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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

In what genre(s) do you write?

I write mostly historical fiction, with some fantasy and some mystery. What’s the favorite book you’ve read?

This is really hard to answer because I have so many favorite books. One of my current favorites is Outlander (and all the sequels) by Diana Gabaldon. It has great history and wonderful characters. I also love all the books in the Belgariad by David Eddings, and the Victorian historical mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. (One of these is called The Last Camel Died at Noon.) What’s the favorite book you’ve written?

My favorite book so far among those that I've written is A Mistake of Consequence. Would you pinpoint the biggest challenge you faced as an author?

My biggest challenge as an author is not letting other things distract me. I have a lot of other interests, including travel and hiking. I also have six grandchildren. All of these things take time away from writing, but I'm better at everything else in my life if I make sure I use some time to write. Who has been most instrumental in your publishing career?

This one is also very hard to answer. I've been writing stories for over fifty years. My second grade teacher could take the credit for getting me started. Then I'd have to say my sisters were very influential because they always wanted to listen to my stories. I've been in many writing groups over the years, and attended a ton of conferences. Christine DeSmet and Laurel Yourke from UW-Madison's Writer's Institute have been extremely helpful. Really, there are too many people to name. What keeps you away from writing?

Right now, I've been spending more time on editing and marketing than on writing. I need to shift back to more writing.

What do n you do with the bulk of your day?

For over twenty years I was a full-time high school English teacher. I've retired now, but I still teach part time (high school and adult education.)

What are common traps new writers should avoid?

New writers often think they are finished when they've finished the first draft. Believe me, no one is finished that easily. New writers also sometimes avoid sharing their work. Writing partners and other readers really help a writer develop. Finally, some new writers keep going back to the first few pages, trying so hard to get those perfect that they never finish. It's best to finish a draft and then go back and polish. Otherwise, it's too easy to get stuck. How can writers help each other?

One obvious way is to read (and leave reviews if possible). We all want readers, and readers make better writers too. Writers can also offer feedback with partners or groups, and share information with each other.

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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

What would I do if…? That’s how many of my book ideas get started. I’ll read about some minor event or custom from the past and wonder how I would cope. My historical fiction novel, A Mistake of Consequence (2015) started this way. In a history class, I read a heartfelt plea from a young girl in Colonial Maryland, begging her father in England to send her some clothes, or better yet, let her come home. In case you don’t know, indenture is a legal contract binding yourself (or being bound by another) for a certain number of years (usually seven). You owe your labor in return for some compensation such as passage to America, learning a trade, or room and board. The indentured person is not free to leave the contract, and has limited rights as a servant. I was fascinated by this girl’s plea and by the fact that her father had sold her. Once I have an idea for a book, I do a lot of research. For this book, I learned that indenture was widely practiced in the colonization of North America. Over half of seventeenth century colonists started out as indentured servants. Men, women and even children indentured themselves or were indentured to pay debts or as punishment for crimes. The need for cheap labor in the colonies was so great that ‘spiriters’ in England, Ireland and Scotland kidnapped unwary men, women and children and sold them for profit. I wanted to explore the concepts of freedom, agency, and power in colonial women’s lives, and the practice of indenture gave me a wonderful avenue to do so. In A Mistake of Consequence, there are actually three women who face indenture under very different circumstances, all grounded in historical practices. Callie Beaton, the main character, is abducted. Her indenture is involuntary and the ‘master’ who buys her is unscrupulous. She has no way to prove she has been wronged unless she can get a letter to her grandfather so that he can buy her back. On board the ship, Callie meets Mary, the mother of two young children. Mary and her husband signed a contract for indenturing themselves and their children to pay for their passage overseas. As poor tenant farmers in Scotland, they hope to start fresh and own land in the colonies once their term of service is over. But when Mary’s husband dies, the whole term of service for herself and her husband falls on Mary, more than doubling the length of time she will be indentured. Even worse, she has an abusive master. With two such miserable experiences, you might ask, why did so many people indenture themselves? One answer to that can be seen in my third character, Peg. She has no family and no prospects in Scotland. Believing she can find a good husband in the Colonies, she indentures herself voluntarily. She leaves Edinburgh with no regrets and arrives in America in confident expectation of a better life. Three women...three different paths. Isn’t historical fiction fun?

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