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IRDA Winning Author Megan Montgomery: “I needed to do something brainy. I figured I’d either start researching a novel or start taking pre-reqs for medical school. I was too old for med school…”

Well…That Was Awkward was the winner in the Chick-Lit category of the 2021 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Megan Montgomery.

  1. What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Well…That Was Awkward, Oct. 2020

What’s the book’s first line?

I was elbow-deep in vintage cookie cutters and stacks of pink Pyrex casserole dishes when I realized the Three Harpies of the Chesapeake were arguing about me. That is, me as in “the situation in need of remedy.

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

When antiques restorer Emerson Broome is mistaken for a panhandler by the handsomest man she’s ever seen, it might finally be the time to take a wrecking ball to that gruff exterior she’s built to keep love out, but that heavy equipment slams harder than it looks and she grapples with trusting herself before she can trust love.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

I’m from Calvert County, a peninsula of land between the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay, which is where the book is set. It’s a place I’m always homesick for, but it’s also a unique land of contradictions. It’s a little known area, but with deep roots beginning with its history as a tobacco colony where waterways were used as shipping routes in the colonial era. It is quiet, rural, and almost obscenely nautical, but it’s also less than an hour away from Washington D.C., Annapolis, Baltimore, and Patuxent River Naval Air Station where the Navy houses it’s test pilot school. All my characters and plot points in the book are tied to its setting, including the fighter pilot hero, LCDR John Bergen.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

I set out to write an unlikeable female character, which seemed unusual to chick lit and romance, where readers pretty much demand they like the heroine of the book. Emerson thinks she’s a loner. She’s the owner of an antiques store and refuses to see customers—at the detriment of her business. She’s a little bitter at life, she has full-sleeve tattoos, she’s a die-hard metalhead, and a powerlifter. I made no attempts to soften her edges because she’s the kind of heroine I needed to read. Someone real and gritty, but not for the sake of merely being gritty. She’s not the type to call herself “sassy” because she makes one cute sarcastic comment.

But she’s also a bit unreliable when it comes to herself, and we come to realize she has deep-seated insecurities she’s trying to hide. The thing about distinctive characters is, if they’re well-conceived, they’ll end up being completely relatable to readers whether or not they have outlandish traits.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

Everyone needs a trip after spending a year cooped up because of Covid. Why not travel to costal Maryland with Emerson and John? Awkward really is a great getaway book. It’s a funny, sexy, snarky read with a gooey center. As hard as Emerson is to love (or thinks she is), she loves hard, too. She, and the reader, are really rewarded at the end!

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

I’m not sure about the main characters, but I envisioned old Paul Newman as Hank, the cranky shipwright.

When did you first decide to become an author?

In 2016, I needed to do something brainy. I figured I’d either start researching a novel or start taking pre-reqs for medical school. I was too old for med school so author it was.

Is this the first you’ve written?

This is my second book (the first that I went through an editing process and published). The first was a historical fiction set in the same region. I queried it, but ended up pulling it because the time wasn’t right. It probably needed a lot more work anyway. No wonder no agent picked it up.

What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

I’m a stay at home mom and I do a little freelance developmental and line editing on the side.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

I dedicate about two or three hours, five nights a week to writing. If I’m feeling crunched, I can carve off a few hours during the day sometimes, but its hard to focus when my family’s awake. I need complete silence to work.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?   

The best part about self-publishing is having complete creative control over my work. I don’t write to market. If I even see the market in my windshield, I drive the other direction. It’s not my intention; I just don’t want to write what someone else has already written better. I like books that defy genre, or alternatively, are the absolute best in their genre. My next book is part of my Romantic Comedy of Terrors series featuring women who work in deathcare (forensic pathology, funeral directing, and forensic anthropology). They’re equal parts gory and sexy. But that’s what I like. And I know there are other women out there that want to read about the difficulties of romantic relationships when there’s a corpse in the room. I wouldn’t even bother querying that book to agents because they wouldn’t see a market for it. And there isn’t one. It won’t be easy, but I’ll have to create my own. But a well-written story is more than it’s blood-stained autopsy scalpel, so I’m publishing it anyway. (Fingers-crossed it’s well-written).

The worst is the marketing. I’ve made great connections, even friends, on social media, but even online, I’m an introvert. Putting myself out there is very difficult. Anything involving organization and time-management is also THE WORST! I don’t enjoy those duties and it shows when I’m scrambling because there’s deadline I forgot about.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?  

Yes, with conditions. I love having my own publishing company, Advancing Wolf and would like to one day expand it to publish other authors who are doing cool new things. But for the trajectory I want for my future career as an author, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t need the clout that traditional publishing brings.

Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)

Telling a story and telling it well is the only thing that motivates me to get words on the page again and again. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a fortune if it could buy my family a colonial-era house in Salem, Massachusetts, but it doesn’t drive me to work. (Although maybe that’s a reason to start writing to market…)

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Nora Ephron. She wrote the romcoms we’re all shooting for. You want to live in her films and books. They are sweet but not cloying, and relatably dark but only when you look hard enough. Sally Thorne, Kate Quinn, Amanda Stevens, and Colson Whitehead always awe and inspire me with their writing.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

I love the fresh take on mystery in Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano. Suburban hit-women are my catnip and I’ve had a similar premise in my head for years now. Also, if Mary Roach ever does a follow-up to Stiff, I hope she’ll call me so I can creep around behind her and take notes. I love how her wit and gallows humor never overshadowed her respect for her sensitive subject. I try to keep that in the front of my mind with my own writing.