How many college students can say they have a pen name for their published works? For that matter, how many college students can say they have published works at all? Not many, but for Meredith Hemphill, a sophomore at NC State, Meri Elena is the pen name she has used since she was 15 years old and when she published her first Kindle eBook in 2014, “Nightfall.”
Hemphill is studying genetics and plant biology as well as minoring in creative writing. Before NC State, she attended Atkins Academic/Technology High School in Winston Salem. Although she has an aptitude for the sciences, Hemphill said her real passion is writing. As a result, she combined her two areas of expertise to write a sci-fi fantasy novel.
“Once I started learning biology, I kept noticing how many fantasy and even sci-fi kind of books had things that just didn’t work in the context of the universe they had made,” Hemphill said.
For this reason, Michael Crichton, famous for “Jurassic Park,” is one of Hemphill’s favorite authors. Crichton integrates real-life science and technology into his fiction novels, according to Hemphill. She also draws inspiration from the “Warriors” book series, which taught her an important skill for sci-fi writers.
“[The Warriors series] taught me how to think in a perspective that isn’t human,” Hemphill said.
Hemphill’s passion for writing began at age 4 when she wrote a short story about a jellyfish, complete with illustrations. In about the fifth grade, she started writing the beginnings of her first real novel. At the time, it was untitled. Several years later, Hemphill returned to the work she had started and finished her first full-length novel, “Nightfall.”
However, “Nightfall” is only the beginning in a potential six-book series. The story centers on a string of ancient prophecies that affect the main characters, Jason and Richie, and a town where the mundane and otherworldly coexist.
Writing the series is an ongoing process, according to Hemphill. She said that whenever she has new ideas, she jots them down in a notebook. When she sits down to write, Hemphill transfers her ideas to the computer and develops them further into the novel.
“I don’t think of all of my ideas at one time, so what I usually do now is put about six bullet points of the major things that are going to happen,” Hemphill said. “I start writing from the beginning, and as I go along, I kind of decide what I want to do with it.”
The publishing process has been slightly complicated, according to Hemphill. “Nightfall” was originally self-published, but Prospective Press is now in the process of publishing “Nightfall” along with the second novel in the series, “Blood Magic.”
Hemphill also has a novelette called, “Anew,” and a collection of four short stories called, “These Four Walls,” which are available on Amazon.
As a student at NC State, Hemphill is co-president of the creative writing club. She studied abroad in England at the University of Oxford this past summer where she studied Shakespeare and history. Being a published writer sets Hemphill apart from the student population. She is turning her passion into a reality.
“I had a fit of excitement when I got my ISBN number for the first book,” Hemphill said. “And it was like all dreams had come to fruition.”
For more information about Meredith and her experiences as an author and student, visit her website merielena.com.