A few months ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Meg Long about her debut novel, Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves. This interview initially published in our first issue of YA Fantasy Magazine.
Below is the full transcript from that conversation. For more author interviews, checkout the latest edition of our magazine.
Meg Long Interview
Hi Meg! Thank you for taking the time to answering a few questions so that our readers can get to know you better.
T.L.: First, let me say congrats on the release of your first novel, Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves. That’s a huge accomplishment and we want to celebrate that with you. Can you tell us a little bit more about the book?
Meg: Hi! Thank you so much for having me! My book is a sci-fi reimagining of the Iditarod dog sled race meets Julie of the Wolves with a bit of Mad Max thrown in.
It’s a survival story about a lonely girl named Sena who lives on a desolate ice world dominated by a once-a-season sled race that took the lives of both her mothers five years ago. Sena will do anything to escape her planet except race.
But when she crosses a notorious gangster, she’s forced to flee with his prized fighting wolf, Iska, and take an offer from a team of scientists who agree to pay her way off-world IF she uses the survival skills her mothers taught her to help them survive the race.
It’s a book about found family and about the bond between a lonely girl and feral wolf as they learn to trust each other in order to survive everything from ice goblins to evil bears and raging blizzards.
T.L.: Awesome. Thank you, I look forward to reading it. It’s on the top of my TBR for debut releases in 2022 and I know several of our members feel the same.
If you don’t mind my asking, amongst all the titles like A BLANK of BLANK and BLANK, yours stands out and is rather unique. How did you come up with it?
Meg: Aw, thanks! It took a lot of brainstorming! When I’m coming up with titles, I make word lists of any and all related words to the book and the plot. So I had long lists of words like ‘ice’ and ‘storm’ and ‘wolves.’
Then, I start playing with sentence structure. I actually started with that exact structure (A __ of ___ and ___) and then just started playing with various patterns off of that. At the same time, I was reading Call of the Wild which has this really beautiful poem in the opening pages and I thought it would be cool if I could include something short and meaningful like that.
The word lists and poem collided in my head and what popped out was the title: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves.
T.L.: What would you say was the hardest part about writing your book? Was it the characters? The worldbuilding? Stringing the plot together? The syntax of writing itself?
Meg: I was really fortunate with this book and the plot sort of wrote itself the more I dug into Call of the Wild and the Iditarod sled race. The survival elements were actually pretty easy to write and research since lots of real people have experienced that.
Instead, the hardest part for me was making sure the character arcs were meaningful and hit all the emotional beats. My editor and I really worked hard on showing Sena’s past with her mothers so readers would understand why she was so reluctant to race and get involved with Iska, the wolf character.
And then towards the climax, where things get really tough for Sena and Iska, those were some of the hardest scenes to write just because I knew they would be really emotional and intense and I’d probably cry. (Which, I did cry and still cry when I read those scenes.)
T.L.: On the other side of the same question, what part of writing came the most naturally to you? Or what was the most enjoyable?
Meg: I think one thing I do really enjoy as a writer is putting my characters through the ringer and making things really tough for them. For this story, it was extra intense since everything is already hard and they’re fighting to survive in the wilderness. In situations like that, there’s always consequences that the characters can’t see yet when they make decisions.
But then I—the evil writer—like to go a level beyond that and brainstorm ways to make each scene even MORE difficult. Throw in more wild animals, make them lose their food supplies, maybe their sled breaks—anything to keep my characters on their toes!
Really, it’s fun to write a story with a strong element like a race because I can really throw anything and everything at the characters, which also makes it so fun and enticing for readers too.
T.L.: While we’re talking about characters, I always find it fascinating to learn how authors craft their characters. What was your inspiration or do you have any fun stories on how you came up with their names or personalities?
Meg: I really wish I could say that someone inspired Sena but truly, she just marched off the page as I started plotting. In the beginning, I didn’t actually have a name for her which is unusual for my process.
All I knew was that she hated her life and wanted to escape her planet. But once the first line came to me—”I’m not one to back down from a fight”—she suddenly jumped off the page, this fully-formed, angry girl who could survive in extreme elements but wasn’t doing a very good job at actually living.
I also love stories with grumpy, loner characters who soften up as they get close to an animal companion so there’s a lot of that in Sena too, which you see the more Iska (who turns out to be a very pushy wolf) forces her way into Sena’s heart.
T.L.: Let’s backup a little bit now and let’s talk about you. Tell us about yourself. Just like Bilbo Baggins was thrust into an adventure, I’d like to know what or who your Gandalf was that started this whole adventure of writing a book in the first place. What is your story?
Meg: When I was young, I actually wanted to draw and write comic books. I loved comics, anime, and manga. That was really my first experience creating characters and building worlds. Then I went to college, got distracted with the idea of working for the State Department and traveling.
After living abroad for a while (and realizing I didn’t want to work for the government, lol), I moved back to the States and got back into reading after my boyfriend bought me a Kindle. I really started getting into YA; this was around 2014 when it started to take off even more as a genre.
I was reading Vampire Academy and Throne of Glass and I marveled at how much I loved these characters and all of the amazing worlds authors were creating. And that sparked something in me and I just…started writing!
It took me a while to get to ‘published author,’ with lots of failed manuscripts and rejections, but writing was something I just couldn’t quit (no matter how hard I tried sometimes! ????)
T.L.: Along those same lines, who is your favorite author? And if you can narrow it down, I’m sure our members would love to know your favorite book as well.
Meg: Ahhh! There’s so many! I do really love the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas. I re-read the first four books of that series frequently. One of my absolute favorite duologies is The Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra (it’s Hindu-inspired science fantasy that is like Dune with bits of Throne of Glass, I devoured it!)
I’ve also made a lot of writer friends over the years who’ve published books that I absolutely love—Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow, Claire Winn’s City of Shattered Glass, and Jessica Lewis’s Bad Witch Burning, just to name a few. And even though I write YA sci-fi, I also love adult fantasies, like For The Wolf by Hannah Whitten and Song of the Forever Rains by EJ Mellow.
T.L.: So, what’s next on the horizon? Is Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves part of a series? Is it a standalone? And what do you plan to write next?
Meg: I am currently working on a companion novel to CTNFTW! It switches up the POV to a different character from Cold the Night, and we get to see a whole new planet with its own dangers and problems too. I also have some other fun science fantasy infused ideas that are currently in the brainstorming stage.
T.L.: If our members wanted to keep in touch with you and stay up to date on your latest news, where can they follow you?
Meg: I am mostly active on Instagram, though I have accounts on Twitter and Tiktok too. My handle for all of them is the same — @heeeyitsmeg. Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk more about books and writing! I also have a monthly newsletter where I talk about thefun, real science that inspires sci-fi plus no-nonsense writing tips and advice.
T.L.: Thank you, Meg, once again for taking the time to answer our questions.
To our readers: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves released Tuesday, January 11th. Order your copy today from wherever you buy your books. You won’t want to miss it.
Looking for more new releases?
Check out this full list of 2022 YA Fantasy Releases you don’t want to miss.