GETTIN’ LUCKY: Interview with Megan Shepherd, author of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER

madmancoverNEWIn the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

~~~~~

First of all, I want to say that I am in the middle of reading THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER and had incredibly vivid, Mr. Moreau-ish dreams last night. I can’t stop thinking about it, even when I’m unconscious. It’s that kind of book, people. So without further ado, I want to say thank you to Megan Shepherd for dropping by our blog and answering some questions.

Of all the characters you’ve created, who was the most difficult to figure out? Why?

My main character, Juliet Moreau, is the daughter of a notorious surgeon banished for cruel experimentation on animals. She grew up wealthy but her father’s scandal left her poor and orphaned, and at 16, she is struggling to make ends meet. It took me a long time to nail her voice, making her sound both historical and modern. She’s a good person at heart, but she struggles with how cruel the world can be to her, and how much she is like her father. Creating such a complex character took a lot of trial and error!

In THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, you’ve built upon an idea many of us are already familiar with (the island, the experiments, the doctor). Was it nerve-wracking to expand it? Were you ever worried that some readers might be irritated that you’ve taken liberty with the idea?

It’s always challenging to do a spin on a classic. I went about it with the mindset that I wasn’t trying to compete with or replace The Island of Doctor Moreau; rather, I wanted to compliment it. I tried to stay true to the book’s themes, while providing an alternative, original story. Though the general framework is similar, this is uniquely Juliet’s story. And of course, I also wrote this with the hopes that young readers would pick up The Island of Doctor Moreau and revisit the classics.

Do you have any rituals surrounding your writing? Coffee? Music? A specific time and place, or do you write anywhere, anytime?

I’m lucky enough to have a great home office with a desk, sofa, and bookshelves. That’s where I do most of my writing, especially when I’m knee-deep in revisions and need all my charts and post-it notes around me. I’m a big tea drinker, which is one reason why I designed a custom tea blend (it’s called “Sweet Madness”) as giveaways for readers. As far as time of day, I tend to be most creative and productive in the mornings, so that’s when I brainstorm or write first drafts. The afternoons and evenings are more for rewriting and editing. I rarely write at night, but when I do I produce some of my best atmospheric writing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?

I wrote three manuscripts before The Madman’s Daughter, none of which sold. I think the major difference was that I didn’t sufficiently revise any of those other books. I thought “editing” and “revising” meant running spell-check and rearranging a chapter or two. I had no idea what real revising entailed until I wrote The Madman’s Daughter: several times I literally threw the old draft out and started from a fresh page, and then painstakingly analyzed every character, every scene, and ended up tearing the book apart. I think I went through about nine drafts, all of which had major changes.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A zoo keeper! This will probably surprise a lot of people, because The Madman’s Daughter includes several scenes of animals being operated on in a cruel manner. The truth is, I’m a huge animal lover and animal rights advocate. Nothing disturbs me more than animal cruelty, which is precisely why I was able to make those scenes so scary—because they terrified me. As an author, if you don’t feel the emotion you’re trying to elicit, your readers won’t either.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

I went through a dozen title possibilities, but The Madman’s Daughter just felt right. (And my publisher agreed, because they kept the title.) The story is so focused on Juliet that I knew the title should be about her. And because the major conflict in the story is about her relationship with her father, it made sense that she would define herself this way (at least at first), as a madman’s daughter.

What was the most difficult part to write?

Well, the animal experimentation scenes made me queasy, especially all the research I had to do. But the hardest scenes were the action scenes. I just don’t like writing them! It’s very challenging to block out the action and keep the pace fast.

Finally, as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

Well, obviously I’m a big fan of the classics, and that’s mostly what I read as a kid. I think the classic that stuck with me most was LORD OF THE FLIES. I was also a huge fan of Lois Lowry’s THE GIVER, and Orson Scott Card’s ENDER’S GAME. All these books were highly entertaining, but went beyond that to introduce shocking new ideas about the world and our roles in it.

MSH52WEBsized

Megan Shepherd grew up in her family’s independent bookstore in North Carolina. An avid reader and world traveler who spent several years in the Peace Corps, Megan now lives with her husband in Asheville, North Carolina. The Madman’s Daughter is her first novel. You can visit her online at www.meganshepherd.com, her twitter feed, and on Facebook. She is represented by Adams Literary.

Thank you Megan! I am going to return to the book now, because I left off at a critical moment…

Amber Lough lives in Syracuse, NY with an astrophysicist and their two kids, Future CEO and Future Comedian. She spent half her childhood in Japan and the Middle East, but majored in Russian because she likes a challenge. She quit her job in Air Force Intelligence to write, which she’d always wanted to do in the first place. Her Middle Eastern fantasy, THE FIRE WISH, is due from Random House Children’s in Fall 2014.
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