Today we’re joined by Nancy O’Toole Meservier, author of the Red and Black superhero series as well as the recently released short story collection The Lady of The Watchtower: Six Stories of Magic And Transformation. Keep scrolling to find out more about her inspirations, thoughts on self-publishing, and her writing process. Once you meet the author, be sure to enter the international giveaway for a physical copy of The Lady of the Watchtower!
About the Author
Nancy O’Toole Meservier is a sleep-deprived author, podcaster, blogger, and librarian living in Central Maine. Her work includes The Red and Black Series, a series of superhero fiction, and The Lady of the Watchtower, a collection of fantasy short stories. On her off hours, she spends her time reading, watching anime, and serving as a referee for two prickly cats.
We already have your official bio, now we want to challenge you to describe yourself in ten words or less…Go!
Oooh. That’s a tricky one. How about “Writer, blogger, podcaster, librarian, cat mama, insomniac, and lifelong geek.”
What other jobs have you had besides “author” and what did you love/hate about them?
Right now, I work as a cataloger at a local library, which gives me access to so many great books! Unfortunately, finding time to read them all while juggling a day job and my side projects is impossible. Sometimes I wish I didn’t need to sleep, so I had more time to read.
Before that, I worked as a small-town librarian, which I honestly loved. As the sole staff member in a tiny library, I got to do everything, from ordering books, to running programs, to managing volunteers. The main drawback there was that everything was so limited. The budget was small, the physical space restrictive, and I had to accomplish everything on a twenty-hour workweek. As a result, I didn’t always get to tackle everything I wanted to do. Not to mention a salary that didn’t allow me to pay my bills, never mind fund my self-publishing endeavors!
One other job that’s worth mentioning is right after college, I worked in a call center for a local utility. And let me tell you, it was hell. But one of the benefits of working a job that you’re ill-suited for is it helps you focus on what you want out of a career. I learned that while I need structure during my day, I prefer jobs that allow me the freedom to create that structure and supervise myself. And when you work in an environment that tracks your bathroom breaks, freedom isn’t something you get a lot of.
Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to writing? Is it a particular author or authors, art, history, culture, current events, something else? How have they influenced your work?
Everything inspires me, from the books I’ve read to the anime and movies I watch to the video games I play. But while I think it’s great to get inspiration from other works, it’s essential to draw on real life. I don’t write characters based on one specific person, but I like to pick and choose quirks, hobbies, and faults from myself and the people around me.
For example, I have a fairy tale novella I hope to release next year that retells Beauty and the Beast. After meeting so many practically-minded folks with a passion for gardening, I made my “beauty” character a gardener. And while that sounds like a simple thing, multiple beta readers have remarked that it helped them connect to her more as a character. Since that aspect is based on real people, it’s more genuine.
What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?
As mentioned above, I enjoy work that allows me to create my own structure and self supervise, which is what self-publishing is all about. There is no one there to hold your hand. You are the one who has to set goals and limitations for yourself. And while that can be terrifying, having the freedom to make your own career can be really satisfying.
What drives me nuts is the fact that the competition is crazy! One of the most wonderful things about self-publishing is the fact that anyone can write and publish a book, but that also means that Amazon is filled with so many professional-looking books that your title has to compete against. Add in the fact that I’m not the type of author who can publish a book a month, and it can feel like an impossible challenge just to keep up.
Going back to what I love about self-publishing, one of the aspects that I excel at is creating a routine and sticking to it. I notice a lot of people struggle with just motivating themselves to sit down and write. And while I have days when life gets away from me, the habit of writing each morning is something that I stick to pretty firmly. On the flip side, I often struggle with finding the marketing techniques that work the best for me. From newsletter swaps, to amazon ads, to live streaming, there are hundreds of potential ways to reach readers, but what works varies from person to person. And something that works great one year might fall flat the next.
What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone? How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!
For weekdays, I wake up at 6:15 every morning. I give myself about 45 minutes to get ready, and then 7-8:30 AM is my “writing time.” Most days, that involves sitting down and writing fiction. But in between drafts, I’ll work on blog posts, podcast editing, and tasks that fall on the more business side of writing. The weekends are a little more flexible, but I like to get in extra time for those more business-y items. I keep a spreadsheet of how much time I put in per day and take notes over what I accomplished. This lets me know when I’m falling behind in certain areas.
When it comes to measuring success, I much prefer hours spent writing versus a word count. Sure, when I’m working on the first draft of something, I keep a word count in mind. But since I’m going to take that project through multiple rounds of revisions, tracking by the hour has always made more sense. That and the fact that not everything I do as a writer involves a word count. If I’m spending the afternoon formatting an ebook, wordcount isn’t the best way to measure my progress. As for how many hours I put in a week, that can vary depending on what’s on my plate, but I try and aim for fifteen hours.
If you could set up your perfect writing space what would it look like?
Weirdly enough, I think I do my best from my couch. I’m sure that there are lots of ergonomic issues going on here, but there’s no denying that it’s comfy. This is especially true when the weather is cooperating, and I can crack open the window and let in some fresh air. This is usually just the thing to tempt over one of my cats to keep my company.
I like the idea of an Instagram-worthy, perfectly laid out workspace in theory. But at the end of the day, I just need a comfortable seat in a quiet place. And my laptop, of course!
What do you think makes a good story?
Engaging characters with a powerful why.
Ultimately, I feel like readers come to a book with their own specific sets of wants and needs. Some people want to escape the real world, while others want a fictional lens to help them examine it more critically. Some people want books that make them feel nostalgic for the stories they fell in love with when they were teenagers, while others want to read new and challenging things. Some people like to explore complex worlds in great depth, while others just want a fast-moving plot. Or you could be like me, and it depends on what you’re in the mood for!
But if there’s one thing that draws me in, again and again, it’s a well-written character with clearly defined wants and desires that are somewhat relatable. Caring for that character, and cheering them on in their journey is always enough to get me turning the pages.
When did you first learn that language had power?
Probably when I first learned how to read. I remember learning the basics in Kindergarten and how my teachers would encourage us to write rebus stories, where there would be pictures to stand in for the more complicated words we didn’t know yet. I remember writing quite a few of those and getting these little paper certificates that I’m sure my parents still have in a photo album somewhere.
Learning to read quickly became a way for me to unlock and tell my own stories. And I’ve never looked back.
And finally, name an under-appreciated novel that you love. Let us know why we should check it out.
If you’re willing to accept a novella series, I’d love to draw your attention to Lou Wilham’s Curse series. The first book, The Curse of a Black Cat, is about a prince who struggles with his duty to fall in love and marry a princess. He visits the local witch Gwydion, who he begs to fix him and make it possible for him to fall in love with a woman. Instead, she curses him to live life as a small black cat until he learns to love himself, a task that takes centuries and a handsome sushi chef to complete.
I think what I love about the Curse books is the fact that they combine what I enjoy the most about fairy tale retellings (despite being completely original), but then adds in contemporary romance, which makes things feel fresh and unique. There are two books out now, and I highly recommend both of them.
Enter to win a physical copy of The Lady of the Watchtower by Nancy O’Toole Meservier!
★ International ★