Interview With Author Meg Welch Dendler

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Meg Welch Dendler, and I live in Northwest Arkansas with my family and four cats (currently). I retired after two decades in teaching, mostly reading and language arts, and now work full time as a writer and an editor/proofreader for other authors. I currently have ten books out in the world. Folks call me the Cat Book Lady because of my Cats in the Mirror alien rescue cat series for middle grade readers: Why Kimba Saved The World, Vacation Hiro, Miss Fatty Cat’s Revenge, Slinky Steps Out, and Kimba’s Christmas. There are also two companion dog-themed books: Max’s Wild Night and Dottie’s Daring Day. Outside of that series, I also have Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess for young readers, and two novels for adult readers: At the Corner of Magnetic and Main and The Tigran Chronicles, which just came out in October of 2020. Why Kimba Saved The World won a Bronze Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, and Bianca was honored with Best Juvenile Book of the Year from the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation (OWFI).

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

The Cats in the Mirror books are all based partially on our own family of rescue cats and dogs, though they never actually go to space—as far as I know. At the Corner of Magnetic and Main was inspired by our years living in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where the story is set. The Tigran Chronicles was definitely inspired by my volunteer work at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and what I learned about tigers in captivity (often in backyards) in America and the horrors of cub petting and what that industry does with grown tigers who can no longer make them a profit.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

That’s hard to answer because I think it has always been a part of me. From as early as I can remember, I’ve made up games and stories. My brother and sisters were over a decade older than me, so I was usually on my own for entertainment. We didn’t have hundreds of channels or TV for kids during the day! I wrote the first version of Bianca’s story in 5th grade as a picture book. I love storytelling—in books and movies and TV shows—and I think that’s just inherent in my nature. It’s delightful that I have had career that let me nurture that creativity, both in teaching and in writing.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I’m not sure I believe in writer’s block. There are always going to be moments when you are not sure what comes next in a story or feel unenthused about a specific project, but if you just sit down and plug along, good things will come out of it. That’s why I usually have a few different books at different stages but all in process. If one is frustrating me, I move on to another for that day. As with any job, you are not always going to be raring to go. Some days you just have to slog along. But you always need to keep working. There are millions of good ideas for what to write. Turn off the distractions and just write something, even if it’s nonsense. You might find a spark in it that you weren’t expecting.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

I work as an editor, so I get to learn from other authors and their mistakes as well. Having a time line that doesn’t work, spending chapters on side plots or characters that don’t drive the story forward, making leaps in the plot that the reader doesn’t believe—there is really no end to the errors you can make. Have MANY people read the book for you and tell you where you’ve missed the mark. Have professional editors help you along the way. I recently read a book that was at the top of everyone’s list, by a well-versed author, but at the big ending climax she had the bad guy character make odd leaps in judgment and reactions that didn’t make sense. It ruined the book for me. I guess one of the biggest mistakes you can make is forcing a plot to go where you want it to and losing the reader along the way.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

Unless you have excellent skills, hire a cover designer. Covers are VITAL! It is the first thing that will draw a reader to your book. I have worked with two different designers, and they always take my general ideas to a wonderful new level. Titles can be hard. For most of my books, I had the title ahead of time and the title was actually what helped form the book. Miss Fatty Cat’s Revenge is a favorite when I do in-person events. But then The Tigran Chronicles was a last-minute creation. I had another title up until the first draft of the cover, but then we realized it sounded and looked like a documentary about tigers and would be confusing to readers. Both your titles and your covers need to send a crystal clear message as to what the book is about and who would enjoy it. Lots of research may need to go into making those decisions, but it is worth every minute.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

First, of course they affect me. No one likes a bad review, but you can learn from them as long as they are not just weird. I’ve had bad reviews where potential readers clearly didn’t read the book but felt the need to leave a review anyhow. One favorite was a review that said Why Kimba Saved The World was just about my cats and their lives. Now I don’t know what her cats are up to, but mine are not really talking to alien cats in the mirror and going into space. She clearly hadn’t ready past the first chapter or two. You’re never going to make everyone happy. I do look at all of my reviews and consider what is said in the negative ones, and negative things can be said in the middle of decent reviews as well. You have to consider if you agree or feel that suggestion is a direction you should have gone instead. I have yet to read one that made me regret what I wrote or change my mind, so I guess that’s good.

# Do you tend toward personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I try to follow the story where it leads, but especially when writing for young readers, you have to balance vocabulary and plot to meet them where they are. The first draft is just whatever comes out of my fingers. I do edit as I go to some extent, but I let the story run. Editing is when you have to ask if you are speaking clearly to someone else who encounters the story. Writing is very personal, but if you want to publish the book, you do need to consider the reader to some extent and meet the expectation of the genre or age group, though many writers have become famous for bucking all the rules and doing whatever they want. I aim for a bit more balance between my idea of the story and what I think the reader needs.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

Well, if you’re not hitting on any emotions, you are probably not writing anything very interesting. As the saying goes: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I never made it through writing or editing the ending of At the Corner of Magnetic and Main without crying. It was exhausting! But it doesn’t have to be tears specifically. Readers want excitement, drama, tears, laughs, all those things that make life interesting. The story has got to hit on some of it.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

I wish I did! Reading excellent books is a good way to get the juices flowing. I’m not sure you can teach creativity, but you can encourage it and develop it.

# What are your plans for future books?

I have several picture books that I would love to see published, but that is an over-saturated market right now. I have zero drawing skills, so it would be complicated to self-publish them. Their future is currently unsure. I have another Cats in the Mirror book in process, as well as a sequel to Bianca that my critique group is working their way through currently. For the adult market, I’m also slogging my way through a memoir of our years running a guesthouse in Eureka Springs. I publish at least one book a year, so at some point in early 2021, one of those books will rise to the surface and claim supremacy. Then it will get my full attention and preparation for sharing with the world.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.

I definitely fall into the feline aficionado category. I’m fascinated with cats, big and small. And I can’t stand coffee in any form. Tea for me. That is considered bizarre in the writer world, but tea keeps me nicely inspired. Also, my office is filled with small and large stuffed toys, mostly Disney or cat related. I worked one summer at a Disney Outlet store and started collecting them. It has gotten way out of hand! But they make me smile, so what’s the harm?

You can find Meg and her books at:

https://megdendler.com

http://megdendler.blogspot.com

https://www.amazon.com/Meg-Dendler/e/B00BBNY5O2