtered. His lands are brutally laid to waste by merciless, imperial forces. Taro is certain that neither he nor the ghosts of his lost loved ones can rest until he has visited the same devastation tenfold upon the heads of the vile collaborators. Consumed with grief for the fallen and guilt at his own survival, he gathers his scattered people and solemnly vows bloody revenge on the allies of the Emperor in the neighboring barony.
At the same time, young Naomi, cherished daughter of the doting Lord of Numanodai, is blissfully unaware of the chaotic world spinning out of control all around her. She fervently studies the arts of dance, music, and poetry as she dreams of being accepted into the distant imperial court. However, when disaster visits her very doorstep and she loses everything that she holds dear, Naomi must learn what it truly means to be a woman and a ruler. She must come to grips with her own gnawing grief and paralyzing doubt if she is to have any chance of saving her beaten and bedraggled people from Taro’s unreasoning fury.
In the process, both she and her pursuer discover a magical world of vengeful akuma demons, fierce kitsune fox-people, droll tanuki badger-folk, and the mysterious, arcane power of the ikioi. Taro and Naomi must decide whether to use this power for healing or destruction, revenge or redemption. They must choose whether to react to their pain and loss with wrath or with love. In the end, both must come to understand that the only thing that really makes them different is the choices they make and what they are willing to sacrifice in attaining that which they desire.
I'm hoping to release the first volume, Shirobara Falls, sometime next year.
Q: Sounds very interesting and creative! When did you know you wanted to be an author?
A: I think I had always had a little bit of the "writing bug". I made some false starts in high school - wrote some fan-fic, started several ill-conceived novels that never got finished, (Reflections was actually my 7th attempt at writing a novel). I wrote a few successful and well-received short stories, but I think it was a combination of my time in Japan and all the writing I had to do for my Master's Program that finally pushed me to get serious about it. I had always been a reader, but while I was in Japan, English language novels were hard to come by. Combine that with my graduate experience of having to write 5-6 thirty-plus page research papers a semester and all of a sudden I had run out of excuses. I had both the time and the ability to stick with a subject over the long haul and get through to the end. It was a gradual thing though and took a number of false starts and failures in the process with many long periods of no writing at all sprinkled in between.

Q: What is your writing process or method?
A: I keep a little black book with me. If I have an interesting idea or random thought, no matter where it occurs, it gets written down. Some of them turn into stories. I do some outlining, but I’m not religious about it. Generally, I rush and try to get the first draft of a novel down on paper in a hurry, bad grammar, mistakes, plot holes, and inane dialog notwithstanding, then spend a whole lot of time with revision and editing. In fact it always takes me at least two to three times longer editing and revising my work than writing the initial first draft.
Q: If you are self-published, why did you choose that route? Do you love it or what would you do differently?
A: The motivation was frustration mostly. Buried under sheaves and sheaves of rejection letters after waiting 6-8 months for each one, I started to really question if that was the only way to get my writing in the public eye. I knew I could write. Lots of people I trusted not to simply stroke my ego said so. I was, I think, fairly well-read myself. I’d even got a number of what I’d characterize as “Good Rejection” letters that were personalized and offered concrete suggestions for improvement. I have not totally written off traditional publishing (self-publishing is a HUGE amount of work). I just wanted to see if it was a viable option for me. I figured I would learn the answer to that question best if I just did it.
Q: Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
A: First and foremost, mind your craft. Make sure your writing is excellent and always strive to make it better. Don’t be in a rush to publish. Rather, make sure what you publish is worth publishing. Get the feedback of people you trust not to simply pat your head and stroke your ego and then respond kindly to criticism and take it constructively.
Second, be prepared to WORK if you want to be successful. Everyone and their brother can self-publish now, but that doesn’t mean everyone should. Reviewers and even consumers are inundated - buried under the huge volume of titles - so even really good writing has a tendency to get lost in the free-for-all. If you want to be successful at it you have to be ready to spend nearly every spare moment just trying to get your writing noticed – just to convince a few people who might have a little influence to give it a chance and maybe tell others about it - and there’s still no guarantee. It’s a different path than traditional publishing, but I’m fairly well convinced at this point that it is certainly not any easier.
Q: What’s next for you?

A: The next big event (I’m thinking probably March or April) will be the very limited release of the physical book. Probably not more than about 500 copies in the initial run (printing isn’t free), but keep checking back on my website and Facebook page for details. Then of course, I’m looking forward to the release of Shirobara Falls in 2014 as well. I’m not sure if that will be traditional or self-published yet, but either way it’s coming. Stay tuned!
Fantastic! Thanks so much for being our guest today! David is giving away a copy of his book to a commenter! Please leave your email or a way for us to contact you along with your comment. Thanks!

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Carly Carson said...

Welcome to the blog, David. You have a very interesting interview. I think I could bear the death of Prince Charming, but the dwarves? Oh, no! Still, you have a fascinating premise. I can remember attending the 60th anniversary celebration of my great-grandparents. It was so much fun. Good luck with the book!

Lani said...

Great interview, David! I love the premise of ALL your books! And I'm so glad you were brave enough to self-publish, so the world will get to know more of what you write!

Gotta go to Amazon now and buy your book!

Carole St-Laurent said...

Great concept, David. I am actually living a year like you did back in 2006. I can't wait for 2013 to be over.

David Meredith said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by! I hope, whoever wins, you'll all give The Reflections of Queen Snow White a try. I really apprecitae all of your kind comments and would be happy to answer any questions you might have! Thanks again!

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

Fantastic interview. I tweeted.

April said...

I hear so many excellent Authors talk about how they could wallpaper their houses with rejection letters... I just don't get it!

lindalou said...

Sounds like a wonderful read... I love Snow White (I love all the Disney princesses) and love the take-offs from their stories.