Meredith Zeitlin, author of Sophomore Year is Greek to Me, visits The Hiding Spot today for an interview! Be sure to check out my review of her newest book here, too.
In your new novel, Zona, the main character, is forced to move to Greece and meet her estranged maternal relatives. The descriptions of Greece are so vivid and entertaining – did you travel there for research?
I did! It was a fabulous, frustrating, exciting, informative, occasionally lonely, and ultimately perfect-for-my-research trip. I went by myself for three weeks to Crete and Athens, without so much as a guidebook or a Greek-to-English dictionary. I wanted my experience to be like Zona’s, so I had to go in with a blank slate. I stayed with local people, visited an international school and met the students and teachers there, learned a few Greek words, made new friends, ate the most delicious foods, explored nightclubs and produce markets, became infuriated by the trains and buses, stayed all alone in a remote hut (which came complete with a flock of evil geese), and wrote everything down in a journal to refer to when I got home. Zona’s story is very closely based on my adventures.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
I am a terrible, terrible example for other writers, seriously. I don’t outline, I don’t plan, I DO procrastinate like crazy… I’m very messy when it comes to writing. I tend to start at the beginning, but I will often jump around to scenes that I feel inspired to work on or play around with random bits of dialogue that jump into my head at that particular moment. Sometimes I’ll write a scene and figure out where it goes later. The most important thing to me is getting the narrative voice right. Once I know who the story is coming from, the rest of it will fit together eventually.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?
I’ve had lots of random jobs since I graduated from college - I was a bartender for many years, typed name badges at convention centers, and temped in boring offices… but I actually don’t make my living as a writer. My “real” job is being a voiceover artist. (That means I’m the disembodied voice you hear on TV or the radio, or coming out of the mouth of a cartoon character.) If you want to know more about that, you can go here:
I was inspired by a job to write my first book, Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters. Years ago I nannied for girl who was about 11 when I started, and I couldn’t believe how racy and materialistic - and usually sloppily written - her books were. I loved reading growing up, and the novels that made the biggest impact on me were YA: Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, Paula Danziger. They wrote funny, realistic stories with female characters I could relate to. I was very disappointed that my young charge didn’t have books to read that could mirror her own experiences as she figured out how to get through the befuddling whirlpools of Middle School and High School. I decided there was only one thing to do, and that was do it myself.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Oh, this is such a hard question! If we’re talking about a favorite word to read, I love the words “creamy” and “quilt.” Any words with a “q” in them make me happy, actually. I honestly have no explanation for why, but I often stop and reread them a few times when I see them on the page - they sound so delicious inside my head!
Off the top of my head, I like the words “loquacious” and “reticent.” Maybe because I’m so often one and need to work on (at least occasionally) being the other?
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
I don’t want to be a copycat, but books have always been my escape from reality, too. There’s nothing more satisfying than escaping into a book for a few hours - whether it’s one that is beautifully written, incredibly funny, a glimpse into history… whatever. An afternoon with a book is the most delicious treat.
That said, I also love to sing - musical theatre songs in particular. My original life plan was to be a big Broadway star, but even though that didn’t happen, I still love my musicals. I sing in the shower, I sing while I’m doing chores, I sing on the street (more quietly, of course), and I especially love to sing at the piano bars in the West Village with my similarly-inclined friends. No matter what’s going on in your life, you can’t feel lousy if you’re belting out a fabulous score!
What can readers look forward to next?
Ha - good question. Beats me. As I said above, I am the worst procrastinator! I have a few ideas rattling around in my brain, but haven’t started working on anything yet. Maybe after I finish answering this question… ?
About the Author
Watch the Book Trailer
"SOPHOMORE YEAR IS GREEK TO ME" by Meredith Zeitlin - Book Trailer!!! from Meredith Zeitlin on Vimeo.