It’s getting close to my favorite time of year – spooky season! And I can think of no better way to kick off the beginning of fall than with a story of ghosts, demonic spirits, and an aspiring comedian. I got to chat with author Meredith R. Lyons about her debut novel, Ghost Tamer. We discussed her new novel, ghosts, her experience as an actor, writing advice, and more!
What is the premise of Ghost Tamer?
Raely, an aspiring comedian, is riding the el train back from an open mic with her best friend when it flies off the rails, killing everyone except for her. And now she can suddenly see ghosts. One of them says he's been with her all of her life, but another one is now hell-bent on destroying her and taking her soul.
What inspired this story?
A nightmare! I had an actual nightmare that I was riding the el with my friend, he was critiquing my improv set, and then the train flew off the rails. I woke up before we crashed, but it was one of those dreams that was viscerally terrifying for whatever reason. I had nothing to write at the time, so I decided it might make a good short story. Six months later I had over 97,000 words.
What would you do if you could see ghosts?
I am pretty sure I did see one when I was little, and I didn't do anything but listen to her talk. If I could see ghosts now, I think it would depend on the vibe I got from them. If I felt they were scary or harmful, I'd probably try to pretend I hadn't seen them and get far far away. If they were neutral or friendly, I might ask them questions about where they were from and what they were doing. Basically, what I would do with any living soul.
I know that you have experience as an actor and an audiobook narrator. Have those experiences influenced your writing?
I lead with character and dialogue. Plot and arcs are all secondary. I never thought of this as an offshoot of acting until it was pointed out to me. If I were on stage, my character and how she behaved would be foremost and that would drive how she spoke and interacted. And I just like bantering with people, both onstage and in life, which I think is reflected in my writing.
What was your path to publication?
The one less traveled for sure. Starting with Ghost Tamer, I just began blitzing through books. I wrote four the year after Ghost Tamer was done and I thought each one was an improvement on the last. I did the normal route of agent pitching without getting a lot of traction or even feedback that I could use. I was writing so quickly I was getting impatient. As you know, I was working for CamCat, a small publisher, in the production side and I saw everything they were doing for their authors and how much they cared. They also accepted unagented submissions, so I started looking at other small presses. Since I had so many finished manuscripts, I decided to submit to publishers and agents simultaneously with different pieces. But the other small pubs that were open to submission all fell short of what CamCat was doing. Since I worked there, I had to submit anonymously, so I created a burner Submittable account with a fake persona and background. I had to "forget" to enter my social media handles and I lied and said that my website was "in progress." The only person who knew I had submitted was the editorial director, and that was so she could unmask me in the Acquisitions meeting if they decided to acquire it. I knew that they would at least give me some feedback I could use if I got a rejection or a revise and resubmit. It's the most nerve-wracking submission that I've ever done. I could watch my manuscript going through the back end and see what people were saying about it as if I were a stranger. When Sue called me with the offer, she asked for Rachel Malone, the name I had given. It was so surreal. It's been interesting navigating the back end because we try to treat me like any other author, so I've had to train someone else on some of the layout procedures so that we can bypass me and I keep all author communications to my official author email. If someone accidentally uses my CamCat email, I just forward it to myself.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give on how to write an intriguing thriller?
If you're bored writing it, the reader will be bored reading it. There were times when I thought I had to show how someone got from point A to point B, and sometimes you do, but if you're bored as heck while you're writing it, just skip straight to point B. Phrases like "a few days later" or "the next time I encountered him" were invented for a reason.
Where can people order Ghost Tamer?
So many places! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Audible (for the audiobook), several brick-and-mortor bookstores in Nashville—order by September 18th from Parnassus and you can get a signed copy shipped to you from anywhere—and of course at CamCatBooks.com
Where’s the best place to follow you?
I am most active on Instagram, but you can find me on just about all of the socials with the handle @meredithrlyons. My website is meredithraelyons.com and I would love to have you on my once-a-month newsletter list, or weekly blog. If either of those are your thing, you can sign up on my website.