June 12, 2013

Interview with Mirriam Neal

Early this year - January, I think it was - I had the opportunity to read and critique Mirriam Neal's novel Monster.  Mirriam is a crazily likeable sort of a gal with crazily eclectic tastes, as she will be the first to tell you, and as you will see for yourself if you follow her blog for, oh, about a week.  Monster, too, is appropriately eclectic: Mirriam describes its genre as "bioethics/semi-dystopic/romance/suspense/thriller," none of which, I may add, I usually read.  But being more than willing to read anything with her name on it, I gamely started off, with my red pen, through a hardcopy.  

I can't remember how quickly I read it, but I know that about halfway I abandoned the red pen altogether: I was far too caught up in the story.  I also know that on the last day, it was 8:00 am when I first looked at the clock, and all of a sudden it was noon and I was finishing the last page with a lump in my throat.  It's that sort of book.

and now, ladies and gentlemen, it is going to be available for you.

 The release date is set for June 15, and Monster's birthday will be celebrated with a great big bash: everyone who possibly can should buy the novel on this day, which will up its Amazon ranking and bring it very well-deserved attention.  (I know: I even got to write an endorsement for it.)  Mirriam is celebrating the release with interviews and a giveaway and I-don't-know-what, including this here interview with yours truly.  I recommend joining in the fun, whether or not the novel sounds like your cup of tea from the description: the story it tells of love and the sanctity of life is timeless.

back cover summary

The year is 2053, and Eva Stewart is a promising young scientist assigned to a remote Alaskan facility. Here she will work for WorldCure, a global organization dedicated to finding the cure for fatal diseases. Soon she is made a Handler and designated her own Subject for research and experimentation. However, Thirteen is not what she expected, and Eva is soon drawn into a horrific plot kept quiet by WorldCure. As everything she thought she knew collapses around her, Eva must discover the truth behind her Subject, her beliefs…and herself.

chit-chat with mirriam neal

1. Many of Scribbles’ readers already know you, but introduce yourself anyhow! Tea or coffee? Dogs or cats? Biggest goals? Favorite pair of socks?

If I have tea, ninety percent of the time it will be PG Tips black tea with cream and agave. PG Tips is the standard British tea – it was in Doctor Who. I also drink a lot of black coffee – I generally have between four and eight cups of tea and/or coffee a day. I prefer horses and the occasional phoenix, and though I don’t usually wear socks, I have two favorite pairs: A pair of fuzzy purple ankle socks, and my candy cane-striped Christmas knee socks with faux fur around the top. Worn only in the spirit of the season, of course.

2. What is your perspective (or philosophy, if you prefer) on writing and story-telling in general? How do you approach the crazy business?

“Use earthly tales to tell heavenly truths.” I don’t think I have much of an approach to the crazy business other than love it and live it – I have to work at balancing out my people-oriented life with my writing-oriented life.

3. What are your top five favorite books, at least at the moment? (I’ve been kind: I could have said just one.)

…thank you for being so lenient. Five. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Ah…I love so many books, it feels like more would be favoritism! The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, The Riddle-Master Trilogy (YES, A TRILOGY. HA HA.) by Patricia McKillip, my large book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and the Bible.

(She cheated.)

4. What’s Monster all about, anyhow? (Well, I know, but others don’t.)

Monster is all about sanctity of life, the value of souls, and what true love means. For me, it was a huge growing process, and it changed the way I look at life.

5. What are some of the things that inspired Monster and kept you writing?

Monster was largely inspired by Big Bang’s music video/song of the same title. Also, I read a lot of medical/thriller-style books, listened to my Monster playlist…really, it wasn’t hard to stay inspired. It was as if everything around me inspired me, no matter what it was.
Without looking back at them, Eva walked farther into the room, rushing blood filling her ears with white noise as she strained for the smallest sound to alert her of Thirteen’s presence.
She stood still and tense, listening, for almost a minute but no longer. There were dozens of other rooms to search as large as this one. “Nothing here,” she called to the guards by the door. There was no response. “Guards!”
She turned, and her blood ran cold. The digits 6223-4897 glowed in the air in front of her. A serial number.
She found her gaze travelling upwards to meet a pair of narrowed eyes. All blue was lost in the hatred-filled yellow, and Eva had time only to turn on her walkie-talkie and shout into it before she felt a blow to the side of her head that knocked her to the ground.
She had assumed incorrectly. Thirteen had not gone looking for freedom. It had gone looking for her. 
6. Your writing is very character-driven, and your characters are incredibly unique. You’re going to hate me for this, but give us a one-word description of each of Monster’s main players.

I don’t quite hate you. Almost, but not quite. ^.^ Mir: Childlike. Eva: Driven. Pocky: Mentoring. Ross: Twisted. Jude: Annoying. June: A bund of cute brightness and sunshine. I mean, cute.

7. Monster doesn’t have a single genre: it’s about bio-ethics, and it’s futuristic, and it’s a thriller, and in a way it’s also a love story. To date, how many different genres have you written in, and are there any that you have absolutely ruled out experimenting with?

I’ve written…ooh, let me think. High fantasy, urban fantasy, quasi-fantasy, modern, science fiction, summer fiction, Steampunk, dystopian, historical fantasy…I don’t think there’s any genre I’d really keep my hands off of – I used to hate historical books, but I realized it depends on the author. Such a big, stupid “Aha!” moment for me!

8. As you wrote the novel, were there aspects that took you by surprise?

Mir constantly surprised me. He took on a life of his own beyond what I could ever have imagined, and after a while it was he who called the shots, not me. A lot of things – especially near the end – surprised me.

9. If a reader told you one main thing they loved about Monster, what would you want it to be? 

If a reader could tell me one thing they loved about Monster, I would want it to be Mir; because Mir embodies everything I did my best to portray in Monster. He’s the heart of the book, and if people can love and understand him, then they love and understand the book.

10. What novels are you working on at present? 

Oh, my. Acceso, a sort of grungy music book about a suicidal musician and a deaf girl. Not to Be, an urban fantasy/slightly Steampunk novel about a Lamia Venator on the hunt for revenge. The Meaning of Always, about a girl whose fiancĂ©e dies and shatters her life until she meets the twin she didn’t know he had. The Care and Keeping of Jupiter: a futuristic, science-fiction love story about Mercury, a girl who orders a Proto-human online with no idea what she’s getting into. Painkiller, a gothic fairy-tale sort of novel with hints of Beauty and the Beast mixed with Jekyll and Hyde. Diamond Black about a boy whose empathy could either be the death of him, or the saving grace of the people he loves.

(And that, people, is how you write a logline.  In a perfect universe.  My eyes particularly popped at The Care and Keeping of Jupiter, which I now want to read - a lot.)

Mirriam Neal is the bouncy gal who blogs about writing, reading, and life over at Thoughts of a Shieldmaiden.  You can learn more about her and her writing, and keep your eye out for the grand finale of the release, over there.  You can also take a peek at Monster's very own Facebook page, where she reveals snippets of the upcoming sequel, book trailers, and Fun Stuff Like That.  On a slightly different line, Mirriam reviews (mostly) YA books on her Tumblr account, Peic Books.


  1. I'M SO GLAD YOU LIKED MY STORIES >.< The Care and Keeping of Jupiter is a blast, but I'm only two and a half chapters in, kekeke XD

    1. Yes, I would have the misfortune to fall in love with one of the stories that isn't your top priority. Ho hum!

  2. Mirriam, I'm back to read another interview about lovely YOU, and I wish we were friends. You make me glad. I LOVE "Use earthly tales to tell heavenly truths." that's my heart. I love a good story that teaches, grows, fills me, and I LOVE when it can touch on a spiritual level, not just intellectually or emotionally- though that's important to me, as well. I have been discussing these mini looks into you and your book to my husband and exclaiming how very drawn I am to it all, to you, and I believe he knows your book's name well now. He looks at me oddly when I start ranting about how much I want this story. Hahhahaha... Which stores will carry your book?

    By the way, I love the name of this blog... :) Great interview. Truly.


    mrsdayseye at gmail dot com

  3. Can't wait Mir sounds awesome. Wow you've dabbled in so many genres.
    I love your flexibility great interview.
    I have to go watch that music video now.

  4. I know, isn't it an amazing book!!?? I found the music video "Monster" to be a tad bit scary, but in a very, VERY cool way. :)

  5. Got to read Monster a few months back, and I'll admit: I was crying like an ugly baby through the last twenty pages or so. :D

    1. Do ugly babies cry more than cute ones?

  6. I must say, that Monster does not seem at all to be like my choice of book, and I stay a thousand miles away from such genres in general. I am like you in that, Abigail; I am too old-fashioned I guess. However, there is something about you, Mirriam, and the stories you write that seems really powerful, gripping and heart-felt. I've so loved reading your blog these past months :D. So, while you may forgive me for not actually buying the book or reading it at this stage, I have to say, such themes as the ones you write have intrigued me! Themes such as love and the sanctity of life are truly beautiful to write and explore, dark as the setting may be. Congratulations on the publication of your first book! I agree that The Care and Keeping of Jupiter has piqued my interest *grins*

    And I loved this interview, Abigail :D it is a 'so-like-you' interview!

    1. Oh, I think you should read some of Mirriam's other interviews, where she talks more specifically about the book, its genre, and its apparent "weirdness." I don't think I've ever read anything similar to it, and if it hadn't had her name on it I'm not sure I would have picked it up; but I am thoroughly glad it did have her name on it, because it's, well, a good book!

      There are dark parts, but then there are lighter parts (there's baby June, and you can't have an entirely gloomy story with baby June) and themes of hope and love throughout. And aside from its merit as a story, the drive of the book - the sanctity of human life - is about as applicable to current ethical issues as you can get. I'm looking forward to another perusal, and then I'll be reviewing it more thoroughly on SCR. Without spoilers. Hopefully.

  7. By the way, Abigail, I don't know if you read my last blog update, but my blog, Fullness of Joy's 2nd Blog birthday this week, and in celebrating I am hosting a blog party to thank all my readers, celebrate those two years, have fun together with tags and also challenge each other to be more committed in challenging and uplifting one another as sisters in Christ and writers too through what we write and comment on in our blogs :D. I hope you can join, especially since you have been such an encouragement to me in my writing and blogging; so I'd so love it if you can join in the tags:

    God bless!

    1. Balloons! I love balloons. Especially hot air balloons. While I don't typically do tags, I might take up this one in the celebratory spirits. Congrat-oo-lations on the birthday, by the way, and many more for your blog!

    2. Aww, thank you so much, Abigail! *hugs* - I know tags aren't the usual thing around Scribbles, but I would be so delighted if you had fun and joined in! It will warm the cockles of my heart :D.

      Oh, and I know I have not sent you any letter yet and been awful about emails and stuff like that *gulp*, but by the way, last Friday Mary and I went shopping and on the way, I stopped by the post and mailed you a Little Something Surprise (okay it was a wee postcard!) as a sort of herald for that letter that I am working on ^_^. I do hope you like it and that it arrives safely with the address and all :D...

  8. 'Use earthly tales to tell heavenly truths'- wonderful way of putting it!!!

    YOU READ GEORGETTE HEYER!!!!!!! I haven't met very many people that do... my mom introduced me to her and I LOVE her books. I just read the Grand Sophy in the last month and within the first few chapters it had jumped to my 'Top Five Heyer Novels' list.

    I haven't heard about the Care and Keeping of Jupiter or Diamond Black yet. They both sound intriguing. I especially like the sound of Diamond Black- empathy fascinates me.

    1. My copy of The Grand Sophy just arrived. You're welcome.

    2. I'll look forward to your opinion of it!! Have you read any other Heyer's?

    3. I have not. I heard of her a few months ago, and after seeing her on Mirriam's top-five list, I decided to give her a shot. I was very tickled that she came in the mail today. (Quite a compact woman to be able to fit in our mailbox!)


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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