Megan Miranda’s first book, “Fracture,” was inspired by questions about how the brain works. Her second book, “Hysteria,” grew from a few places, including a “what if …” thought that Megan got carried away with.
“Hysteria” follows Mallory, a teen who killed her boyfriend but can’t remember the details. Even without her first-hand account, it’s clear to investigators that Mallory acted in self-defense. Mallory should be able to move on, but she can’t. There’s a presence haunting her, and she can’t tell if it’s inside her head or if it’s something more. So when Mallory is offered the chance to attend a fancy prep school far from her home and her past, she takes it. The problem is, secrets have a way of following you no matter where you go.
“I already had the idea for Mallory — a girl who couldn’t be charged for killing her boyfriend,” Megan told Cracking the Cover. “I was looking into stories about memories and hauntings, and I got carried away thinking about all the things that can haunt, and in all the ways those things can haunt.”
Because of those haunting elements, “Hysteria” has a supernatural feel to it, even though it’s not really in that genre. Creating that atmosphere is something Megan is proud of.
“I like to think about it like ‘The X-Files,’ which was my favorite show when I was a teen,” the author explained. “The thing I loved most was the dichotomy of the two main characters. One would always see the rational explanation, because she was a person of science. The other would see the paranormal or supernatural possibilities first, because his past predisposed him to that. It’s kind of a case of ‘you see what you want to see.’ I love stories that fall on that line, and I did make an effort to walk that line.”
Creating the tension that goes along with that feel is something Megan focused on a lot during the revision process.
“I usually do a gut-check on read-through every few pages, asking myself if there’s some sort of tension (which can be the scary-ominous tension, but also romantic tension or internal-character tension),” she said. “If there’s not any, I ask myself what the purpose of the scene is, and whether it furthers the story as is. Since Mallory feels unsettled through a lot of the book, I think it’s important for the reader to share in that feeling as much as possible. So I tried to filter everything — descriptions, conversations — through the mind of someone who is already on edge.”
“Hysteria” isn’t the book Megan first set out to write. Megan says it differs a lot because she’s usually unable to think of the “big idea” before she starts writing.
“My original idea had a girl who couldn’t be charged for killing her boyfriend, and she believed she was being stalked, or maybe haunted… but that’s as far as it went,” Megan said. “The psychological elements were not part of the initial idea. Nor was the idea of having the past and present story lines coming together at some point.”
Now that Megan has completed her second book, she feels like things are starting to fall into place. She’s become more accustomed to the process, but every project feels exactly the same way as the first.
“I have moments where I’m sure I have no idea what I’m doing,” she said.” I have moments of doubt. I have discarded drafts because I went in the totally wrong direction. But I’ve also come to accept that those are all normal parts of my process.”
Megan thinks young readers are drawn to her books for the same reason they appeal to her when she writes them. “When I was younger (actually, afterwards, too), I was drawn to stories that dealt with questions about mortality and the way people’s lives affect one another,” she said.” As a writer, I’m drawn to them as well, and I channel a lot of those questions into my writing. I also love thrillers, so I hope it’s the combination of the two that makes them appealing.”
*Read the complete transcript of Megan Miranda’s interview with Cracking the Cover.
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