Today the spotlight is shining on author Meg Justus. I’m all for “showcasing” another Meg, so take it away, Meg! How and when did you first become published?
I first became published in July, 2011, after deciding to self-publish my first book, Repeating History (available via Amazon and Smashwords). I had gone through the submission process with many agents and a few publishers before that, and came close a couple of times, but kept getting told that even though it was a good story and well written, they didn’t think it would sell. About the time I was ready to throw in the towel on traditional publishing, I became aware that self-publishing, especially via ebook, was much more affordable and doable than it had been in the past, and was losing its stigma.
So what did I have to lose? Because of my day job (museum curator, which involves more graphic design than you’d expect) and past jobs (proofreader, typesetter), I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into. I am something of a small-time entrepreneur anyway, since I own my own curatorial business, working on projects with small museums who can’t afford to hire someone full time, so that part didn’t bother me. I did everything myself except for having a friend with copyediting experience go over the manuscript for me. And voila, I was published.
FYI: The geyser is actually Grand Geyser, however, which inspired Meg to write this book and plays an important role in Repeating History. So tell us more, Meg!
Repeating History is about a young man whose illusions are shattered, only to find out that he is much happier with the truth. It’s about second chances, as is most of my writing, and set in one of my favorite places on the planet, Yellowstone National Park. The book takes place during the time period that most people think of as the Old West, but it is not a genre western. It has a love story, but it is not a genre romance. It has a paranormal element to it, but it’s not really a genre fantasy. It’s primarily a historical coming of age novel, but because it has all those other elements, it’s not a traditional historical novel, either. So it’s really all of the above.
Chuck McManis is a college dropout who has no idea what he wants to do with his life, who is flung back in time into a strangely familiar situation, because he’s been told stories about it all his life. He finds himself standing in the shoes of someone he’d always thought was a hero, but he doesn’t feel heroic at all. But that doesn’t mean he can cry foul and escape. He’s stuck. And so he becomes that hero almost in spite of himself, and only in other people’s eyes, not his own. I’m not sure he believes he’s a hero even by the end of the book. But it doesn’t matter by then because he is who he always dreamed of being. By the way, the sleigh, called a cutter, is referred to as an “1870s sport car” by Chuck, the hero, and similar to one he used during courtship in the book.
As I said, Yellowstone is one of my favorite places on the planet. After the eruption of Grand Geyser that was the original inspiration for the story, I went to the park library and archives — then at park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs. I walked up to Lee Whittlesey the park historian, and said, “I want to write a time travel novel set in Yellowstone.” To his credit, he simply answered, “The book you need to start with is The Yellowstone Story by Aubrey Haines.” So I did. In that extremely readable 2-volume history of the park, I found the story about the early tourists who were kidnapped by the Nez Perce in 1877, just five years after Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. I was happy to discover that one of those tourists had written an account of his kidnapping, and found a copy, and things just snowballed from there. If anyone is interested, there is a bibliography of some of the materials I used in my research for Repeating History on my website.
Meg’s book starts out with a bang, all right, with fascinating details. So what are your plans for your future career?
I am in the middle of writing the second book in what I’ve been referring to as my Yellowstone trilogy, even though the second book is not set there. The third one will be. The second book is set during the 1897-8 Klondike gold rush, and is narrated by a young woman who ran away from home to join the argonauts, who ends up traveling with the son of Repeating History’s hero and becoming involved with him. I hope to have it published by this June. The third book is going to be about what happens to Chuck’s widowed father in Yellowstone in 1959 after his son disappears in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.
After that I have several other manuscripts in my hard drive that I would like to rework and publish, and more ideas for after that.
Don’t we all! I’m working on three right now myself. Best wishes to you, Meg, on continued success! Thanks for visiting today.