I’m SUPER excited to be part of the Paper Crowns blog-tour (going all month long!) with an interview with Mirriam Neal herself! *cue excited squealing*
I kid you not when I say that when I learned Paper Crowns was published, I spent the next day+ dancing ecstatically around the house making high keening happy noises and randomly shrieking “Paper Crowns is published!!” (You think I’m joking? Ha. Just ask my poor family who had to put up with my fangirling…)
I had the pleasure of beta-reading the story when it was first written, and I remember flailing with happiness whenever I found a new chapter in my inbox. THIS BOOK IS EXCELLENT, PEOPLE.
I recently got the published version (THAT was a happy day, aaahhh!!) and read it again and it was just as good — or, well, BETTER BECAUSE IT’S PUBLISHED! (Aside from some typos. Which I have it on good authority are being fixed, so.) I plan to read it again very soon. Maybe tomorrow… And again soon after that. (What, I’m totally normal, honest.)
I AM NOT EXAGGERATING WHEN I SAY THAT THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS EVER. It’s just… perfect. Mirriam Neal is a genius writer, and while I’ll read anything she writes, this just takes the cake as the best ever because of its unexpectedly light fantasy faerie-tale feeling. The CHARACTERS are the best of ever (Halcyon! Azrael! Astryn! Ginger! Salazar! Asterope! I love them alllll!) and the humor and bickering and plot and setting are all just perfection.
It has everything: a sarcastic fey blue cat, a fire elemental, a grouchy wysling, a gingery heroine, friends and traitors, villains and lovable heroes, lots and lots of snow, muffins, forests, and a good deal of folded paper. It makes you laugh and wrenches at your heart and makes you fall in love and long to go on an adventure. I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.
I’m so very excited it’s published now so that I can insist everyone reads it.
And I do, you know. Insist you read it, that is. You will NOT regret it.
THIS BOOK THOUGH!!! ❤
Here’s a bit about the book and author and then on to the interview!
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.
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.
You can connect with Mirriam online here:
Interview with Mirriam Neal
Deborah: Could you tell us a little about your usual writing process (planning/pantsing), and how the process of writing Paper Crowns was similar or different?
Mirriam: Paper Crowns is different because it was spur-of-the-moment. I more or less woke up one day and thought, ‘I want to write this story,’ and so I did. Usually there’s a lot more work involved – I wait until I have at least half the cast created, until I have a vague idea of the ending, until I know some major plot points. Usually I have a framework, but with Paper Crowns I knew the ‘feeling’ of the book I wanted to write, and that was enough. I wish this happened more often, honestly.
Which character from the Paper books would you say you are the most like?
I actually had to ask my friend Lauren about this. We settled on Rooney (the heroine of Paper Hearts) almost simultaneously. I’d say Rooney is more extraverted than I am, but we share many of the same characteristics.
Part of Paper Crowns takes place in our world . . . Is it any particular place—America, England… (double-decker bus?)—or did you deliberately leave the setting open to the imagination?
I deliberately left the setting open – when I began it, I wasn’t even sure it was set in our world! But I quickly realized it was, and decided it was more fun to leave it open for interpretation. Personally, I see it set in England, but that’s just me.
On that note: Accents. I hear Hal’s accent as British and Asterope’s as some sort of Irish. Is this more-or-less accurate (I hope)?
You’re correct on Asterope’s accent (points to you!) but during the rewrite, I realized Hal’s accent wasn’t so much London as a bit of Korean (Busan-dialect, specifically) with a splash of Scottish.
(I’ll probably still hear Hal as British, but oh well. XD) Will we get to learn which wysling was involved in the intriguing Hal/Astryn/kingfisher backstory and/or might we ever get this tale in book (or even short story) form? Because that would frankly be awesome. 😀
I’ve lowkey considered writing a novella dedicated to this particular slice of backstory, because it would be fantastic fun and I’m as curious about it as anyone!
(Yay!) Is Asterope still going to get his own book?
His book is waiting in the wings; very much alive, but not in the immediate future. Ras Algethi Chow gets his own novel first.
Do the verily muffins have an inspiration?
I was hungry and I wanted muffins. Hunger is good inspiration when writing food.
The main character of Paper Crowns does a lot of origami. Is that an art form you’ve dipped into yourself?
It’s inspired by two things. One: Yes, I’ve always loved origami, although I’ve never been ‘into it.’ I’ve never devoted the time – except for paper airplanes, and paper boxes. I’ve folded those my whole life, and the stories surrounding paper cranes have always fascinated me. Two: Owl City’s ‘Sky Sailing’ album featured a music video starring a paper airplane. That album heavily inspired the novel.
Your answers to a couple of questions from other interviews got me wondering about your outlook on wanting readers to take away a certain message (or not) from many of your books. I’m curious: Do you see there being a difference between tackling a “big question” in a book versus trying to preach a “message” to readers?
It’s a tricky line on which to balance, I’ll give it that, and I used to be ‘preachy’ (although even then, I was trying not to.) I think honesty and a genuine heart are very important when you really want to make your readers think and question. Readers are intelligent. They’ll know if you’re an arrogant know-it-all, forcing an opinion down their throat. Rather than forcing my opinion, I present it. I think that’s the difference.
Your books seem to have simultaneously a freshness of originality and a touch of richness of story that’s already out there. How do you view this in your own writing and what advice do you have for writers about coming up with “new” things but using echoes of other tales and, without “copying,” putting a new spin on them to deepen the story tapestry?
I’ve never been asked this question, honestly, and it’s fascinating. (Also, thank you for the compliment!) I think stories ‘echo’, as you so wonderfully put it, when there’s truth and honesty to them. People will tell you that every story has already been written. If you break a story down into a basic three-step formula, then sure, every story has been written; but I disagree with the statement. A story is so much more than a formula. Each story is different due to hundreds of tiny factors, circumstances, and personal influences from the author. I also find that you can create a world that’s been created a million times before, but if you fill that world with a cast of funky, original, diverse characters, nobody will care about the world. (At least, they won’t care about the world nearly as much as its inhabitants.) Also, I think it’s horrifyingly easy to be caught up in trying too hard. When you try too hard to be original, it shows more care about what people think than the story itself. Novels know what the author cares about, and novels know also know what the author should care about. It’s why readers, I think, can tell the difference between a real novel and a hollow one.
Your vivid characters are a classic feature of your work, and always one of my favorite things. Any tips for writers about writing characters, especially involving interactions, snark, and humorous banter? (Of which you are the queen.) Share your secrets if you have any…
Have a sense of humor. I know that’s not very helpful, but it’s true – you can’t write humor without a sense of it in the first place. I don’t know how to teach a sense of humor, but you can definitely learn it. What makes you laugh? Dissect that. Also, there are many kinds of humor. Subtle, circumstantial, slapstick, sarcastic, trickster. As for the non-humorous part of the question, I think it’s a tendency authors have to think they must know their character perfectly before they start writing them. I used to fill out three or four bio sheets for every character before I wrote them, but in doing so, I essentially murdered their personality before it hit the page. You want them to be alive and breathing when they first open their eyes. You DON’T want them reduced to a set of answered questions. That’s a surefire way to kill them before they’re ever really alive.
Could you tell us a little about what’s next on your writing plate? (When the next Paper book might be out, what other book(s) we might see from you next…?)
Revising Paper Hearts (the sequel to Paper Crowns) is very high on my list, as is editing Dark is the Night (a redemptive vampire novel) and finishing The Dying of the Light (a futuristic samurai retelling of Robin Hood).
Thanks very much for stopping by my blog and putting up with my pestering! 🙂 It’s an honor to have you. ❤
Thank you so much for having me! I had a fantastic time. You have mad interview skills.