Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I’m Merren Tait, debut author of humorous novels with a dash of romance and a liberal pinch of kick-arse women. The Year of the Fox is my first novel.
It’s taken me a number of decades to realise my creative passion, but after studying literature, teaching literature, and sharing the love of it as a librarian, I figure it had only been a matter of time before the author within burst out. The Year of the Fox is what happened after a year of feverish writing in my spare time. I am currently drafting my second Good Life novel, The Songbird Plot.
The chick lit genre is one I discovered relatively recently after laying aside my literary snobbery (I credit my reading group and Janet Evanovich for turning me). I love an entertaining chick lit book, and while I enjoy reading lighter ones, I tend to make my novels as meaningful as they are funny.
I grew up in Motueka, a small town at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, where I learned to love the roar of nature. I am of Scottish, English, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Irish and German descent.
I now live in a small house on a large block of land near Raglan. When I’m not working, writing or reading, I spend my time looking after my many chickens and a pair of wayward sheep, or out on my stand up paddle board. I dream of having more time to do everything I love.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
The Year of the Fox is the novel I have just published. It was inspired by a year I spent in a bus on a large piece of land. I had some pretty fun and interesting adventures while I tried to establish a homestead and raise barnyard animals for the first time.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I work full time, so I tend to start my day very early – 5am! That way I can get an hour and a half writing time before work, which works well for me; my brain is most creative in the morning. It does mean I’m a bit of a grandma in the evening. My bedtime is between 8.30pm and 9pm.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I studied literature at university and taught it for years, so I have a good grounding in literary fiction. However, it has been commercial fiction that has influenced me most in my writing. And I say that loudly and proudly. Where I come from, there’s quite a lot of snobbery in our writing culture.
I was first exposed to the joys of chick lit through Sophie Kinsella’s I’ve Got Your Number (thank you, Sophie) and then I discovered the wonder and joy of stupid humour in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. She allowed me to be confident in bold humour that has an element of the ridiculous about it. I secretly love Janet. Michelle Holman, a New Zealand author, exposed me to saucy chick lit. I couldn’t get enough of it, and read her stories back-to-back. I think elements of all three writers sneak into my writing, but particularly the last two.
What are you working on now?
A Good Life novella and the second novel in The Good Life series, called The Songbird Plot. All the stories in the Good Life series are stand alone, and while I’m sad to leave the characters of The Year of the Fox behind, I’m having a ball discovering the new ones in my next stories.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m still very new at promotion and marketing and am learning a lot as I go along. I think it will take me a couple of years of trial and error to be able to answer that one definitively, but from what I understand Facebook Ads and Amazon Ads are the best way to advertise – arguably better than Bookbub.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Don’t compromise too much on what you want to write in order to tailor your work to ‘the market’. Literary trends and fads change, and the bottom line is that if you want to be successful, you have to enjoy what you write – it has drive you each day, especially if you’re working it around work and family commitments. If it feels like a chore, or you’re forcing words onto the page, the readers won’t like it either.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Get professional feedback. Hire a manuscript assessor or a developmental editor and send them the first revised draft of whatever you’re working on. It will change your life!
What are you reading now?
I am reading two things: a graphic novel called Heimat by Nora Krug about German cultural displacement and collective shame a couple of generations after WWII. It’s fascinating: and I’ve just picked up Casey McQuinton’s chick lit novel Red, White and Royal Blue because it seems wonderfully subversive. The hook is “What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with The Prince of Wales”. How can you NOT want to read that immediately? So far I’ve read a page. I’m already very impressed.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Finishing my next writing projects. Quite often I only get 2 hours of writing done a day, so the process is SLOW. I’m both excited and impatient to see how the stories unfold.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
1. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (my favourite book)
2. Dietland by Sarai Walker (my favourite chick lit book. It kicks arse!)
3. The Tuesday Next omnibus by Jasper Fforde. I’d love to reread them and humour will always get you through