Meyer considers his literary influences to be "the modernists, basically Woolf, Faulkner, Joyce, Hemingway, Welty, etc." Various outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, and the UK's Telegraph have compared his writing to William Faulkner , Ernest Hemingway, , Cormac McCarthy , and J.D. Salinger .
Meyer attended the Baltimore City Public Schools system, including Baltimore City College High School, until dropping out at age 16 and getting a GED. He spent the next five years working as a bicycle mechanic and occasionally volunteering at Baltimore's Shock Trauma Center.
At age 20, while taking college classes in Baltimore, Meyer decided to become a writer. He also decided to leave his hometown and at 22, after several attempts at applying to elite colleges, was admitted to Cornell University. Cornell was a hugely positive experience for Meyer, who reflected that “All of the sudden I wasn’t alone." During his time at Cornell, Meyer wrote a 600-page novel that was never published, later dismissing it as "self-indulgent undergrad nonsense". Meyer graduated from Cornell with a degree in English and many years later received an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas.
After Cornell, Meyer worked for the Swiss investment bank UBS as a derivatives trader. He describes his experience there as "soul crushing".
After several years at UBS, decided to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. He wrote a novel that he could not get published, a book he has called "an apprentice-level work". Meyer took jobs as an emergency medical technician and construction worker, and was preparing for a long-term career as a paramedic when, in 2005, he received a fellowship at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas, where he wrote the majority of American Rust. Random House bought American Rust at the end of 2008. During his time at the Michener Center, Meyer met fellow writer Kevin Powers, who later wrote the 2012 Iraq War novel The Yellow Birds.
In 2010, Meyer was named to The New Yorker's "20 under 40", its decennial list of 20 promising writers under the age of 40.
In 2012, Meyer finished work on his novel The Son, and began developing it as a TV show, along with Michener Fellows Brian McGreevy and Lee Shipman. After four years of development, AMC picked up the The Son as a television series starring Pierce Brosnan, with Meyer, McGreevy, and Shipman as creators and executive producers. The three of them did much of the writing on the television show.
The bulk of American Rust was written during Meyer's time at the Michener Center (2005–2008). In December 2007 the novel was acquired by Spiegel & Grau, a Random House imprint. American Rust was eventually acquired by publishers in 23 countries and translated into 17 languages. It is a third person, stream-of-consciousness narrative influenced, according to Meyer, by writers such as James Joyce, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, and James Kelman.
American Rust was a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2009). Reviewers in the UK's The Daily Telegraph, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and Dayton Daily News have suggested it fits the category of "Great American Novel".
Toward the end of composing American Rust, Meyer sought to find another subject through which he could explore what he felt was the "creation myth of America".
Meyer's original vision for The Son was quite different from the final novel; it originally featured "six or seven characters”, was "set in the present day", and "was conceived [...] as a book about the rise of a family dynasty and America’s relationship with war and violence." After two and a half years working on this version, Meyer realized that "these characters were talking about this legendary guy, and they were commenting on the American myth, in a way. And finally [...] it finally hit me that ... I needed the legendary character [Eli McCullough] in the book."
The inspiration for the revised novel grew out of recalling his time studying for his MFA at the University of Texas, during which Meyer became familiar with the so-called "Bandit War" of 1915–1918. He saw the potential for a novel concerning the Bandit Wars and the "creation myth of Texas" to explore broader historical issues about the development of America as a whole. After American Rust's publication, Meyer began to research Texas history more closely. Meyer has estimated that he read 350 or so books about the history of Texas and diverse topics from captivity narratives to guides on bird tracks in the course of his composition of the novel. To gather historically accurate material for the book, Meyer learned how to tan deer hides, taught himself how to hunt with a bow, spent a month with military contractor Blackwater for firearms training, and shot a buffalo at a ranch so he could drink its blood - giving him a reference point for Comanche rituals.
With The Son, Meyer sought to write "[...] a modernist take on the American creation myth. I didn't want the characters to be mythological figures, the way they're presented to us as kids in movies and in some books." The writing took five years.
The Son was published in May 2013. It was described in press releases as "an epic of Texas", with the plot concerning "three generations of a Texas family: Eli, his son Pete and Pete’s granddaughter Jeanne. Each face their own challenges—Comanche raiders, border wars and a changing civilization, respectively." Meyer has described the novel-in-progress as "[a] partly historical novel about the rise of an oil and ranching dynasty in Texas, tracing the family from the earliest days of white settlement, fifty years of open warfare with the Comanche, the end of the frontier and the rise of the cattle industry, and transitioning into the modern (oil) age. The rise of Texas as a power pretty closely parallels America's rise to global power, for obvious reasons. And I wanted to write about the parts of America that are growing, rather than declining."
Meyer has said that he has conceived The Son to be the second part of a trilogy of novels that began with American Rust.
The Son was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and won the Lucien Barrière Prize in France as well as the Prix Littérature-Monde in France. It was also long listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Actor Sam Neill was originally set to star in the series of the same name, until sometime later he was dropped out and was replaced with Pierce Brosnan in the titular role.2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize
2009 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize shortlist for American Rust
2010 Dobie Paisano Fellowship
2010 Guggenheim Fellowship
2010 New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list of upcoming writers
2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist for American Rust
2013 Western Heritage Award for Books
2013 Writers League of Texas Book Award
2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist for The Son
2014 Lucien Barrière Prize (France)
2015 Prix Littérature-Monde (France)
2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award longlist for "The Son"
2017 Chevalier (Knight) in France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.