One of my dear friends, Mirriam Freaking Neal (yes, Freaking is her actual middle name), has published her second novel!
Mirriam is one of the most talented young artists out there (+ I’m not just saying that). Even the first draft, which I had the privilege of reading, was hilarious, witty, and a joy to read! With the editing and her growth as a writer, the completed version is something like Christmas in May. Paper Crowns is one of those rare literary jewels (that’s not cliche at all in case you’re wondering) that appeals to children and adults alike. I highly recommend purchasing a copy for yourself, your siblings, your child, your niece, your nephew, each of your extended cousins, and that one old man at the bus stop who looks like he could stand to smile a little more.
I’m a very picky reader when it comes to contemporary literature and a stingy penny-pincher, so believe you me when I say that this is a delightful story worthy of your time + $$. My sister and I have laughed out loud so many times throughout this novel.
That said, following is the required author-bio + official Paper Crowns description and then the interview.
• introducing mirriam neal •
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.
• where you can find her •
• paper crowns •
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.
• le interview •
R: You usually write darker, grittier novels and the Paper Series is basically the polar opposite of Monster, your last published novel. What inspired you to write Paper Crowns, a lighthearted story?
M: I was writing another dark, gritty novel and I wanted a kind of palate cleanser. The Paper books help keep me from going ‘too far’ when working on darker things, pulling my focus toward something more lighthearted and simple. They help keep me grounded in moderation.
R: In what ways has your writing style changed since you released Monster?
M: My style tends to change and shift to suit whatever project I’m currently working on. This makes it hard to pinpoint exactly how it’s changed, except to say it has matured and evolved as I have. Practice makes better.
R: How was the publishing process this time around different from when you published Monster?
M:Self-publishing and Indie-publishing are very different. With Indie-publishing, the process isn’t entirely in my hands, and everything goes through the publisher, meaning I have a good deal of say – but not all of it. It’s easier for things to get lost in translation and it takes longer, but the novel ends up with more reach.
R: There are typically a few themes floating around in each of your novels; are there any we expect to identify in Paper Crowns?
M:*laughing* I get asked this so often. Not exactly, no; it doesn’t have any of the usual gritty or complex themes I like to explore. It’s a fairytale, which means it’s good versus evil – and that’s always a good thing, I think.
R: What keeps you inspired and in love with your writing?
M: This is such an interesting question. I’ve never fallen out of love with it, but I don’t do anything to stay ‘in love’ with it. My love for writing just ‘is.’ Sometimes I’m not in the mood to write, but sometimes I’m not in the mood to hang out with people I love. It works the same way. You have to give it time and attention, but I don’t necessarily ‘try’ to stay in love with my writing. I just do. Everything is filtered through my love for it.
R: The world of Faerie is quite beautiful and you describe it in such a way that the reader feels that they could actually be there without bogging us down with detail; you must have a visual for that. Where do you draw your aesthetic inspiration?
M: I’ve never been fully satisfied with the worldbuilding in Paper Crowns, so I’m very glad you feel this way. I draw my aesthetic from usual sources, of course – Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ for instance, but I also drew inspiration from Neil Gaiman and Cornelia Funke. Not specifically, but the way they create and envision without constraint. I imagine the world of faerie as a giant curiosity cabinet, with pieces borrowed from everywhere. A piece of broken blue glass, a sea shell found on a beach, a button, a bone.
R: Are there any specific places you go to gather inspiration?
M: I find a lot of inspiration writing in coffee shops. Typical, I know; but the energy inspires me. As much as I love writing in seclusion, it’s refreshing to go where people are. The vibe is inspiring. Also, writing in front of a great view is wonderful.
R: What is your favorite thing about Paper Crowns? Character interaction, plot, world…?
M: The characters are always my favorite part of what I write. Every time.
R: It my favorite part of your writing, too. ::ignores the sound of her heart shattering::
R: What are your favorite personality characteristics of both Hal + Ginny?
M: I like Ginny’s stick-to-activity. She doesn’t take guff and she doesn’t give up, even when she’s in way over her head. As for Hal, I like how he manages to stay completely devoted to Ginny while keeping a very broad view of things. He doesn’t lose his focus.
R: Are there any writers or stories that inspired you to write the Paper series?
M: Diana Wynne Jones was a huge inspiration, although in an odd way – much of it was subconscious. It wasn’t until I went back and re-read the Howl trilogy that I realized how much of an influence she had really been.
R: Should Paper Crowns become a movie, who would play the main characters?
M: It’s the dream of every author, I think, to see their book become a movie. (A well-done movie, that is.) I would cast Birdy (the singer) as Ginny and Jin Yi-Han (R: 100% ready for the film) as Hal – he’s far older, but he plays younger characters very convincingly.
R: What was your greatest struggle in writing Paper Crowns?
M: There really wasn’t one. It’s the easiest novel I’ve ever written.
R: You’ve mentioned that there are going to be additions in the Paper series (personally, I’m stoked for Paper Hearts). Is there anything that ties them together (other than the location + characters) or can they be read independently from each other and still make sense?
M: They can be read independently, but reading them as a series would be more fun, I think. There are small nods, cameos, and references that would add a lot of enjoyment.
R: What is one quote or phrase that you think captures the feel + tone of Paper Crowns?
M: The quote I put at the beginning of the novel sums it up. ‘The world of faerie is a dangerous place.’ John Howe gave me permission to use said quote, for which I’m eternally grateful.
R: I will forever be jealous of your friendship with John Howe, honestly.
R: What is one lesson you’ve learned from writing and publishing Paper Crowns and will apply to future novels?
M: A) Indie publishing is just the next step toward traditional publishing, and B) don’t stress. This entire process has been exciting, but I’ve stressed about it so much that the excitement was dulled. It’s taught me to relax.
R: In 50 words or less, tell us something random you’d like us to know about Paper Crowns.
M: Hal’s accent is, in fact, a blend of South Korean (Busan dialect, specifically) and Scottish. No, I haven’t spent time talking aloud trying to figure it out, why?
R: I need the movie now so I can figure out what that sounds like.
Not convinced yet? Then I shall channel my inner-Ursula and cry over your poor, unfortunate soul. I don’t often recommend anything as highly as I recommend this book and supporting this starving artist. (Okay, well she’s not
starving, but still…)
Mirriam, thank you for your time + for sharing your skill with us! I’m still doting over my signed copy (this life is surreal) and really looking forward to your future novels!
Rana || xoxo