[PEOPLE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD] Dete Meserve: Searching for What’s Good
In a summer where the news has been dominated by shootings and terrorist attacks, it can become all too easy to lose one’s faith in humanity. Dete Meserve actively fights that inclination by searching out and celebrating the good in her work as a producer and novelist.
As a producer at Wind Dancer—a production company known for television shows and films such as Home Improvement and What Women Want—Meserve has recently been named the head of a newly created children’s programming division.
Ready, Jet, Go!—an animated show on PBS, which follows three kids as they learn about the solar system with their space alien friend—is the division’s debut production. The show is peppered with live action segments, which feature Dr. Amy Mainzer, an astrophysicist at NASA’S Jet Propulsion Lab.
Meserve said that Wind Dancer decided to produce the show, not only because it aligned with the company’s signature style of comedy that’s family friendly, but because it had an educational element that appealed to the inner “space geeks” of all involved.
“We get to do comedy and we get to teach kids about space?” said Meserve. “It doesn’t get better than that!”
Originally from Chicago, Meserve came to Los Angeles in 1990 when she was recruited by KUSC, the University of Southern California’s public radio station. She moved to a home on Lucerne Boulevard in Windsor Square and lived there with her husband Paul and her two sons until 1995 when they moved to a historic home on Melrose Hill, just east of Paramount Pictures. A third child, a daughter, was added later. Today, those children are respectively 22, 17 and 10 years old.
Having held management positions at various public radio and television stations, Meserve was brought on at Wind Dancer to help manage the company’s growth over 15 years ago. She was named a principal of the company earlier this year.
Despite the demands of career and motherhood, Meserve felt compelled to write her first novel, Good Sam, which she self-published in 2014.
“I wanted to write a mystery where instead of looking for a kidnapper or a serial killer,” said Meserve, “we were looking for somebody who was doing good.”
In the novel, television news reporter Kate Bradley tries to find out why someone has left $100,000 on the front porches of 10 different people. At first, Bradley thinks it’s all part of a scam or hoax.
“But ultimately,” said Meserve, “what she realizes is that she’s trying to understand why someone would do extraordinary good.”
There’s mystery and a love story in Good Sam, but not dead bodies or violence. This was a deliberate choice, Meserve said.
“I think we spend a lot of time in our entertainment focusing on people who are doing extraordinarily bad things,” said Meserve, “and that it seeps into our psyche….I think we spend so much time thinking about serial killers and not enough time thinking about how people can do good.”
As a businessperson who’s used to making deals with partners to get things done, Meserve said she felt comfortable going the self-publishing route.
“Why give most of the royalties to a publisher who is making all the choices?” said Meserve. “I get to choose who does my cover. I choose the editor….I decide how I want to promote my book.”
According to Meserve, Good Sam has sold over 50,000 copies in paperback and e-book form and has been #1 on the Amazon Best Sellers lists at different times in the categories of Mystery, Christian Fiction, Literary Fiction and Romance.
In addition, she is working with a screenwriter to develop Good Sam into a movie for the Hallmark Channel.
Meserve recently followed up Good Sam with its sequel, Perfectly Good Crime, this past June. In this novel, Meserve’s reporter investigates the biggest story of the year—the high tech theft of millions of dollars from the estates of the 100 wealthiest Americans.
“There’s an ethical question at the center of this mystery,” said Meserve. “What if you could do a crime that ended up being powerfully good?”
Kes Trestor, a fellow author and long-time friend of Meserve’s, said she believes she knows the key to Meserve’s success.
“She is so effective at writing novels about positive change in our world,” said Trestor, “because she herself strives to be that positive change.”
Meserve said she is beginning to think about a third book for the series, but right now, she is working on a new project with Rachel Greco, a seasoned Michigan-based journalist of 17 years.
“We are putting together a non-fiction book that is 25 stories of real life people who are making positive change,” said Meserve.
According to Meserve, the lens through which these stories will be told will focus on how good Samaritans get back far more than they give.
When asked how she finds the time for her writing alongside her demanding job and motherhood, Meserve said that she carves time out at night after her younger children go to bed.
“It’s almost kind of like a sacred experience for me,” said Meserve. “I never approach writing as ‘I have to’…it’s ‘I want to.’ And when it becomes ‘I want to,’ all of us, the things we want to do, we find time for.”
Posted July 27, 2016 at 6:00 a.m.