Meredith Zeitlin is a writer and voice over artist who lives in Brooklyn with two adorable feline roommates. She also writes a column for Ladygunn Magazine, changes her hair color every few months, and has many fancy pairs of spectacles.
She is the author of Freshman year and other Natural Disasters which is coming out March 1,2012.
Did you put personality traits of yourself, or the people in your life into the characters of your book? Oh, absolutely. Aside from Kelsey (who, let's face it, IS me), many of the characters - particularly Kelsey's friends - have characteristics of people I know. They're like little kaleidoscopes of many of my friends, some of whom I HAVE known since high school! The character of JoJo in particular is based on a single high school pal, but the second part of her story, which changed during the editing process, belongs to another, more recent friend (again, I don't want to give any spoilers, but when you read the book you'll know what I'm talking about). I wanted that part of the story to be really authentic, so this friend and I sat down and figured it out together.
The guys in Kelsey's life are the same - mostly invention, but smatterings of real guys I've known myself. Kelsey's mother is my mother - feel free to ask anyone who knows her. Or just ask her - she'll tell you herself! The Julie Nelson character is loosely based on a junior who tortured me in high school when I was a freshman. The happy ending to that story is that we actually remet as adults and became friends. (And yes, she knows she's in the book. She didn't even remember being horrible to me - in fact, she told me that she was totally insecure and miserable herself most of the time. Which goes to show that, while obviously there's no good reason to be deliberately mean to someone, usually insecurity is to blame. Not sure what the actual solution there is, but it bears thinking about, right?)
Kelsey's freshman year was pretty eventful,was your freshman year anything like hers? My freshman year was both really hard and ultimately really rewarding. I started at a brand new school that year - and it was an all-girls' school, which I was NOT thrilled about. I had to maneuver my way around a totally unfamiliar campus (it was made up of many different buildings and not just one like my old school) and make all new friends, which was especially tricky because many of the girls had been going to school together since they were babies. Suffice it to say, there were rock-solid cliques that had existed for years. And of course I missed my friends from middle school. But I actually ended up loving it - I did make lots of friends, and figure out where to sit at lunch, and got cast in a lead role in the school play, and somehow ended up on the lacrosse team - a sport I'd never even heard of before. (In a related story, I was TERRIBLE at it. But I stuck it out, just like Kelsey does.) Of course, this is me as an adult looking back - at the time I know I was incredibly frustrated much of the time - it's hard to be new. It took a long time for things to be mostly fun instead of mostly terrifying. At the same time, I had this amazing opportunity to start with a clean slate and be whoever I wanted to be. Ironically, I think I stayed pretty much the same as I'd always been. I guess I'm just... me.
Now, I don't want to spoil the book by giving anything away... but I will say this: almost everything that happens to Kelsey in the book is based on experiences from my real life, which happened at about the same time. I am, and have always been, disaster-prone. My freshman year was no exception!
If you could hang out with any fictional character who would it be? Hm, that's a hard one! Aside from the obvious gorgeous guy characters... I think Bridget Jones and I would have a killer night on the town. Unless we spontaneously combusted from too many neurotic thoughts in one place at the same time, of course.
Which of your supporting characters would be perfect for a spin-off or novella and why? I've actually considered doing a spin-off about Travis, Kelsey's little sister. And I haven't ruled it out yet...
What can we expect next from you? I wrote a children's picture book that I'm hoping will find a home soon, and a friend and I wrote a super-creepy horror feature. (So, some pretty different stuff!) I'm also working on another YA novel. It's not a sequel to Freshman Year..., but it takes place in the same world, so you'll see some of the characters again.
In 4 words how would you describe FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS? Book to read now!