Book Nerd Interview
She’s currently working on a project set in Duluth and the Boundary Waters that may or may not be a trilogy.
Mindy is available for readings, workshops, and book group discussions. Contact her at mindy(at)mindymejia.com.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
My first book, The Dragon Keeper, was about a Komodo dragon’s virgin birth. I could talk for hours about giant reptile predators.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
There is no substitute for suspense.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
So hard to pick, but I’ll go with Love in the Time of Cholera. A lush masterpiece and the ending is absolutely stunning. So many books fail to pull off that surprising-yet-inevitable, satisfying ending. I read it once every few years.
For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; Everything You Want Me to Be, how would you introduce it?
Hattie Hoffman is the closest thing Sheriff Del Goodman has to a child. When she’s stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the only suspect is a Shakespearian curse. Del vows to find her killer, but discovers instead that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage and her shifting identities hid secrets that could rock the foundations of their small town community. Told from three points of view, Everything You Want Me To Be weaves the story of the last year of Hattie’s life, her longing to escape the vast fields of Minnesota’s heartland, and the decisions that inch her closer to her death.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Hattie?
Hattie never fit into her surroundings, but I didn’t realize how much she needed a way to manifest her discontent. When she began a destructive relationship, it became surprisingly satisfying for her to create the same sense of frustration and duality in her partner that she’d felt her whole life. This was the only way Hattie could experience intimacy, and obviously it wasn’t sustainable. Either she had to find a way to reconcile her identity to her world, or the relationship had to blow up.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
My grandparents farmed in southern Minnesota and, as a kid, my favorite week of the summer was when I got to stay at the farm. I wrote this book for them, as a tribute to the resilience and spirit of agricultural communities.
Do you have a favorite quote that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire you?
I keep Cheryl Strayed’s infamous Sugar advice on my desktop. “So write…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.” It keeps me on ground level.
If you could introduce Del to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d give him a cross between Francesca Johnson and Fermina Daza. Del’s gotten too comfortable with his life. He needs a good slow-burning, unrequited love to torture him for a while.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’ve gravitated north for my next project, to Duluth and the Boundary Waters. This one is a speculative thriller set in a near future that’s experiencing more of the effects of climate change. It’s looking like a two book series at the moment.
Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Kinosaki, Japan. It’s a tiny hot spring resort on the edge of the North sea. Beautiful, luxurious, and private enough to feel like your own personal heaven.
What book are you reading now?
I’ve gotten my hands on an advance copy of Karen Katchur’s RIVER BODIES and can’t put it down. Thriller readers should be very excited for this one to release.
Who was your first boyfriend?
Pretty sure his name was Ryan Carlson. We met when our marching band played Far and Away (the Cruise/Kidman Irish movie). I was on the color guard and played the Nicole Kidman role. He was in the drum line and played Tom Cruise. Naturally it didn’t work out.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
How are you? Nobody wants an answer to that question.
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I worked in an apple orchard when I was fourteen. We picked apples and strawberries and manned the store. The best days were when I got to drive cars around the fields, because I didn’t have my license yet, and the worst days were when we bottled cider and got covered head-to-toe in sticky, apple syrup.
What is your greatest adventure?
I’ve had all sorts of adventures and hope to have many more, but the greatest and most encompassing by far is motherhood. Every day is an adventure with my kids. They are the funniest, craziest, most frustrating little monkeys I ever could’ve imagined.
Where can readers stalk you?
High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.
Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?