Meredith Tate grew up in Concord, New Hampshire, where she fell in love with her two passions–writing and traveling. She earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of New Hampshire and worked in Boston for several years before deciding to pursue her true dream of telling stories. After spending three wonderful years in St. Louis, Missouri, and three more amazing years in Zurich, Switzerland, Meredith now lives in Houston with her husband and her spoiled rescue dog. When Meredith’s not writing, she loves photography, playing the piano, trying new recipes, and chasing her goal of seeing every continent (four down, three to go!).
Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly? What made you want to tell this story?
Meredith Tate: I was inspired by a mix of things that all kind of came together at once! I knew for a while I wanted to try writing a murder mystery. I had never written contemporary before, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to write in a different genre than what I was used to. I knew I wanted to include some sort of speculative/fantastical element, too, and from there I thought it would be fun to write from the POV of a character who was a ghost for most of the book, where no one could see or hear her except her sister. I also really wanted to write a book that’s set in my hometown of Concord, NH, because I had never read a book set in my hometown before (and I had so much fun loading it with local references—if you’re ever curious about my favorite Chinese restaurant in Concord, it’s in there!). As an only child, I’ve always been envious of relationships between sisters, and I knew I wanted to write about a strong sister bond. I wanted to write a story about two sisters who had grown apart to the point of being estranged but were able to find each other again. When Autumn disappears, the only person who can find her is her sister, Ivy—whom she hasn’t spoken to in three years. I loved writing Autumn and Ivy’s developing relationship.
However, The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly is also about a current issue that is important to me. While I was outlining, I read about a well-known sexual assault case, in which a man charged with sexual assault was given an egregiously light sentence due to the judge’s fear of harming his athletic career. I was shocked, because it was so terrible, but also unsurprised because this stuff happens so frequently. Society always seems to prioritize the futures of male perpetrators over the lives of their victims. The case left me feeling so powerless and hopeless and, frankly, furious, that I channeled a lot of those feelings into writing this book. I wanted to show that women and girls (and people of all genders)—regardless of their intoxication, or outfit choice, or how “likable” they are, or any other factors—are human beings who deserve to be listened to, respected, and believed. We all deserve to have a voice, and I wanted to show what happens when we take that right away.
V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?
MT: With The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly, more than anything, I hope it makes readers think. I like to think my book could have the potential to spark conversations about the way our culture treats victims of assault. I also hope it reminds readers that we can never truly know what another person is going through, and choosing kindness can often make a big difference.
V: What was the hardest scene of The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly?
MT: I think anyone who has read the book will probably be able to guess my answer to this. By far, the hardest scene to write was a scene near the end of the book when Ivy learns something devastating about Autumn and confronts her family about it. Autumn also is forced to confront a part of her past she’d long buried in this scene, and it’s a tough chapter for every character. I wrote most of this scene through tears, and I rewrote it so many times. I wanted to make sure I did my characters justice.
V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
MT: I would tell myself to keep going, even when it’s hard. There were so many days where I was bogged down with rejections and wanted to quit because it felt hopeless. Publishing is a strange industry where nothing can happen for years and suddenly everything can happen at once—that’s what happened to me! I would tell myself to hang in there and keep writing!
V: What are your writing must-haves?
MT: I can’t write without music! I make a playlist for every book I’m writing and listen to it on repeat while I’m drafting. If you’re curious, here are some of the songs I listened to on repeat while writing The Last Confession of Autumn Casterly:
“Praying” by Kesha
“Heavy in Your Arms” by Florence + the Machine
“Carry You” by Ruelle (featuring Fleurie)
“The Sound of Silence” cover by Disturbed
“Bloodstream” by Tokio Myers
“Rise Up” by Andra Day
“Saturn” by Sleeping at Last
I also can’t write without a beverage—I love sipping a latte or peppermint tea while drafting!
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