Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I am Margaret Meloni, author of Carpooling with Death: How living with death will make you stronger, wiser and fearless.
Now, don’t run away. Yes, this is a book about death. But it is a book about making friends with death. About becoming comfortable with the role that death plays in our lives. Spoiler alert, nobody gets out of this alive. This is part memoir/part self-help and all about acting as your friend and guide as you deal with your own experiences around death, and grief.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
CarPooling with Death covers my journey to accept death as a part of life, the guidance I found through my Buddhist practice and the clarity I gained in understanding where to find support and how to recreate my new life.
The story is about how I reached a certain point in my life and I began to realize that the people I loved would die. And that it was going to be very difficult for me to say goodbye to the people who were the most important in my life. Ready or not, it was going to come. And it did come, Carpooling with Death tells the story of the deaths of my parents and my husband, and my journey through love, loss, grief and creating a new life.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
There are two major sources of inspiration that pushed me to keep moving forward:
1) As a tribute to my parents and husband
2) The realization that so many of us are really ill-prepared for death. As I navigated the loss of my family members, it became clear to me that so many of the people around me were really not able to deal with the concept of death, or how to deal with me and I saw that at least in society as I know it, we just do not have enough good conversations around death.
How do you deal with creative block?
Baking! Some how baking cookies helps me when I( have a block. And then the good news is that exercise also helps me. Fortunately the exercise balances out the cookies. At least that’s the story I am sticking with!
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Probably not listening to your editor. I was part of a writers group, and we read one another books. I began to be able to tell when someone did not work with their editor. I get it, we want to rage against the process. How could this impersonal, analytical person understand my story? Well my editor made my story so much better.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Well, for a book about death, that you want to be accessible, and not scary, it was important to capture a spirit of light heartedness. Yes, I said it. Being light hearted about death. And since I start the book off by introducing the Grim Reaper as a character in my life, he needed to be on the cover. With these thoughts in mind, my graphic artist was able to create something that had a pop art cartoonish feel to it. And it was perfect for what I was trying to convey. I think it is about having a sense of what you want your cover to communicate to your readers.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I have learned to make writing an important part of my work day, and to commit to writing every day. I shoot for about 500 words. Sometimes I accomplish more, sometimes less. But for me, the key is to acknowledge that writing is important to me, and it is not something I do on the side. It is now part of who I am as a professional.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The best thing was the day that I had a manuscript, ready for editing. This was a first for me, and I had never been able to say something like, “My book manuscript is with my editor.” That was fun! And it definitely helped me realize that I was really going to publish a book.
The worst thing was when one of my colleagues had a melt down over the idea of my book. We had been discussing it off and on for months. One day at the end of a phone call he blurted out, “Why don’t you just stop this nonsense about death, and move on and get over it and get remarried like ….” And in that moment I was deeply hurt. Later I realized that this was about his discomfort with the subject of death. It was difficult, but a terrific learning experience. I understood that some people were not going to be open to discussing death, or to the possibility that being open about death can lead to happiness.
What are your plans for future books?
Right now, it looks like my next work could be more of an academic text. I just completed my PhD and dissertation, and I would really like to publish it. It is a work on compassion and the spread of early Buddhism. Using maps and social networks to illustrate how Buddhism grew.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
Hmm, I sleep hanging upside down like a bat. NOT REALLY. I enjoy reading, cooking, kayaking and paddle boarding.
I have two cats who teach me humility and subservience every day!