Ask the Author: Megan E. Freeman
What would you like readers to know about you?
I live and write in northern Colorado. I’ve been a poet most of my life, and my first book was a poetry collection called Lessons on Sleeping Alone, published by Liquid Light Press. I was also a teacher in the arts and humanities K-16, and I worked as a school administrator training K-12 teachers. I loved that work, as I was able to spend time in classrooms across the curriculum and the grade levels. I still always wrote, mostly on weekends and in the evenings. My debut middle grade novel, ALONE, was just published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, ALONE is a harrowing middle grade novel-in-verse. It tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.
When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.
With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.
As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
The idea first came to me in a mother-daughter book club gathering when my daughter and her friends were in fifth grade. We read Island of the Blue Dolphins and the girls were fascinated by how the main character, Karana, could survive alone on an island for eighteen years. I pointed out that the island was her home, and she was already comfortable there. The greater challenge was being all alone for so long. I asked them to imagine what it would be like for them to come home after school to find everyone in the entire town gone. What would they do? How would they survive? What if they couldn’t reach anyone for help? What if no one came back? I couldn’t get the idea out of my head and it became the seed for the story of ALONE.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
The writing of the book took many iterations and many years. I first wrote the book in prose, in third person voice, and in past tense. After many rounds of revisions, submissions, and feedback from multiple sources, I began again, this time tapping into my experience and skill as a poet. I rewrote the story in verse, using first person voice and present tense. This allowed me to get inside Maddie’s head and explore the solitary and sensory nature of her experience. Once I started writing in verse, I felt much more free and I found my flow. It was immediately satisfying.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
My parents were in the theater, so I grew up hearing Shakespeare, Moliere, and Ibsen performed, as well as early twentieth century dramatists like Chekhov and Shaw, and all the contemporary American playwrights. I was always surrounded by beautiful, elevated language. I discovered Nancy Drew mysteries in first grade. I loved Judy Blume’s books, and The All-of-a-Kind Family books, and Harriet the Spy, and From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I loved a book called Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman, and Lois Duncan’s thrillers, and classics like the Little House books and Little Women and Jane Eyre. I started writing poetry and stories in elementary school and never stopped.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
My advice for anyone who wants to be traditionally published is this: Show up. Show up to your desk, show up to conferences, show up to webinars, show up to critique groups, show up to online writing communities. Sign up for workshops that include professional critiques so you’ll have an imposed deadline you’ll have to meet. It doesn’t even matter if the agent or editor or writer likes your work; you will have done the writing, and that’s the most important part. Publishing is a business and writing is a craft. It’s important to work toward mastery of the craft while learning as much as you can about the business.