Author of the Once & Future series
Joining me today to talk about her historical fantasy novels is the author Meredith Stoddard, author of the Once and Future series. I am so excited that the fourth book of her series releases today!!! Make sure you go and check out Nothing Good Gets Away! (Links below).
Welcome Meredith and thank you for joining me. Congratulations on the release of the fourth book in your series. Tell us a little about your novels.
Meredith: My latest is called Nothing Good Gets Away. It’s the fourth in my Once & Future series which is contemporary fantasy. It follows Sarah MacAlpin a folklorist who is trying to trace the origin of a folksong that her grandmother taught her when she was a little girl. But when she starts pulling that thread it starts to reveal some family secrets and explain the trigger for her mother’s mental illness and eventual suicide. She’s helped along the way by a colleague from Scotland, who she falls in love with. But he is also embroiled in a cabal of neo-Jacobites who are trying to restore the Scottish crown to the Stuarts. They think Sarah is essential to their plans. When we catch up with Sarah in book 4, the revelations of the first three books have made her re-evaluate all her plans for the future. All she wants is to get away and live a quiet life somewhere, but there are some powerful forces working against her. This series has a folklore, magic, intrigue and romance. If readers like a Discovery of Witches or Outlander, they will enjoy this series.
Helen: This sounds really intriguing. And big news! If you haven’t read Meredith’s books yet, the ebook of Book One: The River Maiden is currently free to celebrate the launch of the fourth book in the series-so get it now! I love a historical fantasy. How did you come up with the title?
Meredith: The title for this book comes from a letter that John Steinbeck wrote to his son as fatherly advice on teenage romance. In the letter he talks about two kinds of love; healthy and uplifting versus unhealthy and possessing or draining. He tells him to be patient with the object of his affection because if it is meant to be, it will be. He tells him, “Nothing good gets away.” Those two kinds of love are very much a theme in this book, so it seems fitting. But out of context it can also sound like a threat which fits this book too. I love the equivocal nature of it.
Helen: That sounds very trusting, not sure fate is always that kind. But then, sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how difficult you make it for yourself, you end up where you’re supposed to be anyway! That’s what my MC finds out! What made you write this book?
Meredith: This series is very much about the question of fate versus free will. While Sarah’s situation is extreme, I think we’ve all had occasions where people tell us we should be doing one thing, and we might want to go in a different direction. A lot of us have to balance the expectation of our family or community or society with our own desires and plans. That push and pull can be hard to balance and sometimes it requires compromise. Even if we don’t feel it to the level that Sarah does, finding that balance is something that many people struggle with.
Helen: Very true! And most of the time we don’t realise we are being manipulated by society or social norms as they are so ingrained. What made you first put pen to paper? Was it a specific event or person who who inspired you to begin writing?
Meredith: My grandmother. She’s a terrific storyteller, and memory keeper. When I was a little girl, I would spend weeks at her house, and she would tell me stories about the generations of our family that came before us, and other families in the little town where she lives. And then I would go out into her garden, which is glorious and walk around with my imagination full of my own stories. It was a magical way to spend my summers. I got hooked on stories and making my own stories. She’s also an incredibly strong and determined person. She’s pretty amazing.
Helen: She sounds absolutely amazing, and it’s so wonderful that she is able to share so much about your family and instilled in you a live or storytelling. I always think a love of reading and the storytelling skills are passed down to us from our parents and grandparents, those who have the most influence on its when we are young, and it’s lovely to see it action. I’m not surprised a sense of history permeates your writing, but you blend in fantasy as well, where did that come from?
Meredith: I try to follow a theme more than a genre. All of my fiction is folklore inspired. I usually let the story pick the genre. That can lead me to write historical fiction, fantasy, women’s fiction. I even have an idea for a horror book. The common thread is always folkore. In the case of the Once & Future Series, I was reading a lot about Grail lore and Arthurian legends. I started to ask myself what would happen if the future part of the “once and future king” happened now. What would that look like? So, that led me to fantasy. I have some historical fiction pieces that are inspired by legends of the North Carolina coast.
Helen: So I am assuming there are a wealth of ideas in the world of folklore to inspire your books?
Meredith: I am fascinated by folklore and oral traditions. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of stories that have been passed down for generations. That’s where I find inspiration. What is the grain of truth in a story? How would that story look if it happened today? What actually happened as opposed to whatever embellished version has been passed down. There are so many rich and interesting traditions to explore.
Helen: So, book four is out, is there a fifth? What are you working on now?
Meredith: I have a couple of books in the pipeline right now. Of course, there will be a fifth book in the Once & Future Series to follow the one that is releasing this month. I also am revising a women’s fiction novel that is a spinoff of the fantasy series. It’s about a woman who returns to her hometown after inheriting her family home. She is a marketing consultant who has been working almost non-stop for years. She is asked to lend her brand management skills to help revive her family’s dying church. But she is conflicted because she’s an atheist. She also has some past trauma that makes her resist trusting her instincts, which leads her to make some choices that don’t leave her happy or fulfilled. On top of that she has a tense relationship with her mother. I’m actually very excited about it. The main character’s interior voice is snarky and irreverent. It was a fun book to write.
Helen: Let’s change gears for a moment, tell us a little about how you write. Do you plan everything or do just let the story evolve?
Meredith: I am a big time planner. In my previous career I was developing training classes for a software company, so I got very used to outlines and planning. I have to be able to see where a project is going. That bird’s eye view keeps me on track and makes for less revision time. I love Save the Cat Writes a Novel and use their beat sheets to sketch out the plot. Then I expand that out into a scene-by-scene outline. I’m not a slave to it. There are plenty of detours and re-plotting breaks along the way. There is still room for discovery, but I like to start with a plan.
Helen: Sounds like a good plan! How does writing fit into your daily life? How often are you able to write? Do you write everyday?
Meredith: This is a challenge for most writers isn’t it? It’s always been a challenge, but the pandemic has certainly made it worse because everyone is suddenly at home with me all day. I’m a mom of two teenagers, who are currently in remote school, so a lot of my time is spent making sure they get to class on time and get their work done. I use sprints to write in short bursts whenever I can fit it in; evenings, weekends, while the kids are in class. Luckily, right before the pandemic started, we built a finished shed behind our house that serves as my office. It’s great to have my own space, and I have the best walk to work through my garden.
Helen: It sounds divine. I keep saying I going to move so I can have a writing nook and a library. One day maybe. So, you have your writing den, do you listen to music while you write?
Meredith: Absolutely! The main character in my fantasy series is trying to get a PhD in ethno-musicology. It would be hard to write her without music. It’s also is such a great way to get in the mood for writing, and to shut out distractions. I make playlists for certain characters, relationships, and settings. I even share some of those playlists with my readers. Sometimes they make suggestions to me of songs that should be added to the playlists.
Helen: Don’t you love it when your character’s voice becomes real? They have their own opinions and they are not shy about telling you. Out of all your books, who is your favourite character?
Meredith: That is a tough question. Obviously, I have a soft spot for my main characters. But occasionally, there is a magical thing that happens with certain secondary characters who show up and just shine and surprise me. One of those in my fantasy series is Ruaraidh (pronounced ROO-ree) Ballantyne. He’s the half-brother of my main character and doesn’t show up until the third book. I knew he would come along when I started writing the series, but when it finally happened, he just bloomed. He’s a hiking guide and mountain rescue volunteer in the Scottish Highlands. He’s a tall, sun-kissed smart-ass who drives an ancient Land Rover, and rescues my MC on occasion. I love all my characters, but when this guy shows up I just have to smile.
Helen: He sounds great! I’m smiling as I listen to you describe him. I am definitely going to have to go and check out your series! Thank you so much for joining me today; I have loved chatting with you. I wish you all the best with your next book and your book series. Just to close us out, can you tell us what you are currently reading?
Meredith: I’ve been rereading a lot of favorites because of the pandemic, I think. with so much out of my control, now that I am done writing book 4 of my fantasy series, I’m getting into researching book 5, so there is a lot of nonfiction about Gaelic folklore like The Gaelic Otherworld which is an anthology of Gaelic folklore around fairies and the supernatural. It is giant brick of a book, but it’s full of all kinds of legends that I’m sure will inspire more books and stories. I’ve also been using Natasha Sumner and Aidan Doyle’s North American Gaels as incentive to get my work done. I got it for Christmas and told myself I wouldn’t start reading it until I was ready to research book 5. I’m such a nerd about folklore that this is a real treat for me.
About the Author:
I have known since I was a little girl sitting at my Granny’s kitchen table listening to her recount the stories of our family, that I wanted to be a story teller. Naturally, as with many folks, life/bills/mortgages/children got in the way for a while. Now after more than a decade writing training and sales material in the corporate world I find myself with the freedom to return to the kind of story telling that I have always enjoyed. So, I’m turning my attention the stories that have been in my head for as long as I can remember. Some are historical fiction, some are non-fiction, some are just plain romance, but I hope they are all entertaining. Here are my bullet points:
– Wife and mother of 2 amazing children
– Nuts about all things knitting, crocheting, felting, or otherwise fiber related
– Former corporate trainer and instructional designer
– Grew up in suburban Virginia, but the child of Tarheels
– BA in English from UNC-Chapel Hill
– Also minored in Folklore at UNC, and still passionate about all things folklore
– Avid Instagrammer, reader, genealogist, history nerd and shower singer
Social Media Links:
You can purchase Meredith’s novels from Amazon:
The River Maiden, Book One
Nothing Good Gets Away, Book Four (for those of you already reading the series!) Release date: April 20th, 2021.