Author Interview: Mirriam Neal

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There are some bloggers who are simply unmistakable and unforgettable. Mirriam Neal is such a blogger. The first time I read one of her posts, I felt her storytelling seep into my soul. So much, that it’s been nearly two years and I haven’t forgotten the first post I read on her blog. I stumbled on her writing by following a rabbit trail of three or four other blogs, but hers is the only one in that trail I still read consistently. Mirriam writes with such eloquence and depth, but also whimsy and humor. Today, we’re celebrating the recent debut of her novel, Paper Crowns. (Which I desperately need to read. Curse homework for interfering with my reading habits.)

Until I can read the full novel, below is a little preview of Paper Crowns: 

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Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Pages of Wonder

 

Doesn’t it sound magical? Be sure to check out the Paper Crowns Good Reads page for more. Before you rush off, though, pour a cup of mocha coffee and join me for a chat with Paper Crowns’ author Mirriam Neal. She graciously answered over a dozen of my questions, and her answers are as fabulous as I expected from her. They also make me even more eager to read Paper Crowns. 

  1. What does the beginning of your storytelling process look like? Do you outline, free write, etc.?
    The beginning always looks the same, but with different ingredients: I’ve had enough of said ingredients simmering around that I finally realize I can make something, as soon as I figure out exactly how. I’m a seventy-percent free writer and a thirty-percent plotter. I like to have a vague idea of how I want the book to end, and probably three major things I want to happen. Just enough pins to keep the whole thing from falling apart, and I take it from there.
  2. What was the most difficult part of writing Paper Crowns?
    Editing and revising, really. I wrote it in a month, so the whole thing was kind of a slapdash mess. It still is! I’m working on a couple more tweaks since a few scattered minor mistakes were found – it’s a process.
  3. Let’s play favorites! Without spoilers, who is your favorite character in Paper Crowns and why?
    This is phrased in a very tricky way, Sarah. Very tricky. Hmm. My favorite character to write? The character I’d most like to hang out with? WHICH ONE? Well, my favorite character to write was probably Azrael. He was the easiest. He wanted to be written (he’s pushy that way). The character I’d most like to hang out with is probably Hal. I’d have endless questions.
  4. What is your recipe for creativity?
    It depends, really. Sometimes it means a constant diet of reading, movies, shows, dramas, and music. Other times I need to step away for a while and not read anything but non-fiction. Usually it’s a good mix of both – but I try to immerse myself in stories and music pertinent to what I’m writing. I also try to get out and spend time in towns and cities as frequently as possible, and write in places other than my room or my house. Shaking things up a little often knocks something loose.
  5. Tea time! What’s your beverage of choice, if any, when writing?
    Black coffee is always my beverage of choice. Anytime, anywhere. (Although I’m a fan of many beverages and won’t turn down anything from tea to kombucha.)
  6. What is one thing most people wouldn’t guess about your writing?
    How hard it is, probably. Even the easy novels like the Paper series. They’re the hardest things I ever do. I get told my writing feels effortless much of the time, which is often a large compliment but sometimes feels a little confusing – is that good or bad? I don’t want people to think that writing is easy, or that I do it because I’m lazy. It’s real work. It stresses me and pushes me just like any job.
  7. What has been a defining moment for you as an author?
    My mother was reading one of my novels and was so physically revolted that she had to stop eating lunch. She asked how I could write something so horrible, and I pointed out that I hadn’t written anything horrible – I just wrote it so that her brain would fill in the gaps. She went back and re-read it, and told me, astonished, that I was right. This was a huge leap forward for me, both in style and in my personal confidence.
  8. If you could visit any fictional land, where would you travel?
    I would absolutely travel to Middle-Earth. #Basic, I know, but it was my first otherworld love and continues to be the strongest.
  9. What makes a good villain?
    I think the scariest villains are the ones who might actually do something good, or who show a human side to their villainy. In ‘Dragon Blade,’ Tiberius blinds his young brother with acid, but he weeps as he does it. He knows the pain he’s causing, and it pains him in turn – but he does it anyway. That’s terrifying.
  10. If you could have lunch with any author or artist, who would you choose?
    I would have lunch with John Howe. It’s still surreal to be able to say ‘I’m friends with John Howe,’ but it’s true – yet he lives in Switzerland, so we’ve never met. Having lunch with him would be a dream come true.
  11. Are there any quotes that inspire your creativity?
    Many quotes inspire me, but a consistent favorite is ‘be the person you needed when you were younger.’ It’s an important mindset, I think, and one I try to live by.
  12. Choose a superpower just for today.
    Flight. Every time.
  13. Would you rather have a pet dragon or unicorn? Why?
    A dragon. Unicorns are beautiful and often have healing powers, but dragons are more battle-fit, they can breathe fire (and often have other talents, like shape-shifting or voice mimicry) and they’re shrewd PLUS they can fly.
  14. Would you be most at home among hobbits, elves or dwarves?
    Elves. I think I would be happiest there. The history, the architecture, the art, the music, the war-skills, the aesthetics – the conversations I could have!
  15. Thank you for making an appearance at On Another Note today! Is there anything else you would like to share? The spotlight is yours!
    You have the ability to make an impact on everyone you meet. I think it’s an important thing to keep in mind. Thank you so much for having me, Sarah!

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About the Author: 

Mirriam Neal is a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time. She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.

Visit Mirriam’s blog, Wishful Thinking at mirriamneal.com or send a note to the­shieldmaiden@hotmail.com

Also check out the other stops on the Paper Crowns blog tour – you can view a complete list here.

Paper Crowns is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Now scoot, go get a copy.

Happy reading!

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Blog Launch & Interview with Annie Hawthorne of Curious Wren

Hello friends! Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to my sweet friend, Annie Hawthorne. Not only is she a lovely person, Annie is a wonderful writer. Her blog is launching today (and you should totally go check it out. Go on. I’ll wait here.) In celebration, she’s agreed to answer some interview questions here at On Another Note. This is the first interview I’ve conducted, and I’m so excited! Let’s get started!

Curious Wren

Welcome to On Another Note, Annie! It’s such a pleasure to have you here! In honor of your blog launching, and both of us being writers and bookworms, I thought it would be fun to have a bit of a Q & A. I absolutely love to ask questions, especially about bookish things, so here we go! (I warn you, I’m a little random and hyper around friends 😉 )

Hello, all you lovely people! *waves* I’m delighted I could be here, and thank you so much for hosting me, Sarah! ❤ Never fear, I’m a bit ridiculous around friends too. 😉

1. How / when did you realize you’re a writer?
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and at a very young age I started telling stories to my little sisters about mice and hedgehogs, and an anthropomorphic fanfiction of Star Wars. Telling bedtime stories morphed into writing bits and pieces of story here and there, and when I was about fourteen or fifteen I started to seriously write. I’ve always intended to be an authoress and, since I had it firmly fixed in my young mind that writers were rare creatures nowadays, I considered it a noble pursuit along the lines of reviving a lost art. As I grew older I realized how many of us there actually are, and I couldn’t be happier to be proven wrong.

2. I’m so happy whenever I get to connect with other writers, too! If you could sit down to chat with a favorite author over a cup of coffee or tea, which writer would that be? (Living or gone before, either way is okay.)
Hmm… I’ll answer this with four authors: two, sadly, no longer with us, and two living. I think chatting with L.M. Montgomery about writing, and books, and people would be amazing. I have a feeling she’d have scads of helpful advice about how to write description and believable characters. And who wouldn’t jump at the chance to have a cuppa with Wodehouse or C.S. Lewis?

As for current authors, sitting down for a talk over tea and scones with Anne Elisabeth Stengl would be a dream come true. She is one very talented lady, and if her books aren’t classics someday I’ll be shocked. (If you haven’t read them yet, do so.) Eric Nylund writes brilliant, gripping, hardcore sci-fi and probably if I ever met him I’d be too tongue-tied to say a word, but, still, I’d have met him. (I read his Halo series and oh, my poor heart. Don’t get me started on how much I love these books, the charries (KURT) or the fandom. Word of caution, if you plan to read them, they are futuristic military books, so lots of swearing. My wonderful brother whited it out for me.)

And then, of course, there’s all my incredible online writing friends who I hope to meet someday! ❤

3. Are there any books you find yourself reading over and over again, or would currently like to reread?
The books that come instantly to mind as constant reads are The Hobbit, To Kill A Mockingbird, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, A Christmas Carol, Starflower, Steal Like An Artist, The Borrowers, Jane of Lantern Hill, Rilla of Ingleside, Little Women, and Johnny Tremain. A few books I’m dying to re-read are Wives and Daughters, the entire Mistmantle Chronicles series, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (which I actually have on holiday with me right now), Jane Eyre, Return of the King, Paddington, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

4. SO many good reads there! What are your top three childhood favorite books?
The Hobbit (*loves with all the love*). All the Beatrix Potter books. The Borrowers. If anybody needs a list of books for their children/future children, by all means ask me. I’ll be happy to oblige. ^_^

5. Do you have any habits to set the mood for storytelling? For example, I need to listen to music and wear something comfy.
We are twins. O.O I also like a glass of water nearby and, ideally, an open window with a breeze wafting in. Does wonders for the inspiration.

6. I always have water dangerously close to my laptop, too. Do you have a favorite pen?
I do indeed! It’s blue (naturally) and the ink flows like Anne’s legendary perfect pen in Anne of Windy Poplars. Sometimes I lose it, and then I became a mad, unrecognizable thing. In a nutshell: borrow it not, if you wish to live.

7. Besides your perfect pen, what inspires you to share your words with the world?
At first it was simply because I love reading with all my heart and I wanted to share my love for Story with those around me. That reason still holds true, but I want more than anything to inspire and encourage people with my words like I’ve experienced with so many books I’ve read. I want to show people hope, and challenge their hearts.

8. Speaking of sharing your words, how about a preview of your blog? What might readers find upon entering your lovely site?
Articles about writing, book reviews, character studies, Beautiful People posts, movie critiques, story excerpts… also, the occasional article with Deep Thoughts on Life. 😉 I’m hoping it will be a cheery, inspirational place with lots of discussion and ecstatic (or sedate depending on your personality) fangirling over everything bookish.

9. All of that content sounds fantastic, and your blog is already one of my favorites! When you’re not writing or reading (or thinking about those things), what are your favorite things to do?
I spend lots of time with my family being our usual, lively selves, but I’m also fond of knitting pretty, warm things; playing with my darling nieces; hanging out with my Enchanted Forest coloring book (#biggirlscolortoo); going on road trips; exploring bookstores; target-practicing; beach days (where, yes, I do read); researching interesting and unusual facts; watching movies in the evening; and pining for a Woods to roam about in. Among other things.

10. Funny you should mention roaming- If you could visit any fictional world, where would you go?
This is such a cruel question. o.o
Unoriginal as it may be, I would jump at the chance to roam Middle-earth in person. The Shire, Amon Hen, Gondor, Rohan, Lothlorien, Mirkwood…. can you imagine how amazing that would be? I’d probably never leave.
Of course, I wouldn’t mind visiting my own fantasy worlds in person. Preferably with weapons along. And maybe a bodyguard or several.

11. Which two real places would you most like to travel?
Great Britain — I’m a staunch Anglophile (it’s all Dickens’ fault). I also think Italy would be utterly amazing, particularly Venice. And we mustn’t forget Australia. I know nice humans there. ^_^

12. If you could own any mythical creature as a pet, what would it be? Why?
A dragon. A baby dragon. A baby dragon of glorious color and sporadic flame. And we will roast marshmallows and towns together (I kid. I kid).

A griffin would be epic too.

13. What would you do if you stumbled across a sleeping dragon?
If there are eggs, I’ll steal one while it’s asleep a la Bilbo Baggins.

14. (I actually stole this from a career website. I’m not kidding.) A penguin wearing a sombrero walks through the door. What does he say?
“This is not a dream.” (I am laughing so hard over here, Sarah. xD)

15. I’m sure I forgot to ask you something! Is there anything you’d like to mention or add? The floor is yours!
And here we have a moment of Wise and Solemn Advice from Annie. *cough* Never stop reading, and read the type of books that you want to write. In the words of Austin Kleon, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Live every moment fully, and don’t forget to enjoy the little things. It makes a tremendous difference in how much of life you experience. ^_^

Free free to ask me any questions you want, everybody! *hands around chocolate chip icecream*

Thank you so much for being here and letting us get to know you a bit more, Annie! And also for bringing chocolate chip ice cream. 😉
And thank you, friends, for joining us! Be sure to check out Annie’s amazing blog, Curious Wren, before you go. There’s a party going on all week long, with more interviews, a giveaway, and perhaps some extra chocolate chip ice cream. It’s going to be a grand time, and you certainly don’t want to miss. Here’s a link, so you can follow and join in on all the fun. 


IMG_7881Annie Hawthorne is a twenty-something writer who tends to be guilty of either hyperbole or crafting scenes that make her beta-readers cry. If she’s not scribbling YA fantasy and speculative fiction, then she can be found interacting with her family as one of its more lively members or attempting to shorten her TBR stack (it never works). She practices piano badly, and photography even worse. People-watching, long road-trips, dissecting movies, Doctor Who and LOTR marathons, wearing red heels, and collecting mugs are always on her To-Do list. She chases beauty, and is a child of God. Annie talks books, writing, and life at https://anniehawthorne.wordpress.com.
You can find her Twitter account at https://twitter.com/annie_hawthorne

An Award-Winning Post

Blog comments are awesome. I love the community and conversation they allow. It makes my day when even one is added to my site, and on my second post, I was thrilled when a friendly blogger with an awesome username dropped me a line.

Then last week, she sent another my way, and it made me even happier than the first.

triSARAHtops, of the blog with the same name, was kind enough to bestow upon me the Liebster award!

I hadn’t heard of it before, but now that I have, I think it’s awesome. The idea is to award 11 favorite bloggers who have 200 followers or fewer. I didn’t follow the 200 follower rule completely, because some bloggers simply had to be included, even though they passed that mark. I did try my best to select within the rule, however. With the award, you ask the bloggers 11 new questions, and they’re able to pass the idea around to continue the conversation. It’s also fun to follow the discussion and discover new blogs, along with new facts about favorite bloggers.

Here are my answers to triSARAHtop’s 11 questions:

  1. Describe your blog in one sentence.
    It’s like my own little cafe to share ideas and meet new friends, all without leaving my living room.
  2. Why do you blog?
    I started blogging because it felt like the next step for me as a writer. I’m shy overall, and blogging has given me the push I needed to share rather than stow everything away. Otherwise, I would be like Emily Dickinson and keep everything locked in a drawer.
  3. What do you feel is the best post you have written?
    So far, I only have three published posts, not counting this one, but many more to come. Out of the published ones, I feel the best is the latest: The Unchecked List.
  4. Follow-up to Question Three: Why do you feel this is your best post?
    To me, The Unchecked List is my best post because it felt so natural to write. I didn’t outline or premeditate that one. It made me uncomfortable at first, because again, I’m shy and it felt vulnerable to share that struggle, however small it seems. Once I proofread and published it, though, I was pretty happy, and then my best friends and family confirmed it for me. I consider it the post I can point to and say, “This is how I feel and sound. This is where I live.” And I hope other people can relate to that one, as well.
  5. Where do you find your inspirations?
    I know it sounds a bit cliche, but inspiration really is all around! My best sources are my journals, favorite books, other blogs (which we’ll talk more about in a moment), and Pinterest. Also, simply taking time to clear my mind and then listen to my ideas as they come back one by one.
  6. What do you do when you aren’t blogging?
    That information is classified. Only joking! When I’m not blogging, I could be doing any number of things: Writing fiction, getting lost in a book, daydreaming, chatting randomly to friends, watching movies with my family, chasing my Morkie around, volunteering for my church, or playing the piano rather unskillfully, to name a handful.
  7. Coffee or Tea?
    That would depend on the time of day. I’m a bit too enthusiastic about both of them. Especially when they’re iced.
  8. Who would win in a fight: Spiderman or Daredevil?
    I’ll have to say Spiderman, but I don’t have a good debate to back it up. I just really don’t know much about Daredevil except he’s blind and Ben Affleck played him awhile ago. (That’s right, isn’t it?
  9. What do you think is the best TV Show of all time?
    Of ALL time? Not just what’s on TV now? Snap. I read that wrong initially and was ready to explain what my current favorite show is. But out of all time, I’m going to have to say… Gracious, I really can’t say! I know it would be from BBC, but I’m not sure which one. Sherlock is the first that springs to mind, but probably because it’s just a current favorite. Though it is genius, after all.
  10. Why didn’t you choose Veronica Mars as the answer to Question 9? (If you did you can skip this one)
    First I had to say I don’t know about Daredevil, and now I’ll admit I didn’t choose Veronica Mars because I’ve never heard of it. … But anyhow, it’s because Sherlock cannot be ignored, and it’s one of the few shows that makes me feel smarter. (Even if I have pitiful deduction skills.)
  11. What is your favourite book?
    Such impossible questions! I could fill a library with answers but since I am only allowed to select one, I’ll say North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s a classic, but somehow felt easier to get lost in than other classics I’ve read. I love the characters and how each stands out with different strengths and weaknesses, as well as the progress they make over the course of the story. The setting is a character in itself, and the dialogue really caught my ear. Also, it’s not solely a love story, like some of my other favorite literature. Though there is that element, the story is also about society, family, friendship, justice, change, choices… I can honestly say, when I closed this book, I felt like I had learned something about life and myself.
    Oh, and there’s a wonderful miniseries based on the book, which I am utterly addicted to. Like any film, it doesn’t follow the novel exactly, but it’s so close and wonderful, I don’t mind at all. Also, Richard Armitage IS John Thornton. I could picture him as the character the entire time I was reading. Which could also account for some of my enjoyment of the book 😉

Now, the 11 Lovely Bloggers I am sharing the Liebster award with:

  1. Wishful Thinking. I discovered Miriam’s blog a couple of months ago, when I was still summoning the bravery to start mine. I love her conversational tone, and the way each post has such personality. Also, she has incredibly cool glasses.
  2. Escaping Reality- One Book at a Time. I “met” Lynette on Pinterest, since we followed each other’s BBC Robin Hood boards. (that show needs more fans, by the way.) Since then, I discovered she shares some awesome book reviews on her great blog! Just clicking on her site makes me want to lock myself away with a stack of novels.
  3.  Living on Literary Lane – I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now, and it has been an incredible inspiration! Each post is so poetic, it has the timeless feel of literature and fairy tales to me. After I read one of Elizabeth’s posts, I always feel such storytelling energy.
  4. Of Battles, Dragons and Swords of Adamant – I came across Gillian’s blog through Twitter, and instantly, the fantasy feeling drew me in! She’s a very talented writer, and reading her blog is like stepping into another magical world.
  5. Entirely Bonkers – Just the name of this blog caught my attention, for being quirky and a reference to Alice in Wonderland. I have so enjoyed Emily’s posts here, and the whimsy and art they’re written with.
  6. Whisperings of the Pen – I found Katie’s blog through her annual “Actually Finishing Something in July” event when I participated in 2013. I didn’t get to take part in the event last year, but even so, I’ve really enjoyed her writing!
  7. The Inkpen Authoress – This blog is simply lovely. Rachel’s writing just flows, and like so many of these other blogs, inspires me to go and write more. Also, her header is the cutest.
  8. Scribbles & Inkstains – I was instantly a fan when I first found this blog, and then I managed to lose the address in my favorites file and my brain went blank as to the name. I’m so glad I finally came across it again! I’m looking forward to reading more of it in the future. Also, I love the design.
  9. The Villain Authoress – Though she may be a “character’s worst nightmare,” Rana’s blog is far from nightmarish! Her posts are both engaging and informative, and they make me want to run off and write five chapters.
  10. Ella Dement –  I discovered Ella’s blog through Twitter, because we share many favorite story genres. I like her short posts, (says the girl who’s almost up to 2,000 words here!) and how they typically end with a question. Also, the look of her blog reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, which is a pleasant thought.
  11. Book Geeks Anonymous – I only found Hanna’s blog recently, but I’m so glad I did! Her site is brimming with such rich literature, that if I could smell it, I bet it would have that irresistible aroma of old novels.

To these eleven bloggers, I present eleven questions: 

  1. What is the story behind your blog name? 
  2. How long does it take you to write each post? 
  3. Which blogging platform do you use? WordPress, Blogger, or something else entirely?
  4. Do you prefer e-books or physical copies? 
  5. What are five words to describe you? 
  6. What are five different words to describe your blog?
  7. Do you keep a journal? 
  8. What are three of your other hobbies? 
  9. If you could visit any city in the world, which would you choose?
  10. Do you prefer dogs or cats?
  11. Would you rather ask questions or answer them?

Here is a quick review of the “Rules” for any bloggers who would like to accept the Liebster Award:
– Answer the 11 interview questions
– In that post, link back to the person who awarded you, which would be me in this case. This means I’ll get to see your responses, which I’m looking forward to!
– Choose 11 other bloggers to award, focusing on those with 200 followers or below. (I did make a few exceptions, but it’s the general rule.)
– Link to those bloggers in your post, then go and leave them comments to share the good news!
– Be sure to ask them 11 original questions.
– Have fun sharing!

To my friends who aren’t listed for the Liebster award, I’m still curious to hear your answers for those eleven questions! If you’d like to share them, even for just a few questions, please leave your replies in the comments.

Also, let me know if you’re a follower of any of the blogs I mentioned! If you’re not, I suggest checking them out. 🙂

Let’s chat again soon!

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