Words of encouragement from an author pushed Meghan Lepsis to finish, and publish, her debut novel “Lost At Sea” this year.
The Seneca High School freshman worked on the novel during seventh grade as part of a flash fiction contest by Stephen Kozan. Lepsis’ submission was a runner-up.
“(Kozan) told me to continue writing my book and a year later, I came back and handed him the first seven chapters of it,” Lepsis recalled. “He emailed me a week later offering to publish it. He hadn’t read all of it, but wanted to publish it.”
Feb. 1 became a reality for Lepsis as copies of the novel landed on her Tabernacle doorstep: She’s officially a published author.
“I’m very proud of my work,” she noted.
Her book tells the journey of two siblings, Matt and Amber, whose parents’ disappearance became a real-life nightmare. According to the author’s synopsis, the parents become lost in the ocean and the siblings join the Coast Guard and implore other officials to search for them.
The coming-of-age story finds Amber, the lead character, in positions where she gets answers to pressing issues relating to fitting in at her high school, finding time for family and babysitting her brother.
Personal details of Lepsis’ life are represented in the novel by its characters (the little brother in the story was based on her brother, Matt) and the book’s cover.
Leaving much of the novel up to readers to find out, Lepsis did coyly share that the book features dreams to explain how Amber handles rough waters, literally and figuratively.
“I like the part toward the end where they all come together — you’ll see,” the young novelist said, interrupting her own thoughts.
Authors who’ve influenced Lepsis include Veronica Roth and Lurlene McDaniel, because of “their books and the use of description in their plots and characterization.”
“Lost,” a young fiction book geared toward middle schoolers, is within Lepsis’ realm of favorite genres to read as she has grown to love science and realistic fiction, with their connections and imaginative storylines. The book also has comedic relief and tragedy.
As she shied away from telling specifics of her book, Lepsis admitted if her work makes it to TV screens or theaters, she hopes it will hew to the book’s content as much as possible. And shooting it in Florida would be just fine.
“It’s more of a tropical area and the book follows a tropical setting,” she shared.
Writing came easy to Lepsis as she entered creative contests such as the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen essay contest in sixth grade and another contest where she detailed a family experience that was close to her. Lepsis prefers creative writing assignments with few or zero word limits so she can write “without limitations.”
“When you’re given a word count, I feel like I can’t always get everything I say into the essay or project I’m writing, so I like the longer ones and creative writing,” she explained.
Regardless of the book’s expected readers, Lepsis wants her writing to age with her, so she can detail stories of losing a loved one to cancer, moving through the stages of grief and growing up.
And publishing books isn’t Lepsis’ primary career choice.
“I want to work in speech therapy like my mom,” she insisted. “I also would like to continue writing, but not as a full-frontal job.”
Lepsis will be at Tabernacle Elementary School on Feb. 19, starting at 6 p.m., for a book fair and social. Plans still are being worked out for an appearance at Seneca High School.
To grab a copy of Lepsis’ $16 book, visit ReadyAimWriteKids.com.