Meg Gardiner: It All Started With a Horse Named Pearl

Meg GardinerMeg Gardiner graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School and practiced law in Los Angeles before becoming a prolific author of bestselling thriller novels.

She taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She’s also a former collegiate cross-country runner and a three time Jeopardy! champ.

After living in the United Kingdom for many years, she recently moved back to the United States and now lives in Austin, Texas.

She has received rave reviews from the likes of Stephen King and Lee Child and her novels have won numerous awards and acclaim.

Meg Gardiner Interview

Scroll down for a complete transcript of the interview or click the Play button below to listen to the interview now. And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know what you thought of this interview!

Books by Meg Gardiner

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Meg Gardiner Transcript

Tim Knox: Meg Gardiner is my guest today. Meg is a bestselling author, 12 books to her credit. She has been writing a book a year for the last 12 years. The most recent, Phantom Instinct, is getting all kinds of great reviews. Her books have won numerous awards, she has legions of fans and she is hilarious – a very funny lady.

I had a great time on the call here talking about things like her first book when she was a kid was called Pearl, A Horse and also about her first romance which was set at the Indy Races. I’ll let her tell that story.

So a great interview with Meg Gardiner. She’s very open and honest about her craft, gives advice freely to other authors and just a really, really nice person. You’re going to enjoy this one. Meg Gardiner on today’s Interviewing Authors.

Tim Knox: Meg, welcome to the program.

Meg Gardiner: Thank you, Tim. It’s great to be here.

Tim Knox: I’m so excited you’re here. We do have a lot to talk about. Before we get started though if you will give the audience a little background on you.

Meg Gardiner: I spent several years practicing law in Los Angeles before I took up teaching at the University of California in Santa Barbara and then gradually escaped from the practice and teaching of law and became a crime novelist, a thriller writer.

Tim Knox: I think you are my 8th or 9th attorney who is now a novelist and each one of them used that phrase – they escaped the law. What is it about being an attorney that you want to get away from and what drives you to become a crime novelist?

Meg Gardiner: I think that I love the law. It’s a fascinating profession and you’re never bored doing it. It only took me a little while to realize that if I was going to argue for a living, which is what lawyers do, that I was going to burn out the candle at both ends in the middle. So once I had three little kids at home I needed to do something else.

I tunneled under the wall and made it to the Promised Land that I had wanted to do since I was five years old, which is to make stuff up for a living. That’s what I’m doing now.

Tim Knox: You sound like the kid in the Striped Pajamas who escaped to write books.

Meg Gardiner: I don’t do well in stripes.

Tim Knox: If you don’t mind let’s start at the beginning. I always like to go back and talk about the journey and how you got to where you are. Of course we are going to talk about all your many books but have you always been a writer? Did you always know that you were a writer?

Meg Gardiner: I am one of those nut balls that since the time I was five years old I loved telling stories. I was one of the kids that when it rained and we had to stay in at recess I loved that because I could take out a piece of paper and draw pictures of ponies and tell stories about them. I always had a dream that I would be able to write stories and tell them to people and they would listen and believe them.

It took a long time and a really winding road to get there but I think when I was… after I had my kids when I was teaching and then my husband’s job was transferred from Santa Barbara to London, I no longer had an immediate job where I needed to go into an office and did not have a teaching post at the time. I was not planning to become qualified as a solicitor or a barrister in the UK and I thought, okay, all this time I’ve said that I wanted to write a novel. It’s time to put up or shut up.

All the kids were out of diapers and at least going to preschool and I had time to myself so that’s when I decided I better give it a go.

Tim Knox: Sure but you started off very early when you were a little kid. Do you remember the first thing that you wrote that you actually showed someone or read to someone?

Meg Gardiner: It was called Pearl, A Horse. I showed it to my mom and my little sister. The farmer treated her mean so she ended up jumping over the fence I think pulling the wagon but she got away in the end.

Tim Knox: So it was called Pearl, A Horse. Was this at all autobiographical? Were you trying to send a subtle message to your mother?

Meg Gardiner: No I may have wished I was a thoroughbred but not at the time, no.

Tim Knox: What kind of motherly review did you get?

Meg Gardiner: Oh I think she probably stuck it up on the fridge and cried with joy.

Tim Knox: Did you have one of those mothers that would save everything you wrote?

Meg Gardiner: Of course and now knowing that my mom still reads my books but maybe even some people I’m not related to is a great joy to me.

Tim Knox: So after the success of the Pearl saga there, did you continue to write as you grew older? Did you write in your teens?

Meg Gardiner: I wrote for the high school newspaper and I’ve always been extremely fortunate with editors, believe it or not. The first editor I ever had was as I was writing for the Dos Pueblos High School account was Lisa Stark, who is now a reporter for ABC News. She’s been their White House correspondent and their science correspondent.

Before I got to tell the big stories about what kind of disastrous food they were really serving in the cafeteria I did think that I would write a novel, a love story, because I was 15 and thought that I knew everything there was to know of course about love. Romance writing was not for me so I abandoned that.

By the time I got to college I was writing short stories and I did not major in English or Creative Writing but I did attempt to get stories published and was really fortunate my senior year. Again this is just serendipity but I ended up taking a creative writing class because I had space for an elective and the teacher was Ron Hansen, who was just a grad student at Stanford at the time.

He’s now a well-known literary novelist. He wrote The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and a bunch of other wonderful books. He was my teacher and it was just eye opening and very exciting just to hear what he had to say. I wrote a short story and at the end of the semester he said try to get it published.

To have somebody validate your potential like that gave me the confidence to send it out, not to the New Yorker or anything but I did get the story published in a small literary magazine from the University of California and the editor there, I didn’t realize who it was for years and years afterwards. It was a guy named Thomas Perry who is also now an extremely well-known crime novelist. I’ve just been very fortunate with the people I’ve run across over the course of my now career.

Tim Knox: Let’s go back a little ways. Did you not write a romance about NASCAR?

Meg Gardiner: It was Indy car and I was trying to glide straight past that. That was my tremendous romance novel. I thought I should write something about romance, which is very exciting, but to add even more pep to it I could set it in the world of auto racing, which is very exciting.

It was about a young woman who goes to Indianapolis and falls in love with a racecar driver and, you know, it’s the love of her life and then he gets into a car and drives it at 200 mph straight into a wall and the car bursts into flames and he dies horribly and the story’s very sad. It was so sad I made myself cry as I was writing it.

She picks herself up and dusts herself off and gets back in the game so she goes back to Indianapolis and meets another racecar driver and falls in love with him and what does he do? He gets in the car and drives at 200 mph straight into a wall and bursts into flames and dies. This went on and on because I didn’t know what else to do.

Tim Knox: How many drivers did she go through?

Meg Gardiner: All of them. I think it was 63 pages and I killed every man in the story and that was the end of the book. So I realized that I wasn’t really meant for either sport writing or romance.

Tim Knox: Why did you choose Indy racing as a setting for this book?

Meg Gardiner: I’m a huge auto racing fan. I love Indy Car racing, Formula One, Nascar and that was back in the day when Wide World of Sports was on and I used to watch that on Saturday afternoons. It caught my attention. I like speed. What can I say?

Tim Knox: That’s hilarious. What did you learn from this book?

Meg Gardiner: That you need my plot. That was my first hint that you do need a plot. You can’t just repeat the same episode over and over. It was perhaps my first clue that writing suspense or mysteries would be a good line for me. In a murder mystery when someone dies the plot advances; it doesn’t come to an end.

I learned that you can make a bunch of sophomore high school girls cry by killing off every man in a story. That was basically it. I learned that an emotional impact is extremely important for an author but you need a little bit more than that.

Tim Knox: Right, right and I think you’ve said there are two things a novel needs – a compelling main character and a big idea.

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Meg Gardiner: Yes.

Tim Knox: As long as that big idea’s not Groundhog Day over and over again.

Meg Gardiner: Yes, or Indy Day.

Tim Knox: Talk about that a little bit because that just seems to be something that some writers have a hard time realizing, character and plot.

Meg Gardiner: Today I write thrillers. I write suspense and they’d be classified as commercial fiction, which means that readers love to read a book with a big, strong story. It was my first editor in London who told me that writing great characters will get you a loyal readership but you’ll expand your readership by writing a big compelling story. The secret is to learn how to put those two together. It sounds simple and it only took me decades to really learn that lesson.

Tim Knox: Well you’ve learned it well.

Meg Gardiner: I’m still trying.

Tim Knox: It’s time well spent. Let’s go back. You moved to London, the kids are in school, you start writing. What comes next for you?

Meg Gardiner: Rewriting.

Tim Knox: Good answer. What was the book you wrote?

Meg Gardiner: It was a precursor in a way to the Evan Delaney series, which is the first series I wrote. It was a pseudo-murder mystery. It was about a scam, a sting operation. It featured Evan Delaney and her boyfriend, Jesse Blackburn, and a cast of thousands. I thought it was magnificent because it had all kinds of snappy dialogue and crazy characters and wild things going on but I didn’t know how to listen to the people who were reading it. I said, “This is my great murder mystery,” and someone said, “Yeah but nobody dies.” “But…” “Yeah, you can’t call it a murder mystery if nobody dies.”

I was a complete neophyte. I was just stumbling my way through learning how to create characters. I got about halfway into this story – I’ve told this story before. I got to a scene where I was determined that something dramatic would happen. I had the characters crossing a dark street and a pair of headlights flashes on and a motor revs and comes at them. That was the last thing I wrote in this story because I got to that point and realized I had no idea who was behind the headlights or why on earth they were trying to run down my main characters. It was my big stinking clue that I had no plot.

Tim Knox: It was probably one of those Indy drivers who had escaped.

Meg Gardiner: That’s a good point. He was wreaking revenge one way or another.

Tim Knox: So in that story what was the lesson learned other than always know who’s behind the headlights?

Meg Gardiner: There are such things as starter novels. Some things are better used for instruction and practice and then lovingly put in a drawer and locked up and thrown over a cliff into a quarry where they’ll be covered with rocks and never seen again. I’m very lucky that I did not get that novel published. Looking back it wasn’t all there. It didn’t hold together. It did get me an agent so that was the most positive outcome out of that. The agent said, “What are you working on next?” So I sat down and I wrote another book called China Lake and that’s the one that sold. That was my first published novel.

Tim Knox: You mentioned by this time you had an agent. What was your process for getting that agent? Did you go the usual query route?

Meg Gardiner: Yes and my process was starting out knowing nothing and doing the usual stupid things like writing three chapters and then writing to a bunch of agents saying, “I have this book about XYZ and it’s super exciting and don’t you want to see it?” Most of them of course said no thank you but some said, “Yes, we want to see it. Please send us the completed manuscript,” and I had no idea that they would expect you to have finished the novel before you sent it. Of course I wasn’t anywhere close to completing it.

I was very fortunate to hook up with a well-known agent in London, Giles Gordon, who was an old hand at publishing and was a tremendous guy and a wonderful raconteur and friend. He’s the one who got my book published in the UK and in many other places around the world. It took a while before I was published in the United States but that’s another story.

Tim Knox: So the title of that book was China Lake. What was it about?

Meg Gardiner: It’s about Evan Delaney, who’s a former lawyer very coincidentally from Santa Barbara, California very coincidentally, which is where I grew up. She is caring for her young nephew, Luke, while his father is deployed. He’s a naval fighter pilot and his mother has run off and joined this creepy religious cult.

The story opens as the mother comes back and decides that she wants the kid and if Evan’s not going to turn him over then all these creepy Messianic apocalyptic people who think the end is near and they’re going to come and take him. So it’s about Evan trying to keep Luke from being taken into the clutches of this awful, horrifying group.

Like I said it took a number of years before I was able to get it published in the United States. This is a story for everybody out there who’s still wondering about getting their books in print. After being rejected I think by 14 American publishers or something like that and several years later, it was published by Penguin and it won an Edgar Award. You never know.

Tim Knox: I guess you just have to keep throwing spaghetti against the wall, as they say.

Meg Gardiner: You have to learn which spaghetti is the good stuff to throw though.

Tim Knox: Exactly, not the bad stuff. A few minutes ago you talked about validation when your professor liked your story and encouraged you. Talk a little about that to where you were at that point. You had written China Lake, you had gotten an agent, you had a publisher, won the Edgar. At that point did you feel validated? Did you feel you were truly an author?

Meg Gardiner: I no longer felt like an imposter. When I said I was a writer or an author I felt definitely that was not just making stuff up to pat myself on the back. Yeah, other people had read my books and they agreed that I was an author. I did feel legit at that point.

Tim Knox: It’s always nice to sell a book.

Meg Gardiner: It definitely is.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little bit about your process. How many books have you written in the last four, five years?

Meg Gardiner: I’ve been writing a book a year for about 12 years. My 12th novel was just out about six weeks ago, Phantom Instinct.

Tim Knox: And I’m reading it and I’m loving it.

Meg Gardiner: Thank you.

Tim Knox: The first chapter I’m like hell’s breaking loose on the first page. You don’t even give me time to get comfortable.

Meg Gardiner: It’s a thriller. You’re not supposed to let people get comfortable. Put the pedal down.

Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little about that. I think for someone to write a successful thriller you really do have to get going quickly, don’t you? In your book, in Phantom Instinct seriously by the first page all hell is breaking loose. Rather than spend 20 pages doing character development and that sort of thing, you jump right into it. Do you think that’s a formula you like? Do you use it a lot?

Meg Gardiner: I wouldn’t call it a formula precisely. Thrillers are expected to thrill, which means you’re supposed to get readers pulses racing. They tend to have a lot of pace. They tend to have high stakes for the characters, usually meaning survival for the heroine, the hero, perhaps their families, their community in some way.

Actually I don’t think this is any different for a thriller than for almost any other book. You can’t start the story off by introducing us to the characters and the setting one by one. The way to launch any story I think is to show us the characters in action, not necessarily action meaning a car chase, but show us them going about their lives because characters are defined by the choices they make under pressure.

If you put the characters into difficult situations you can call that conflict, you can call it a gunfight, whatever but that’s how you start seeing who these people are, how they respond. Are they so fearful they curl up in a ball? Do they risk themselves? Are they cowardly and jump out the window leaving everybody else behind? Do they risk going in to pull somebody else out? That’s how you learn who the characters are. That’s what a thriller puts very plainly on the page. You want it to be entertaining as well.

Tim Knox: You almost are testing the character of the character.

Meg Gardiner: Exactly, that is the crucible that heats up all the action and it exposes and refines and shows us who the characters are and can also help them to develop into who they’re supposed to be by the end of the story.

Tim Knox: Do you think that’s much more effective letting the circumstances and how the character deals with those circumstances define the character? That’s much more effective than giving a description of the character and just explaining their motivation type thing.

Meg Gardiner: Readers are smart. I trust them not to need me to say, “She hated him. She was doing this because she loathed this guy.” It’s more vivid and much more effective to have a character walk up to somebody and stomp on his foot or slap him in the face. That gets the point across very vividly and I think readers will understand that.

Tim Knox: The actions of the characters are much better than when you just explain the motives outright.

Meg Gardiner: Exactly. It was Kurt Vonnegut I think who said motivation is always very important for your characters. Your characters should always want something, even if it’s just a glass of water. Make sure your characters want something on every page.

Tim Knox: You are really good at developing these very strong, vivid characters. How much backstory do you do on characters? Do you create these characters that have a birthday and a shoe size? How deeply do you go into that process?

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Meg Gardiner: I have no idea what size their shoes are or when they were born. They come to life as I’m writing generally, as I start to draft the story. As I start to write them in action I can start to see in my own mind how they walk, hear their voice, see what words come out of their mouth and that’s how they come to life. You put them in action meeting up with other people and seeing how they react to other people and to the world in general. That’s how the story comes to life.

Tim Knox: And it becomes very real to you.

Meg Gardiner: Well yeah, I spend a year with these people. They seem completely real to me. I might not have to set a place for them at the table but they’re completely real in my own mind.

Tim Knox: Do they ever take over the story? I know you said just a minute ago you said you’re waiting to see what comes out of their mouth.

Meg Gardiner: That’s a metaphor for me having to really think about how they sound. I mean I do know plenty of authors who say, “Oh the characters just take over. I can’t control them.” I think maybe you need a little meditation if that’s what’s going on.

Tim Knox: You need to learn to discipline your characters.

Meg Gardiner: Right, exactly.

Tim Knox: Talk a little about plot and storyline. When you start a novel do you know what’s going to happen throughout or do you just start writing?

Meg Gardiner: I have found out that it’s best for me to think for a good time about the plot and to come up with an outline before I start to draft the story because otherwise I end up so far up a creek without even a paddle. All I can see are those headlights off in the distance and the car revving and I’m wondering where the heck I am and how I’m ever going to get out.

I find for me it’s really important to shape the story, at least the beginning, middle and the end – a few major turning points so that I know where the characters start and actually knowing where they end helps you make sure that when you go back and start writing the story you can put in everything that you need to foreshadow and set it up so it’s all a cohesive whole.

Tim Knox: How do you do that when you’re writing a series? When you first started writing this did you know you were going to write a series?

Meg Gardiner: Oh my goodness, no, no way. That was quite a surprise. It was a delightful surprise. I sold China Lake and then the editor came in and she said, “That’s wonderful. Can you write another book featuring these characters?” I said, “Of course I can.” “Great. Please turn it in in a year.” “Of course I can,” then I hung up and ran around like a chicken with my head cut off panicking.

I’d had all the time in the world before then to spend years crafting this story and suddenly I had to become much more disciplined and learn how to write every day whether I felt the muse or not, to sit down and type the words. I found out that that is a great discipline. Once the words are on the page you can always improve them. You can correct them, rewrite them, and cut them if you need to but if it’s all still just in your head there’s nothing to improve upon. So you have to get it down.

I learned how to think out the plot ahead of time so I didn’t spend months going off on a tangent that didn’t prove fruitful and then of course you’ve got to learn how to rewrite in a way that gets down to the deepest issues in the plot.

Once you’ve written a rough draft, and I encourage everybody who’s writing a rough draft to just let it flow, just have the big points of the story in their mind and then just let it all out. Don’t try to be persnickety.

Don’t nitpick yourself or second guess yourself. Just let it go. Write the whole story and then go back and see how you need to revise it.

If you’re always fixing up the first page of that first scene that tends to be all that gets written. Go for it. Learning how to get to the end is very important.

Tim Knox: At what point do you get where you’ve written something and you’re like, okay, this is as good as it is? This is something you’re going to send off to your agent or what have you. How many rewrites do you do? Do you work with an editor? What’s your process there?

Meg Gardiner: I work with my agent and with my editor, going back and forth on proposals for the novel before it’s even submitted and accepted for publication because of course a publisher doesn’t want to have you turn in a completed manuscript only to find out that you’ve written a book that’s about exactly the same topic that another one of their authors has turned in a book one week earlier about.

So they want to know what’s coming. They like the fact that I write thrillers. They don’t want me to suddenly show up on their doorstep with a cookbook or vampire ponies or anything like.

Tim Knox: Pearl, the Vampire Pony. There’s a story there.

Meg Gardiner: Oh let me write that one down. That’s not as bad as I thought.

Tim Knox: Write it down. That’s a gift for you. There you go.

Meg Gardiner: Working with the editor and agent you have to learn how to listen to people who do their jobs well and not necessarily you just bow down to every suggestion they make but if someone has a powerful insight into how you can make your plot better or make the characters more compelling, it’s to your advantage to pay attention and take that to heart as you revise. Learn to listen is a good thing.

Tim Knox: Which is a hard lesson for some authors.

Meg Gardiner: Of course.

Tim Knox: And all people.

Meg Gardiner: Of course. That book that’s in my file cabinet buried at the bottom of the sea, it took me a year to finally accept the fact that nobody liked my first scene because I liked my first scene. I thought it was hysterically funny. I thought it was extremely witty but the agent said, everyone who read it said, “No, this doesn’t work,” but I kept saying, “But, but, but I like it.” I really could have saved myself a lot of grief if I just said, “Okay, I see why you say that and I can write something better.”

If everybody is telling you that this doesn’t work maybe they’re all wrong or maybe you can rethink it and come up with something that’s even stronger.

Tim Knox: Right so the lesson there is listen to others and don’t get so enamored of your own voice that you ignore what the experts are telling you.

Meg Gardiner: Exactly. You have to learn who to listen to. Obviously if it’s trolls on Facebook that are telling you that your books suck then you can ignore what some of them are saying because they’re deliberately trying to provoke you and they don’t know what they’re talking about. If it is an extremely successful editor who you respect then that’s a voice you need to give a lot of weight to.

Tim Knox: You mentioned a minute ago that your editor, your agent came back and said you have a second book and all of a sudden you had to sit down and write. You got more disciplined. Are you still like that? Do you write every day? Do you write at the same time? What’s your schedule now?

Meg Gardiner: I do write every day as soon as I finish that first pot of coffee. I do try to write… when I’m drafting the first draft of a book I try to write 2,000 words a day. 10 years ago if you told me I could do that I would have turned ashen and said, “No way.” That may be like 10 pages or something but I do now know how long it takes me to type a book that’s going to end up being 90,000 to 100,000 words. You have to be able to get those down on the page and leave yourself enough time within the year to spend several months revising and polishing the book so I do need to sit down and just roll it out, just let it unfurl. It’s always the way I can go back and improve it after that.

Tim Knox: Right, do you believe in writer’s block? Is there such a thing?

Meg Gardiner: Oh sure there is. I mean people find themselves stuck and that can be for all kinds of reasons. Again it could be that you’ve written yourself into a corner, that you’ve gotten to a place where there’s nowhere for the story to go in which case you need to back out.

I think a lot of times it’s actually not a block in the sense that you’re so full of ideas that you can’t decide which way to go. I think often it’s the opposite. You’re depleted so you need to take a break and step away from the story and keyboard and go out and do something very different that replenishes you emotionally, spiritually.

Get outside. Go to a movie. Go for a run. Go do something completely different. Take a look at all the people who are out there in the world. Just people watch and see what they’re up to and hopefully that will recharge your batteries enough so that some new ideas will bubble up and you can get back to the keyboard.

Tim Knox: It is really easy to sit in front of a keyboard and just bleed all over it and find yourself dry but that’s not necessarily a block. Maybe you’re just tired. Maybe you need a hug and a drink. That fixes everything, right?

Meg Gardiner: Is that your plan for the evening?

Tim Knox: As soon as we’re off here, a hug and a drink. That’s how I finish off most days. Let’s talk a little about… you’ve been traditionally published. You’re with Dutton now?

Meg Gardiner: I am with Dutton, which is part of Penguin.

Tim Knox: What are your thoughts on this I don’t want to say self-publishing trend; it’s not really a trend so much as kind of a commonplace thing. Just your thoughts on self-publishing versus the traditional route, which seems to be working very well for you.

Meg Gardiner: I think it’s fantastic that we now have the technology that lets authors publish on their own if they need to and they can find an audience. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do that and I think it’s a great time for readers that we can read in print, hardcover, paperback, on a desktop, on a Kindle, iPad, a Nook. We have all kinds of ways in which to imbibe all the stories that are out there. It’s fantastic.

I did first start to get published before the… you can call it self-publishing now. I don’t think there’s really any stigma there might have been 15, 20 years ago when you had to go to a vanity press to get your book published. I think it’s wonderful if you want to publish directly. The issue is then finding a readership because there’s quite a lot of books out there.

I like being published by my current publisher if you are self-publishing you really have to become a publisher. That’s a lot of work. I mean writing a book is a considerable mental effort. Publishing is a quite different set of skills that you have to do – the book design, good cover art, good editing skills. You need to know how to market it so that people will find out that the book is out there.

So being a publisher is actually a whole other job. It’s another hat to put on and right now I’m happy that I’m not doing that at the moment. Writing is enough for me right now.

Tim Knox: The hat you’re wearing fits very well.

Meg Gardiner: It does, thank you.

Tim Knox: It’s funny. I do talk to a lot of folks who are self-publishing and they say exactly what you’re saying. Writing becomes just a part of the overall business. They have to do everything – the cover design, the publishing, the editing and then more than anything the marketing. That’s one of the themes I continue to hear. Talk a little about, from a marketing standpoint, some of the things that you’re doing. I know you and I met on Twitter and you’re on other social media. How integral is that into your overall marketing plan?

Meg Gardiner: I’m on Twitter. I’m on Facebook. I have a blog. I initially did those because my publisher encouraged me to. Now I do them because they’re a lot of fun. The most important word in social media is ‘social’ and I think that you’re going to be most effective if you are bringing yourself, your own personality to Twitter or to Facebook. It gives readers an insight into you and what goes into your work. It’s an additional way for them to get to know you.

If you’re writing novels or non-fiction the work has to stand on its own. That is the primary way you engage with readers. Social media works to help people perhaps recognize your name. It’s great to be able to interact with readers who read my books but also I’m a reader so it’s wonderful to interact online with others who love books as much as I do.

I don’t know that Twitter or Facebook or blogs are a way to directly sell your books to the public. A lot of people get tired of seeing direct pitches, “Buy my book, buy my book,” on social media. Be yourself. Tweet, Facebook fun stuff. Ask questions. Talk about subjects that people like to talk about and that’s how you get to know the people that are out there.

Tim Knox: It’s a great way to build relationships with readers.

Meg Gardiner: Yes.

Tim Knox: I hear this a lot. The accessibility that social media now gives the reader with the author. I mean if I’m a Meg Gardiner fan, wow, here’s Meg on Twitter. I can actually interact with her. That’s something that didn’t happen 10 years ago.

Meg Gardiner: I tweeted last week about this great cinematic event that we had called Sharknado 2.

Tim Knox: Why weren’t you in that?

Meg Gardiner: I got way too much into that. I had a Sharknado party. We had Sharknado food and then I tweeted as the story unfolded in its fashion. One of my readers put up a poster that said Sharknado 3 and she had Photoshopped a picture from my website of me being chased by sharks. So this is now the new way that we interact with readers.

Tim Knox: They Photoshop you into Sharknado posters.

Meg Gardiner: Yes, they did.

Tim Knox: You should be honored.

Meg Gardiner: I am, I am.

Tim Knox: Sharknado is the equivalent of Bridges of Madison County I think. I’m not quite sure why. Let’s talk a little about your blog. I love the title of your blog. It’s Lying for a Living. Talk about that.

Meg Gardiner: I needed a title for the blog and I needed something catchy and alliteration so I came up with that.

Tim Knox: Does this stem from your attorney days?

Meg Gardiner: No, not at all. Despite what people think lawyers do not just make it all up. They’re required to tell their client’s story in a compelling and truthful fashion. Fiction is where you get to… you have to make it up but it has to be true, if that makes sense.

Tim Knox: Do you enjoy interacting with other authors? I know you offer advice and you’re always writing about things. Do you enjoy the feedback that you get?

Meg Gardiner: Oh sure. Authors, we spend a lot of time just sitting in a quiet room all by ourselves dealing with the people who only exist inside our heads so when they let us out and we can meet up with other authors and talk about this strange thing that we love to do is always a treat. There’s nothing I’d rather do that talk about books and writing and Sharknados.

Tim Knox: You kind of touched on it, the solitary life of a writer. Do you think it’s important that writers actually back away from the keyboard, get out of the chair, go out and interact with people?

Meg Gardiner: Not everybody does. I’ve certainly had success with writers groups and if you can find a good one I thoroughly recommend it. Everybody needs to have someone read your work before you send it out to the world. There’s no way one writer can really spot everything, every point that needs addressing in the draft of a story.

You need to have someone else, even if you read it out loud and have someone else listen to it and say, “Your dialogue sounds stilted or why did you have them drive that motorcycle off the bridge? They could have just stopped and waited for the ferry instead of crashing into the river.” A reader can point out a gigantic, gaping plot hole that you’ve failed to see in your rush to finish the story.

I thoroughly recommend writers groups or a friend who is a first reader. A lot of people get freelance editors before they’re ready to send out their books on submission for the first time or before they’re ready to self-publish it. Definitely you need to have someone else read your stuff before just setting it free.

Tim Knox: You mentioned that you’re a big reader. What do you enjoy reading?

Meg Gardiner: I do read a lot of thrillers. That’s one of the reasons why I started writing thrillers and suspense because I loved reading these books so much – the tension, the twists, the sense of peril to these very vivid characters that I come to care about so much. Elmore Leonard is always my number one and there are a bunch of other number ones as well – James Lee Burke is possibly the best novelist working in the United States today I think. I read Michael Connelly and Sue Grafton, Alafair Burke, Karen Slaughter,Lisa Gardner. You’re spoiled for choice. There’s no way we can ever get through all the books we want to read in one lifetime. Just got to hope we come back.

 

Tim Knox: What are you working on now?

Meg Gardiner: I am working on the next thriller and since it’s my job to leave people in suspense, that’s all I can tell you.

Tim Knox: Well Meg, this has been wonderful. Meg Gardiner, tell the folks where they can find out more about you and your work.

Meg Gardiner: They can check out MegGardiner.com. I am on Twitter, @MegGardiner1, or on Facebook at MegGardinerBooks. I’m around.

Tim Knox: I’m around. I’m here. One side project, I’m going to go back to everyone I’ve interviewed who have that book deep in that drawer that they won’t show anyone and we’re going to do an anthology. So we’re going to be coming back to you at some point.

Meg Gardiner: It will be a horror anthology.

Tim Knox: It will be called Who’s Behind the Headlights?

Meg Gardiner: Right.

Tim Knox: This has been wonderful. We’ll put links to all of your sites, your Facebook, your Twitter and we hope to have you back as soon as the next book is out.

Meg Gardiner: Thanks a million. It’s been a great time.

 

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