“A well written novel,” says Brenda Knight, publisher at Cleis Press, “jumps off the page.” Topic is a lesser concern. “Fully developed characters and storyline sell; a miss-mash of words, as spaghetti noodles flung against a wall to see what sticks, don’t.”
Abigail Ekue, author of “The Darker Side of Lust,” agrees. “‘Chick Lit’” or not, strong characters are most important.” Weak characters tell weak stories. “How characters get along, romantically and otherwise, form the basis of any good story.”
Strong characters, well written, with an eye for detail, paint mental pictures for readers and fire imaginations. “Little thoughtful bits are important,” says Knight. “The colour of a dress; the sharpness of pant pleats or the leaves on picnic table, these are signs of a good story.” The best writers take such little details to the heights.
In the Hacker Series, four books, soon to be five, Meredith Wild echos, well, points made by Knight and Ekue. The story is the tightrope romance of Erica and Blake. The author lingers on the margins as the main characters meet, fall in lust then love and fend off multiple threats.
Meredith Wild is new to writing. In the past eighteen months, she wrote five 70,000-word novels. Four are in the Hacker Series. The other, “On My Knees,” starts the Bridge Series.
“I could not put “Hardwired” down,” says reviewer Janet Dustin. “It’s a good book from a talented writer. I’m [anxious] to get the last book in this series.”
In the first instalment, “Hardwired,” Erica, a moment out of college, needs to fund her fashion website, Clozpin. Blake, a self-made billionaire, an alpha male, a gunslinger, with a few soft spots, is her funding angel. Keeping business and romance separate is tough; both face relentless terrors that push them apart then together.
Author Jina Bacarr says, “The Hacker Series is a pink lipstick romance. That’s a strong story, with some well-timed spice, here and there, before ending happily. Red lipstick romance is spice for the sake of spice,” Bacarr says, “which largely ignores a strong love story.”
Pink lipstick stories push women away from airbrushed centrefold or shrew to strong and free. In the Hacker Series, Erica shows as much resolve, energy and creative autonomy, as does any alpha male, with no sense of overbearing. She has a clear vision for Clozpin. She’s willing to take well-reasoned risks to see it succeed.
The spark for “Hardwired” came after Wild called a big-name Internet CEO for advice. She didn’t know the CEO, nor he her. They talked and afterward, Wild knew how to make her own website a success.
The generosity, of this CEO, gave her the idea for “Hardwired.” The story started as one book, but a series was inevitable. The fifth book and final book in the Hacker Series publishes in fall 2015.
In this interview, Meredith Wild, a nifty pen name, talks of the Hacker Series. How she writes best-selling books while managing a flourishing business and three children.
Grub Street (GS) You have a triptych of books, “Hardwired,” Hardpressed” and “Hardline,” which form the Hacker Series.
Meredith Wild (MW) Yes, each book tells a different story. Each book lays the groundwork for the next book. There’s a fourth book, in the Hacker Series, set for fall 2104, and fifth and final instalment in 2015.
As a reader moves through the series, the characters develop and the story expands. Facts, clues and insights trickle out in each book, with increasingly hot and spicy romance. Each book, to this point, leaves readers wanting more or so it seems.
The main story focuses on Erica Hathaway and Blake Landon. Erica launched Clozpin.com, a fashion website, while in college. Days after college ends, Erica faces a panel of investors; she hopes to land an angel fund investment to make Clozpin an important site and a career, something she can control.
Blake, an alpha male, with a few soft spots, made his billions in software. Rumoured to be an A-list hacker, he now invests in start-ups. He’s on the panel Erica faces and the only member to turn her down.
This sets the basis for different threads, in each book and across the series. The story goes beyond the amatory relations of Erica and Blake. Each book dips further into their back story and personal lives. Erica and Blake work out their baggage and skeletons as they cope with threats to their working lives.
GS There’s an external threat to Erica and Blake.
MW Yes, someone is constantly hacking the Clozpin website, taking it offline; the downtime leads to lost membership sign ups and sales as well as heavy oversight and repair costs. The fourth book in the Hacker Series starts to resolve the mystery behind the terrorising of Erica, Blake and the websites. The fourth book will also delve deeper into the Blake character, his past and so forth.
As the story is through the eyes of Erica, readers don’t yet have a clear view into the backstory on Blake. The fourth book digs into his past, what he feels and is going through. With this information, the story jells and can resolve in book five.
GS In the central thread, which involves Erica and Blake, she struggles to preserve her autonomy. In the Clozpin thread, she’s ostensibly powerless.
MW Yes, I think so. Erica lived her life independently, maybe not by choice. Losing any of her independence, letting someone else call the shots, is scary for her. It takes a great deal for her to yield any of her independence, that autonomy, even to someone she cares for, such as Blake.
When it comes to Clozpin, the enemy is unseen, yet omnipresent. Erica is powerless and not by choice. She is working through her alternatives.
GS How did the story unfold for you?
MW The story roots in my technology business. A mentor, with whom I was working, said a prominent tech CEO would most likely talk with me, offer advice, if I reached out to him. Reluctantly, I did, if only for the adventure of trying.
To my surprise, this CEO made time for me. I e-mailed him, cold, outlining my company and my need for more funding, venture capital and advice. I asked if we could talk on the phone.
He responded in two hours, I think. This CEO is busy; there are endless demands for his time. As for taking my phone call, he said, “Sure, call me in a couple of hours,” and he gave me a private number.
Although petrified, I called him. We had a great conversation; warm, friendly and transparent. We talked of finding venture capital for a startup, such as mine; his advice was on the mark.
The openness, the friendly manner, of this CEO, was unique. He built my confidence, advised me how to find the funding I needed. He didn’t tell me to do exactly this or exactly that. He left it up to me to act or not and how, which was good for me.
It’s rare, if not unheard-of, for a woman to seek angel funding for a startup, especially in high-tech. Not many women walk into a boardroom and make a pitch for venture capital. I heard of women that had done it; some were successful, most weren’t.
I also heard stories similar to Erica and Blake. The CEO that helped me sparked the idea of Blake. The stories of women successfully finding angel funding sparked the idea of Erica. Pushing Erica and Blake together, romantically, was my creative contribution.
This is how the Hacker Series began to percolate. The romantic and amatory relations of Erica and Blake came first. The frame is Erica as a burgeoning entrepreneur and Blake as wealthy, attractive and compelling. How that plays out is the main stories in the Hacker Series.
The persistent hacking of Clozpin and the terrorising of Erica and Blake provide the suspense, which explodes to another angle in book three, “Hardline.”
GS Where do you get your continuing story ideas?
MW Beyond that early spark of an idea, I wanted to explore how a woman and a man connect and get along. The power play angle interested me, as did the hot and spicy romance. I wanted to know how and why a woman, more than a man, I guess, gives up some power, at some point, for romantic involvement.
Is this necessary, I wondered. How would a strong, independent and autonomous woman, such as Erica, handle such circumstances? Would it destroy her? Would it give her more strength?
This is the main thread running through the Hacker Series. Blake obsesses with control. Erica has a feisty, independent nature, with a need for control. Their tug-of-war, how they work it out, is the central theme of the series. That was another of my early ideas.
When I started writing “Hardwired,” it was one book. I had no idea it would turn into a series. Before long, I realised I started too many threads for one book and a series was necessary.
I couldn’t resolve all the threads in one book. I need a second and then a fourth book to flush out the story, fully. Now, I need a fifth book.
GS Will the Hacker Series end with book five.
MW Yes, that’s official, the series will end with book five.
GS What is something about you that would surprise readers?
MW My age, 33, I think, and that I have three children and a great marriage. My family is encouraging.
GS How much of Erica Hathaway, the lead character in the Hacker Series, is you?
MW A great deal, I'd say. When I first started writing “Hardwired,” I was getting to know the characters. I tried to figure them out.
I pretended I was meeting them, face-to-face, for the first time. I wanted to know who they were, what their history was, what drove them, why they are the person they are and so forth. In the beginning, I thought I wanted ready-made concrete characters.
At some point, I gave up searching; it was fruitless. I faced the fact I was Erica, at least work and job wise. I’m not exactly Erica, but she’s a big part of me. In fact, I think I am part of every character I write.
There are qualities in Blake with which I identity with, such as his deliberateness and methodical ways. The same goes for some qualities in Marie and, even, Daniel. There are little pieces of me everywhere, but mostly in Erica.
GS Erica is strong and so are you.
MW Yes, I see myself that way.
GS Erica runs a website called, Clozpin.
MW It’s a website similar to Pinterest. The site focuses on fashion images. There’s sharing and pinning of images and so forth.
At first, I found it difficult to avoid too much tech talk in the Hacker Series. There must be some, but I try to play it down. Outside the high-tech industry, the jargon has little meaning or interest.
GS Pindealz.com is her main competitor.
MW Pindealz is in the same business as Clozpin. The problems Erica experiences with her website, say, hacked and shut down often, she thinks originate at Pindealz. You must wait until the series ends to find out for sure.
GS What’s your favourite word?
MW F**k is my go to word. It has so many uses.
GS What is your least favourite word?
MW Definitely, it’s an adverb. I use it too often in my writing. My editor makes me cut.
GS What was the motivation for Blake Landon?
MW Many readers ask if Blake is Jonathan, my husband. I love my husband. He’s my hero, but our relations are private. My husband is not Blake Landon, in the Hacker Series.
Blake is his own man. As I wrote him, he became his own man. Blake has no template, in particular. He develops as I write.
GS Did you have a physical model for him?
MW No, I didn’t have a physical model for Blake, as some writers do. He built from scratch. I don’t know who would play him in a movie.
GS Blake is not a typical alpha male.
MW No, but he’s not unlike young men in the tech business. They became billionaires on an idea; build up a business and sell it, quickly. The Blake Landon character, as well as the working environment, I describe, are not that far removed from the high-tech world.
GS Blake is a gunslinger, isn't he, a 21st Century gunslinger.
MW Yes, he's obviously confident. He’s tech-smart, logical and analytical, yet practical. He's been through enough that he's not taking any nonsense from anyone. Yet, he’s empathetic, as shown through the angel funding company he runs.
GS Is he supposed to be tough, too, ready to brawl.
MW In a way, I suppose, but not necessarily. I know violence is part of the American male mythos. The Hacker Series is through the eyes of Erica and a brawling Blake is on the sidelines.
Blake wants to do what he wants to do. He doesn’t allow anyone to be disrespectful or limit him. He knows how to get his way, subtly or not.
Blake is not going to roll over for anyone. I don’t think he's tough for the sake of being tough. He has strong philanthropic qualities. A large part of Blake wants to help others. He’s not only about the making money.
GS Blake is a billionaire.
GS It would take a great many mistakes to lose that money.
GS Thus, he can be philanthropic.
MW Exactly, that’s the point I’m trying to make with the character.
GS At first, Blake says, “No,” to investing with Erica and her website, Clozpin.
MW Blake knew his investment board would fund Erica. Right away, he took a personal interest in her. Saying, “No,” was a way of disconnecting her from the investment in Clozpin.
GS Then Blake bankrolls Clozpin and rents an apartment for Erica, in his building.
GS I guess this sets the tension in “Hardline.”
MW Yes, it does. Erica is a strong willed character. To position her character so close, so available, so exposed to Blake, allows him believe he can slowly break her down. As readers will realise, Blake had to take some extreme measures that bordered on stalking, but not in a creepy way.
GS It sets a context for conflict.
MW Yes, without a doubt and fixed the problem of distance between Erica and Blake. I set it up that way, for ready access. Some readers told me it’s too predictable. I think some predictability is fine. In this case, it gives me opportunities to move Erica and Blake, as a couple, forward.
GS Does the apartment, in his building, impinge her autonomy.
MW After “Hardwired” and “Hardpressed,” many readers reported much frustration with the Ericka character, mostly for moving into his apartment building. She’s independent then she’s not, both in the extremes.
At first, readers say they’re frustrated, with Erica, for fighting so hard for her autonomy. Then, there’s as much or more concern she will lose what she won. For “Hardline,” which is book three in the Hacker Series, readers hope she doesn’t lose her hard-won autonomy.
At times, I think, readers wanted to toss their Kindle at the wall. I got a great many comments about her character. Her inconsistencies, which I thought normal for the character, were of notable concern to some readers.
GS Erica and Blake are survivors.
MW Yes, they find themselves in uncomfortable circumstances. Sometimes, the characters and the circumstances cross the line. This is part of the journey.
The characters always land in a place that shows they’ve grown. That’s part of the storyline threading through the Hacker Series. Blake and Erica will find ways to survive.
GS We must wait and see if there's a Hollywood ending or not.
GS What turns you off?
MW Arrogance and negativity; I’m a pull yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going person.
GS What’s your favourite curse word?
GS Was writing a lifelong urge.
MW No, although I have a degree in English, writing was not a life goal, for me. I didn’t plan to become a novelist. I enjoyed writing, always, but never dreamt I’d become a writer.
I’ve run a business for ten years. I have three children and a great marriage. There wasn’t much time to consider writing.
As my children got older, I had more time for me, more time to read. I started reading books similar to what I now write. I found some of the ideas, in these books, problematic.
GS How are these books problematic.
MW Graduating from a college for women, Smith, gender was an obvious concern for me. Running a business, for a decade, also contributed to my concerns about gender relations. I felt a compulsion to write a story where the woman had power and control, say, in business, and how that clashed with her personal life.
GS When did you decide to give writing a try?
MW I started writing, without much seriousness, in spring 2013. I had a few false starts. I began a story, shelved it; then another and shelved it, too. In summer, 2013, I latched on to “Hardwired.”
GS Every book Elmore Leonard started ended differently than he thought.
MW Yes, I know that experience.
GS Is it hard to write amid the distractions of running a business and raising a family.
MW Yes, but early in the evening, say, 7 pm, my distractions are mostly gone or manageable. I get a reprieve from my husband and children. When I write, I write until two, three or four in the morning, depending on how well it’s going.
GS Do you write every day.
MW No, I’m not good at that. I tried to put myself on a schedule. With all that goes on in my home and life, a schedule didn’t work, well. Now, when I’m inspired, I write five thousand words in one sitting, three thousand in another and sometimes forty-seven words.
I usually write in batches. The more I write, on one day, the more I can write the next day and so forth. Yet, I need a break from writing, every few days.
GS It takes you a few days to become inspired, again.
GS What inspires you?
MW I’m a sucker for a good love story. Love inspires my writing. Love drives my work.
GS Do you find writing physically demanding?
MW Yes, I’m crouched over the computer. I lose myself in writing. I don’t realise I need to stretch or stand up for a moment, to relax.
If I write every day, I wear down. My masseuse could tell you of the knots in my back, sometimes. A thorough massage gets me writing, again.
GS What is your favourite indulgence?
GS You write, you said, after hours.
MW Yes, I’ve gradually been able to block out more time from my business and family to write. Still, I can’t sit down at 9:00 am, switch on the computer and start writing. When I write, it’s from early evening until late, late at night.
For me, writing is mostly push and pull. It's a struggle, with my mind, my mood and the story. Thus, writing, I think, is a different experience for me than for many writers.
GS You can departmentalise, well.
MW I must. I’m not sure if I could survive if I didn’t. My world would be chaotic.
As well, I spend much time on the business side of writing. I publish independently, which is similar to running a second business for me. Saying I am an author, having readers read what I write, making my writing accessible for readers, well, that's a business.
GS You’re only the second author to tell me writing is a business.
MW Writing is not part of the business. I must draw a solid line between business and creativity. Telling the story is the best experience; writing exercises and strains my mental ability to the extreme.
Once the creative part completes, the book becomes a business. Book sales, in a way, legitimise the creative part, the writing. The more accepted my writing, that is, the more sales, the greater the urge to write.
GS Positive rewards inspire you.
MW Yes, if I spend the time and energy to write a book, I want it read and that means doing business. Independently publishing a book is an experience beyond writing. Producing an appealing book is satisfying. Marketing and promotion to sell the book can be fun.
GS The new platforms, such as Kindle, intimidate many writers.
MW I understand, but I enjoy controlling the full package, at least so far. Once I finish writing, I’m happy to send the manuscript to my editor and begin designing the graphics. The change is good and I use different skills.
I like taking charge of the quality control in writing, designing and marketing. I’m a bit Type A. I like to micromanage.
Honestly, though, I enjoy doing as much as I can on each book. The business tasks are not a hassle for me. Business success is a creative act, of its own, and can be much fun.
GS What are some of those business tasks?
MW Well, there’s production. After I think I finished a book, I send it to an editor. No writer can edit his or her own work, at least I can’t.
I also have beta readers. After I finish making changes, suggested by the editor, the manuscript goes to a small group of beta readers. I want their general impressions of what works, what doesn’t work and so forth, in the book.
Finally, I send out Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), for final comments. ARCs usually lead to book reviews that publish the day the book comes out. The ARCS are important for getting my books attention and sales.
When a book is ready, editorially, I format it for e-books, such as Kindle and the paperback. I design the cover. I do the accounting, too.
GS Do you keep publishing separate from your main business?
MW There’s not much overlap. My main business has designers and programmers that can help my publishing, as needed. Honestly, there isn’t much overlap; these are separate worlds.
Experience running a business helps most. I understand how all the tees need crossing and eyes dotting, that different tasks need completing for the publishing business to run smoothly. In that sense, my main business is a big help.
I think that for anybody starting a new business it’s scary, intimidating. You learn as you go, if you pay attention. I’m lucky I had the right experience, already, that can guide me.
GS What occupation, other than writing or your web business, would you like to try?
MW That’s easy, Yoga instructor. I love Yoga. I don’t do it enough Yoga, but I’m good at it. It would be great to do Yoga for a living.
GS What occupation would you not like to try?
MW Anything in finance, I’m not a person that gets on well with numbers.
GS How much outlining do you do before you start writing?
MW I don’t outline the story much. I know the turning points before I start to write. I know the high points. Mostly, I let the story flow.
In “Hardwired,” the surprises, the events readers don’t usually see coming, came to me as I was writing. In “Hardpressed” and “Hardline,” those events or moments came to me earlier and earlier. Now, with “On My Knees,” which is part of the Bridge Series, these moments begin arriving before I start writing.
“Hardwired” was my first book. It was a learning experience. I think my original idea was to write a love story, without any suspense. “On My Knees” is likely that love story.
Suspense crept in as I wrote “Hardwired.” Before I knew it, I had three plotlines, the amatory and the suspense, on many levels. Erica and Blake terrorised as well as her website. Erica connecting with her father, Daniel Fitzgerald, discovering he is not what everybody thinks.
GS Are you writing these plot lines separately, in three passes.
MW Yes and no, which is no answer, I know. When the story comes together, I can write the plot lines at the same time; sometimes, I must work each plot line separately.
Integrating strands is easier, I think, the more I write. I try to affect a balance that tilts toward romance. The suspense raises the stakes for the romance, which heightens the suspense.
GS You write fast. “Hardwired” published on 9 December 2013; “Hardpressed” in middle January 2014; “On My Knees” in middle March 2014 and “Hardline” on 14 June 2014. Were you writing the four books at the same time?
MW No, I wrote them sequentially. “On My Knees” was a break from Erica and Blake. I finish one story, take a short break and start the next one.
GS Your books average roughly 70,000 words.
MW Yes, “Hardwired” took about three months to write. My writing became faster with each book. This doesn’t include time for editing, preparing a book for publication and so forth.
There are bursts, when I write, say, five thousand words. There are consecutive days when I don’t write, at all.
GS Your writing is readable, well edited.
MW Thank you, I give much credit to my editor, Helen Hardt. The first manuscript I got back from her, “Hardwired,” devastated me for a while. There were a great many red markings. Yet, I learned much making the changes she suggested.
Hardt works with traditionally published authors and different publishers. She brings much experience to my manuscripts. She’s a successful author, too, with a new series publishing in September 2014.
I give Helen Hardt much credit for my success.
GS How does Hardt edit your manuscripts, detail or large outlines?
MW Mostly, she focuses on the larger outline; content editing. I rely on her to assure consistency, in the story. She tells me about what seems out of place or off kilter.
Hardt is an intense editor. She deletes most of the adverbs, catches dangling modifiers and so forth; increasingly, I’m aware of the grammatical mistakes I’m prone to make. Hardt is always on my shoulder as I write. I rely on her comments.
GS She seems a great editor.
MW Once my back and forth, with Hardt, finishes, the manuscript goes to proofing. A few readers go through the manuscript in search of typos, missed spelling errors and so forth. Yet, no matter how times read, some errors or mistakes slip by. It can be frustrating.
GS As a group who are these early readers?
MW I started a street team, an online grass-roots community of readers. They enjoy my books. They want to help promote the books, spread the word to friends and others as well as enter different contests and promotions, say, to get the word out.
Right now, there are six hundred people in my street team, mostly women. These women read different books in the same area as I write. I can’t ignore these women; they offer good advice and insight.
I send the street team what I call it the quick and dirty versions of my books. The manuscript is mostly a mess. Besides, the storyline could change from honest comments.
In the street team, I found roughly ten beta readers. My beta readers love books. They want to help make every book excellent. Thus, they are not afraid to provide critical comments.
One beta reader sends me up to a dozen typed pages of comments. She gives me her reaction to every part of each book. Other beta readers are better at catching certain inconsistencies or typos.
I want to know if something doesn’t seem right. If it doesn’t seem right to the beta readers, more general readers will feel the same way. I want my books to be worthy of the A-list; my beta readers are important to achieving that goal.
GS You noticeably avoid dumping. Given your likenesses with Erica Hathaway, say, you could have gone on and on about her time at Harvard.
MW Helen Hardt flagged me on dumping, a few times. Yet, it wasn’t a chronic issue with my writing. Hardt said to disclose such information in dialogue. I got away from dumping, quickly.
Dumping is not my style. I like writing, but I don’t like writing for the sake of writing. I want to tell a story. I want people to turn the pages.
I find that when I read a story, with much dumping, I skim. I don’t want people to skim my books; they’ll miss the details and nuances important to the story. I try to write only what is necessary. I want readers to know every paragraph is necessary.
GS When you’re writing, do you go back and forth editing or adjusting.
MW I go back and forth a great deal. This is especially true if I must take a longer break from writing a story, say, a week or more. After a longer break, I restart from the beginning.
When I reach the end of a story, I’ve been through it several times. At this point, I need help refining the story and writing. This is Helen Hardt comes in.
GS What sound or noise do you love?
MW Bagpipes, it arouses a great deal of emotion, in me.
GS Why do you think women are the primary audience for the books?
MW I think my stories are easy reads. This is important and likely not only for women readers. An easy read is a break for the reader.
I read a ton of dense books, as an English major at Smith College. When I graduated, I didn’t want to read Shakespeare or John Milton, again. I had it. For a while, I didn’t want to read much of anything.
GS You needed a break.
MW Yes, then I jumped into running a business. Then I had started having kids.
Anyone that has kids can tell you they don't have time to brush their own hair, let alone sit down with a novel. Besides, I had not read much fiction. I was always reading academic material, which is more than likely to put you to sleep than keep you turning the pages.
I got on the “Twilight” bandwagon, a series by Stephanie Meyer, which started in 2005. It’s a young adult series, easy to read. I found I was whipping through the “Twilight” books.
Yes, I was staying until 4:00 am, reading these books. I was binge reading, fully taken with the “Twilight” series. This got me back into reading, a great deal.
I hadn't read much of anything in so long. I read the entire Twilight series, one book after another. Somehow, I began thinking of readers on the “Fifty Shades of Grey” bandwagon; how they felt the same way about those stories.
Many women that were not readers did read “Fifty Shades.” It and others books like it were easy reads as well as appealing. Thus, these books are more enjoyable. Easy reads are fun.
An easy read is a good alternative to surfing the web or watching television. It also relieves stress. I found I was reading “Fifty Shades” and other stories like it as a way to step out of the everyday world, for a while.
These books sell, well. A great many women must agree with me, amatory stories, which are easy to read, are fun. I decided to try to my hand at writing such books.
GS Does it bother you that some critics call what you write, Mommy Porn?
MW The image such hecklers create is of a mom, with an e-reader and credit card, reading under the bed covers. It’s derogatory. Everyone should read what they want to read, never mind critics and detractors.
If a critic sees pornography as negative, then she or he casts a strong negative light on women that read my books, say. It’s all a matter of opinion. The hot and spicy amatory parts of my stories have depth.
The spicy romance arrives in a context. I don’t suspect many women come to this category of literature, unless there’s a strong context and storyline. Too many critics are easy to condemn, without base.
On social media, some men denigrate this category of literature as perversion. Shaming readers and authors of this literature is not right or correct. There’s too much judgement; it’s baseless.
GS Why don't men read these stories?
MW That's an interesting question. I don’t know, for sure. Romantic comedy movies hold little interest for most men; same for books they read, I guess. When it comes to hot and spicy, women don’t have the alternatives that men do; most women don’t care for naughty purely for the sake of naughtiness, red lipstick stories, as much as men do.
Women need a context. Porn for men seldom has a context. Women are much more interested in hot and spicy when it involves romantic relations. My books are a category of fiction that is not pornographic; porn is mostly from a male perspective because that’s its consumer.
One result of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is more such content aims squarely at women. The Hacker Series gives women an alternative. In a sense, these books, these series, opened a new market.
GS As long as hot and spicy fits the storyline.
MW Yes, I would say so.
GS Men would learn a lot by reading your stories.
MW I know, men should read my books. That's my point.
GS If a man is smart your stories are instruction manuals.
MW Yes, in a way, I write how to stories.
GS Am I being cynical.
MW I don’t think so.
GS You went to Smith College.
MW I did. It’s a relatively small liberal arts college for women, in Northampton, Massachusetts. It’s an A-list school, with a hard-earned reputation.
GS Sylvia Plath went to Smith.
MW Yes, she did.
GS Why did you decide to go to Smith College?
MW I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. I went to a small-town high school. I wanted to move away, gain experience outside my small hometown. One way to do that was through education.
I was an academic, of a sort. I was a nerd, too. I decided that a college for women would be a good opportunity to have a focused education.
When I researched colleges, I focused only on those for women. I decided on Smith College. I think it was good choice for me.
I could be socially intense, at times. Smith was a good experience for me. I think it worked out.
GS Could co-ed colleges provide what you needed.
MW I don't think it would have been impossible. I'm not ruling out that I would have taken a similar course of action, with my career, at a co-ed college, either. Who knows what choices they’re going to make in life or where different circumstances will lead.
There's a feeling, at Smith College, that you won’t fail if you persist. This attitude likely exists at all colleges for women. The faculty convinced us we could work around and beyond barriers and break the glass ceiling. That was a recurring theme at Smith College. That's the resounding mission of many colleges for women, those that exist.
The message is simple: don’t let anyone intimidate or block your path. You leave the school with that outlook. It does help.
I don’t have much to compare Smith College with, but a college for women in New England is a singular experience. By some miracle, I met and married my husband while a student. This is not a typical experience for students at a college for women. I don’t think it happens often.
GS What was your major, at Smith?
GS Has a major in English helped.
MW Yes, I learned a great deal, at Smith. My education exposed me to a wide range of influences. I think my experiences are more helpful than is my education, when it comes to writing a book. There’s no question that my education has its place, in my work; it contributed to whom I am.
I left with a solid education. Smith is arguably one of the most difficult colleges in the United States. You don't cruise through your classes, it's intense and it’s challenging.
The English Department, at Smith College, is a force. Every course was a challenge. They put me to the task. I couldn't mail it in to Smith, as you can at some schools.
The standards at Smith College are fine with me. I learned a great deal. What I experienced, along the way, was great, too.
GS The experiences make the education, not the other way around.
MW Yes, I agree. I’m not sure how my professors would feel about me writing the books I do.
GS I suspect they are proud of you. You’ve done well for someone that only recently began writing.
MW I hope so.
GS What turns you on?
MW Travel, it gets my brain cells going. I like removing myself from the familiar, the taken for granted. Travel makes the world look different. I’m a more prolific writer after travelling
GS You said you’re from the Midwest US.
MW I went to school in western Massachusetts for four years, but I’m from the Middle Western American plains. I’ve lived in Boston for nine years. I grew up in the country, in a small town, in the middle of nowhere.
Yet, Boston felt like home to me, from the moment I arrived. I guess that was one reason it made sense for me to have Boston as the setting for the Hacker Series. The City is a character, too.
Boston is home to Erica. She has a sense of belonging, having roots, in Boston. She feels settled, connected, which is important to the story.
GS There’s a small-city vibe to Boston.
MW Her sense of Boston reflects my own. When I moved to Massachusetts, I had never been here before. The first time I came to Boston, I had a comfortable feeling, a sense of home and belonging.
That feeling hasn’t changed. I feel I am a Bostonian. I don’t feel I’m a Midwesterner, not as much as I once did. I don't have many ties to the Middle West, any more, only my former classmates I have on Facebook.
GS What does Jonathan, your husband, think of your books?
MW Jonathan is encouraging. He was the first person I talked with when I got the idea I wanted to write a hot and spicy book. I was a little nervous to ask him what he thought. Jonathan was all for it.
To his credit, he's always been encouraging of what I want to do. Whether it’s starting a business or writing, Jonathan backs me. He supports all my dreams.
GS You have three children, do they know you write.
MW Yes, they're excited about my writing, such as they understand what I write. They know when I have a new book coming out. The mechanics interest my children the most.
We talk about selling the books, how much books cost to make and how readers can buy my books. I talk of what I like when I design the covers. We talk about how the story and my characters develop and so forth.
My children are burgeoning writers, too. They write their stories. They want to help me. They want me to help them to design a cover for their books. It’s exciting for them. I think, all around, it’s good for them that we’re open about sex.
GS One day, your oldest becomes twelve and understands a bit more about what you’re writing.
MW They'll probably hear about it from a classmate before they hear about it from me. It's something I've considered. I’m confident I can handle the questions, when necessary.
We're not in my little hometown in the Midwest. We’re near Boston, a sophisticated urban city. I'm not raising my children to feel sex is an unapproachable topic. It’s always going to be an open topic of conversation in our house, no matter what.
If nothing else, maybe sex and my writing is a dialogue starter, with my children. I don't feel there's anything of great concern. I do hope their classmates don’t raze them, too much, when the news leaks. Honestly, if anyone knows what I write, it’s most likely because she read my books.
GS There’s always guilty knowledge. The priest must read the book or see the movie before he can legitimately inflict a ban for his congregation.
MW That’s true, but I can deal with whatever issues arise.
GS Do the men and women, with whom you deal in your business, know about your writing.
MW No, I draw a line between my business and my author identity. That's one reason I use a pen name. I have a significant online presence for my business; I don’t want to confuse anybody.
GS How did you come up with the pen name?
MW My husband and I made lists. We made lists of first names and last names. I wanted a smart sounding name.
I didn't want to sound trendy. I wanted to sound smart, but with a traditional name. We searched the web for intelligent names for girls.
We made the lists of names as long as we could. Wild, my nom de plume surname, homages Oscar Wilde, one of my favourite authors, but I slashed the “e.” Meredith Wild seemed a good combination. Nor did I know anyone named Meredith, which might colour my opinion of the name.
GS Are you comfortable writing what you write.
MW Yes, but it took me a while to feel comfortable; to gain confidence in the amatory stories I write. I wouldn't consider myself a prude or repressed, but I did worry about what people were going to think of me. This is especially true, as I have kids; what if someone at their school finds out.
I don’t want to go to Parent Teacher Days and have people say, “She writes dirty books.” Some people are quick to judge. For now, a little privacy goes a long way.
GS This must be true for many writers in your area.
MW Yes, they are private. They keep their writing life away from public view. I understand why.
I was writing in complete secrecy; only my husband and my mother knew until January 2014, when I hit the “USA Today” best-seller list for the first time. Then I finally told some of my family members. They couldn’t believe it.
Once everybody knew what I was writing, I was glad. It was too tedious, too time-consuming and emotionally exhausting, to draw that line any more. This is my life, now.
Writing is a huge part of whom I am. It’s what I do. My writing has changed my life in a great many ways.
I had to get over fretting that I wrote hot and spicy novels. No one has said anything terrible to me. I’m open about what I write.
Mostly, everyone has been encouraging. No one has said she or he has a problem with what I write. I don’t think going public, revealing what I write, affected my writing or life, so far.
I’m comfortable writing hot and steamy scenes. That’s what my readers want to read. Those scenes are part of what I write. I sense I’m adding something important to lives of readers.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” changed the landscape of romance novels. Many women that weren’t reading before are reading now, reading a great deal. I enjoy writing what they want to read.
Women are thinking differently, now, too, about a topic once denied them. They’re more comfortable in their own sexuality. They now have an open, mainstream and acceptable outlet for this steam.
It’s such a huge theme in the lives of men and women. Obviously, pornography is readily available, which leads to a different set of topics. It’s good that quality amatory literature is increasingly available for women; it can enrich their lives.
Readers tell me my stories improve their lives. There isn’t much anyone can say about the topics of my books, my dirty books, that will make me feel bad. I get too much positive comments.
GS What item must you have with you at all times?
MW My iPhone, I must stay in touch, always.
GS Are you writing dirty books.
MW Some people may think so.
GS I wonder if you write suspenseful stories, with the amatory volume turned up.
MW Yes, I think my stories are strong to start. Hot and spicy is part of the story, woven into the storyline, not used for shock or titillation. There are no hard-core or graphic descriptions, I prefer hot, spicy and naughty.
GS Male readers would prefer the hard-core or graphic.
MW Yes, I believe so. I’m writing for women, from the view of women.
GS Do you think you and others may be creating a new category of adult fiction, aimed chiefly at women.
MW Yes, I believe I am; we are. I think “Fifty Shades of Grey” opened the door.
Women were ready. The society was ready. This shows, clearly, in the demand for stories such as I and others write.
Readers whip through my books. I spend three months writing a book, preparing it for publication. The book publishes. In a day or three, I’m receiving e-mails asking for the next instalment.
Readers, especially those using an e-reader, such as Kindle, may panic. The e-readers provide information on the reader is progressing through a book. They notice they’ve read ninety-three per cent, of my story, and they want more, now.
GS That’s good and bad.
MW Yes, readers gobble up these books. They're reading dozens a month, from dozens of different authors. The demand is strong and growing stronger, I think.
This category of literature enables women. It’s not male centric. It’s their own.
Women no longer read male centric literature looking for an iota that appeals to them. This category of stories provides what women want, the way they want it. That is, a good story, with heightened hot and steamy parts.
GS Do you think you, and authors in the same category as you write, are creating the new pulp fiction.
MW There are some likenesses, with the detective pulp fiction, which flourished from the 1920s to the 1950s. There is a rash of new authors, access is easy, the stories fill a void, the demand seems relentless, it’s a new platform. Quality varies, of course, some good and much not so good.
GS What accounts for the variation in quality?
MW Editing, I would say. Writers are their own worst editors; few writers can edit their own work. An outside editor, such as Helen Hardt, is essential for success, regardless of what you write.
GS What’s your favourite piece of clothing?
MW Yoga pants, I have twenty-five pairs.
GS Do you hope to write, full time, and not have the day job.
MW My life changed dramatically, this past year, because of my writing. As we talk, today, it hasn't been a year since I've published the first book. I'm still in shock.
I haven’t worked through everything that's happened, yet. I can’t believe how many people are reading my books and talking about them. I'm in awe when someone tells me how she discovered my books.
I went to my family reunion a couple weeks ago. A cousin, of my husband, said she found out about my writing from my Facebook page. She told all her co-workers; they said, “Oh, yeah, we read those books.”
I enjoy writing. I feel that no matter what, writing is going to be a huge part of my life. I can't say I'll write four or five novels a year, forever, though.
Writing will always be something I do. I'm going to continue to be an author, in some capacity, for the rest of my life. At least, I hope so.
I've worked in my day business for ten years. It's important to me. It's my baby.
I haven't been able to give the day business as much attention, lately, as I wish. Yet, it's still important to me to watch it grow. As well, I have to figure out how to be a superwoman, to do everything.
It's good to have alternatives. When I need a break from writing, I can work my other business and conversely. These are different parts of my life experience.
GS What are you reading right now?
MW I just began “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.” I am behind in my reading.
GS Who are your favourite writers?
MW Some of my favourite writers are Shelly Day, Mia Banks, Ela Frank and Mia Sheridan, for example. I am a big fan of Helen Hardt, my editor. I enjoy some of the writers introduced to me at Smith College, such as Herman Hesse, he wrote “Steppenwolf.”
I still have my Shakespeare text from college. I dip my head into it, occasionally, to tax my brain. I kept my copy of “Beowulf,” too.
GS As well as your own books, is there one book you believe everyone must read?
MW That’s a difficult question. The choices are infinite. Having to choose one, I would say, “If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: and other things your mother never told you,” by Helen Cutrone. This book is inspirational and spiritual.
GS What city could you get lost in for hours to explore?
MW Rio de Janeiro, Latino culture calls to me.
GS What’s your favourite ice cream?
MW Mint chocolate chip – always, since child
GS What is something you like to collect?
MW Art, originals by new artists.
GS Is there something you did, when you began writing, which you now regret.
MW Yes, setting aggressive deadlines, that is, writing deadlines that were too short. I was too ambitious, at first. I pushed too hard to finish, which can be emotionally draining.
GS Thanks so much for your time, Meredith.
MW You’re welcome.
To paraphrase Steven Weinberg, the physicist, the more you know about something or someone, the more it or they seem pointless.
Nicole Ballard (2014) on Good Reads, 21 January.
Janet Dustin (2014) Amazon review published on 22 June.
Steven Weinberg (1993), "The First Three Minutes," published by Basic Books. Second edition.
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Interview edited and condensed for publication.
dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.
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