"Songbirds and Stray Dogs may be Meagan Lucas' debut novel, but the voice echoing from its pages is so striking you'll be haunted long after you turn the last page. In this gutsy story of a young woman fighting tooth and nail for survival, you'll find both grit and grace and a ringing honesty that refuses to back down. Not often do I read a novel and form an instant kinship with both the author and protagonist, but Songbirds and Stray Dogs captured from me the first, stirring scene and held me all the way until new life began to grow from the ashes. A stunning, startling novel."
And here's what Lucas had to say when she (graciously) took time out from a busy book release schedule to answer a few of my questions....
Who: Meagan Lucas
Latest Book: Songbirds & Stray Dogs
What do you tell yourself when you begin to doubt yourself as a writer? How often do you doubt yourself?
Whenever I doubt myself, which is often, I just remind myself to do the work. “Don’t worry about if it’s good, just get it out.” The majority of my doubt happens when I’m reading someone else’s words, and I come across something brilliant and think that there is no way in hell I’m ever going to create something even half as wonderful, and I get sucked into a hole of doubt I can’t even see out of. When I’m actually writing, I can’t write with the idea or hope that anyone will ever read it – or I self censor – so, if I can forget about other people’s brilliant books and their judging thoughts, (and what my Mom will think!!) and just do the fun part, the actual writing, everything else seems to work out.
What’s your favorite thing to do to procrastinate from writing?
Read! Reading is excellent procrastinating, because I can easily convince myself that I’m not actually procrastinating, that I’m working - doing research, or filling my writing toolbox, when really, I’m just doing my favorite thing.
What advice do you wish someone had given you when just started out as a writer/author?
The importance of literary citizenship tops my list. I think when you’re just starting it’s hard to imagine how small the lit world is because you don’t know anyone and everything feels overwhelming, but, it’s small. Once you get your foot in the door you realize that every connection you make will know someone else, and if you’re kind, honest, and easy to work with – this plays in your favor – generous established writers will come out of the woodwork to help you because one of their friends said something nice about you. However, if you’re a jerk, it will work against you. If you’re the kind of writer who likes to tear people down, only ever talks about yourself, gets butt-hurt easily, or is just mean – people know, you’ll develop a reputation quickly. Be kind and sincere, don’t make promises you can’t keep, don’t talk shit, read and promote other writers, and life will be a lot easier for you.
Also – start small. Like a lot of writers I started working on a novel right away, and there isn’t anything wrong with that, but it takes a long time to write, and a long time to sell a novel, and I think that causes people to give up. It is easy to lose focus when you don’t have any feedback along the way. I attended a Great Smokies Writing Program workshop taught by Wiley Cash a few years ago where he spoke about how the path to novel publication was starting with short stories/articles and it really hit home for me. With a short story you get feedback from editors quicker, you build a portfolio, your confidence, and a reputation, and for me it helped develop my author voice (I’m far more likely to experiment in a short story than a novel.) A side effect too, is that when you do write that novel, you have a list of publications and editors behind you to help prove to an agent or publisher that you’re worth their time, which I think goes a long way to getting your foot in the door.
Who has been the most difficult character for you to write? The easiest?
In Songbirds and Stray Dogs, Chuck was the hardest character for me to write. I find writing men really difficult, and particularly their conversations with other men. Men relate to each other so differently than women, or men and women together. I spent a lot of time quizzing my husband and eavesdropping on stranger’s conversations to try to get it right. Jolene, on the other hand, kind of just fell out of me. While she and I don’t share much life experience, our motivations and reactions are very similar, so while I did a lot of thinking when writing Chuck, Jolene came straight from my gut.
Have you ever been embarrassed to tell someone that you’re a writer/author?
Yes! Partially because it felt like I was putting on airs (am I really a writer? Hello Imposter Syndrome!) and partially because I know the next question will be something about if I have a book that they’ve heard of. And for the longest time I’d just look down and rub my toe on the floor and mumble something about a dozen short stories in various mags, and regret opening my mouth while we both try to change the subject. And now, while I just very recently have a book and they probably still haven’t heard of it, but at least it’s an opportunity to point them at my local indie bookstore (Malaprop’s), so I’m a smidgen less embarrassed. That is, until they ask me what my WIP is about and the connection between my brain and mouth is severed.