Friday, September 30, 2016

Meg Little Reilly

Meg Little Reilly is a writer, environmentalist, crafter, hiker of mountains, swimmer of lakes, and reader of everything.

Before she got serious about writing books, she worked for President Obama as Deputy Associate Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget; and prior to that, as Spokesperson at the U.S. Treasury. She has worked at the Environmental Defense Fund, a couple great consulting firms, and had more political internships than she can count.

Reilly's debut novel is We Are Unprepared.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Novels are a constant in my life. I’m never not reading a novel. Sometimes they’re books that have been recommended or gifted, and other times they’re the only thing I could find at the airport bookstore in a pinch. I thoroughly enjoy the format and pacing of the contemporary novel, but the real test of a good novel for me is whether I’m still thinking about it months later.

A perfect example of this is Christopher Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, which I read several months ago and still can’t get out of my head. This breathtaking debut novel has all the things I love to read and aspire to write: a strong sense of place, a reverence for the natural world, and a consequential issue at its core. It’s a coming-of-age story set in a coal-mining town in Appalachia with a plot that gains momentum if you give it a chance. Best of all, the quirky and beautiful characters in this rural place are rendered with sophistication and respect. As a writer from a rural place who often writes about other rural places, that means a lot to me.

Unlike Scotton’s book, I grabbed Noah Hawley’s just-released Before the Fall at an airport kiosk moments before the doors were about to shut. Now, I won’t be spoiling anything for the reader to share that this is a truly terrible book to purchase as you’re about to board a plane because the plot is based on a horrific plane crash into the Atlantic Ocean. (I would have known this if I had time to read the jacket). However, it is a fantastic read! The writing is fast, the story twisty, and it’s packed with witty observations about contemporary America. Hawley, quite simply, knows how to write a smart page-turner, which I will always have a profound respect for.

In addition to my steady diet of novels, I read a lot of longform magazine writing, which generally includes: everything in The New Yorker each week, and good stuff from The Atlantic, The New Republic, Outside Magazine, Esquire, and more. I will always be a political animal with an interest in pressing issues. Knowing more about the world we live in is a large part of what informs and inspires my fiction writing. I think it’s imperative that fiction writers read the news.

Like anyone, my life is busy and my reading habits wax and wane. But I feel strongly that the only way to be a decent writer is to read more – and better – than I write.
Visit Meg Little Reilly's website.

--Marshal Zeringue