Meriah Crawford is another of my sisters in Broad Universe, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, encouraging, honoring, and celebrating women writers and editors in science fiction, fantasy, horror and other speculative genres.
Meriah Lysistrata Crawford is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a writer, editor, and private investigator. Among her publications are short stories in several genres, essays, poems, a variety of scholarly work, and the co-written novel The Persistence of Dreams, released in 2018. Meriah has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program and a PhD in literature and criticism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Her work as a PI, spanning over fifteen years, has included investigations of shootings, murders, burglaries, insurance fraud, auto accidents, backgrounds, counterfeit merchandise, patent infringement, and missing persons.
Her new book is The Persistence of Dreams:
It is 1636: five years after a West Virginia town from the year 2000 arrived in Germany in a flash of light, altering the course of history. Now, down-time master artist Daniel Block is troubled. No mention or proof of his name or lifework, of which he has long been proud, made it through the Ring of Fire; it’s as if he never existed. What can a talented and proud artist like him do, to make sure this new world remembers him long after he’s gone?
Daniel develops a plan to make himself one of the greatest artists the world has ever known, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to see his dreams fulfilled…even if it means risking himself, his wife, and his children.
Intent on changing his own history, Daniel journeys to Grantville to learn about these Americans and their wild and outrageous art forms. But while there, he runs afoul of the up-timers’ strange attitudes—and the law. What follows upends seventeenth-century art, threatens the emperor, and changes Daniel and his family forever.
Did something in the real world inspire The Persistence of Dreams?
Yes! That’s one of the cool things about working with alternate history. You start with reality and then get creative. The reality my co-author Robert Waters started with is the world of the 1632 series started by Eric Flint. (The basic premise is that a section of West Virginia six miles in diameter is transported from 2000 to 1631 Germany, in the midst of the Thirty Years War.) Then we found a real artist from that era, Daniel Block, and asked ourselves, what happens when a truly talented and ambitious artist learns that even art historians don’t know his name? We were also inspired by a few tiny historical fragments indicating that Block had a difficult life involving drunken fights and fraud, and we added in modern art styles, a tragically fractured family, and political intrigue.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
The first section of the novel finds our artist, Daniel Block, accused of inappropriate behavior with a young woman whose portrait he’s been commissioned to paint. The police are involved after the teenager’s father sees Block’s painting and is horrified—not just by the apparent nudity, but by the bizarre mix of traditional and modern art styles, which he absolutely loathes. Block later sets the damaged painting out by the trash, feeling as though his efforts are failing. Then, through a window, Block sees a neighbor looking at the painting. To his amazement and great pleasure, she’s touched by it and takes it home with her. It’s a small moment, but a lovely one that gives Block much-needed hope that he’s on the right track with his art.
What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?
Co-writing can be anywhere from amazing to a total disaster. I’ve been so pleased at how well Robert and I write together. In some cases, we each take on specific characters who we come to know or like, but for the most part, we simply trade the manuscript back and forth, editing the other’s work and adding two thousand or so words each time. We also take time when we can (which is rarely, since we’re both busy and don’t live very close to each other) to sit down and hash out plot ideas and issues. We typically begin a project with at least some kind of outline. As we go, we sometimes do a bit of battle, but the work is completed faster and in better condition because there are two of us focusing on it. And of course, there’s a lot of research as we go to make sure we’re being as accurate as we can be in reproducing the world of the 1630s in Europe.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
Robert and I won a prize, which we were both very honored to receive, for one of the stories that makes up part of the novel!
What do you have planned next?
I recently submitted an alternate history story set in the late 17th century in England, about a lighthouse builder, a great storm, and the hat-making industry. That story should be out in Those in Peril from Theogony Press in early 2019. I’m also working on a mystery novel (in revisions now), as well as books about point of view and the second person.
You can get a copy of The Persistence of Dreams from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PIsvQQ.
Other places to learn more about Meriah’s work:
Meriah’s Amazon page: https://amzn.to/2PGdmiO