In this newest addition to The Coffeehouse, I had the pleasure of interviewing indie author Carrie D. Miller. Carrie just released her debut novel at the beginning of April and I was fortunate enough to be able to review it for its release. I was also given the chance to pick Carrie’s brain to give us a look into what it is like to be a newly-published author!
Carrie penned The White Raven, an urban fantasy, magical realism novel. It is the tale of Aven, an incredibly powerful witch who has been cursed to live multiple lifetimes, all of which seem to end in some sort of torturous end. Now that she has set up shop in modern day Salem, she seems to have found somewhere she belongs. That is, until something from her past catches up with her. To see my full review of The White Raven, click here.
A little bit about Carrie, from her website: Carrie D. Miller was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, on October 31. She credits her vivid imagination, as well as her sugar addiction, to being a Halloween baby. In a former life, she was an executive in the software industry for many years. Although Carrie’s written a great deal over the decades which has been read by thousands of people, software documentation allows for about as much creativity as pouring cement. At the age of 45, she decided to chuck it all to become an author which had been a life-long dream.
Now, without further ado, allow me to introduce indie author Carrie D. Miller.
Tell me about your past; what you did before writing and what got you into it.
I started writing little stories when I was in my pre-teens. Once, I remember writing something so scary, it scared me off of writing for a while. Silly, I know. I ventured into poetry in high school and won a couple of awards. When I started in Corporate America, I discovered I liked to write marketing content, and later that evolved into user software documentation. That is where I’ve done the majority of my writing—user manuals, online help documentation, software functional specifications and release notes, things like that. I tried to get a book out of my head many, many times over the years, but life kept getting in the way. The simple fact was that I simply wasn’t ready. Once the stars aligned, it’s been full speed ahead!
The White Raven is a novel with witches bolstering the main cast of characters. In the acknowledgements, it appears that you had some friends and sources that helped you accurately depict the beliefs and traditions of modern day witchcraft. How much research did you do for your first novel, and what are some highlights of that research?
As they say, write what you know! I didn’t do that much research for the witchcraft aspects of the book. I am a witch myself, so I knew much of this already. I needed help from my sisters in the Craft when it came to the past life rituals, of which I knew nothing, and the selection of a stone to shield energy. And I’m not very good with auras so I researched online what colors are associated with deep negative emotions.
What have been some of the highest and lowest points of your journey through writing The White Raven?
The highest point was when I typed out the last words of the novel. I’d done it. I’d actually written a book! I danced around the house. The lowest point, as of now, came when I read the first bit of negative feedback from beta readers. I will have a very hard time with bad reviews. It’s going to take a while to build up the thick skin I must have to survive this journey.
Aven is a strong, independent witch. She has essentially been on her own for multiple lifetimes and has been through many struggles. She is definitely a hardened, strong female leading character. Why do you think such characters have been underrepresented in literature, even in the last few years?
You touched upon why I wrote this type of character. I was fed up with milksop heroines who have to work up their courage slowly and only at the very end do they triumph. While I do understand that whole character arc business, it makes for a frustrating read sometimes. My only assumption as to why these types of characters are so prevalent is because it’s what most people (women?) want to read, but not this woman (I can’t be the only one!). Perhaps they love to journey along with the main character in her arc, or maybe the author thinks no one will feel for the MC unless she’s vulnerable, or maybe she is seen as truly brave then her time to be brave finally comes. She’s no longer weak! Hazaah! But I really couldn’t tell you. I am hoping that readers will feel empowered by Aven, and see her character as a much-needed breath of fresh air.
A lot of the readers of my interviews are aspiring authors and independent publishers. Could you give us some insight into how a day of writing goes for you?
I treat my writing as my job that doesn’t have strict hours. I work on my writing off and on all day long, including the weekends and holidays. Sometimes I’ll start early in the morning and keep going until late at night. I have back, neck, and elbow problems that sitting all day is exacerbating, so make sure you listen to your body and get up and move around. It’s really hard to do when you are on a roll. Hours will go by and I won’t know it. But my body parts do.
I am sure you are no stranger to the dreaded editing process. Are there any major parts that you cut out of your story before the final version?
Initially, I had removed a large chunk of great story. It was flashbacks to a few of Aven’s lives. I hated to cut it but I was over 115K words. When my content editor read through it, she said it would be great to have some more of her back stories. I told her of what I removed and she adamantly told me to add that back; readers love that stuff, I know I do. I was very happy to hear it! I chipped away at other bits of the book, refining passages and scenes so that adding back that good chunk didn’t make the book overly long.
What was the hardest scene for you to write?
The hardest scene by far to write was the first sex scene, no pun intended. I ended up having to google how to do it! How much detail do I go into? How far do I go? What euphemisms do I use without sounding corny? I think that first one was rewritten three or four times, thanks to the help of my editor.
What are some common traps or pitfalls in writing, and how do you avoid them?
A pitfall that I struggle with is getting down on myself and doubting. It’s perfectly natural to feel that way, just don’t let it have power over you. Take those negative emotions you are feeling and use them - write that tragic scene, or an argument between characters, or kill someone off. Turn the tables of that type of thinking. Use it to your advantage.
As someone who left a lucrative career to pursue writing, how do you define success? Has that changed for you since you left your job?
In leaving my executive position, I took a leap of faith. Faith in my ability to pull this off. In that respect, I’ve already succeeded. I wrote and published a book. Now, my definition of success has evolved. I will be successful if I can make enough money from writing books to keep writing books and not go back to a “real” job. I am fairly certain I’ll be a success.
If you could give one piece of advice to writers - aspiring, indie, or traditionally published - out there, what would it be?
When self doubt starts whispering in your ear, DO NOT LISTEN. I let my self doubt cripple me for so long. I kick myself at all the time I wasted listening to her. Identify what your doubts are and set about fixing them. I initially had two: I didn’t remember anything about grammar and sentence structure from high school English, and, the big one, can I even write worth a damn? I did lots of research on the mechanics of writing and downloaded a program to help me with the problems I knew I had (still have), and I hired outside professionals to critique my writing style. My editor has taught me a lot of the rules of writing, so I will keep learning as I go. Just don’t give up.
The Epilogue of your novel threw us a twist that I admittedly did not see coming. Is it possible that we will be seeing a sequel or at least see Aven again?
There will definitely be a continuation of Aven’s story. The working title is The Black Raven. I can’t tell you when though. The story is still fermenting in my mind.
A big thank you to Carrie for letting me interview her. The White Raven is now available in both ebook and paperback, and can be purchased here on Amazon.
If you want to connect with Carrie, you can on Twitter and Facebook, and she can also be found on GoodReads. Be sure to follow her for updates on her journey and the sequel of The White Raven on her website.
Finally, thank you for stopping by The Coffeehouse!