I let ideas come freely for a long while, and then I start planning. Once I have a detailed plan down, I start writing, but from that point on I still follow the creative process as I write. Sometimes that leads to a deviation that doesn’t work, and I cut the whole lot and go back to the plan. Sometimes the deviation turns out to be great, and I go with it and amend the plan accordingly.
My day job as an editor can be quite a hindrance to writing – I automatically slip into editing mode, and that pulls me out of being in the pure creative flow. My solution is to try very hard to resist the urge to edit as I write. So I write the first draft quickly, letting the words flow out. And then, some weeks later, I begin to edit. And edit. And edit.
Is there a fictional character you’d like to meet?
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. It seems to me he could do with a friend – and some relationship advice.
Who’d you like to invite to a fantasy dinner party?
Oliver Queen (the Arrow), James Corden (presenter), Dawn French (comedian), Ed Sheeran (singer), Bear Grylls (adventurer), Kathy Reichs (author), Stephen Fry (actor), Beaker (Muppet). Oh, and we’d better have someone to cook, or we’ll be eating cheese on toast – Gordon Ramsey will add a bit more colour (and volume) to proceedings.
Five pieces of advice for new writers?
1. Explore. Go places, meet people, challenge your assumptions. Thoreau says it best: ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’
2. Read. The single best way to improve your writing is to learn by osmosis, to read and read and read. Not just in your favourite genre; all kinds of books by all kinds of writers. Literary, mass market – even the bad ones have plenty to teach you.
3. Believe. If you don’t have faith in yourself, why should anyone else? You’ve nothing to lose by believing you can write, and everything to gain.
4. Enjoy. Always remember why you want to write – for the sheer love of it. Don’t get bogged down in the business of writing. Love every minute.
5. Keep writing. In his bestselling book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell lays down the 10,000-Hour Rule: to succeed at anything, you need to practise your craft for 10,000 hours. That’s a lot of writing!
Devil and the Deep is the fourth book in my five-book Ceruleans series, and it’s the darkest book yet. The epigraph from William Butler Yeats sets the tone:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
The Ceruleans began life as four discrete ideas that I planned to make into four discrete books. Then one day as I was walking (something I do when I’m looking for inspiration) the ideas knitted together, and from there the overall story arc of the series took form.
There are many inspirations for the book. The story is quite personal to me, based on a mix of experience and fiction woven from my imaginings and ponderings. The setting – in a part of coastal Devon where I spent every summer as a child – was a key inspiration. But the story, about love and loss, light and darkness, good and bad, is based on my own efforts to make sense of a world in which people close to you can die; in which being true to yourself can be incredibly difficult; and in which love – for people, for places, for a way of being, for a passion and an ethos – is the only reason to hold on.
By day, you’re a ghostwriter and editor. How did having this experience help you when writing a novel?
I approach my novel-writing in the same professional manner that I apply to my client work. Plan and research thoroughly. Structure writing time. Get on with the job at hand – no excuses, no procrastination. Meet deadlines. Edit rigorously. Proofread.
The only difference between my commissioned writing and my personal writing is the emotional fallout: much bigger for my own books. Some of the elements of the story are based on personal experiences, and Scarlett and I have certain things in common. Plus, I explore some pretty emotive issues: loss, illness, death, betrayal. None of these make for easy, jolly writing, and some days I felt like I’d been rubbed raw with a cheese grater.
What drew you to the paranormal genre?
I’ve always believed that there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. Anyone who’s fallen in love, held a newborn baby or looked at a rainbow knows there is more to life than what is concrete and definable.
I grew up knowing loss, and I think that is where my belief in there being something more stems from. What child wants to think that someone they love has ceased to exist? Faith is essential.
That said, I don’t write hardcore paranormal fiction. I class my writing as romance, fundamentally, with just an edge of paranormal – the paranormal element isn’t what drives the story; the relationships between characters are at the heart.
Which superpower would you like to have?
All my life my answer to that question was simple: power over life and death. Then, I thought as a kid, I could bring back people I’d lost. But in writing the Ceruleans, I realised that such power brings with it a whole load of responsibility:
• Who would you heal? Who wouldn’t you?
• How far would you go in your healing?
• How would you handle the responsibility of the power?
• How would you carry the secret?
• How would being more than human affect your view of yourself, and others – and, crucially, your relationships?
• Would you use the power only for good – and how do you define good?
Ultimately I think, like my heroine Scarlett, I would struggle to live a carefree existence with that superpower. So these days I’d probably opt for something more fun. Like a Mary Poppins-esque ability to tidy toys from a room and clean up my grass-stained kids with a click of my fingers.
What is your typical writing day like and where do you like to write?
At home I write in my writing room, which has a big desk overlooking the garden. But sometimes I need a change of scene and a bit of a buzz – and coffee! – so I decamp to a local cafe. My favourite writing spot is the arts library on the university campus near my home. The smell of old books there is intoxicating.
When I’m in a writing phase, I write for as many hours as I can around family commitments. I’m an early bird, so I try to start by 7.30 a.m., and I go through solidly until lunch. Then I’ll go back until the school pick-up at 3, and then try to do some editing in the evening. Occasionally, I do a ‘writing binge’. Before my daughter came along I spent every Sunday night for a couple of months at a local hotel, writing from check-in at 2 p.m. until midnight, and then 6 a.m. to checkout at 12. It was a very productive time for me, away from distractions.
What is your favourite word?
Mellifluous – because it means pleasingly smooth and musical to hear and it is pleasingly smooth and musical to hear. Plus, I have fond memories of being the only member of my pub quiz team who could define the word back in my student days.
I’d have to go for three books that mean a lot to me:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker, because when I first read it as a young teenager it was transformational to me.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, because it was my first proper grownup read and it made me want to be a proper grownup writer someday.
Vincent the Vain by Sam Lloyd, because it’s my children’s favourite bedtime story, and every time I read it aloud to them it makes us all smile.
Megan is holding a competition on her blog to celebrate the release of her new novel. It’s running until 7th October. Click here to enter: http://megantayte.com/blog/devil-and-the-deep-release-day-party/
Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess fireman. ‘Write, Megan,’ her grandmother advised. So that’s what she did.
Thirty-odd years later, Megan is a professional writer and published author by day, and an indie novelist by night. Her fiction – young adult romance with soul – recently earned her the SPR’s Independent Woman Author of the Year award.
Megan grew up in the Royal County, a hop, skip and a (very long) jump from Windsor Castle, but these days she makes her home in Robin Hood’s county, Nottinghamshire. She lives with her husband, a proud Scot who occasionally kicks back in a kilt; her son, a budding artist with the soul of a palaeontologist; and her baby daughter, a keen pan-and-spoon drummer who sings in her sleep. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her walking someplace green, reading by the fire, or creating carnage in the kitchen as she pursues her impossible dream: of baking something edible.
You can find Megan online at: