Andy Meisenheimer is in his seventh year at Zondervan, his tenth year of marriage, his third year of fatherhood, and his first year playing in the band Group Dancing for Dutch People, an accordion duo cover band he co-founded with band member Jim Kast-Keat. Andy lives with his best-friend-and-muse Mandy and their three-year-old cutest-little-boy-in-the-world near Grand Rapids, MI. They are the best part of his life.
It’s one thing to hold a finished novel in your hand, but something else to see a book idea come across your desk. What went through your mind when you were first presented with the idea for Daisy Chain and how did you know this was a book Zondervan should publish?
Actually, the trilogy was pitched to me by Mary in person. I met her at a writer’s conference, and we ended up sitting at a meal together with a bunch of industry professionals, and she told the group that her next idea was three books about how one tragedy changes three different lives. Each book would be from one character’s perspective. So immediately I thought, boy, that could be really good. And frankly, I think I was right. I’ve read the whole trilogy now, and I think Mary has pulled off exactly that–one tragedy. Three changed lives.
Who was your favorite character in Daisy Chain? Did anyone make you laugh out loud? Make you cry? Lose sleep at night?
Now you’re testing my memory, see if I can think just of the first book. I tell ya what, the very first moment you meet Hixon, that’s one of my favorite of that book. It’s so creepy and mysterious. But I think the real shining character is Daisy herself. There just couldn’t be enough of Jed remembering Daisy. But I think that’s because I like the paradox of every Daisy flashback–you get this idyllic image that’s browned at the edges because she’s gone. I feel like every character Mary creates has that tension, and that’s what makes them interesting. It’s not just flawed characters, but contradictory characters. Even Hap for the briefest of moments, if you can detach yourself from Jed’s perspective, has glimmers of humanity.
Time for a little Mary DeMuth trivia. What quirks come out in her during the editorial process? Does she chew her fingernails? O.D. on chocolate? Throw herself across the bed and cry for three days? Do tell.
Yeah, you know, whatever she does, she doesn’t necessarily do it in front of her editor. And being edited is a terribly intrusive process that requires no small amount of humility on the writer’s part. Whatever Mary might do for the first three days (and I really don’t know), the important part is that she wants to grow as a writer, and so in the end, she emerges as a good writer should–with respect for the process and willingness to accept me as a co-laborer for the book. Just to be clear, the same thing happens when as an editor–whatever I might do for the first three days of editing a book (and she really doesn’t know), I’ve got to be willing to be wrong, to grow, and to be humbled myself. Good editing is not about “fixing” things, it’s about challenging an author to think even deeper and consider wider possibilities than they ever have before.
We know that you are a well-respected editor, but we also have it under good authority that you are a very talented musician. What are the creative similarities between literature and music? How does one strengthen the other?
There’s actually a lot of similarities. My primary instrument is the piano–I grew up training in classical music, tried to learn jazz in high school, played as an accompanist and theater musician in college, and since then have found creative expression through playing in a band at church. I find different satisfaction (and different levels of difficulty) in each one–and I find that I enjoy them most the more I try to learn about them. But I’ve come to grips with my huge inability to really play jazz well–and my ability to play really cheesy church music well. But I always am trying to grow in both, and I recognize that some people think my jazz sounds good and my cheesy church music speaks to them. There’s all sorts of correlations there with literature, but the one that’s most important for me not as creator, but as consumer, is that I don’t understand everything. There are genres that I’m just learning to appreciate, and I have to approach them with a learning spirit. And there are genres in which I can be more discerning, because I am familiar with them. And then there’s the stuff I just don’t get. So when I’m reading something, most likely I tend to let go and enjoy the ride. Though I really believe in the craft of writing and that good writing makes a difference, on the other hand, nothing is perfect and nothing will satisfy everyone, so as consumers I encourage people to seek better books but also to enjoy the book they are reading if they can. You never know where a book will take you–just like you never know where a song will take you. And there’s always new frontiers to explore, even if you end up saying “this just doesn’t work for me,” at least you’ve given it a shot.
Book Two in the Defiance Texas Trilogy, A Slow Burn, releases October 1st from Zondervan. What can readers expect from Mary’s second installment?
A really good book. The middle book of a trilogy can be a difficult thing as a reader–you’re getting the middle of a story. But remember that this is the story of one tragedy, three changed lives. A Slow Burn gives you another changed life–maybe even two. So expect more of Mary’s signature writing and a larger view of the town of Defiance, TX. You haven’t met everyone yet.
Thanks for hanging with us today. We’re big Mary DeMuth fans around here and it’s been fun getting to know her a little better through you.