Interview with Meredith Allard, Author of Down Salem Way
05 Aug 2019
What can you tell us about your new release, Down Salem Way?
Down Salem Way is set around the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. While Down Salem Way is the prequel to the Loving Husband Trilogy, it was written as a stand-alone novel so you don’t need to read the trilogy to understand the story.
In Down Salem Way, we see two of the characters readers love from the Loving Husband Trilogy, James and Elizabeth Wentworth. They are newly married in January 1691 and they are in the process of creating a warm, loving life together. As time passes, the madness of the Salem witch hunts starts to invade their lives. James and Elizabeth try to keep themselves out of the problems, but inevitably they are caught up in the madness. Readers of the Loving Husband Trilogy know that James and Elizabeth form a bond that will transcend time. While Down Salem Way is literary historical fiction, there are paranormal elements such as vampires and witches, and the love story between James and Elizabeth is central, so there’s a little something for everyone.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember—since elementary school, certainly. I was lucky because my teachers frequently told me I was a good writer, so I grew up thinking I was a good writer. At first I thought I’d become a journalist, then I thought I’d become a screenwriter, but I realized that with my interests and skills I was best suited to writing novels. Reading Charles Dickens in college helped me see what kind of novelist I wanted to be—I wanted to write stories that were entire worlds the way Dickens did.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
I’ve read so many books that I’ve loved that it’s hard to narrow it down to five, but I’d have to say my top five are:
1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
3. Leaves of Grass, a collection of poetry by Walt Whitman
4. Beloved by Toni Morrison
5. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I’ve been lucky enough to interview some of my literary idols. I interviewed John Jakes almost twenty years ago, and I’ve also interviewed Jean M. Auel. They were both lovely enough to answer my questions about their writing and researching processes. My favorite response came from John Jakes when I asked him what his next writing project was. He said he had too many ideas for too many books and he’d never live long enough to write all the stories he wanted to. I remember that answer all these years later because I realize how true that is. I also have so many stories I want to write, and I also doubt I’ll get to write them all.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I love that I can take these crazy ideas in my head and share them with others. I love that creative writing is about creating new worlds. One of my favorite parts about being an author is hearing from fans all over the world. Thank the literary gods, but the Loving Husband Trilogy has found a devoted audience all over the world. Connecting with people who have read and loved my books is really a treasure I cannot describe.
What is a typical day like for you?
I find I’m most productive in the morning, so I start my own writing first thing (after coffee, of course). I’m also a freelance writer and editor, so my afternoons are usually taken up with writing and editing for others. It’s a great schedule because it allows me my own creative time to write my own books and articles, but it also allows me time to help others with their writing, which I love.
What scene in Down Salem Way was your favorite to write?
Even though Down Salem Way deals with a difficult subject, the Salem witch hunts, it was a joy to write in many ways. Down Salem Way allowed me to look more closely at James and Elizabeth’s life in Salem during the witch trials. Their time in Salem is touched upon in Her Dear and Loving Husband, the first book in the Loving Husband Trilogy, but there wasn’t space to examine that time in much depth in Her Dear and Loving Husband. In Down Salem Way I was able to step back and see what their life was like in the late 17th century. If I had to pick one scene that I particularly enjoyed writing, it is the scene toward the beginning of the novel where James helps to teach Lizzie how to read and he prompts her to read Anne Bradstreet’s “To My Dear and Loving Husband” on her own. Yes, Bradstreet’s poem is where the title Her Dear and Loving Husband comes from, so there’s an obvious connection between the two books.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I love that quote from Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I’ve found that to be true in my own life. You just have to be brave enough to let your imagination soar.
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