Miriam Newman was born in Bryn Mawr, PA, right in the heart of the Philadelphia main line, and lived there for 36 years. Currently, she lives quite a bit further Northwest of the city in the still-rural area of Elverson, PA, where she lives on a small horse farm. Preceding her work as an author, Miriam worked for 18 years in various areas of psychiatric social work.
She has received an Honorable Mention in a Pennsylvania Poetry Society competition which was opened nationwide. There’s only one winner and one Honorable Mention out of many thousands of entries, making this a rather big deal.
Miriam has successfully published 2 books thus far: Confessions of the Cleaning Lady and Book 1 of her Chronicles of Alcinia, The Kings Daughter for The Dark Castle Lords.
That one is the first of a two-book work, a fantasy epic with romantic elements. The second half, Heart of the Earth, will release after that and another fantasy, Spirit Awakened, is going to editing.
Lillith: What drove you to begin writing?
Miriam: For years, I published poetry because of an insatiable need to do it. Then, after my husband died, my writing started coming out in 100,000-word installments and I couldn’t stop it. I’m sure it was a release of some sort.
Lillith: I’m so sorry about your husband. I can’t imagine the pain you and fellow author Kate Hofman have gone through.
Lillith: Do you have a particular poem you can share with us?
Miriam: I would but I’ve actually received a request to put all of my poems into book form (another project!) and that will be copyrighted, so I probably should not put one out elsewhere at this time. Lillith: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Miriam: I think it was when I used to snitch the paper my mother used for her shopping lists so that I could print my “books,” complete with illustrations. As I recall, the pictures were invariably of horses! I seem to remember a Hollywood “stunt” horse that saved his rider from a brush fire.
Lillith: I bet you were a handful. How did your mother deal with all of this?
Miriam: To be honest, she laughed. And every time my teachers complained that I was writing manuscripts during their classes, she said they should be happy, at least I was taking advantage of my education. Lillith: What was the inspiration for your first book?
Miriam: I started writing the first one a week after my husband died. I am sure people thought it was very strange, but I really believe it got me through that horrible period of “coming to terms” with things. That one ended up in my secretary desk, from where I have only recently unearthed it.
In the interim, I spent a lot of time in Ireland and that kicked off a spate of books, especially The King’s Daughter.
Lillith: I am very jealous!!! How was Ireland?
Miriam: Fantastic! Art of any kind is respected there. I once asked a sheep farmer if I could just sit in his pasture (which had a GREAT view) to make some notes and you would have thought I’d offered him a million dollars.
The pace of life permits you to practice your art and the weather definitely gives you time indoors—perfect for a writer! But I loved it—every fog, every raindrop, every force 10 gale. It’s too expensive to live there—at least for me—but I would love to be able to spend half of every year in Ireland. That’s my dream. Lillith: Who or what hs influenced your writing?
Miriam: My mother and William Butler Yeats, with a push from Edna St. Vincent Millay. Poetry was my first love, but I have also submerged myself in fantasy and science fiction, romance and everything in between.
A strong interest in history has also contributed to nearly everything I have ever written. And lately I have been surprised by a spiritual aspect in my writing. I didn’t expect that one.
Lillith: It sounds like your books are full of great detail. You don’t sound like you disappoint.
Miriam: I hope not. They might disappoint someone looking for a category or formula romance, but if a reader wants something a little more involved than that…well, I can and do deliver.
Lillith: Do any of your hero’s win over hearts with romantic poetry?
Miriam: No, but I will give you a hint that one specific poem by Yeats is intimately involved with the plot of my baby boomer romance, Heart of the Wind. That’s my work in progress. Lillith: Has your life or environment influenced your writing in anyway?
Miriam: Very much so. The locales I have visited are featured in much of my writing. I have had a lifelong addiction to horses and, believe me, it shows! I have had a number of tragedies in my life and they are in there, to an extent. But one side of my family is Irish and noted for its wacky sense of humor and that’s there, too, as a balance.
Lillith: I can already sense that.
Miriam: I know, I’m something of a lunatic at times. Lillith: Do you have a specific writing style?
Miriam: I vary between the first and third person and of course it’s no accident that my writing tends towards the poetic. It’s hard for me to be objective about it, so I’ll just quote another author who calls it ‘sculptured.’ Sort of spare with periodic outbursts of what I modestly hope is brilliance!
Lillith: I just recently became addicted to first person.
I have to say, as a skeptic of still some first person, how do you get passed that whole part of trying to describe everything as much as possible in first person as if you were writing in third person?
Miriam: I found that two methods work for me. First, there is the action (or reaction) of the secondary character, which often reveals a great deal.
Secondly, there is my narrator’s thought about the action of the secondary character. That sometimes reveals even more. And, of course, dialogue is crucial.
I know many writers (and readers) feel first person can be limiting. I have not found it to be so. However, there are also some books that present to me in the third person right from the get-go. Those are the ones which I know intuitively will not work in first person. It’s a subconscious process, not something I decide, but it’s always on the money. Lillith: What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Miriam: Fantasy. All of it has a romantic element, but I have only one book which is a straight romance and, even then, the heroine has a tendency toward prophetic dreams and (as a child) a disconcerting ability to see departed relatives nobody else sees!
Lillith: Sounds like some of my history on vampire books…people in Europe, I believe post Elizabethan Era, believed the dead would visit them in their dreams, but only certain family members could see them. These ‘spirits’ were believed to be some kind of energy vampire or succubus.
Miriam: Well, my family all believed in second sight and being fey, which my Irish grandmother said I was practically from the moment I was born. So there were certain expectations to live up to! Lillith: How did you come up with the title for your novels?
Miriam: Usually, I have this conversation with myself that goes something like, “Well, come on, stupid. You know you have to call it something, so think, already.” I get impatient with myself and then a title usually zips into my head.
Lillith: I can’t stop laughing at this image!!! I can only imagine that perhaps some if not most authors go through the same process.
Miriam: Yes, I have conversations with myself quite frequently. I suspect a lot of people do; they just won’t admit it.
Lillith: ***raising hand***
Lillith: Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
Miriam: Oh, I get messages across: about the futility of war, the idiocy of religious and racial prejudice, the importance of kindness to others and also to ourselves. My characters discover unsuspected strength in themselves in the face of adversity. And, ultimately, they discover that love is the strongest force in the universe.
Lillith: As it should be.
Lillith: Do any of your books have any realism to them?
Miriam: They can be quite realistic, especially in the case of The King’s Daughter, which is recognizably Medieval. That was not a gentle era. The heroine’s entire life is shaped by war. She is a King’s daughter and responsible for the lives and deaths of countless people. A lot of reading of history went into that book.
Lillith: Did you get any help from your local SCA for accounts of the history or did you just hit the books?
Miriam: I hit the books, I hit the CD’s, I hit the old movies, I unearthed old college papers, Googled like crazy, talked to other history buffs and just generally immersed myself in whatever time period I was ‘into.’
I have a friend from college who has an online book service and she got me anything my little heart desired.
Art museums are surprisingly good resources, too. The Philadelphia Art Museum has a wonderful collection of Medieval weapons, chain mail, armor, etc. Taking a look at a mace close up and personal is a really sobering experience.
Lillith: Can you explain to our readers how important it is to research?
Miriam: It’s crucial. People who love historicals are fanatical about getting it right. They know their stuff and you’d better not blow it or you will hear about it.
The one really nice thing about writing fantasy is that you can mix it up a bit. Straight historicals are much more difficult and I respect the authors who write those, believe me.
Lillith: Are the characters experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Miriam: Some of my characters are very loosely based on people I know. It’s just a matter of taking one facet and spinning it. If events in my life have given me something interesting to tell, I tell it. But nothing is autobiographical. None of these characters are me.
Lillith: Do any of your friends look at your stories/books and say, “hey, I know who that is?”
Miriam: Not yet, but they’re going to! Lillith: What books have mostly influenced your life?
Miriam: The classic poets, absolutely. Other books that spring readily to mind are: The Once and Future King, Lord of the Rings, Stranger in a Strange Land.
I am fascinated by practically every ancient civilization and will read books portraying almost any of them.
Lillith: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Miriam: Piers Anthony, because I consider him a modern Renaissance Man. He has such a breadth of knowledge in so many areas. He awes me. Lillith: What book are you reading now?
Miriam: The one open on my couch right now is “Possessed by the Highlander”—a good old Scottish romance by Terri Brisbin. Love those!
Lillith: Oh, a Scottish Romance! I’ll have to look into that. Lillith: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Miriam: C. L. Wilson, who wrote Lord of the Fading Lands and Lady of Light and Shadows. She’s a great new fantasy writer with a very strong romantic element. There’s an absolutely riveting love story entwined with her fantasy. Lillith: Do you have any current projects?
Miriam: As I mentioned, I have resurrected my baby boomer romance, Heart of the Wind, and am doing a rewrite. That’s about ten chapters along. Unless another book pops into my head—and, honestly, I never know!—that should be my next one.
Lillith: We are all looking forward to that!
Lillith: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Lillith: Aren’t they a great bunch! I love it when we go to ours. Of course, everyone is trying to talk more to the published authors than anybody else, but they are all a great bunch of people.
Miriam: Oh, sure, there are people at every level in the group, from the multi-pubbed to those just starting out. But my group has a lot of very generous individuals. Lillith: Has writing become a main career or just something to do?
Miriam: I would LOVE it to be my main career, but unfortunately I’m still doing the day job thing.
Lillith: I think we can all understand that.
Lillith: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Lillith: I have never heard it put that way.
Miriam: I know. I told you: I’m a lunatic! Lillith: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Miriam: Vividly. I was four years old and terribly sick with what was thought to be appendicitis (it wasn’t). My mother decided to comfort me by reading me poetry and chose (thanks, Mom!) The Skeleton in Armor—a grisly poem about the skeletal ghost of a knight still clanking around. Right then and there I decided to write about knights.
Lillith: So we owe your mom a huge thanks for your great stories! Thanks Miriam’s mom!!!
Miriam: She would be absolutely thrilled that I finally did this. Lillith: What do you see as the influences on your writing?
Miriam: A family which valued reading above all else. The thousands of books I have read and loved.
Supportive friends: poets, authors, and people who just love books.
Slightly or more than slightly crazy relatives who did interesting things.
Travel, trouble, time and acquired wisdom.
Lillith: And I bet you must have some really crazy relatives!
Miriam: Trust me. You don’t even want to go there. And if you’re sane when you marry into the family, they infect you.
Lillith: I think I understand… Lillith: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Miriam: The King’s Daughter is in the first-person narrative memoir of an aging Queen who changed the entire history of her world. She is shrewd, manipulative, self centered and willful…and tender and passionate, devoted to her land and people and the Goddess she worships. A heroine and a harlot. A paradox.
Lillith: Don’t laugh at me, but I just learned this year what that word meant. Now everyone goes crazy when I use it because now I use it as often as I can. I never grew up reading the dictionary…
Lillith: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Miriam: T. H. White. His use of the English language, his absolute mastery of fantasy, his incredible whimsy and the way he weaves history and mythology into his worlds. He’s just stunning!
Lillith: You keep naming off these great books and I feel like I am missing out. Can I raid your library?
Miriam: Any time. It has basically taken over my house and I could use some help sorting it out.
Lillith: Oi! Careful what you say. I have OCD. I have to organize everything alphabetically, and if I’m not happy with the way it looks, than it’s by size than alphabet. Lillith: Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
Miriam: The more the better! I really did a considerable amount of research in Ireland and would love to do more.
Lillith: Oh, take me with you next time you go!!! You can put me in a huge duffel for check in.
Miriam: Ok, let’s go…
Lillith: Who designed your covers?
Miriam: Annie Marshall at DCL. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Lillith: Yes, Annie has been doing a really great job since she started.
Miriam: I would swear the girl has mental telepathy. She created EXACTLY what I wanted and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Lillith: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Miriam: Stopping! Once I get on a roll, I’m pretty well over the top. I hate to come up for air. I tend to cry when I end it. The King’s Daughter nearly had me on the floor! It took me a while to recover. Fortunately, there was a sequel.
Lillith: The ones that do that to you are really great ones!
Miriam: The editor cried, too, so I think maybe this book really has possibilities! Lillith: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Miriam: Yes, I think it made me more introspective as I tried to insert myself into the mind of the female protagonist. She was so much at war with herself so many times, so conflicted about blatantly using the people she loved to achieve political and military ends. She suffered shattering losses but had to rise above them. There’s a lesson there for me!
Lillith: It sounds like there is a lesson for everyone. Lillith: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Miriam: If they’re really writers, they don’t need my advice, because they’re going to write regardless of anything anyone tells them. They can’t help it. Lillith: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Miriam: Enjoy! I hope these books will entertain you, amuse you, and perhaps make a memory or two.
Yes, I do believe we will have a memory or two after reading your books. I hope everyone has found this interview to be as exciting, informative and as comedic as I have. Please feel free to make any comments to this interview, and if there are any questions for me, I will reply to them as quickly as I can. And if there are any questions for Miriam, I’m sure she will get to them when she can, as she is busy with her next book.
Mark your calendars for September 18th for Miriam Newman’s The King’s Daughter!