Dete Meserve—Best-selling, Award-winning Novelist and Film/TV Producer

Dete Meserve is an accomplished creator and producer of independent movies and award-winning television shows as well as a best-selling and award-winning novelist. As a key member of the executive team at Wind Dancer Films, Meserve has been one of the industry’s major players in independent film and television production. She currently oversees worldwide business and creative properties for the film development, finance, and production company that has generated over $4 billion in revenue from its properties, which include hit television series Roseanne and Home Improvement and feature films including What Women Want (Mel Gibson), Where The Heart Is (Natalie Portman), Bernie (Jack Black), What Men Want (Taraji P. Henson) and Good Sam (Netflix).

Meserve is also leading the company’s growing kids and family brands, including the PBS KIDS series Ready Jet Go!, created by Craig Bartlett (Hey Arnold!, Dinosaur Train) with Meserve as Executive Producer, the stop motion series “Storywoods” with Lil Buddy Studios and Head Writer Carin Greenberg, and Not A Box, the animated TV series based on the award-winning book by Antoinette Portis.

Meserve has produced numerous films and TV series and her list of credits span award-winning television series such as Home Improvement and Saint George with George Lopez (Executive Producer) as well as hit movies What Men Want, the award-winning comedy Bernie (Executive Producer), The Keeping Room (Executive Producer), What Women Want (Executive Producer) and Good Sam (Producer).

Meserve is also the author of the best-selling and multi-award-winning novel, Good Sam, as well as its sequel Perfectly Good Crime, which won the Living Now Book Awards for “books that change the world,” and the international bestseller The Space Between (July 2018). Meserve adapted her first novel, Good Sam, into a screenplay and produced it as a Netflix Original Film starring Tiya Sircar (The Good Place). The film was released worldwide in May 2019. Her book, Random Acts of Kindness, co-written with award-winning journalist Rachel Greco, was published in March 2019. Meserve is at work on a fifth book entitled The Good Stranger for Amazon Publishing/Lake Union (Spring 2020).

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, etc.; and how you balance your careers of producer and author.

I write whenever I can! My job as a producer and CEO of a studio takes up much of my daylight hours, so I have to find writing time at night after my family’s asleep or on weekends when my family is busy with other things. When I’m on deadline to deliver a manuscript, I have to set aside specific time to write—often in the daylight hours—but other things in life invariably interfere and suddenly my three-hour block of writing time gets reduced to, say, ninety minutes. It can be frustrating, but I keep juggling and shifting to make it happen. I know my priorities and family always comes first.

Hod did you “found” your Random Acts of Kindness stories, and what is it like to co-author?

After posting literally thousands of stories about the good things people do for others, I wanted to write a book to capture some of the best stories and looking through a very specific lens: how were the givers changed by helping others? Since these were true stories, I wanted to collaborate with a journalist who had the right sensitivity and sensibility for these “softer” stories. I read an article about a woman who was given a new van by a stranger and loved the poignant way journalist Rachel Greco approached the story, so I called her and told her I wanted to write a book of these stories. I was overjoyed when she said yes. Initially we didn’t meet in person because I’m based in Hollywood and she’s in East Lansing, Michigan. Instead, we’d regularly get together for calls to talk through what stories we’d seen that had resonated with us and which ones might be good candidates for the book. We had tremendous resources to draw from: thousands of stories on my Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/GoodSamBook and countless others that readers were sending in. We wanted to make sure the book reflected all kinds of givers: rich, poor, age nine-year-old to ninety-nine, city folk and people who lived in rural communities, bikers and fraternity boys. Our idea was not to reprint what others had already written. Instead, Rachel spoke with the people in the stories and we developed a chapter from there. I have to say those hours working with Rachel were some of the brightest for me because I knew we were both doing something we were meant to do.

Walk me through your publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author. As you wrote Good Sam, did you imagine the story as a film? Are you planning to take your other novels to the big screen?

When I wrote Good Sam I never imagined it would become a film. I only set out to tell a story where we’re searching for someone doing extraordinary good and exploring how looking for that kind of person actually changes all of us. I wanted to explore the reasons why people do good things. From the countless stories told about murders and violence, we already know why people commit crimes but how often do we stop to think about why we help others and why some put their lives on the line so that others can live? Maybe thinking about that will allow us to become our better selves. There are moments when I still can’t believe it’s a Netflix Original Film, even though I wrote the screenplay and was a producer on the film. It still feels joyously unreal.

When I begin writing, I like to have lots of time for what I call “play.” This is when I’m writing ideas into a notebook, doing research, playing around with an idea, discovering the characters. It’s truly the most carefree and easy part of writing. Then there becomes a point where the story starts to form: I hear snippets of character dialogue, I can see scenes of what’s happening, and I’m beginning to have an inkling of what themes I want to explore. That’s when I start a draft which I title: Things I’m Seeing. If ideas start flowing, then I know I’m ready to write the manuscript. Otherwise, I stop and go back to “playing” and researching until I’m ready to begin.

Once the manuscript is finished, I like to send to beta readers before sending to the publisher but the deadlines on the last novel were so tight that no one but me had read it before I sent it in. That was a nail biter of a process for me. After that, the editor will send me notes and I’ll make revisions addressing notes until we all get a draft we’re all happy with. Then off to copy editing and proof reading all while writing ideas for marketing, working on the cover with designers, thinking about book club questions, writing acknowledgments, etc. It’s a huge wonderful process to bring a book to life and I’m always grateful for the privilege of doing it and for the talented and committed people around me who make it possible.

I’m adapting some of my other novels to the screen. I’m particularly intrigued by SVOD platforms like Netflix because they allow you as a creator to reach massive audiences around the world, which is very rewarding. But, for me, all ideas begin with story. It’s only after you know the story that you can ask: Where is the best place—what is the best way—to tell that story? A novel? A TV series? A movie? I’m open to wherever that leads me.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My readers are the best! Truly. Every day I wake up to countless stories about good people that they’ve shared on my social media platforms or sent to me via messenger or email. They are wonderful supporters of my writing, sharing their recommendations through reviews and talking about the books online. When I have moments where a current novel I’m writing is difficult, I take a peek at what people are saying—their reviews, comments on posts, the emails and letters they send me—and I’m reminded how fortunate I am to have such loving, thoughtful, kind readers in my life. I feel like I know many of them even though we’ve never met in person. I never take that for granted and try to respond to every reader. That can be difficult to juggle when I’m already working long days, but it’s important to me to connect with readers.

In real life, my husband and family are the best support system. I often begin work early in the morning and my husband brings me a chai latte and a breakfast so I can keep working. My daughter Lauren patiently listens to me, read scenes aloud, and gives me feedback. And my older sons are incredibly understanding when I run off after dinner to get back to writing. And I’m fortunate to write in the beautiful Southern California light, which is partly why much of my writing is optimistic and hopeful.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa, especially the response to Random Acts of Kindness and the Good Sam film? How has your background in film prepared you for a writing career?

Sometimes my workdays can get intense—disappointments, failures, surprises, gut-wrenching events that steal my breath away. I try to channel that into my writing. Even if what I’m writing about has nothing to do with what’s happening in real life, I find a way to convey the complex emotions that come with working with others all day long. People often ask me how I can write such optimistic stories when I work in the rough and tumble world of Hollywood. But the truth is, that’s why I started writing stories where Kate Bradley seeks out people doing good, without ulterior motive. I honestly questioned if such people existed, so I sent Kate Bradley on that exploration. And along the way, I discovered that good people are everywhere – you just have to look past those who are getting all the attention for bad stuff and you’ll see them everywhere. All the time.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love that creativity allows me to follow my passions and curiosity. I’m interested in so many things, so writing allows me to bring all those things together. I’m always researching and learning new things in order to accomplish a novel. I’ve learned a lot about journalism, firefighting, Russian linguistics, opera, online videogames, and security systems from writing the Kate Bradley mysteries. And when I wrote The Space Between, I immersed myself in astronomy, a little physics, and secret codes. I also learn a lot about people—the way we think, how we make decisions, the way we interact with others, how we acquire belief systems.

What I didn’t expect—and which is always a wonderful surprise for me—is that my explorations are embraced by so many and become meaningful to others too. That connection with readers—when they say they’ve experienced the same feelings as my characters have—is priceless. Writing is a way to share the human experience and makes me realize that I’m not alone in the things I love, wonder about, question or struggle with. That is a gift of a lifetime.

Connect with Dete:

Website: www.DeteMeserve.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35122165-good-sam

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/dete-meserve

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GoodSamBook

Twitter: @DeteMeserve

Instagram: @DeteMeserve

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dete-Meserve/e/B00JH4RLQQ

Audible: https://www.audible.com/author/Dete-Meserve/B00JH4RLQQ

Audiobooks: https://www.audiobooks.com/browse/author/189881/dete-meserve

Wind Dancer Films: www.winddancer.com

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2072611/

Nine Cloud Dream by Kim Man-Jung

The “greatest classic Korean novel” by Kim Man-Jung follows a young boy’s rags to riches story that encompasses wives, concubines, wise men, scholars, and the military. One man lives an incredible lifein 17th century Korea, continously attracting the most beautiful women, many whose status makes them worthy only of positions as his concubines, and experiencing fantastical elements, such as fairies and dragons. It’s challenging to view this as a great romance from the modern perspective of the Me Too movement. Then at the end, it’s all a dream. Classics are not for everyone. I was graciously given a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

And Then You Were Gone by RJ Jacobs

Paolo takes Emily, who has finally managed to get her bi-polar under control, out on his boat for a romantic date. After a wine-filled evening, Emily awakens to find herself alone on the boat. A roller coaster ride through the police investigation reveals a different Paolo, and Emily must work to prove herself innocent in this missing man mystery. Jacobs does a great job of eliciting sympathy for his unreliable narrator, and the twists and turns are credible and gasp-worthy. Fans of Catherine Steadman’s Something in the Water and / or Kelly Simmon’s Where She Went will appreciate Jacobs’ style of storytelling. I received a digital copy of this fantastic thriller from the publisher through NetGalley.

Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

I lay across my bed reading a book laid on the floor next to the bed. Hearing a harrumphy throat clearing, I sat up and tilted my head questioningly at my father in the doorway. He walked in and sat next to me on the bed, clasping his hands together, staring at the floor. I copied his body language without thinking, dreading what my mother had sent him to tell me. Well—he began—I know you’re a teenager now. Yeah—I responded. Shifting, adjusting his pants, rubbing his beard, he tried again—I just want you to know what’s going on, you know, with boys and all. I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes before assuring him—Daddy, it’s not like I’m dating anyone; the boys in this town don’t like me. He looked at me funny and said—I betcha some boy does like you, but he’s just shy, cuz you know, you’re a pretty girl. My laughter surprised him, and I shook my head as though he was clueless. Boys in my school saw me only as a target. Well, in any case—he told me as he again stared at the floor—one day you’ll like a boy, and then things will happen. What things, Daddy—I asked, appreciating the realization—things like threesomes and fetishes and maybe adult toys. Good lord—he hollered as he jumped halfway to the door and inquired loudly—where the hell did you learn that shit. I couldn’t help grinning as I answered—Daddy, we have cable; you don’t need to tell me about sex.

G. Allen Wilbanks – Horror/Fantasy/Sci-fi Author

G. Allen Wilbanks is a retired police officer living in Northern California. For twenty-five years he wrote collision and crime reports during the day to pay the bills, and short fiction during his off-time to stay sane. In 2016, he retired from real life to devote his full attention to fantasy. He has published two short story collections, and the novel, When Darkness Comes. His short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Deep Magic, The Talisman and dozens of other magazines and anthologies all over the world.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, black magick spells, etc.

I live on five acres of property in a rural neighborhood, so I spend most of my day isolated from other people. I’m okay with that, though, because it gives me time to write with minimum distractions. I’m also a bit of a hermit if I’m being honest. I like the isolation. Most of my days look pretty similar. I wake up in the morning about 7 AM to say goodbye to my wife as she heads out the door to go to work. I start my morning with a four or five mile walk through the pastures and farmlands surrounding my home while I listen to audiobooks (since I rarely have to time to sit and read a book anymore). Back home, I work in my yard tending the garden and fruit trees for a couple hours (still listening to a book), and then about 11 o’clock I settle into my den to write. My wife gets home about 6 PM each day and usually finds me at my desk still working on whatever WIP I’ve chosen for that day.

Walk me through your publishing process, from “final” draft to final product, and marketing strategies.

I have published three books: two collections of short stories and one novel. I published each of them through CreateSpace (which has since been bought out by KDP Select). The software was very user-friendly and made the process as simple as possible for a newbie like myself. There is software for making your own cover and creating your own layout for the cover of the book, but I would actually recommend reaching out to a professional cover artist or designer. It makes a world of difference and your book will look much more appealing to a potential reading audience.

Marketing is the hard part. I am a bit of an introvert and am much more comfortable writing stories than trying to convince others to buy them. This is still an area I am working on improving. If you are publishing traditionally, there are usually people working for the publishers who are responsible for marketing, but if you are an indie writer like me, you need to get the word out on your own. Social media is the key to attracting readers. It is more than just telling people you have a book for sale; you need to get people interested in you personally first—then they might get curious enough to purchase what you have written. Building a following is a slow, gradual process. I wish I could give you some secret or tip to sell a million books, but I haven’t figured it out myself just yet.

Talk about your support system online and IRL, especially your biggest cheerleaders.

My biggest supporter in my writing is my best friend and fellow writer, Wes Blalock. Our paths have paralleled each other’s in many ways. We both had careers in law enforcement before focusing on writing full time. Although we tend to write in different genres, we beta read much of each other’s manuscripts, offer editing advice, and encourage one another with our projects. We have even attended writing events together.

Online, I have joined several writing groups on Facebook and have connected with writers all over the world on Twitter. I find I get to know people a little better and interact more with them on Facebook, but the groups you join are important. Many of them are looking for people to sell books and writing services to rather than provide support and help. Choose carefully. Look for the groups that support one another, share publishing opportunities, and offer advice when you have serious questions about the process of writing or publishing.

How does life, and career in law enforcement, influence your writing and vice versa?

While I was working in law enforcement, much of my writing was very dark. It focused on human cruelty and personal suffering. My ideas frequently came from real life incidents I had investigated, then I would twist the tale to give it a more suspenseful feel or add supernatural elements. Writing was cathartic for me then, it helped me process all the ugliness and violence I dealt with in my job. Now that I’m retired, I still love writing horror stories, but I have found myself moving more into the realms of dark fantasy and surrealism. I guess as my life has become less chaotic, so has my storytelling.

What do you love most about your creativity?

When I was working as a police officer, writing was one of the ways that I dealt with stress. Writing (and reading) short stories helped me deal with some of the harder emotional aspects of my job in a healthier way than drinking or trying to ignore them. Creating a story allowed me to decompress and to process my feelings.

Although I am no longer dealing with the same level of stress in my life, writing is still a great outlet. I take pieces of dreams, ideas, and feelings and try to create something complete and wonderful out of them. I keep notebooks all around the house because I never know when a thought or somebody’s comment might trigger a new story idea. I absolutely love seeing a published final version of a story that started out as just a bunch of fragments of ideas and emotions. It is even more rewarding when I hear from someone who enjoyed reading something I created, but that is not the main reason I write. I think even if I never published another piece, I would continue to write just for the peace and enjoyment it brings me.

Connect with Wilbanks :

Website: https://gallenwilbanks.com/

Blog: http://deepdarkthoughts.com/home/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/G.-Allen-Wilbanks/e/B07GM6C9KD

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gallenwilbanks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gallenwilbanks

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

Eva meets Lt. Spencer on the SS Lurline on her way to Hawaii, where her fiance and a nursing position await her in Pearl Harbor. Their story incorporates the real history of a mysterious message and government coverup exposing Pearl Harbor to attack. This is a good story even if you’re not a huge fan of WWII novels. There’s espionage, danger, injustice, and romance. The only niggle is the anachronistically feminist Lt. Spencer. The characters are complex, with multiple storylines blending seamlessly toward the inevitable end. I was graciously provided a copy through a Goodreads giveaway.

Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

From the living room floor, I watched the roaches crawl across the ceiling. When they began to fall, I hurriedly wrapped the blanket around me and tucked it in as best I could. Uncle J’s death was unexpected and Aunt D came unglued, dragging my cousins from sibling to sibling. I crossed my fingers they’d be moving on soon. Alas, they enrolled in the local school, the meanest two in my grade…not twins, just one dumb one. They tormented me daily, on top of the usual bullying I received from my classmates, so that in the evenings I would ride my bike around town until dark, hoping dinner would distract them. I was ordered to come home straight after school and stay there by my mother, adamant that I show compassion. The night I took to the streets on my bike, sobbing, I returned long after sunset to find my father waiting for me in his garage. I homed in on the light as a beacon of refuge. He was fiddling around, doing a little of nothing, as he liked to say, when I entered. Without turning around, he told me—Your mother’s angry with you. He looked at me, one eyebrow raised. There was nothing to say. Facing the counter again, he said—I got you something—and brought a little box to me. We sat on his workbench so I could open it. My gift was an itty bitty radio with a pullout antenna. He took it from me, placed it on a little table next to an overstuffed chair he’d dragged down from the attic, and plugged it in. Next to the chair, he’d put a small bookshelf and filled it with some of the books from my room. He hugged me and said—You can come read in here after school; I’ll let your mother know where you are.

Rivals Break by Carla Neggers

Guests at a dinner party on a yacht in Maine end up in the hospital with food poisoning. The chef blames her carelessness in mushroom scavenging, but then discovers one of the guests was an MI5 agent and a friend of her father, who is a toxicologist in hospital in Britain dying of mushroom poisoning, blamed on his carelessness. Local FBI agents and MI5 colleagues, suspecting foul play, parse their communication, with intermittent inexplicable forthrightness. The constant repetition of characters’ main traits of being government agents blends them together in a brothy soup of spyness. Suddenly, there’s a culprit, with no previous hints or any indication of involvement, so that backstory must be thrust in awkwardly. I received a digital copy through NetGalley, where the synopsis provided no clue that it was 9th in the series, information only to be found at the end of the book. Perhaps if Dear Reader is already invested in these spy characters, this particular story would hold more credibility.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sharpe & Donovan series featuring Boston-based FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, the Swift River Valley series set in small-town New England and many other novels of romance, mystery and suspense. With dozens of bestsellers to her credit, Carla and her husband divide their time between their hilltop home in Vermont, a pull-out sofa at their kids’ places in Boston and various spots on their travels, frequently to Ireland. Learn more at CarlaNeggers.com

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Undercover FBI agent Colin Donovan joins his wife, Emma Sharpe, an FBI art crimes expert, for his brother’s wedding in their fishing village on the southern Maine coast. When Kevin Donovan, a marine patrol officer, receives a call to check on suspected food-poisoning at a party aboard a yacht Colin, a former marine patrol officer, tags along.

It’s quickly evident this is no ordinary case of food poisoning. They’re dealing with a deliberate attack. Most of the victims are one-time associates of an imprisoned arms trafficker—a Russian national whose arrest the previous year was made possible by Colin’s undercover work and Emma’s art crimes expertise.

A rare, boutique deadly poison is responsible for the deaths and near-deaths aboard the yacht. From his federal prison, the trafficker claims to know nothing of the attack but he believes one of his rivals is responsible or at least involved. Whoever distributed the poison had to be on the yacht at some point and therefore was either a passenger or a guest. Given the nature of the weapon used, the attacker also would have to be highly skilled in handling its volatile, deadly components. Who made the poison? What was the purpose of the attack—revenge, greed, a message, ideological?

With more questions than answers, Emma and Colin enter the shadowy world of the victims of the attack. They discover someone is out to sell extremely dangerous poisons to organized crime networks. The trail takes them to an unlikely source.

Emma, Colin, HIT and their family and friends must stop the poisoner before he facilitates his next attack.

PRAISE FOR CARLA NEGGERS:

“Well-plotted, intriguing and set mostly in the lushly described Irish countryside, the novel is smart and satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews on Declan’s Cross

“Saint’s Gate…is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of romantic suspense that will appeal to fans of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner.” —Library Journal

An “intense, edge-of-your-seat whirlwind.” —Booklist on Liar’s Key

“Insanely sensational….engaging, complex, unforgettable.”
—RT Book Reviews, a September Top Pick!, on Liar’s Key

A “suspenseful, fast-moving thriller with plot twists and excitement to the delightful conclusion.”
—Reader to Reader, on Liar’s Key

“A richly atmospheric, beautifully drawn tale with echoes of Daniel Silva and even Dan Brown.” —Providence Journal on Liar’s Key

“Carla Neggers has long excelled at forging neo-gothic, brooding tales rich in setting and atmosphere. With Thief’s Mark, though, she ups the ante in fashioning a crime thriller of rare depth and complexity.” —Providence Journal

Life of a Writer: Glimpses of a Father

He came in quietly and stood just inside the doorway. I continued perusing my bookshelf, waiting for him to announce his reason to enter my bedroom, a rare occurrence. After a couple of throat clearings, he walked over and sat on the edge of my bed, patting the space next to him. The hair on my arms prickled my skin, a vague unease settling in my stomach as I sat next to him. My father then asked me—You know your mother and I love you, right? I jumped up to face him, asking too loudly—Are you getting a divorce? He blinked and shook his head before smiling and assuring me—No, no, nothing like that…sit, sit—patting the bed again. I sat up straight and stared at the wall through a few more throat clearing harrumphs. When he finally spoke again, he told me softly—Should you ever need any surgeries…—and I again took to my feet to search his face for answers. Am I sick—I asked him—I don’t remember the doctor saying anything. Shaking his head frantically, he implored—Please sit down and stop looking at me. I complied, and he continued—If you have back pain, or shoulder pain, or need any kind of surgery…—I burst out laughing. Daddy, look—I said—I know I’m only 15, but I will never, ever want breast-reduction surgery, and you can take that to mother. He nodded, hugged me, and walked out as quietly as he came in, leaving me rolling around on my bed giggling.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Grace Kelly brought British journalist James Henderson into French parfumeur Sophie Duval’s life when she hid in Sophie’s shop to avoid another paparazzi, setting in motion the tale of the star-crossed lovers, resurrecting the Duval family business, and laying the foundation for the parallel story of Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gaynor and Webb paint a lush, yet pragmatic picture of Monaco, the Monegasques, and the Princess, with foremost the blossoming emotions of Sophie and James, characters clearly not products of their time, but who stand out from the crowd. Francophiles, parfum lovers, and Grace Kelly fans will love this novel, though other readers will appreciate the descriptive details of the setting and the intriguing characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.