It took not an English degree but rather devotion and an unwavering love of writing for Concord native Meredith Tate’s debut novel Missing Pieces to get published.
It becomes available online March 3 and in bookstores March 14, at which time she’ll celebrate at a Gibson’s Bookstore launch event from 4 to 6 p.m.
At the time of the phone interview, Tate was in St. Louis, where she currently lives with her husband and writes full time, which is kind of a new thing; she earned her psychology undergrad and social work grad degrees at the University of New Hampshire in 2010 and 2012, respectively, and though she always wrote for fun, she never planned to make it a full-time gig.
“I wrote my first novel in college — though it’s in a drawer back in New Hampshire, where it belongs,” Tate said. “Even though writing is always something I did on the side, I never knew I would become a full-time writer. I took a couple classes in college, but I didn’t have a lot of room for electives.”
She finished writing Missing Pieces while working 9 to 5 at a Boston mental health center. Her days were spent in the office, her nights hunched over a computer screen.
“I wrote every day. … I’d wake up at 7, get to work by 9, have dinner, and then write until midnight. Weekends, I’d get up and do the same thing, working at least eight hours a day. My husband was like, ‘Come on, let’s do something!’ It wasn’t really sustainable. I never really did anything else,” Tate said.
But the story was in her head, and it needed to get down. Missing Pieces, which she wrote in 2013, is a dystopian love story about two people whose relationship is tested by a society in which partners are chosen for you. Woven between pages are dark themes — addiction, domestic violence, mental illness — which her job as a social worker may have influenced, but more inspiring were the science fiction and fantasy novels she grew up reading.
After a nudge from her husband to try to get a book contract, Tate sent Missing Pieces to five publishers, forgoing the agent route because many weren’t looking at dystopian books anymore — the market was saturated. In June, she was offered two book contracts. She chose Omnific Publishing, a partner of Simon & Schuster, one of the four largest English-language publishers in the world.
“I was shocked. This was right when we were moving out to St. Louis. We were staying at the Residence Inn when we got the first offer,” Tate said.
When they decided to move to St. Louis, Tate’s plan was, at least at the start, to write full-time, even before the contract.
“I’m so much happier doing this. I enjoy social work, and I think it’s something I will definitely go back into someday, as I love working with people, especially kids and teenagers,” Tate said. “But this never feels like work because I love writing so much. It will be like 7, 8 p.m., and my husband’s like, ‘Are you still working?’ I think that’s the hard part about working for yourself — it forces you to set hours and not do it all the time. I try to be reasonable about it.”
Her favorite parts about writing: pondering “what if?” situations and polishing a finished manuscript. Most recently, she’s been submitting copies of her second book, a young adult sci-fi novel, to publishers, and writing a third young adult fantasy novel. Eventually, she and her husband would like to make their way back to New England — St. Louis barbecue is good, but they even miss the state’s snowfall (“We got two inches, and they canceled school for two days!” she said).
As seen in the February 26, 2015 issue of the Hippo.