Prim and petite in a bright floral print dress, Meredith Allard came nowhere close to my sallow-goth-chick expectations. As we sat in a sunlit corner of a suburban Starbucks, I discovered that the soft-spoken 41-year-old author of a recently published vampire romance novel is not defined by the genre of her latest work, but by her grit and independence.
Allard, an English teacher, encourages her Arbor View High School students to follow their dreams. But in 2006, after 12 years of chasing her own dream of being published, the rejection slips became too much. For two years, she “literally wrote nothing but grocery lists” until the pain of not writing became greater than the pain of rejection. Even then, it took an unlikely catalyst to get her to write again.
Allard, who has a graduate degree in English and is steeped in the classics, was politely noncommittal when one of her students pushed a copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight on her in 2008. “I didn’t have any intention of reading,” she says. Instead, the story inspired her to trade the grocery lists for a tale of immortal love. When she picked up the narrative pen again, she rediscovered why she loves to write: “I love to tell stories.” And nothing will stop her from telling them.
Published in April, Her Dear & Loving Husband tells the story of a young woman who escapes the turbulence of Los Angeles and a messy divorce and settles in Salem, Mass. Throw in a hunky immortal, nosy reporter, and snarky witches, and love and mayhem predictably ensue. Heavy-handed with bodice-ripper and vampire tropes, the novel nonetheless includes meticulous literary, topographical and historical details. (The title is a direct reference to Anne Bradstreet’s poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband.”) Her description of modern Salem is Google Maps accurate, and details from the infamous 1692 witch trials (such as one execution by crushing) salt the novel.
This geographical and historical intimacy traces back to her love of literary historical fiction. When she started writing in 1994, there were no outlets for her genre. So in 2000, she took an e-zine building class and created the Copperfield Review, a free online “journal of history and fiction.” She calls it “The Little Journal that Could” and explains how her teacher’s salary left little money for advertising.
In the beginning, her main challenge was finding contributors. But by 2002, Writer’s Digest has listed the quarterly as a top site for new writers. In 2004, it won the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. She now receives as many as 300 submissions per issue, has a 1,000-to-1,500-reader circulation per quarter and has published A-list writers such as 14-time Pushcart Prize nominee Tom Sheehan.
“One of my proudest feats with the Copperfield Review is that we were the first published credit for many writers,” says Allard, whose first published piece was with an e-zine called Moondance. “I’m glad I could provide that moment for others.”
Allard applied the same DIY ethos to her first novel, My Brother’s Battle (2000, $33), which was set during the American Civil War. Eager to get it read, she self-published through Xlibris, but was embarrassed by the service’s numerous layout mistakes. Determined to get it right the next time around, she launched her own publishing house, Copperfield Press, in April. In addition to Her Dear and Loving Husband (99 cents for digital edition, $9.99 paperback), which has moved about 1,000 copies since its April release, Copperfield Press is now contracted to publish several novels from writers across the U.S. (She expects to finish the sequel to her vampire novel, Her Loving Husband’s Curse, in 2012.)
“An author’s book is a precious thing,” she says. “I don’t take this venture into publishing lightly. I thought writing the book was the hard part, Turns out, what comes after is just as hard. I’ve learned over the years that where there’s a will there’s a way.”