Thank you for joining us today, Megan! How long have you been writing? What inspired your quest to become a writer? The earliest thing I remember writing was a short story for my grandfather. He asked me to write a ghost story and title it “The Ghost of Fleetwood Road.” (We lived on Fleetwood Road at the time). I must have been in the second grade, and I’m sure it was quite primitive, but I wrote and illustrated the pages and stapled them together like a book. My grandfather was so thrilled with it and showed it to family and friends. That episode planted a seed in my young brain. I liked the feeling of entertaining others with a story I made up. So I continued doing it.
In college I became more serious about writing. I was a music major in my undergraduate years, majoring in vocal performance. During a particularly difficult semester, I had to spend many, many hours at the piano learning chordal progressions. It was then I realized I didn’t want to be sitting at the piano keyboard … I wanted to be at the computer keyboard. When I returned to school for my graduate degree, I went for Creative Writing.
Tell us a little bit about Dangerous To Know! Dangerous to Know is my newest novel in a series slated for release next year. This book has been nearly twenty years in the making. The idea first budded when I was in grad school and heard a lecture on Lord Byron’s life. I was fascinated by the aspects of the tortured soul–his insistence that he was doomed, the fact that he married Annabella Milbanke, a woman devout in her faith–and I thought it would make a great novel. I tried to write it then–wrote the first eight or nine chapters–but I abandoned it for something else. Then, a few years ago, the idea resurfaced again. I wanted to write the story using the basic plot points of Byron’s life, but I didn’t necessarily want it to be a fictionalized biography, so I changed Lord Byron’s name to Lord Bromby, and his wife to Isabella Bankmill. In the first book, I follow the facts of his life pretty closely until the end, but book two is a radical departure and is really more about Isabella.
I wanted this book to speak to unequally yoked marriages. I often hear Christians say they don’t understand why someone married their spouse knowing he or she wasn’t a Christian. But I’ve been on that side of the coin, and I know how easy it is to be snared by charm and good looks. It often results in great heartbreak, and I wanted to address that in this story.
What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite? My favorite thing is beginning a new novel and ending one. It’s so exciting to see a story unfold, learn about the characters, and live in the new setting for a while. Then, reaching the end, there’s a feeling of accomplishment and eagerness to begin revisions. I also like revising and editing. My least favorite is the middle of the story. I often get stuck there.
How do you overcome writer’s block? I literally write through it. It might be garbage and a few weeks later it’s possible I’ll delete it, but if I stop then the story stops. Alternatively, I skip to the next section in the book for which I have an idea. I write linearly for the most part, but if I get stuck, jumping around sometimes helps.
What’s the greatest praise you’ve received about your writing so far?Winning the 2016 Director’s Choice Award at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference for Captives was probably the biggest praise I’ve ever received. It was as though God hugged me and told me I was where He wanted me to be. I’d been second guessing myself regarding the tough topics I was tackling, and winning the award was confirmation that I was on the right track.
Describe your writing style in three words. Story-driven, darkish, message-based.
Your most creative ideas come when. . . Best ideas are early in the morning when I first wake up (usually 4:00 am). Or when I’m driving.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? Everybody says this, but persistence is the main thing. Keep at it. Don’t let criticism derail you (because there will be plenty of it). Finally, write every day. It’s imperative to carve out consistent writing time. You can finish writing a book in less than a year by disciplining yourself to write daily.
The fictional character who inspires you most is. . . Well, if we’re talking positive inspiration, it would be Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. I love her wit and strength, and she’s always self-possessed in the face of strife. She does what is right for the most part, but she’s still human and flawed. Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is probably the male character who has most inspired me. I read that book when I was eleven, and its impact has resonated through the next thirty years of my life. Many of my male characters have a touch of Heathcliff in them. I am drawn to the tortured soul.
When you aren’t writing, you enjoy. . . watching BBC dramas. I’m positively addicted to BBC miniseries and I watch them over and over again–Pride and Prejudice, Poldark, North and South. I also like to watch some of the more modern ones like Broadchurch and Being Human.
Can you give us a teaser about your work in progress? My work in progress seeks to answer the question, What if I threw away all my belongings, boarded a plane, and left my life behind?
Anne Fleming is doing just that. Haunting by the harping voice of her controlling mother, the unknown identity of her father, and a traumatic relationship with her graduate professor, Anne changes her name, abandons her apartment and grad school scholarship, and boards a plane bound for London.
It’s a mainstream contemporary gothic novel and will probably be written under a pen name. More about that in the near future!
Megan Whitson Lee is an anglophile and a recovering runaway. Over the years, she escaped to England and Australia before finally settling down in the US. These days, she lives a relatively quiet life as a wife, a mom of two greyhounds, an editor for Pelican Book Group, and a high school English teacher. She now escapes by writing novels instead of jumping on planes to foreign countries. Her novel, Captives, won the 2016 Director’s Choice Award and was a finalist for a Selah Award in the women’s contemporary fiction category at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference.
Megan writes women’s contemporary thrillers and historical fiction featuring characters standing at the crossroads of major life decisions.