By SARAH CHAIN
Daily Record/Sunday News
Megan Erickson relied on neighborhood strolls to get her ideas flowing for her first novel. As she pushed her 2-year-old son in his stroller last spring, the Springettsbury Township author would form a scene in her head.
“I rarely sit down and just think, ‘I need to write out this scene,’” Erickson, 29, said. “(The characters) literally just talk in my head, and I try to write it.”
That’s how she wrote the opening scene for “Anchor Me,” released Jan. 2. The novel follows a young woman named Jillian, who owns an aquatics store. Adrift after her brother’s death and betrayed by her ex-boyfriend, Jillian finds out both men had been lying to her.
“I sat down and I wrote it, and it was almost like I couldn’t do anything else,” Erickson said. “Everything in my head, I had to get it down.”
The novel wasn’t too far of a jump from her experience in journalism, which started in high school. After Erickson graduated from Dallastown Area High School in 2001, she worked for the campus newspaper at Shippensburg University, and later at the York Daily Record/Sunday News.
“I have fond memories, but I will say writing fiction, for me, is what I enjoy,” Erickson said. “I kind of joke that I like writing my own endings better. Things don’t always end in real life like you want them to.”
But Erickson pulled from real life as she pieced together “Anchor Me,” using her brother as inspiration for Jillian’s brother Gabe, and relying heavily on her high school job at York Pet Supply in York Township.
“I was familiar with aquariums, and had my own aquarium when I was in high school,” Erickson said.
But making Jillian believable as a store owner looking to break into seahorse breeding required some research.
Erickson reached out to a former York Pet Supply co-worker, Nikki Wever, for help on some of the more technical language describing Jillian’s store.
“I had 10-plus years in the pet industry, focusing mostly on fish,” said Wever, who lives in York. She also ran an aquarium maintenance service for more than a decade.
“I added little notes here and there and then she went through and reworked the sections she wanted to modify based on that information,” Wever said.
Erickson’s research also influenced the book’s title, which arose from Jillian’s search for truth as she learns to support herself instead of relying on others. The hippocampus — a part of the brain that helps with navigation — was named after a seahorse because of its shape, which fit with the image of seahorses as Jillian’s anchor.
The research, though, wasn’t the most challenging aspect of Erickson’s journey. She spent six months working with a professional editor, who suggested she emphasize the romance arc between Jillian and her ex-boyfriend.
In the end, Erickson self-published “Anchor Me” through CreateSpace, a branch of amazon.com, in January. In the first month, she’s received more than a dozen positive reviews.
“I was really surprised,” Erickson said. “I just wanted people to read my stuff. I don’t expect crazy things, I just wanted people that I knew to read it and like it.”
Name: Megan Erickson
Lives in: Springettsbury Township
Family: Husband, Neal; son, Dane, 2; and a daughter, due mid-March
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom
Hobbies: Reading, cooking, spending time with family
To purchase: “Anchor Me” is available as a paperbook and e-book at amazon.com.