When she was about 4 years old, Meredith Hemphill sat in her room writing and illustrating her first “book.” Nearly six years later, she decided she wanted to become a writer. She’d always loved telling stories, so she decided to create her own.
Hemphill, a sophomore studying genetics and plant biology with a minor in creative writing, came up with the idea for “Nightfall,” her first full-length novel, in elementary school. The original idea for the story dealt with four characters that experience supernatural drama involving the transformation of characters into wolves, though Hemphill said it’s hard to remember because the concept has evolved throughout the years. In fourth through sixth grade, the more concrete idea for the story was formed.
According to Brooke Bond, Hemphill’s close friend and No. 1 fan, the plot for “Nightfall” has completely changed from the original concept. “We were 10-year-0lds bored on the playground and around the lunch table our distraction of choice was to come up with and refine ideas for the book,” she said. “The final product was 90-something pages double-spaced. And it was awful. But Meredith stuck with the characters and the vague idea and re-vamped and re-wrote again and again … And eventually Meredith sat down to write the version of the story that would be the last.”
Bond said she transformed from a “casual ghost-writer” to a consulting novelist. She read what Hemphill wrote, offered advice, worked her out of plot-holes and kept track of the first novel’s pacing. She is considered “Nightfall’s” No. 1 fan because she has been more emotionally involved with the project longer than anyone else besides Hemphill.
“I’ve read the final version of ‘Nightfall’ multiple times and scrawled out notes and comments fill my dog-eared personal copy,” Bond said. “I often wear a bracelet with the name of a minor character on it that was a gift from Meredith after I proclaimed said character to be my favorite and true soulmate.”
Bond also described “Nightfall” as one of the funniest things she’s ever read because she can detect both her and Hemphill’s senses of humor intertwined in the story. She can’t help but to laugh every time she reads it.
The final version of “Nightfall” is about a boy, Jason, who finds himself pursued by an unknown enemy who plans to kill him and is helped by a vampire. Richie, who is on a quest to find someone who can explain his nightmares to him, joins Jason and the two boys get caught up in the “midst of an incipient Armageddon.”
Throughout the process of trying to publish her book, Hemphill became close friends with Jason T. Graves, the man who later started Prospective Press.
“Meredith has participated for many years in a monthly writers’ critique group that I host, so I had the privilege of seeing her come of age as both a person and a writer,” he said. “She is an engaging storyteller and I enjoyed reading and commenting on her stories, although there was one story of hers that she never allowed me to critique, her adolescent novel ‘Nightfall.’”
Hemphill previously self-published her book because she was afraid of other people having a say regarding her “baby.” She still hesitated when Graves asked to publish “Nightfall,” but because she knew him, she knew he understood how important the story was to her and wasn’t going to disrespect it.
“I mentioned that she could have both novels: the novel of her adolescence — her teenage achievement — and an updated, polished novel that would take the story to the next level,” Graves said. “Honestly, there must exist a level of trust between writer and editor, author and publisher, for the best possible results, and I was confident in the strength of Meredith’s story and in her skill and talent to tell it.”
Graves described “Nightfall” as an entertaining story that draws inspiration from a diverse cannon of sources while telling its own unique narrative.
“It is both familiar and fresh,” he said. “And it avoids the pitfall faced by so many first-time novelists, particularly young novelists, of sounding like a parroting of the most recently released popular novels.”
According to Graves, Hemphill demonstrates a maturity and clarity of thought that exceeds her age, and a joy of life that defies her age; all of which shines through her story. And by the time Hemphill signed the contract on Aug. 8, she was thrilled that it was happening.
Currently, Hemphill is re-editing “Nightfall” before she begins her draft of “Blood Magic,” the next installment in the series. Hemphill plans to add a third novel to the series as well. Though she has not started working on the third book yet, she cannot stop writing. She’s been working on a few smaller projects, which includes a six-chapter serial short story for her website.
Hemphill finds the process of creating stories engaging because she loves coming up with new ideas and finds it empowering as well. Hemphill has the power to tell the story the way she wants, and the way she knows her readers will love.
“Words feel meaningful and a little bit magical to me, and when I write I’m tapping into that source,” she said. “It always sounds very esoteric and possibly crazy when I try to explain it. But then, it has been my experience that all dedicated writers are crazy. I think it’s a requirement.”
Hemphill said that college has been better for writing than high school because she doesn’t have to spend the entire day in class. Though she has plenty of schoolwork, she writes during study breaks and between classes. She always keeps a notebook with her in case she has a couple free minutes to write. Most of her writing is done when she has free afternoons or weekends.
The audience for “Nightfall” is readers who enjoy classic and recent juvenile and Young Adult fiction and Urban Fantasy stories with splashes of magic and paranormal creatures.
“Nightfall is dark, but isn’t dystopian in the sense that so many recent Young Adult titles have explored, although it deals with apocalyptic themes,” Graves said. “Rather, it is more of a quest for answers and a search for self-identity and growth, and a race to keep the bad guys from escaping their prison and destroying the universe. The clock is ticking.”
In addition to being a writer, Hemphill is co-president and founding member of Outside the Writer’s Block, the NC State creative writing club. She is also involved in the Plant Biology Club and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Alliance (GLBTCA) and is a fan of the Crafts Center’s classes.
Sara Shaut, a sophomore studying chemistry, started Outside the Writer’s Block with Hemphill in 2014. Together, they plan all the club meetings and activities.
“[Hemphill’s] very easy to work with, being extremely laid-back and enthusiastic,” Shaut said. “She brings plenty of good ideas to the club as well as a good sense of leadership and decision-making.”
Shaut thinks “Nightfall” is a good representation of Hemphill’s talent because it showcases her writing skills and creativity and said she is excited to see how her writings unfold now and in the future.
Hemphill is a resident of Wolf Village, which she loves partly because of the kitchen and in-room washer and dryer. Last year, she lived in Lee Hall and was a member of the WISE Village.
“The suite style made it easy to get to know the neighbors, and some of them are still my good friends now,” she said. “The lounges were pretty snazzy as well, and there was almost always something interesting going on there.”
While she lived at Lee Hall, Hemphill thought the green space in front of the building and deck out back were nice for writing. She is looking forward to cool, fall days so she can try writing outside Wolf Village. “It’s really quiet, and there are lots of places to sit, so I’m betting it will be nice,” she said.
In the future, Hemphill is sure of two things: She is pursuing a career in plant/agricultural science; and she isn’t going to stop writing.
Thinking short-term, Hemphill said graduate school is the plan. She has considered a few different places, including NC State. Graves said he could see her on the New York Times Best Sellers List.
“I’ve got four more books to write in the next few years, too,” Hemphill said. “After that, I’ll have to see where my career(s) take me.”