As I have been lounging around playing with bones and doodling in coffee shops, a dear friend of mine has been hard at work, writing. As I greatly enjoy reading her works (and more or less making snarky comments in the margins), when she announced the publication of her second book, I thought it might be time to introduce her to all of you. Thus, without further ado, I would like to present Miss Mirriam Neal, author, inventor, and saboteur of bad fashion.
W: So this is your second published book, but the first in this series. Your first book, Monster, was quite gritty. Paper Crowns seems a lot lighter, and, dare I say, fluffier. What inspired that change?
MN: The Paper Series is the fluffiest thing I’ve ever written. I wouldn’t call it a change so much as a side-dish – my main courses are still the same. Grittier. The Paper books refresh me and give me something lighter to play with when I feel overwhelmed with the heaviness of my usual subjects. Essentially, they’re my palate-cleansers!
W: When you first started Paper Crowns, were you expecting it to turn into a series?
MN: I had no idea it would become a series. It wasn’t until Azrael appeared that I thought, /he needs his own novel/. So I wrote him one, and there were several characters in /that/ novel who needed their own novels, and so on and so forth. Very vexing (but I’m not complaining).
W: What do you expect to work on next?
MN: I’m currently writing a futuristic Japanese sci-fi retelling of Robin Hood, and I’m overhauling my Southern urban fantasy novel, Dark is the Night. I have several other novels planned, but they’re in various stages of formlessness at the moment.
W: You seem to always circle around to Japanese tales–I’ve noticed nearly every project you’ve worked on has had some Asiatic element. What draws you to that/what do you find so fascinating about it?
MN: I can thank Rurouni Kenshin for igniting my love of Japanese history. I’ve always found Korean and Chinese history interesting, but Japanese history simply never crossed my radar until I picked up the first volume of Rurouni Kenshin. I love Asian flair – from clothing and hairstyles to military tactics and skill to traditions and languages. For whatever reason, my love of Eastern Asian began to influence everything I wrote and, to coin a phrase, I ain’t even mad. It’s solidified now – eight years and the influences only grow stronger.
W: Speaking of Chinese history, if I remember correctly, you’re also a fan of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, as well as his European compatriot Machiavelli’s The Prince.
MN: I’m a HUGE fan of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, although Musashi reigns supreme in my mind.
W: How do you think Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Musashi have impacted your writing and how your build characters?
MN: They’ve helped round out my political and strategic knowledge. Plus, I can write feasible-yet-epic swordfights thanks to Musashi. I’d say they’ve given me a lot of knowledge that shows itself in writing, but haven’t specifically impacted the way I build characters, per se.
W: What author do you think has impacted your writing the most, and which ones are your favorite to read?
MN: Some of my favorite things to read…I have a stack of books I re-read every year or so. The Hobbit (Tolkien), I Capture the Castle (Smith), Howl’s Moving Castle (Jones), Inkheart (Funke), The Riddle-Master trilogy (Mckillip), and (of course) Musashi, Machiavelli, and Sun Tsu.
Tolkien inspired me to begin writing, but the biggest influence /on/ my writing has been Guillermo del Toro, in huge ways. Tolkien was my motivation, del Toro is my constant inspiration.
W: Can you tell me a bit about how del Torro’s work has impacted you?
MN: It began with Pacific Rim and his work on the Hobbit movies, and solidified itself with the Hellboy movies. I was amazed, because here was the David Bowie of film directors – doing just exactly whatever he wanted to do, whether or not it made average sense. If he had an idea he thought was great, he just /did it/, please and thank you. He doesn’t feel the need to explain everything, and not everything needed a good reason for being the way it was – and because he cares so little about convention, his stories are some of the most inspiring ever told. His characters are some of the most colorful ever to grace the screen. His inventions and creativity gobsmack me on a daily basis – and he does all of this without ever sacrificing one element for another. Humor, romance, action, fantasy, sci-fi, character relationships, character growth, and attention to detail – he does it all. And I love him for it.
W: I love del Torro so much…I’m glad you like the same things about him. You really need to watch Pan’s Labyrinth [sorry, running back and forth between us]. To switch gears a bit, I know you are quite the coffee connoisseur. Where is your favourite place to write and sip coffee?
MN: My favorite place to write and drink coffee is a place called the Daily Grind, a Christian-run operation with wonderful coffee and some amazing gluten-free cranberry-orange scones. Every coffee shop has a different vibe, and the Daily Grind is full of life and energy and you never know who you’ll run into. I’ve struck up some golden conversations with strangers there. (Plus, there’s this one old leather couch by a window.)
W: Would you mind sharing an anecdote of your adventures there?
MN: Well, one day I was sitting with ‘Mere Christianity’ on the table next to me and one of the baristas (I think he may actually be a manager; he’s there literally every time) walks past and says, “Oh, hey! That’s on my reading list!” We then began a discussion about C. S. Lewis that continues every time I go there and he’s free. He’s currently reading The Magician’s Nephew.
W: Oh, so no wild adventures. I do applaud his taste in books, though. Is he cute?
MN: He’s short with a huge beard.
W: You should keep him. You often mention how much you love particular aspects of foreign cultures (KPop comes to mind, and you usually look like the quintessential stereotype of French fashion). Do you have any plans to travel, and if so, where would you like to go?
MN: Oh, I would love to travel. I want to visit Japan and spend a year in South Korea, then bike across Ireland and visit Wales and Scotland (a personal heritage tour) before settling down in Iceland. Obviously after settling down I would take trips.
W: What made you choose Iceland as your eventual home?
MN: I fell in love with it when I researched Iceland for my novel ‘Kenna’ two years ago.
W: It’s been a while since I’ve heard you mention Kenna! What’s going on in that bookiverse right now?
MN: I’m trying to wrap my head around the sequel, is what. It’s /very/ open and a lot of things could happen – I just need to choose my own adventure and make sure it takes me to the ending in mind.
W: It seems you have a lot of projects right now (but then again, when do you not?). Paper Crowns was just released last month (you can purchase a copy from Amazon here). Can you give us a hint on what we can expect next from you?
MN: Well, I plan to finish up The Dying of the Light (futuristic Samurai Robin Hood retelling) within the next couple months while simultaneously editing Dark is the Night (because we need some good Southern Christian vampire novels). I’m trying not to heap too many things on my plate, although I’d like to. (I always regret it.)
W: Sounds great! Incidentally, before we close, I seem to recall hearing about a certain incident at your library today?
MN: Yes! Fun story; my sister and I drive to the library. Nothing abnormal about it. We drive through the gates, get out of the car, and walk up to the front door. There’s a sign taped to the door. ‘WE ARE ON LOCKDOWN UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.’ Completely baffled, my sister and I get back in the car and drive out the gates, and as we do, we see a) at least five police cars lining the street and b) a helicopter overhead. I’m friends with one of the librarians, and so I texted him and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘There’s an active shooter in the area.’ So yep. Active shooter. Same old, same old.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Mirriam Neal and I are friends: apparently weird adventures that just skirt being dangerous bind us together. Mirriam hails from the West Coast, but currently resides in Atlanta. She is not only an amazing novelist, but also a brilliant artist who often creates portraits of both real and imagined people. If you are interested in reading Mirriam’s book, you can find it on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble (and I don’t even get a kickback from those!). Paper Crowns is a the first novel in a fantasy series appealing to all ages. The tale provides a bridge between our world and the world of fae, and follows Ginger and her companions on their search for justice. If you wish to read more from Mirriam, you can follow her blog at https://mirriamneal.com/