with Meagan Lucas:
Bio: Meagan Lucas is the author of the award winning novel, Songbirds and Stray Dogs (Main Street Rag Press, 2019). Meagan’s short work has been published or is forthcoming in journals like The Santa Fe Writers’ Project, Still: The Journal, MonkeyBicycle, BULL, Pithead Chapel, and others. She lives in Western North Carolina where she teaches Creative Writing and edits Reckon Review.
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Meagan: I started writing eight years ago as a way to survive postpartum depression. I started with CNF as a way to connect and process, but quickly felt like it was too exposing to people I loved, so I started playing with fiction. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, and A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash – both stories of regular, working-class people, and take place within an hour of my house – showed me that people might be interested in what I had to say, it didn’t matter that I didn’t want to write about New York, LA or Seattle, there’s a place for me, too. And now, I think my work fits nicely on the shelf next to theirs: rural, mostly Southern, little gritty, character forward, lit fic.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Meagan: Anyone writing women in the South owe a debt to Lee Smith and Kaye Gibbons. But, I want a career like Taylor Brown. Every book of his is stunningly beautiful but wildly different from the one before. I love that he’s always stretching and trying new things. In my most recent short stories I’ve been playing with supernatural elements and horror and that’s because of Gabino Iglesias. My work has always been about monsters, the kind that live in human skin, but I love how Gabino plays with what we can see, and feel, and know, and allows us the grey space to get even deeper – more terrifying, more real.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Meagan: I don’t think there was any particular moment. I just noticed a couple of years in that I didn’t want to stop. That I was happier when I was writing, that I wanted to push myself to get better, and that if that was what I wanted other areas of my life had to give.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Meagan: I am so lucky to have a wonderful group of first readers: Kevin Whitten (Well Read Beard), Charlotte Hamrick, Edward Karshner, and Andrew Clark, are fantastic writers and readers and I trust them to tell me the truth. I’ve grown as a writer because of their friendship and their suggestions. Nothing is more valuable to me. As the founding editor of Reckon Review I also have the honor of reading hundreds of prose submissions every month, and this too has helped my writing. Editing other’s work is a whole new way of looking at writing, and as I’ve used those skills on my own work, it’s gotten better.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away influence your work?
Meagan: I was just talking about this with author Vern Smith; about how I grew up on a small island in Lake Huron in Northern Ontario, Canada, but I now live in the mountains of Western North Carolina and that those two places have more in common than one might think, including that they both have heavily impacted my work. Both cultures are isolated, and struggle with poverty, and a lack of resources. In both there is a focus on self-reliance, an avoidance of authority, a harsh landscape, so many drugs, and, of course, the heavy presence of religion. I’m most proud when a reader tells me they are surprised that I didn’t grow up in the South, that they couldn’t tell because my writing feels authentic. I think though, that it’s less a testament to my observational skill, and more the similarities between the people of rural Northern Canada, and Southern Appalachia. I also think there is a pretty clear connection between these cultures and my work. I’m obsessed with the stories of how, women and girls especially, survive and succeed in this type of world that is seemingly structured to crush them.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Meagan: The novel that my agent and I are currently polishing, SOFT ANIMALS, I think is the most meaningful thing that I’ve written yet. Told from the perspective of three generations of Southern Appalachian women it explores the expectations and rules that women live under, and what happens when they buck the system (SPOILER: hell breaks loose.)
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Meagan: I read (quickly), and I run (slowly) but both every day.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
Meagan: There is a line in Audre Lorde’s poem “New Years Day” that I have printed and framed on my desk: “I am deliberate / and afraid / of nothing” because I need that reminder – whether it’s submitting to a publisher that feels out of my league, or putting something vulnerable on the page.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects you’d like to promote?
Meagan: I have two pieces I’m very excited about coming this fall, both short stories, one called “Sitting Ducks” in Bull that reflects my new home here in the South, and one called “The Only Comfort” in Pithead Chapel that’s an ode to the North. I am also so lucky to have two pieces coming in anthologies this fall, but I think those TOC’s might still be a secret.
https://amzn.to/3AbiKT8 amazon link to book