We're pleased to have Meredith First here today. Her last name is rather fitting, as Gridley Girls is her FIRST novel! Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy to give away!
Meredith First left an insanely great recruiting career with Apple, Inc. to write the books that were literally haunting her dreams — books for anyone who survived high school with a little help from friends. After studying abroad at the University of London, she received a B.A. in Communications/Broadcasting from Oregon State University. Through the donation of 10% of her income from Gridley Girls, she hopes to help people who struggle with similar issues that she experienced. She lives with her family in Minneapolis and Sacramento and is hard at work on Gridley Girls Reunited, book two in the Gridley Girls series. (Bio courtesy of Meredith's website.)
Visit Meredith at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Meg Monahan was born to be a secret keeper. From the moment she became a peer counselor in high school, Meg has been keeping her friends secrets, from sordid family dramas to stories about their sex lives—secrets that she never wanted to know. Flash forward to adulthood, and Meg is now a recruiter for the world’s hippest (and most paranoid) high-tech company—she is a professional secret keeper.
When sudden tragedy strikes before Meg hosts the wedding of her childhood BFF, Anne Calzaretta, the women are forced to face their past—and their secrets—in order to move on with their lives. Thirty years after loss, lies, and secrets separated them, Meg and Anne reminisce about the days when they, along with their friends Jennifer and Tonya, were so close that they were known as “The Group” in their hometown. Anne remembers their freshman year as an easier time, but Meg, still feeling guilty about a betrayal of Anne’s trust, is haunted about keeping a secret she’s not prepared to face, let alone share.
Can anyone really keep a secret forever? (Courtesy of Meredith's website.)
Before you were a writer, you had a successful career as a recruiter with Apple. What prompted you to leave that career and pursue writing?
Just after fourth grade, one of my best friends, Jennifer Cone, died quite suddenly and at her graveside, her mother hugged me and made me promise I would never forget her. I of course, told her I would not. That stuck in my brain forever. In Mr. Erickson’s eighth grade English class, we had to write, edit and publish 30-page short stories. That’s when I decided I would do for my group of friends, what God could not: keep Jennifer alive by making her a character in books about our group of friends.
As life progressed, dreams were pushed aside for college and other careers. We never forgot the books though as my friends would often call with “stories for your books.”
In 2004, while still thriving at Apple, I started to have very vivid dreams of my childhood friends as we were starting high school. At first, I didn’t recognize one of the girls in the dreams. When I realized it was Jennifer, I knew I needed to pay attention. These dreams continued for months. Jennifer had come back, exactly thirty years after her death, to kick me in the butt and remind me that I was supposed to be writing books, supporting my dreams and not Steve Jobs’. I loved my time at Apple. I began there shortly after Steve came back to save the company. I was a part of the first recruiting team to rebuild the brand. It was exactly as incredible as you could imagine. But how could I ignore Jennifer?
Describe your writing process.
I am still in heavy treatment for Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease so my process is probably different than most as I suffer from dizziness and brain fog. There are plenty of days where I sit in front of my computer in a white fog with no original thought. No writing gets done on those days. When my brain is working though, I do have a bit of a routine. I do a quick meditation from Hay House, turn on music from whatever year it is I’m in on that chapter and I go. I try not to worry too much about grammar and spelling but as the daughter of an English teacher, that’s a challenge. I am to the point in this series that I know where I’m going as I write but am still surprised every day with what comes up that was not planned. That’s why I always say I’m not really the author, but merely the typist. These books come through me, not of me.
If you could share one piece of advice with those wanting to pursue a career in writing, what would that advice be?
Have a back up source of income! I went into this process blindly and I’m so glad I did. If I had known then what I know now, I may not have done it. I’m so thankful I followed my heart and soul and not my brain!
Tell us about your best friend.
I don’t have just one best friend. Never have. That’s a beautiful thing though as I was blessed to have a group of best friends that I don’t ever remember living without. This first book, besides centering on Jennifer Cone, is also based on a character named AnneMarie Calzaretta. In real life, her name is RoseMarie Curcuru. As you can see, I didn’t go far to change her name. I can’t discuss too much without spoilers so I’ll just say that she’s the kind of girl you can call at any time, to cheer you up and make you feel like the world isn’t such a scary place. She is loyal, kind, optimistic, smart and there. Always there. You know that old joke that men often say, “he’s the one I’d call if I woke up with a dead hooker in my bed”? She’s my first phone call.
What is your all time favorite movie and why?
My standard answer used to be The Sound of Music. It’s a no-brainer that needs no explanation. Then I raised kids and the remake of The Parent Trap came out. In my family, we call that our “comfort movie”. It can brighten even the darkest of days. Nancy Meyers is a genius. I was worried when they were making a remake and then it turned out to be brilliant. Yes, I’m schmaltzy. And proud of it.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Since Meg Monahan, the protagonist of Gridley Girls is based on me, it’s safe to say that I am an extrovert. Chatty Cathy is alive and well in me. I’ve never met a stranger and people are my therapy. I love people. Simple as that.
Thanks to Meredith for a wonderful visit and BookSparks for sharing her book with our readers.
~Interview by Tracey Meyers
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Giveaway ends July 5th at midnight EST.