I first met William Meyer (a.k.a. Bill) through an old friend from college, who has the esteemed privilege of being married to him! Bill was about to self-publish his middle grade time travel novel, which he also illustrates, when he shared it with me. I immediately loved THE SECRET OF THE SCARAB BEETLE’s protagonist, shy but brave 11-year-old Horace, and was swept into this time travel adventure where Horace befriends a young King Tut in Ancient Egypt. Bill is a history teacher who is working on his PhD in history, and he had meticulously researched and incorporated the many strange but true connections between Ancient Egypt and modern day Michigan. This book has strong sense of place–something that can be missing from middle grade books–which is why Sleeping Bear, a Michigan-based publisher, was the perfect publisher for this book. The series will continue, further unraveling Michigan’s curious and totally real connections to the past through Horace’s time travel adventures. As a fan of the book, I can’t wait to see where Horace’s adventures take him next!
Here is my interview with Bill:
What inspired you to write THE SECRET OF THE SCARAB BEETLE?
Two things inspired the writing of “The Secret of the Scarab Beetle.” The first was my love for Egypt and the second was my grandfather. I can still remember my grandfather visiting my first grade classroom and sharing a slide presentation from his trip to Egypt the previous year. Ever since that moment, seeing the mummies, the pyramids, and just learning about the mysteries of this ancient land, I was hooked.
What was your favorite part about writing your manuscript?
I really loved getting to know the characters through the writing process and having an opportunity to travel with them across time and space. It was this connection between history and people that brought the story to life for me. In many ways, I discovered the story and mysteries of Egypt alongside Horace and his friends.
What was your least favorite part about writing your manuscript?
Editing. I must have fifty drafts of the manuscript saved on my hard drive and another fifty stored in boxes in the basement. Letting go of pieces of the manuscript that took months to write is never easy, but it is a necessary part of great writing. At one point the book was over 80,000 words in length. In the end it finished at around 40,000, but I think it is a much stronger and fast-paced story for all.
Where and when do you write?
I write best in the morning. Sometimes I’ll do this in a coffee shop, sometimes in a library, but more often than not I’ll just write at the kitchen table. The sooner I get started the better. Many mornings I never make it past my first cup of tea before I find myself grabbing my laptop and becoming engrossed in the writing process.
What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?
How much was rewritten, especially the opening of the manuscript. I spent about six months writing the first five chapters, all of which were reduced to a little over one chapter in the end. It was in the writing process that I had to learn the backstory for myself, but I also realized it wasn’t necessary for the reader to go through all that to fully understand who Horace and his friends were.
Who are some writers who inspire your work?
I love the work of Colin Meloy and Ellis Carson in the “Wildwood Series.” The mix of great writing, world crafting, and art is very inspiring. I also love Stephen King. While he might not be a great match for young readers, his ability to create suspense and drive a narrative is second to none in my opinion.
What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers?
Just go for it. Find a routine and start writing. Don’t worry about the details, getting an agent, or who will publish your book in the end. Those things can be figured out later. There is a momentum to writing, just as I think there is a momentum to life. Catching that wave and bringing the story to life takes a lot of energy and capturing that first wave of excitement and riding it as far as you can is so important. The rest you can leave up to caffeine, and in the end you’ll probably need a lot of caffeine.