Megan Allen’s Latest Novel ‘The Meat Hunter’ Aims A Dagger To The Meat Industry
Megan Allen is a California native who received her Bachelor’s from UC Berkeley and her Master’s in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Her debut novel, The Slave Players, earned accolades from social activists, and condemnation from the Imperial Wizard of the KKK. She now shifts gears as her latest work, The Meat Hunter, is a dagger aimed at members of the meat industry.
It was awarded the Maxy Awards Book of the Year award against 2,000 other titles, was nominated by both Laban and The San Francisco Foundation and has been a winner or finalist in seven other literary competitions. Constantly striving to challenge injustice through writing, her new psychological thriller has been referred to as animal activism at its most extreme.
In this interview, Megan shares more about her writing career, her latest novel, The Meat Hunter, and how she overcomes ‘writer’s block’.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and the work that you do.
I write in a genre I like to call thrillers with a social conscience, with each work exploring some form of societal defect. My first novel, The Slave Players, examined racism in the south. And my newest novel, The Meat Hunter, is about a woman named Molly who grew up on a farm and was horrified by her father’s indifference toward the animals they raised, and now seeks out the cruelest members of the meat industry to offer up her own brand of redemption.
Has becoming a writer always been your career goal?
I’ve been writing stories since I was about 7 and have always felt naturally drawn to fiction. Although at that age, I think my goal was to become a professional dog walker who hula-hooped for big money on the side.
Growing up, who were some of your favorite authors and how do they have an impact on your career now?
I think Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck is the first book that truly inspired me, it shook me. I remember feeling so distraught at the end (spoiler: it’s not happy). Steinbeck had this way of infusing beauty into the mundane that I really admire. And I’m sure he, and others like Huxley and Shelley, influenced me a lot as a kid.
What genre of writing do you feel the most inspired to write? What genre do you want to experiment with more?
I write thrillers. I just love them. And murder scenes, in all their gruesomeness, can be the most exciting to write. It’s similar to watching a scary film at the movie theatre. Our hearts pound when someone’s life is on the line when time is running out. It’s as if two parts of our consciousness are working simultaneously—one knows it’s just a fantasy and remains seated, while the other has all the same physiological responses it would if this was happening in real life. Palms sweat, hearts race. It’s all very invigorating. Especially when you’re writing at 2 AM and accidentally spill nacho sauce on your keyboard.
What was the inspiration behind your new book, The Meat Hunter?
I’ve interacted with many people who raise livestock for food over the years. Usually when I’m bribing them to give me their animals. And when I ask what it was like when they first sent away an animal for slaughter, their answers are always reliably the same. They were very young and their parents had given them a pig or a cow to raise until it was time.
They’ll say things like “it was hard the first time, but then you realize that’s just the way things are.” They become desensitized, hardened, and the little child who would have once been absolutely horrified at the execution of an animal has been pushed aside and forgotten. Humans are dangerously expert at adapting to whatever role society places them in.
I wanted to explore that, to create a protagonist who’s a part of that world but finds her own way to rebel. Some reviewers have called Molly a psychopath. She’s not, really. She’s just me, but with a knife instead of a pen.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration. Who/What inspires you the most when you are writing?
Well, copious amounts of chocolate (as a prize after I complete each paragraph, naturally). And also just your standard dose of moral outrage. I’ve never wanted to write purely for the sake of writing. I’ve wanted my work to say something, mean something, have an influence on the way someone thinks.
I like to challenge societal norms and point out our flaws and hypocrisies. We are told that certain things are right and others are wrong, and questioning this training (a gentle word for brainwashing) is important to me.
How do you handle comparisons between you and other authors that have a similar writing style as you?
Well, when the comparison is “she writes like Huxley,” I handle it quite well. When the comparison is, “this book could have been written by James Patterson’s 10-year-old son as a homework assignment….” not so much.
No, really though, the good reviews, the bad reviews, it’s all fun and it’s all welcomed. You can’t take yourself too seriously as a writer or you’ll end up yelling at strangers on the sidewalk.
What are some ways that you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I typically won’t try to overcome it, and I just won’t write for a while. I never force myself- if I do, I won’t like what I write anyway. Everyone needs to do other things sometimes. For me, it’s traveling, taking a hike someplace beautiful, really just letting my mind escape into other things that bring me joy.
Aside from ‘writer’s block’, what are some challenges that come with being an author and how do you face them?
I guess I’d say not having a strict schedule.
I feel really lucky that I’m able to do things on my own time, but that also means being the source of your own motivation.
What are some current goals you have for your career and how do you plan to reach them?
I try to enjoy the moment I’m in. I’ve set goals for myself in the past, but the goalposts have this annoying tendency to move. You accomplish what you set out to, and then it’s, what’s next?
Suddenly it’s not enough. I don’t want to spend my life waiting for things. I’m just here, right now, enjoying the hell out of this day and my tofu sandwich (yes, it is possible to enjoy tofu).