As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on DebutAuthors19.com.
Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Megan Collins, author of THE WINTER SISTER, releasing from Atria on Feb. 5th, 2019.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
THE WINTER SISTER is an exploration of grief and guilt—how the two can compound each other and how forgiving ourselves can be even more difficult than forgiving others. Though the book begins with the murder of eighteen-year-old Persephone, its story really belongs to the people who loved her: the mother, Annie, who drowned her grief with alcohol until she had nothing left; the sister, Sylvie, who tried to escape her past by lying to her friends and herself along the way; and the boyfriend, Ben, who’s long been suspected of being the one who killed Persephone, even though he swears he’s innocent. Sixteen years after the devastating murder, the lives of these three characters intersect once again, and it’s only then that the truth about what happened to Persephone finally comes out.
Where did you get the idea?
THE WINTER SISTER is inspired by the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter, which has always been my favorite myth because of the many ways in which it can be read—as a story of motherhood, a story of what happens when we refuse to let go of grief, or a story about the effects of trauma. The idea for this book came to me when I wondered what would have happened if Demeter had had another daughter, if Persephone had had a sister, who was left to navigate her childhood in the wake of her mother’s neglect and rage and unending grief over Persephone’s disappearance. Sylvie, the narrator of THE WINTER SISTER, is my answer to that question.
How long did you take to write this book?
It was about two years from the initial outlining of this book to the final revision I made with my agent before it was sent out on submission. But during that time, I took nearly a year-long break, as I got stuck for a while and chose to focus on revising another project instead.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
In a way, I feel like I’ve been researching this book for half my life, ever since I first heard the myth of Persephone, and in all the years since, whenever I’ve re-read it, taught it, or devoured any reimagining or adaptation of it I could find.
What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
When I worked with my agent on this book, our goal was for me to get it down from 135,000 words to under 100,000 in order to tighten the story and improve the pacing. At first, that seemed like such an impossible task because it meant cutting a quarter of the novel, but once I got into a groove, I was trimming down sentences ruthlessly until I was left with prose that was much more muscular and could therefore pack a bigger punch than its previous, more padded version.
Can you share your writing routine?
I have a home office that I write in, and given my teaching schedule, I tend to do most of my writing in the mornings. This works best for me because my mind is fresh, and it means I can spend time at night just decompressing from the day by reading or watching TV.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Megan Collins holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the Coast, Spillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.
Connect with Megan: