Arts & Leisure

Brandon scientist releases ‘Odd’ novel

BRANDON — A research professor in Brandon has taken a skill he developed as a scientist and used it to pivot into writing works of fiction. Gary Meffe is releasing a book that captures the feel of life in rural Vermont so well you would think he was a lifelong Vermonter.
“I learned concise writing as a scientist and I feel I came in with good basic tools based on 30 years of writing professionally,” Meffe said. “I had never really dreamed of being a novelist, but I realized long ago that I do like writing.”
The New Jersey native said he was looking through a bookshelf one day and saw the title The Wizard of Odd, but when he looked again, there was no book on the shelf with that title.
“It kind of stuck with me and for six months I just thought about that title,” Meffe said. “So all I had was the title, which is a crazy way to write a novel.”
His book revolves around the fictional town of Oddertown, Vermont and the cast of characters that work to save the local general store.
“I was trying to capture small town Vermont, because it captured me,” the 64-year-old author said. “One of the very real problems you see around the state is that these general stores are closing down, after decades of business.”
Using that as the crux for the problems in the book, Meffe began to develop the plot. The easy part was actually typing the words, he said.
“The toughest part for me was taking off the scientific shackles,” the former ecology and conservation biology professor said. “It was getting out of fact-based logic and letting my mind expand and run free.”
Meffe said he saw the plot as what “could be” instead of “what is,” which is how he would look at the scientific articles he used to write.
The author (pictured, right), who’s literary heroes are mostly scientists such as Charles Darwin, is also a fan of fiction writers like Harper Lee and Howard Frank Mosher, a well-known Vermont author who wrote several novels set in small towns in the Northeast Kingdom.
“I certainly have been influenced by his work,” Meffe said. “He really captured hardscrabble Vermont and its people.”
Although he got a doctorate from Arizona State University and spent many years teaching at the universities of Florida and Georgia, he has lived with his wife in Brandon for 12 years now. He drew inspiration for many of the characters from people he has met.
“The characters are a mix of people from here and elsewhere,” he said. “You can’t help but be influenced by people if you’re paying attention.”
Some days the author would be out walking or driving when inspiration would strike and he would hurry home where he would race through the house to his office and grab his laptop, frantic to get the thought down before it left him.
“Sometimes my wife would say something and a plot point would hit me,” Meffe said, “and I’d tell her ‘No, stop,’ and I’d grab my notepad and write it down.”
It took him about a year and a half to complete the book. He launched the book at Brandon’s Book and Leaf last month.
Though this book is just being released, Meffe is not content to sit around.
“I have several books in mind,” he said. “I don’t think I’m done writing just yet.”

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