Monday, February 28, 2011

Interview with historical author Miriam Newman

Miriam Newman, who’s been successful with fantasy historicals has just released her first historical novel, The Comet, through DCL Publications. I was lucky enough to get a sneak-preview of her novel, which is set in England during the Norman Conquest, and was captivated by her spunky heroine, who takes her fate into her own hands. I’m pleased to welcome Miriam aboard my blog today for a chat.

Vicky: Hi Miram.  You've been successful in sci-fi/fantasy. What made you decide to try historicals?

Miriam: My futuristic romance, Scion, has been my best seller to date. Yet even in that I found study of Byzantine culture essential to the world building. My award-winning fantasy historicals, The King's Daughter and Heart of the Earth, likewise involved intensive study of Roman Britain, Irish and Nordic history and mythology. For Spirit Awakened, I immersed myself in Native American, Tibetan and Mongolian lore, especially tales of the Golden Horde of Genghis Khan. So finally I decided if I was going to be reading history all the time anyway, I might as well write it.

Vicky: Why the Medieval time period?

Miriam: When I was a small child--maybe about six--I was very sick with what was feared to be appendicitis. I knew that involved an "operation," so I was one scared kid! Well, to calm me, my mother (a rather unusual lady) read me a grisly poem by Longfellow called "The Skeleton in Armor." It's the story of the ghost of a knight who fell on his sword for love of lady fair and now is condemned to wander the earth searching for her. I think today they would call that counter-phobic know, if the kid's scared of surgery we'll give her something to REALLY be scared of. Didn't work. I shot straight to the romantic heart of the poem and conceived a love of Medievals on the spot! I was six years old and had a thing for guys in chain mail. I still do.

Vicky: There have been rumours the Medieval period is "dead" publisher-wise, unless you're writing Medievals set in Scotland. The Comet is set in Southern England during the Norman Conquest. Did you have any feedback from your publisher with the setting you chose?

Miriam: My publisher loved it. She has always given me leeway to write whatever is in my heart at the time. The book is selling, so she's happy!

Vicky: What gave you the idea for The Comet?

Miriam: Researching the Bayeux Tapestry twelve years ago. I was fascinated with the portrayal of William the Conqueror and his men crossing the Channel and conquering England! I have one of those brains that goes darting down every possible alley and, sure enough, it ran away again. It took all those years for the idea to thoroughly percolate, but when it did there was no stopping it. I sat down to write something else and out came The Comet. I had no control.

Vicky: The Comet has really two love stories in it. How do you see those mirroring each other?
Miriam: They really are mirror images. Neel, the hero, can be condescending and arrogant--or at least he comes across that way to Rowena, the heroine. And Rowena has a temper of her own. Daughter and niece of Saxon thegns, she has a sense of her place. Neel's best friend and fellow Norman knight, Gilles, is basically peace-loving and a diplomatic sort. When he encounters Isolde, cast-off mistress of Rowena's late uncle, his heart is touched by her plight. Isolde has accepted, as Rowena never will, that she is at the behest of men She can't really believe it when she finally meets one strong enough to be gentle.

Vicky: The Comet has a spunky heroine who takes her fate into her own hands. What lesson(s) do you think she needs to learn?

Miriam: Rowena starts out a bit too stupid to live, to be honest. But she is very young, as most brides were in that era. She hasn't yet learned to foresee consequences. And once she starts the ball rolling through an act of sheer self will, those consequences and lessons are not long in coming.

Vicky: What made you decide to e-publish?

Miriam: It was sheer chance. I had survived my first hundred rejections from New York--barely--and realized I was writing so far outside their box that I might never get an acceptance from a mainstream publisher. Right about that time, I was on a loop started by a friend and she mentioned that an editor was on there as well and looking for excerpts. I threw one out just for the heck of it and within minutes got an invitation to submit to her epub. The editor was very forthcoming about what I could expect from epub versus print and careful to see that I understood what they could offer. Even so, when the book was accepted, I checked out everything . The publisher was extremely patient, answered all my questions and proceeded to do an excellent job with the book.

Vicky: You've been publishing with DCL Publications for a while now. What made you decide to go with them?

Miriam: I have found them to be kind and ethical. They don't sugar-coat anything, but deal with you fairly. They're supportive, responsive, promote their authors and their quality control is excellent. And I love my editor.

Vicky: Any advice for writers who want to go the e-pub route?

Miriam: Realize that you won't get the exposure and distribution you get through mainstream publishing, at least not yet, and that your earnings may not be high unless you write erotica. Research the pub, look at their other books with an eye to good cover art and editing (both crucial to sales). Be wary of any offer of a quick release date that's established almost before the ink is dry on your contract. If you're a newbie, that may look impressive. Often, it isn't. Go over your contract carefully, preferably consulting an author who is thoroughly experienced in epub. Be sure the epub has a distributor. You'd think that would be a no-brainer, but sometimes they don't. All this being said, I believe epublishing and POD print is the wave of the future. So if you want to get on board, find a publisher who will show you the ropes and go for it.

Vicky: Thanks, Miriam, for your time and your advice!


  1. And thank you for yours, Vicky. I appreciate them more than you can know.

  2. GREAT post and chock full of excellent advice. Your mother was a wise woman, Miriam and we're all lucky she launched your love of Medieval. Your books ROCK! :-)

  3. Thank you, Maeve. This one was rather special to me.

  4. Miriam, your books sound intriguing.Congratulations on finding a publishing home that allows something besides the norm. I think it's wrong to force creative people to fit a mold. Most of us just don't squeeze in, do we?

  5. Miriam, you know I'm already a fan of your work so I'm really happy to see The Comet doing so well. Great interview! :)

  6. Thanks, ladies! Caroline, you are so right. I have been given more leeway at DCL than I think I would anywhere else and it has really kept the creative fire going. Ideas come faster than I can write them.

  7. Wonderful interview, ladies. Vicky, I love your blog. Miriam, keep those creative juices flowing. You and your writing are a real inspiration! Congrats on your latest release.

  8. It sounds like my kind of book. It's on my TBR list.

    Kate Welsh

  9. Thanks, Pat and Kate. YAY for historicals, right, Kate?

  10. Oooh, historical fantasies. Yes, yes, yes. For purely personal reasons, I'm really interested in the Genghis Khan take. I'll go look up that title. :) Thanks to both of you for this!