One of the things I enjoy most about this series is getting to learn the “backstory” behind writers’ lives. When I interviewed Megan Shepherd, I was pleased to find she was a true “bibliophile” – born and raised in her parent’s independent bookstore. For those over the age of probably thirty, you know independent bookstores are something of an anomaly in today’s “big-box” bookselling world, so it was refreshing to read about Megan’s childhood and learn where her love of writing developed - not only between the shelves of her parent’s store, but through a two-year stint in The Peace Corps.
In the darkest places, even love is deadly.
Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.
Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.
Inspired by H. G. Wells‘s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.
Here is Megan’s journey…
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Megan: In 2008, after I returned from serving two years in Senegal with the Peace Corps. While I was there, one of my projects was to compile local folktales into an illustrated story book for school children. I fell in love with children’s literature and, when I got back to the US my husband (then boyfriend) encouraged me to give it a serious try.
Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?
Megan: My first manuscript was a middle grade adventure called DEADLINERS. (It was also terribly written.) It took me about eight months to write, and I finished it in 2008. It was about the children of international spies posing as journalists.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?
Megan: I have three “drawer” manuscripts that should never see the light of day. Two middle grades, and one YA psychological thriller. These are the manuscripts that taught me how to write (often learning from my mistakes), so I’m not at all sorry that they didn’t get published. In retrospect, I thought each one of these would be “the one,” but I’m much happier to debut with THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. It better represents who I want to be as a writer.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Megan: I haven’t been rejected that many times…unfortunately, that’s not because my novels were any good! It’s simply because I didn’t query much. I didn’t query the first two books at all (except to one editor I met at a conference), because I knew they weren’t nearly good enough. The YA psychological thriller I queried to about ten agents, and got some bites, but ultimate rejections. I don’t think it matters if you get a handful of rejections or hundreds…it feels like a punch in the gut every time.
Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?
Megan: I had one editor take my psychological thriller to her publishing houses‘s roundtable, where it was turned down, but she sent me a detailed revision letter. I ended up choosing not to revise it, and shelved that book instead. Though I was close to a chance of publication, I felt like that book wasn’t strong enough, and wasn’t the book I wanted to put out there first. So for me, it was a gut decision.
Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?
Megan: This is a tough one. There were a few times when I wanted to give up, or I did give up…for a day. The next day, whether I wanted to or not, I was back at it. Writing is an addiction. So as much as rejection hurts, and writing can be tough, I just had to keep going.
Amy: How many agents did you query for THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER?
Megan: I submitted to ten agents. My system for submitting was to submit in waves, so that if I got all rejections, I’d know that I needed to work on the query more before querying others. Luckily though, one wave was all it took. Of those, I got two no-responses, one form rejection, one partial request, and six full requests.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?
Megan: Having queried before, I was prepared to wait and wait. But I got a full request from Adams Literary the next day, and then an offer of representation the day after. It was great, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for it!
Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Josh Adams?
Megan: I was working at my day job at the time, and I remember seeing the call was from an agent, and so I shut my office door, and then tried to be professional on the call. But the minute it was over I was screaming and crying, and luckily my boss was very understanding! Josh offered representation, and since he lived only about two hours away, offered to come to Asheville to take me out to lunch. He was so enthusiastic about the book, and that’s how I knew he was the perfect agent for me.
Amy: What parting advice can you give other aspiring writers who may be on the cusp of giving up on their writing dream?
Megan: I won’t tell you to write for writing’s sake, because most authors I know (myself included) don’t actually love the daily process of writing. It’s a lot of work, and long hours, and more often then not the muse isn’t there. It’s stories that we love, and can’t get enough of. Creating them, reading them, thinking about them. So keep surrounding yourself by stories: movies, books, television, overhearing gossip at the next table. You’ll find your inspiration & passion there, and then you won’t be able to stop, and eventually it will happen for you.
Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in North Carolina. An avid reader and world traveler who spent several years in the Peace Corps, Megan now lives with her husband in Asheville, North Carolina. The Madman’s Daughter is her first novel. You can visit her online at www.meganshepherd.com.