Today we welcome Meg Welch Dendler.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Meg Welch Dendler: I don’t feel like I have much of any life outside of writing. When I’m not working on writing, doing promotion or work of some kind on my own books, or giving talks about editing and book publishing/writing, I am editing for other indie authors. It’s all about books around here! When I have some free time, I enjoy watching movies and reading. I’m loving the Outlander book series right now, and that’s a massive time commitment. It may take me more than a year to finish, but I love her twisted plots and extraordinary writing style. Our four cats and the dog keep me busy, along with our two daughters, who are mostly out on their own now. We just moved, so I’m looking forward to settling in and enjoying a nice, quiet winter.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or non fiction?
Meg Welch Dendler: My first books were the Cats in the Mirror series, which is middle-grade science fiction/fantasy based on my real-life cats and their crazy antics—but in the books they are aliens. Two companion dog books have joined the series, but they are middle-grade adventure stories (no aliens). They all started with a short story about Kimba, our crazy white cat, and it just grew and grew from there. I spent one afternoon doing a “what-if” session and making all kinds of notes. I had the titles for the next three cat books when I was done. The dog books evolved because readers asked for them. “Don’t you have a dog book?” It turned out that Max had a story to tell. And then Dottie. I also have a paranormal women’s fiction book, “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main.” That sprung out of a visit to a kitschy diner in Eureka Springs and the title itself (where the diner is really located). I started making notes, and it was a story before I knew it. It’s not really intentional, but most of my books have a theme of love and family and how important home is. My newest book, “Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess,” is a bit different in many ways. It’s more about Bianca’s desire to break free from the restrictions on her life and prove herself to be valuable and worthy and brave. So far, all my books are fiction, but I’m currently working on a non-fiction memoir of our five years in Eureka Springs running a guesthouse. I’m not sure what will ever come of it with two more cats books and a Bianca sequel also going on, but sometimes you just write and see what it becomes by the end.
Book ‘Em: Do you have any works in progress?
Meg Welch Dendler: “Not Quite Serenity” is the working title of the memoir I mentioned, and then there’s “Kimba’s Christmas” and a book bringing our newest cat into the Cats in the Mirror series. My older daughter feels her other dog should have his own book too. Who knows? I often have more than one story going at a time. It helps to keep things interesting and fresh.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Meg Welch Dendler: The end of “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main.” I put it off for weeks. I knew exactly how it was going to be and what it would say, but I knew I would cry. And I did. Ugly cry. And again every time I edited it. I don’t want to give spoilers. It’s not a sad ending, but it was very emotional for me. Reader have told me it made them cry too, so I guess it had the desired effect.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Meg Welch Dendler: I love including facts in my children’s books, so I’ve researched the history of domestic cats and their lives in Egypt and saber-tooth tigers and other things that have been tucked into the stories. The character names are often Egyptian and Roman gods, so that is fun to research. My life with cats is definitely research on cat behavior on a daily basis. “Dottie’s Daring Day” is a book you can actually walk through and go to almost all the places Dottie does. We went “on location” and made sure she could see and do the things I had her doing. For “At the Corner of Magnetic and Main,” I used some real locations in Eureka Springs, and I had to be careful when Penny remembers back to 1950 and visiting town back then to be sure what she sees and remembers would have been there. I made sure the movies she loves are ones she would have been able to see before she died. I even included a glossary in the back of what is real and how readers can learn more about it.
Book ‘Em: What books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author who inspires you?
Meg Welch Dendler: Diana Gabaldon is my current favorite, though I have also asked for everything else Liane Moriarty has written after finishing “Big Little Lies.” She’s amazing. Historically, I’m a huge fan of Anne McCaffrey and Beverly Cleary, and I love what Sharon Creech can do with a poem style for her children’s books. They are just so delightful. Natalie Lloyd’s “A Snicker of Magic” is one of the best children’s books ever written. Every kidlit writer should read it. Growing up, I was a big fan of the Little House on the Prairie series and all the Oz books. I still have most of my Oz collection.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Meg Welch Dendler: I don’t know that anyone particularly encouraged me, but no one discouraged me, and that’s huge. My family has been very supportive. I wrote articles and interviews and movie reviews for years before I wrote any of my books, so it was “grocery money” and was just a part of my life. My husband was 100% behind our whole book publishing venture, and he is usually at events with me—lugging books around, dealing with money so I don’t have to, setting up tents and tables, and keeping me company. He’s a great salesman because he can brag and say things that would sound bad coming out of my mouth. He’s my biggest fan, for sure.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Meg Welch Dendler: I think I do a good job with creating animal characters. Kirkus called them “exquisitely characterized” in “Bianca,” so that’s awesome. Creating Sammy the donkey in that book involved watching videos and listening to the sounds donkeys make, thinking about how he and Bianca would interact. Kirkus said that “Sammy the donkey will live long in young memory,” so I guess I got it right. The cats in my stories are cats and can only do cat things. They don’t laugh or smile. They flick an ear or purse their whiskers, even when they are on a space ship or communicating through computers. Tails and claws are very important. In the dog adventures, I really tried to get a dog’s take on things and how a dog would communicate or not be able to. Kids enjoy them, so that’s all that matters.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you have a strict routine?
Meg Welch Dendler: I do not have a strict routine at all, but I am at my desk or at some book event pretty much seven days a week. I try to block out a few days off each month, but something always sneaks in. With eight books out in the world, there is so much else to do beyond writing something new. I have to consciously set aside time for that. We have been publishing a book each year, so there are deadlines I set for myself and goals that have to be met. I’m more of a “crunch time” writer. I can write here and there and get a story going, but when it comes down to it, I usually just hunker down for a week or so and get it done. That’s easier with middle-grade books because they only run about 30,000 words or so. I’m much better with the revision and editing process than I am with the first draft. Getting that first round down is like pulling teeth, even when I know exactly how I want it to go. Very silly. After I read “The War of Art” it all made more sense. I highly recommend that for all writers along with “Big Magic.” As a self-publishing author for the most part, I do all the formatting and promotion and marketing. It is massively time consuming. I’m big on lists. One for the week and one for the day. It helps to prioritize what MUST get done and what I’d LIKE to get done, and what can wait until later. It’s a business, like any business.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Meg Welch Dendler: Five years sounds so very far away when I think back on where I was five years ago. If I keep on schedule, all the books I’m working on now will be published. I also have a picture book and a YA biography in with a large publisher for review right now, and I’d love to know that those are published and beautiful and out in the world. I hope I can achieve what I heard someone call “Arkansas Famous”—known locally—so I’m getting calls and request more than having to hustle so much. I think that’s every author’s goal. We had a 10-year plan when we started this publishing journey, so I’m sure we will be sitting down and deciding what comes next and how to get there.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Meg Welch Dendler: My advice would be to read GOOD books, the ones that win awards and notoriety, and go to lots and lots of writing conferences. Big ones, not just local ones. Learn the craft. It is a skill and an art. It’s not just about putting words down on paper and calling it good enough. Respect writing and writers and books. And, for the love of God, hire an editor before you publish. Please! Self-publishing is a business as much any traditional publishing. A reader should not be able to tell the difference on your book when they pick it up. Make it the best it can be.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Meg Welch Dendler: One stands out, maybe because it was recent. A mom I had met at an event in another state found my booth and said that her son had read “Max’s Wild Night” nine times. Nine! She immediately bought “Dottie’s Daring Day” and was so happy to share it with him. That’s when you know you are meeting the need of the reader for a good story that they want to read. Any time someone buys a next book from me, I know I’ve done well. They want more. That’s the best any author can hope for.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Meg Welch Dendler: I’ll share the opening of “Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess” because it is fun and what’s at the forefront right now.
Flames leapt from the dragon’s golden jaws and blazed through the sky above the forest. As the last flames blew away on the breeze, the dragon glared down at her. Smoke billowed from his nostrils with every breath. People usually ran in fear at the very sight of him, but this girl in ill-fitting peasant clothes stood her ground and planted her hands on her hips. The dragon bent his mammoth head down until he hovered only inches above her. Tendrils of smoke swirled around her dark, curly hair as he chortled with amusement.He poofed a quick flame above her head as an example and tipped his face so they were now eye to eye.
“Then you are going to be one sorry dragon.”
“I would imagine the same thing happened to them as has befallen every other knight and king who rides against me.”
“Where is my father?” she demanded. “Where is the king? Where are the knights who rode with him?”
Princess Bianca didn’t flinch. Her tiny feet slipped around inside the stolen boots, but she planted them firmly on the mossy ground and stared straight up past the bronze, armored belly of the beast that threatened her kingdom and every living being for miles around.
Links for Meg Welch Dendler
Newsletter Sign Up:
https://www.facebook.com/KimbaBabyCat (Kimba fan page)
Amazon Author Page:
“Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess” (pre-order link)
“At the Corner of Magnetic and Main”
“Why Kimba Saved The World”
“Miss Fatty Cat’s Revenge”
“Max’s Wild Night”
“Dottie’s Daring Day”
Autographed Book Copies: