A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Meredith Craig de Pietro

Q1: When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most now and currently?

Meredith: In college I majored in journalism, because sharing creative work made me feel too vulnerable. Although I always wrote fiction, I kept that private and only shared non-fiction for a long time. My biggest influences when I was young were probably Stephen King, Brett Easton Ellis, Lynda Barry and Tom Robbins! Now I’d say Shirley Jackson, Melanie Finn, George Saunders, Patricia Highsmith and Ottessa Moshfegh are some of my favorites.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Meredith: When I was in first grade, our class entered a city-wide writing contest for the fire department. My story won and although I can’t remember what exactly it was about, I remember everyone thought it was so funny. That’s when I first had some inclination about the concept of “voice,”  and that’s when I first thought maybe I should continue writing.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Meredith: My writing group. There is the accountability piece to having a writing group, but also, over time, it is possible to see how persistence pays off over the course of time with the right amount of dedication. Sometimes it’s easier to see in others’ than in the every day of our own lives. Plus, I am constantly inspired by the women in my group and their wonderful work.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

Meredith: I grew up in New Hampshire, and I think the cold does influence the people of that region. There is a dark sense of humor that people have in New Hampshire that might be singular to New England. T=For instance, the area I grew up in has produced a number of SNL comedians: Sarah Silverman, Adam Sandler and Seth Meyers. I don’t write humor pieces, but I think I have a darkly humorous worldview that comes from where I grew up. 

Travel has definitely influenced my writing. Expansion of my worldview has been incredibly important to my work. In journalism, I do a lot of travel writing, and in my fiction, I enjoy traveling in my mind to places I’ve been. 

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Meredith: My short stories are always very personal on some level, so in that way they have meaning to me. But my flash fiction, “A Water Break From Guantanamo,” which was recently published in Fictive Dream holds special meaning to me. It is about two children who find a gun in their grandparent’s closet, and with gun laws changing in America, this is a cause that is close to my heart. In New York where I live there are LED signs up in Times Square saying Gun Free Zone. As a parent, I am horrified to think about the intersection of open carry gun laws and the mental health issues in this country. 

Q6: What are your favorite activities to relax?

Meredith: Reading of course! 

Q7: What is a favorite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?

Meredith: In my short story, “The Favorite,” published in Rock Salt Journal, the unlikeable narrator has just found her stove has exploded. “My house, which minutes before had been a fixed object in my mind, was now turned sideways like a Salvador Dali painting. The upholstered slipper chair lay on its side, the coffee table dumped haphazardly across the room, and the landline (that Greg insisted on keeping for emergencies) was off the hook. The house could have been ransacked, if not for the strange fog that blanketed the room like the mist off a pond.” I worked on this to allow the description to also include her constant disappointment with her husband.

Q8:What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

Meredith: I don’t usually listen to music while I’m writing, and if I do, it needs to not include lyrics or I’ll be distracted. But when I’m cooking I love to listen to Sharon van Etten, Robyn or old The Cure! Sharon van Etten’s son “Seventeen” hits me in my heart.

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, projects that you would like to promote?

Meredith: Jacked: An Anthology of Crime Fiction was just released by Run Amok Crime and is available to purchase on Amazon, Bookshop or anywhere that sells books. It is full of very distinct and excellent voices in crime. This was the first time I had a story published in an anthology. Seeing the process from acceptance to publication and all the marketing in between was a fascinating experience for me. Just to be involved in a project with so much talent and seeing the editor, Vern Smith, pull it all together was very inspirational.

Bonus Question: Any funny memory or strange occurrence you’d like to share during your creative journey?

Meredith: In my crime caper, “Living The Dolce Vita,” my narrator, a cabaret singer named Ginger Price says, “People always ask how I got into theater. It’s a depressing story. My ex-husband married my ex-wife and I settled for a life of cabaret.” Ba-dum-bum-ching.” This is based on a phrase my then 11-year-old son dreamt about where someone said in his dream “my ex-husband married my ex-wife” and he woke up trying to puzzle out the mechanics of that relationship. Everytime I read the line now, I have to laugh.