Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Megan Chance

Megan Chance is the bestselling, critically acclaimed author of several novels. Her books have been picks for Amazon Book of the Month, IndieNext, and the Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice. Booklist calls her writing “provocative and haunting.”

Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Her new novel is A Splendid Ruin.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think it does a lot of work. The two words are nearly an oxymoron: ruin has a negative connotation, certainly, and splendid a positive one, so how is it possible to have a splendid ruin? But in fact, May, the protagonist in the book, has exactly that, and I think the title leads you into anticipating a journey through hell but with a positive outcome. The original title for the book was Poor Relations, which I liked because it had a double meaning, not just in the fact that May, in coming to her aunt’s house in San Francisco after her mother’s death, was a poor relation, but also because the relationships between all the characters in the book were so fraught with misunderstandings, lies and secrets. But the editorial team at my publisher wanted something different, and we spent months tossing things about until we came up with A Splendid Ruin, which I think now is a perfect title for it.

What's in a name?

I chose May’s name as a deliberate homage to Edith Wharton, and her novel The Age of Innocence. In that novel, May Welland is an innocent debutante who marries Newland Archer, a man who eventually betrays her. But May is a complex character, and she grows into a strong woman with a compelling depth by the end of the novel. I wanted my May to be that kind of woman as well, and I wanted the naivete and eventual strength of May in Wharton’s book to lend her spirit to my May.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Not at all. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was very young. I wrote stories and novels all through my teenage years. I loved historical fiction, and I loved stories with darker themes and romance and adventure. A Splendid Ruin checks every box I loved as a teenage reader.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings. Generally I try not to think about them too much, and I just plunge in, knowing I can change them later, which I almost always do. Endings often come to me in a wild burst of inspiration—especially last lines. I may tweak them, but I rarely change them too much.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I think all characters have a bit of me in them, or at least they draw on something I know or have felt before. Some of them have a very strong connection to my personality, and others don’t have much of one at all. But they all come from some central point of understanding that I have about human nature. My goal in writing a character is to get deep within their skin; that means I have to understand and empathize with them. In that way, I have to feel some kind of connection.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

So many things. Movies and television shows and music certainly. I also think that the years I spent working in TV news had a very deep impact. In news you’re constantly seeing both the best and the worst moments in peoples’ lives, and you’re also seeing the consequences of decisions people make every day, and so yes, I think that’s influenced my writing in ways that may still be lurking in my subconscious. Also, I have an incredibly interesting family, and some fascinating friends, and they have certainly been very influential.
Visit Megan Chance's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Splendid Ruin.

The Page 69 Test: A Splendid Ruin.

--Marshal Zeringue