May 30, 2011

Author Interview: MEG MITCHELL MOORE

Please join me in welcoming Meg Mitchell Moore, author of the newly released The Arrivals, a genuine look at the effects of grown children coming back home, to Psychotic State Book Reviews. 

Hi Meg, welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews!  Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers. 

MMM: Thank you so much for having me. I am delighted to be here.

Your first book, The Arrivals, has just been published.  Congratulations!   What led you from journalist to novelist? 

MMM:  Thank you! I have always wanted to do both, and while I think the two naturally feed on each other there was a time when it was easy to let the journalism get in the way of writing fiction. In 2005 I applied and was accepted to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont, and that was a turning point for me. The fact of having gotten in gave me a lot of confidence. In addition, spending ten days with a bunch of writers in all stages of their careers, both published and not, allowed me to feel like fiction was a legitimate pursuit for me. It still took a while after that—I had two very young children then, and then I had a third, plus we moved and things were chaotic for a long time—but I look back on the conference as a starting point for me.

How did you form the idea for The Arrivals? 

MMM:  I started writing this book in March 2008. The year before that, I had written a big chunk of a novel that was very different, except for the setting of Burlington, Vt. That book was about a man whose daughter died unexpectedly, leaving her two young children in his care for a summer. For several reasons that book really wasn’t working, but I still felt strongly about the themes of grandparents and adult children leaning on their parents. I started thinking about a different way to enter that story, and I came up with the characters of Ginny (the mother) and Lillian (the eldest Owen child). Ginny was originally the sister of the grandfather in the other story. I thought it would be interesting to have two grandparent-age siblings dealing with having their grandchildren around for very different reasons. The first scene in the new book came very quickly, and I could tell by then that the tone and my sense of the story had shifted dramatically. I had somebody read twenty pages that still included some of the old book, and that person  (who had no history of the origins of the project) pointed out that the part with the two young children who had lost their mother didn’t seem to fit with the rest of it. Suddenly, the new characters and story were a lot more alive and more interesting to me than the old characters and story had ever been. Once I was able to admit I was now writing a whole new book and not just a revision to the other one I was able to focus and keep the tone more consistent throughout, and I was able to explore themes that I know from my conversations and friendships with other mothers of young children to be very relevant.

The Arrivals’ theme seems particularly newsworthy, given the current economic climate.  Do you hope to provide support to your readers who may be going through the same thing? 

MMM:  I think it’s true that there are a lot of adults leaning on their parents these days. (I wrote a guest blog on the topic recently; feel free to link to it if you want: 

I don’t think I am any kind of an expert who is qualified to provide support, but I do hope any readers in a similar situation might come away seeing the humor as well as the pain in such a situation.

The Arrivals has an ensemble of characters.  Who was your favorite to write and who was the most difficult to write? 

MMM:  This is a great question, and one nobody has asked me before! My favorite in many ways was the three-year-old girl, Olivia. She is by no means the star of the show, but I really wanted her to ring true and I had a lot of fun with her. The most difficult was Rachel. I am closer in age and situation to Lillian, so I had to reach back in my memory to recall those feelings of being a twentysomething in New York City, a little bewildered, a lot poor. I struggled with Rachel. In early drafts of the book she remained in New York the whole time and it wasn’t until I brought her up to Vermont to join her family that she started to come together.

From conception to the last page, how long was The Arrivals’ gestation period? 

MMM:  Let’s see. I started in March 2008. The first draft was complete by late that fall/early winter, and I began looking for an agent. I signed with my agent in March 2009, and we revised for six more months after that. The book changed a lot in that period. It went on submission to publishers in September 2009 and sold very quickly. Since then, I’ve spent almost the same amount of time it took to write it and sell it waiting for it to come out! Certain things move very slowly in the publishing world, and because my book works as a summer book the original pub date of late/winter early spring was pushed back to summer.

Tell us about your work space - - do you have a dedicated work space?  Do you write wherever you happen to be?  Are you neat and organized or have controlled chaos?

MMM:  I wrote a blog post on this subject recently for my publisher’s blog. Does it work for you to link to this for the answer to this question?

Can you take us through a routine day in the life of Meg Mitchell Moore? 

MMM:  I write mostly when my kids are at school, so my days depend on their schedules. I won’t bore you with the specifics of those schedules, but the basic routine is: early morning run or workout (most days), breakfast, kids off (two different bus stop times plus one preschool dropoff), balance writing and errands/household tasks, collect kids from schools and bus stops, afternoon lessons/activities/practices/playdates, dinner, kid bedtime, some TV or reading with husband, often some laundry folding, grownup bedtime. I am a better writer, more alert and focused, during the day than at night, but if I am under deadline pressure I will work at night.

You have a second book coming out next year.  Can you tell us about it? 

MMM:  Sure. Much of it takes place in my town, Newburyport, Mass., and it’s about a 13-year-old girl named Natalie Gallagher who finds in her home a diary written by an Irish immigrant, Bridget O’Connell, who was a domestic servant in a doctor’s home in Newburyport in 1925. Natalie unravels Bridget’s story with the help of an archivist named Kathleen Lynch, who is herself dealing with a loss in her life. The title I started with, Solace, will likely change, but one of the main themes of the book is that solace can come from unexpected sources.

When you’re not writing, what authors do you enjoy reading? 

MMM:  There are so many! I love Elin Hilderbrand. I am a big Kate Atkinson fan. I can’t wait for Elizabeth Strout to come out with something new. One of my favorite books of the year was A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.  I am consistently blown away by anything—anything—Alice Munro writes. I just started Faith by Jennifer Haigh, which I love already as I have loved all of her books. Wow, these are all women! Let me get some men in here. I also like Andre Dubus III and Richard Russo, and John Irving was one of my very first favorite authors.

For a completely random question - - you have a day to spend with one person you admire (living or deceased).  Who would you choose and what would you do? 

MMM:  My mother’s mother died long before I was born. I think I would choose her!  I’d love to meet her, maybe find out some details about what my mother was like as a child.

And lastly, what one word would you use to describe The Arrivals?

MMM:  Family. 

Thank you so much, Meg, for taking the time to answer my questions.  Best of luck to you with The Arrivals!

MMM:  Thank you for having me.  I really appreciate it. 

For more information on author Meg Mitchell Moore, please visit her website


It's early summer when Ginny and William's peaceful life in Burlington, Vermont, comes to an abrupt halt. First, their daughter Lillian arrives, two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood—only this time around, their children are facing adult problems. By summer's end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family. And the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.

For your chance to win a copy of The Arrivals, please enter here

To purchase The Arrivals, please click here.


Mary (Bookfan) said...

I really enjoyed the interview. I think The Arrivals will resonate with many reader and can't wait to read it. I also look forward to "Solace" - sounds so intriguing.

Lori Johnston said...

"Solace" does sound good, doesn't it, Mary?
Thanks for stopping by!

Meg Mitchell Moore said...

Thank you so much for hosting me here. These interview questions were wonderful and so much fun to answer.

Lori Johnston said...

Thank you for the interview, Meg. I thoroughly enjoyed it and your answers are terrific!