Megan Whitson Lee grew up in Tennessee and moved to the Washington, D.C. area as a teenager. She worked for criminal attorneys before earning her master’s degree from George Mason University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. Previously she received a Bachelor of Arts in Music followed by a year-long residence in London where she worked as a Literary Assistant. Her self-published first novel All That is Right and Holy won second place in the 2009 Christian Choice Book Awards. Megan teaches high school English in Fairfax County, Virginia where she lives with her husband and two greyhounds.
How to connect with Megan...
Author Interview | Megan Lee
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...I remember writing as a little kid—in elementary school creative writing was my favorite subject. In the 4th grade I became obsessed with old reruns of the 1966 soap opera Dark Shadows; I tried to write my own episodes and gave them to our school librarian to read (poor woman).
...I continued to write all through middle school, high school, and college, deciding to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from George Mason University. What has kept me writing? I love to tell a story, and ultimately I hope the stories glorify God and are redemptive in nature.
Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...I think my favorite novel is my self-published one: All That is Right and Holy. It deals with difficult subject matter (sex-trafficking), but it’s a cause for which I feel great passion. In the novel, I sought not only to bring attention to the evil of that industry, but also to offer up a message of hope: God can heal, redeem, and release people from all sorts of bondage.
If published, what was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...For self-publishing: the expense was the hardest part; for small press publishing, trusting that everything was going well without my hands being in every stitch of the process. The easiest? Is there any easy part?
Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?
...Song from the Ashes is a retelling of the classic Edith Wharton novel The Age of Innocence. It’s the story of Landon Kingsley and his struggle to choose between two women—April, the one he feels God wants him to marry, and Ella, the one he desires. Ella is April’s cousin, and she’s just returned to Kingsport, Tennessee after ten years of pursuing a career as a country music singer in Nashville. Her failed career and affair with a married music producer scandalizes her in the eyes of the town, but her legal troubles drive her to Landon for help. Landon finds himself increasingly attracted to Ella and more discontent than ever with the path he’s chosen for his life. In the meantime, he’s caught in a firestorm of family and town gossip, along with simultaneously dealing with his past and the complicated decision of whether to listen to God’s voice or follow his own desires.
Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...I think Landon is my favorite character. I understand his struggle—maybe not so much the idea of deciding between two love interests, but the battle against feeling trapped in his own life. I think all of us at one time or another feel railroaded into something that we don’t want to do. But sometimes God asks us to do hard things, bear tough burdens, and ultimately—to trust Him. That’s not always easy, and at times it may even look like He doesn’t want us to be happy. Landon is wrestling with doing the right thing versus personal happiness, and I think that makes him a sympathetic character with whom a lot of people can identify.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...God loves us and wants what is best for us, and what’s best for us isn’t always the happy ending we hope for. Sometimes it looks a little different. Sometimes He asks us to sacrifice something out of obedience to Him. And out of that sacrifice comes the blessing—or in this case—the song from the ashes.
Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Both. And sometimes the character or story I envision or begin writing isn’t what ends up unfolding. I might have a mysterious mood in mind when I begin a story, but by the end, the mood is much more humorous based on the turns the plot takes.
When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I think a little of all of these things. I used to write for escapism—creating settings and atmosphere that I would want to spend time in. Now, I think I want people to identify with characters, keep turning the pages to find out what happens next, and find God’s Truth clearly residing within the pages of the book.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Read as much as possible—especially that of the genre in which you wish to write. Set daily writing goals for yourself until you’ve seen your book to completion. If you’re interested in traditional publishing, persevere. Spend time sending out queries, queries, and more queries. If you feel the Lord has called you to write, do it. He’ll carve out avenues that lead to writing opportunities.
When you get an idea for a novel, what is the first thing that you do?
...When I first get an idea, I pray about it and ask if God wants me to write that story. If I feel the answer is “yes” I ask Him to grant me inspiration and the words for the novel. I keep a spiral notebook and write down random ideas about the story, things I want to have happen, etc., and then I write up a character profile with everything I can possibly think of for each of the main characters. After that, I jump into the first chapter and see what happens!
September is Classical Music Month (who knew?). In keeping with that theme, do you have a favorite character from a classical novel?
...I love classical music! (I was a music major in my undergrad studies, so Chopin and Beethoven really grew on me!) But let’s see…favorite female classical novel character…I guess I’d have to say Elizabeth Bennett. I admire her wit and willingness to accept and roll with the punches. Favorite male: Heathcliff, without a doubt. The tortured soul always attracted me in classic literature.
What is your favorite fall snack food?
...Ha! Great question! Fall is my favorite season, so I associate it with hot apple cider and popcorn for some reason.
Enter to win a copy of Megan's novel A Song from the Ashes by leaving your favorite classic novel in the comments below!
______________________________Thank you so much for joining us on the blog today, Megan. I love have you ask if there's an easy part of publishing. I laughed because, honestly, even if you love writing and it comes easily to you, it's still work. It's not always easy! And I love that you mentioned popcorn! As my friends will attest, I have a slight obsession with popcorn *hehe*. And thanks for offering a giveaway. I look forward to announcing the winner next week.