Meg Mitchell Moore is the author of three novels, including her latest, The Admissions, which takes a strong look at a family gripped by the pressure to succeed. Emily Liebert, author of When We Fall says, "Moore digs deep into the zeitgeist of a modern family desperate to keep their heads above water. Add in long-hidden secrets, cutthroat college admissions and revolving perspectives and you have an undeniably addictive read." We spoke about the stress families face, creating compelling characters and our motivations and fears.
You wrote very convincingly about both this family and the stress they face from high-stakes living both in terms of their careers and their children's education. What did you learn while writing this book that helps your own family find balance?
First of all, thank you! Second, probably what I've learned the most is how the hard part for us is still coming up, which is scary. My kids are now 12, 10 and 8. I don't think I would have written a book like this if any of my kids were in the thick of college applications. It would have felt too close to home. It seems hard to be a kid these days! There are so many pressures coming from so many different places -- parents, teachers, friends, technology, parents or friends who are using technology to apply more pressure -- that sometimes there's no escape. I hope what I keep in mind as my kids get older is that home and family should provide a refuge wherever possible, not another pressure point.
Some people argue that author inject some of themselves into their characters. Which characters in The Admissions did you relate to or connect with this most? Why? What does it take to write a compelling character?
As far as age, gender, position in the family, etc., certainly I relate to Nora Hawthorne (the mother of the family) the most. In a general sense, I gave Nora some of the worries that plague me or friends who are also parents -- and especially working parents. I definitely exaggerated some of those worries for the sake of a good story, but I believe many of her feelings are very common in today's generation of parents. We all want our kids to do well and be happy, and it's easy to forget that happiness and success are not always the same thing.
I think the most important part of writing compelling characters is empathizing with each one in one way or another, even if it's not the most obvious way. If the character is not your age or your gender or your race or your economic background, what fear or secret desire or weakness does that character have that you either have yourself our can imagine having? Everybody has made mistakes at some point in his or her past; everybody has something they'd rather not have the whole world know about. That's an easy feeling to empathize with.
A big part of this book deals with expectations both internal and external. What do you hope The Admissions says about desire, motivation and our anxieties surrounding success and falling short?
I hope the book makes some readers say, "This is crazy, right? What we're doing for (or to) our kids, or ourselves?" I hope it makes some people say, "Why don't we all just live our lives and let our kids live their lives and laugh or eat ice cream or jump in the ocean instead of worrying so much." I hope it says that it's okay to mess up and fall short sometimes, and that one mistake doesn't negate the possibility of success or happiness.
The Admissions is your third novel. Tell me about your writing and publishing process. What advice do you have for new authors looking to get started in publishing?
I always start with characters and situations. The plot comes later for me. I write a first draft fairly quickly and then spend a long time revising and editing once I have feedback from my agent or editor. Most of my revisions are plot revisions.
Advice: 1. Read, read, read. 2. Be patient with your voice developing. It takes most writers a long time and a lot of trial and error. 3. Don't try to chase a publishing trend because by the time you get there it will be gone. 4. Develop a thick skin, then do whatever you can to make it even thicker. It's a subjective business, which is part of the beauty of it. You will come across people who don't like your work, and if that's going to undo you, think about a different career path.