Title: Meet Me in Outer Space
Author: Melinda Grace
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication date: March 12th, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Smart and unflinching, this #OwnVoices debut contemporary novel stars an ambitious college student who refuses to be defined by her central auditory processing disorder.
Edie Kits has a learning disability. Well, not a learning disability exactly, but a disability that impacts her learning. It isn’t visible, it isn’t obvious, and it isn’t something she likes to advertise.
And for three semesters of college, her hard work and perseverance have carried her through. Edie thinks she has her disability under control until she meets her match with a French 102 course and a professor unwilling to help her out.
Edie finds herself caught between getting the help she needs and convincing her professor that she isn’t looking for an easy out. Luckily for Edie, she has an amazing best friend, Serena, who is willing to stitch together a plan to ensure Edie’s success. And then there’s Hudson, the badly dressed but undoubtedly adorable TA in her French class who finds himself pulled into her orbit…
Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, Meet Me in Outer Space is a sweet, heartachingly real story of love and college life by debut author Melinda Grace
1. What does your writing process look like? Do you know the whole story when you start? Or do you just start writing and go with it (seat of the pants writing)? If you plan it out, how do you do that? Outline, notecards, post-it-notes, etc.?
I am absolutely a seat-of-my-pants writer! An idea will pop into my head and I will just start writing. I generally don’t start storyboarding or outlining until final edits...when enough changes cause continuity issues and I need to visually see the storyline. I like to have to first chapter idea and the final chapter idea before I start. Typically I know how the book with start and how it will end. The beginning usually stays the same, the ending tends to change a bit.
One of the things I do that may be unique is that I write all the dialogue first and then go back and fill in the scenery. I like to think of the dialogue as the base coat and then I go back and add the layers of the scene. Location, textures, smells, tastes, colors, etc. All of my first draft chapters are just dialogue and dialogue tags with minimal setting descriptors.
2. Do you edit as you go, or wait till you're finished before you edit? How many times would you say you go over it yourself before having another set of eyes look it over?
I edit as I go. I like to re-read what I’ve most recently written before starting again. I can’t even estimate the amount of times I edit before any of my beta readers get their hands on it.
3. How did being a part of the Swoon Reads program work?
My journey with Swoon Reads started with a google search. I had written a manuscript and started to research publishing. I found a lot about getting an agent, etc and then stumbled upon Swoon Reads. I was a member for several months before gathering the courage to post my first manuscript. The manuscript wasn’t chosen...and neither was my second manuscript. I received so much positivity and constructive criticism that when I decided to post MEET ME IN OUTER SPACE I was simply looking for more of the same. I didn’t expect it to be chosen, mostly because I was already discouraged from two previous denials, and because of the theme and subject matter of the book was completely untouched. I didn’t expect a first-of-its-kind book to be chosen, but it was.
For me it worked in my favor. I made some great friends and writing partners. I got a book contract, obviously. I gained a family with the Swoon Squad. I’ve learned a lot about the industry through my own experience and through the experiences of the other authors.
4. How do you come up with your ideas for your stories?
So much of my writing is inspired by the world around me. Music. Poetry. Other books. TV. Movies. You name it. I wrote MMIOS based on one lyric in a song I’d heard a hundred times before. I have another book that I wrote based on the semi-colon tattoo for survivors of self-harm and suicide. Typically the ideas come in small pieces. Phrases or conversations first, then setting. Often my characters develop based on their conversation. I can picture what the character looks like based on how they talk. The mannerisms I write for them. The tone of voice I hear them speak in. The words I choose for them to use. Sometimes I start with a kernel of an idea and it evolves into something different, but still great. In all honesty, I’m never entirely certain where my characters and story will take me.
5. Since your book has to do with a central auditory processing disorder, or learning disability as some may call it, what kind of research did you have to do to make this story authentic?
For starters, MMIOS is a #OwnVoices story, which means that I share the same disability as Edie, the main character. So much of Edie’s story is my own story, though I wasn’t diagnosed until I was long finished with graduate school. I am a school counselor and throughout my 12 years in this field I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with students with all different types of disabilities. For MMIOS, I reached out to three special people that I knew could contribute to Edie’s character the best:
A former student with CAPD who was diagnosed young. Like Edie, she wore a FM transmitter that she eventually decided she was done with for similar reasons to Edie’s. She was also language exempt in high school and had to take a language other than English for the first time in college. Unlike Edie, my former student attended a college with a stellar Disabilities Services Office and her own strength and self advocacy skills. She is now a special education teacher!
My cousin who was told throughout school that she would never work a “real job” let alone attend college. She attended a college exclusively for students with learning disabilities. A college that understood her strengths and worked with her when she struggled. She has since graduated with a degree and works a job she has always wanted. Her path wasn’t easy, but she achieved anyway. Her disability lies in reading, and despite being a valuable contributor to my book, most likely will not read it. I am advocating for an audio version of MMIOS for this very reason...a book about representing diversity should be available through multiple medias.
My sister’s friend since elementary school, who has a diagnosis of ADHD though more than likely was misdiagnosed, though she is hesitant to self-diagnose, she is quite aware that her symptoms are more typical of someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than ADHD. She stopped taking her ADHD medication in college and hasn’t taken it in years. Her point of view was so important to Edie’s story because her journey was one of true self-reliance and discovery.
All three of these awesome people overcame adversity to reach their goals. Their journeys, while individual, still hold a universal relatability.
6. What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Stay strong. Keep writing. Find a community of writers to befriend. Don’t let people put you down for following your dreams. Know that it takes time...so, so much time.
7. What are your favorite:
I love poetry. I’ve been on a real poetry kick lately, but that could be because I love Amanda Lovelace and everything she touches. I love my fellow Swoon Reads authors. I’m a big fan of contemporary YA. I’ve recently started dipping my toe into graphic novels and have been thrilled with the books I’ve encountered thus far.
Spirited Away. Anything Marvel. Harry Potter, of course. / I don’t watch a ton of TV shows. I like Scrubs, Gilmore Girls, Futurama, Shameless. I just finished The Umbrella Academy and it was fantastic.
All types of music. I always create a playlist for whatever I am writing. Currently, I am at a coffee shop and The Beatles are on and I’m loving it.
When I’m in full writing mode I refer to it as the “writing diet” because I forget to eat. I lost almost 20 lbs writing MMIOS simply because I lose track of time (and space) when I write. I don’t plan eating into my work time, I just sit and start typing away. Even today, for example, I sat down at the coffee shop to answer interview questions at 11:30am and it’s 2:30 pm right now. I haven’t eaten anything. FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not recommend this at all! There have been so many times where I start writing in the morning and don’t look up until it’s dark out. My body doesn’t appreciate it and neither will yours!
However, I ALWAYS need a cup of coffee when I start the writing day. I might drink one sip, or have several cups, but I need to have it within arm’s reach.