Interview with Joanna Ruth Meyer

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About the Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer has been writing since she was seven, kept writing, and published her first book, Beneath the Haunting Sea, in January of 2018, and its companion, Beyond the Shadowed Earth two years later. Joanna and I have previously discussed her novel Echo North last year. We can talk about books for hours! Her novels are lush with folklore and mythical legends that demonstrate the power of stories. Playing the piano since she was nine years old, Meyer earned a BA of music in piano performance, and continues to teach and inspire her students. She lives in Mesa, Arizona with her husband and son, escaping to the wintery north in her books.

Instagram & Twitter: @gamwyn

Anna Gerwig: It was so interesting to read from Eda’s perspective, someone who was more antagonistic from your first novel Beyond the Haunting Sea. Did your relationship to her change as you wrote this novel?

Joanna Ruth Meyer: Yeah, absolutely. My publishers liked the idea of a companion novel… what about Eda? I started to think about her more and I sat down with a notebook, wrote 4 pages of notes, and there was a story there – wanting to explore why she’s in power and her deal with the gods. I started to sympathize with her really quickly, even as I was brainstorming. Initially, I hated her guts and thought she should be punished for how awful she is so my original ending was to trap her in the mountain forever and then as I got to know her, explore the story, I wanted to go beyond this and explore how she could get out of that. I really enjoyed writing from her point of view. She’s very sassy and angry and sarcastic and a lot less nice than I am or my normal characters are. It was fun to live in that. She knows what she wants. I was like ‘you go girl.’ She does start out as that antagonist and we follow her journey, her redemptive arc. Her journey is almost the inverse of Talia’s [HAUNTING SEA]. If they had ever sat down over tea and had a conversation, I think they could have been best friends. They’re very similar in a lot of ways.

AG:  EARTH was written years later, so you came into a world you had already established with its own rules. Was that challenging?

JRM:  I was terrified about keeping all the details consistent. I reread HAUNTING SEA with a highlighter. I definitely would’ve originally written a few things different, like I had to fudge the detail of Eda’s age so she could be a YA protagonist. But it was really fun to explore the world more. The Circles of the world came from a random line in HAUNTING SEA that I took literally and dug into. I really enjoyed digging into Tuer’s story. My favorite part of writing both of these books has been writing the myths, because I get to write and explore, and they rarely need to get edited. I love stories within stories — it’s my favorite.

AG: In all your books, I have really enjoyed the atmosphere and lyrical writing style. How do clearly explain things in a new fantasy world while still writing poetically?

JRM: Sometimes I convince myself that I need to let go of the flowers for a second and say this briefly. I don’t have to write as many words as I can. I can say something clearly and simply, which has its own rhythm. I’m always aware of the cadence of my sentences. I’m a musician, so that’s in my ear. Eda’s theme album is probably Taylor Swift’s ‘Reputation.’

AG: How do you hope to inspire your audiences?

JRM: That’s a good question. I wanted to explore that idea of redemption, and I like that Eda is brave enough to change her mind. Redemption is possible, even if you have to work at it and face consequences. I think everyone should have a chance. When I was in Tucson with Worlds of Words Teen Ambassadors – that was one of the most fun things I’ve done. It was so cool to talk to teens, so enjoyable to talk about spoilers.

AG: It’s not easy, but she gets another chance. And there’s so much hope at the end.

JRM: It was the hardest book I’ve ever written, because I felt like I was under a magnifying glass the whole time I was writing, so I didn’t have that mystical falling-in-love, going-on-dates with this book… I wasn’t sure I even liked this book until it was done When the ARCs came, I was like, ‘I think I like this book and I’m proud of it.’

AG: You’re in the edits of book four…

JRM: Yes! I’m almost through. I almost get to give it off to the copy editor. It sort of starts out as a gender-swap beauty and the beast, hallway through becomes a Little Mermaid retelling, but in the forest. I cannot just straight-up retell one story at a time apparently. It’s about a tree siren. I just wrote the first draft because it was making me happy, then gave it to my editor. It’s duo-POV and a different style of story. I just realized I’ve got an elemental thing going on – sea, snow, earth, trees… I like it.

Joanna will be a presenting author at the 2020 Tucson Festival of Books. You can see her at the panel, “Love and Betrayal: Beauty or Beast?” and “Teen Worlds: A Carousel of YA Authors.”

Her current favorite reads are: The 10,000 Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow; The Beholder & The Boundless by Anna Bright; and Every Other Weekend by Abigail Johnson

Don’t miss our previous interview with Joanna Ruth Meyer here and check out our review of Echo North here.

PRR Writer, Anna Gerwig

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