Interview with Author Megan Rivers by Melissa Brooks

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Megan Rivers is a life-long writer, a former world traveler, and now a teacher. She is the author of the Alton Oaks Mysteries. I interviewed her to find out more about her writing, what inspires her, and what she is currently working on.         


1. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?

I've always loved reading mysteries, but I never thought I could write them. One day, I decided to challenge myself and attempt one. That is how the Alton Oaks series began.


2. What is your writing process like? How does writing a story start for you?

It's always different. Sometimes when I write, there's no plan; I just write what the characters want me to write until the story is finished. Other times--like with the Alton Oaks series--I outlined all 6 books beforehand. I have a notebook of character descriptions, a notebook with maps of the town and buildings, and 2 notebooks filled with outlines of the series.


3. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Yes. The worst writer's block I've experienced lasted years. The last series I worked on--the Song for You series--it took me about 7 years to finish the last book due to writer's block. I finally sat down and asked myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen for this character?" Just by doing that exercise, the wheels began to turn and the story started coming together; I finished the book in about three weeks. In smaller instances of writer's block, I usually skip the scene and work on another scene, or I'll put in rough sentences like "Scene with Bailey and bracelet" and come back to it later.


4. How have your travels contributed to your writing?

A lot more than I thought they would. I've been able to write my characters into places like Europe, the southwest, or New England due to my time there. More importantly, my travels have made me view my hometown with a drastically different perspective than when I was 18. I've been able to not only study places, but people and their motivations. Traveling, I think, made me study and observe society, traditions, places, and relationships more than anything I've done in my life. These little details, more often than not, pop up into my writing making the scenes and people more believable.


5. How did your work as a teacher contribute to “School’s Out for Murder”?

I would not have been able to write "School's Out for Murder" without my experience as a teacher. The Alton Oaks series has been a form of therapy for me, as I started writing it to get through some major life changes: a career change, a cross-country move, a divorce, reunions, etc. I quit being a mainstream classroom teacher because the system always made me feel like a failure despite the difference I was making. It's extremely hard to "do the right thing" as a teacher, and I felt like I had to make the choice to be the change I wanted to see in the world, or to allow the system to beat the life and passion out of me. There are so many things wrong with the education system in America, and I used the book as a platform to get a few things off my chest.


6. Are there any similarities between your hometown and Alton Oaks?

Alton Oaks is a small-town, middle-of-nowhere town in Illinois. My hometown, however, might be small, but 75% of it borders the city of Chicago, so it's loud and busy. I always wished I had grown up in an Alton Oaks-type of town. Since I moved back to my hometown (just over two years ago now), I have noticed small similarities such as the gossip, the traditions, character-like citizens, and Midwestern values. It really makes me appreciate my hometown a whole lot more.


7. Are you working on anything right now?

I am currently working on the fourth book in the Alton Oaks series as well as some pieces for my blog. Some ideas for a new mystery series have been swimming around in my head (and in another notebook!) but nothing has been outlined yet.


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