This week I spoke with Lianne Miller who was not only gracious enough to give me an interview, but also consented to let me read and review her debut fantasy novel, Artifice. It was a wonderful read and the full review will appear here next Wednesday (September 16th).
IDI – Although Artifice is your debut, your second novel Vendetta is coming out very soon and you’ve started the third book of the series, Chaos. How long does it generally take you to write a book, from the spark of an idea to the finished product?
LM – That can vary depending on the book and the time I have available to write. When I wrote The Legatees’ Journey, it took 15-years to finish the story (I was raising children and establishing a business).
The Nights of Shadow series is moving a lot faster: I began writing Artifice in August 2014 and it published in late May, early June of 2015. While my editor worked on Artifice, I began writing Vendetta (pending release date of November 15, 2015). With Chaos, the writing began before my editor received Vendetta (on track for release in the spring of 2016).
IDI – There are many ‘systems’ to write a novel: storyboarding, the 7-point structure system, the snowflake system, to name a few. Have you tried any of them? If so, share your thoughts and experiences.
LM – I’m a true pantser—an author who writes by the seat of her britches. An idea comes to me, the characters begin to grow (talk to me), and I sit down and let the words flow. Sometimes the beginning point may change—what I wrote as a first chapter ends up in the middle of the book—but other times it remains, and I always have a sense for how the book will end before I get there. In Artifice, the ending actually came to me in the middle of the story, and I wrote the final chapter long before the middle chapters of the book was finished. It was fun building the bridges between the middle and the end. Vendetta’s ending waited until I was nearer to the end of the story—there were two possible directions for me to leave the setup for the third book. The ending for Chaos is decided, and I’m excited to keep writing everything in between until I reach that final scene.
IDI – When you find yourself in a rut, where do you turn for inspiration?
LM – When my writing feels stagnate I turn to dreams, music, life, and may go on a hardcore reading binge. After devouring several books, as I reach a point that no new titles are jumping out at me, then I have to write the story I’m not finding elsewhere.
IDI – There are magazines and blogs full of what’s new and what’s hot in the publishing industry. Do you keep up with the latest news, advice, trends and such? What are your thoughts?
LM – While trends are important to marketing, if a story is good enough then it will stand on its own regardless if popular culture and society’s attention is pulled elsewhere. There’s a tendency to have information overload to the point where news, advice, and opinion conflicts to such a degree that it leaves one wondering what is the truth, and what should one believe. Always weigh the information with a grain of salt, an ounce of wisdom, and make the best-informed choice you can—that is the only way to deal with the huge volume of information about the publishing industry.
IDI – To date, what is the most negative comment you’ve read or heard about your current release?
LM – That the story is written in present tense and not in the past tense. Some readers do not like present tense stories, but I believe that some stories are better told with the immediacy and urgency that only present tense can bring to the storyline and characters. Artifice – Nights of Shadow would not be as powerful a story if it written in the past tense.
IDI – I heard the same thing said about my second novel, Lily White Lies. I think sometimes a reader is getting the story without necessarily seeing the vision.
Keeping with what readers think, this is what some have said to be a controversial question. What are your thoughts on Amazon and the reviewing process they use? How much trust do you put into the reviews posted for any given book?
LM – My debut novel, Artifice – Nights of Shadow (Book One), released about the same time that Amazon implemented the change in their review policy. I have nothing to judge it against, and I have not been notified by Amazon or any reader that a review has been blocked or removed. I do share other authors’ concerns that Amazon’s new policy may not allow for the author’s use of social media to reach his/her audience. If interaction with a fan can bar them from submitting a fair and honest review, then Amazon’s policy needs to address this issue in a manner that is fair to both the reader and the author.
IDI – You make a strong point and one many writers would agree with. I can’t say I understand the algorithms Amazon uses, but fans connect and interact with their favorite authors all of the time. If that interaction is enough to cause Amazon to remove a review, it’s not only unfair to the writers, but to potential readers looking to choose their next read.
Okay, I sidetracked for a moment. Next question, we all like to receive positive reviews. What is your reaction to a negative review? Be honest.
LM – The closest I’ve had to a negative review, so far, is a reader who gave Artifice a 2 star rating. The reader didn’t leave a comment and it left me curious as to why the reader rated the book that low. When I looked at the reader’s profile, the answer became clear: this reader consistently rates YA novels at 3-5 stars, and all other genres receive 1-2 stars. Artifice is a New Adult Contemporary Fantasy, not a Young Adult novel.
I am realistic and I know at some point that a reader may give a poor review of my story. If the review is fair with honest reasons given, then I will use the negative feedback to further improve my writing, and do a better job in presenting a published story.
IDI – Who’s your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
LM – Artifice was created to lure all adult readers in, and the readers I wanted the most were those who don’t typically read fantasy stories—I wanted to turn them onto this genre. In that regard, Artifice did just that: “You’re going to turn me into a fan of the genre in spite of myself.” Maryanne C. (This reader is an older, retired woman who has avoided this type of fantasy story her whole reading life.)
IDI – Even though I won’t be posting my review until next week, I can say now that like Maryanne C., I have veered from fantasy and supernatural reads also. I ‘thought’ it was something I wasn’t into. And who knows, that may be the case should I pick up another book in that genre, but I was pleasantly surprised after reading Artifice. Regardless of how good the writing was, I was prepared to dislike the actual story. I imagined garlic necklaces, silver crucifixes, sleeping in coffins, and such. It was NOTHING like that! I won’t give anything away, but I truly did enjoy it.
Beta readers. Do you use them as a part of your revision process and how valuable do you find their feedback?
LM – Yes, I have beta readers—a two-tiered team. My “alpha” betas receive parts of the manuscript as I’m writing the story, and their feedback helps me bridge gaps, pick up missed opportunities, and kill what isn’t working. My “beta” betas receive the manuscript when the first full draft is complete. Their combined feedback is invaluable, as they push me to clean up or expand aspects of the story; the end result is a better story. They inspire me to put my best work out there for a reader.
IDI – Fun question. Your last book is racing up the best seller list. You’ve been invited to a sit down with Oprah. Describe your reaction to the news and your preparation for the show?
LM – Oprah? No offense, I know many people love her, but if Artifice is rocketing up the bestseller list, I’d much rather sit down and talk with a new fan (one converted to this genre), or a famous actor or model that served as a visual inspiration for one of my characters. Of course, I’d be thrilled for Artifice to gain that type of traction—it’s every author’s dream, isn’t it.
IDI – One last question. Speaking of fans, in what ways do you engage with your fans to let them know you appreciate them?
LM – I give away e-books and signed paperback copies during online events; my thanks and appreciation are always heartfelt and sincere. I let them know how much their time and opinion means to me—it’s invaluable. If not for enthusiasm from those willing to read my stories, I wouldn’t be a published author, and I hope that my stories will remain something they find worth their time to read. As long as they have the desire to read my stories, I will keep writing for them.
Thank you for this interview, Kathy, and thank you to those who read this and want to know more about the stories I write. As I prepare to depart, I will leave with you the following links.