This week, my guest is Cynthia Ripley Miller. She is a first generation Italian-American writer with a passion for history, languages and books. She infuses this love into her work by bringing the past to life through her writing.
- Hello, and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I’m the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, the first novel in the Long-Hair Saga, a series set in late ancient Rome and France, and a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist. I’ve lived and traveled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean, taught history and currently, I teach English. My short stories have appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, The Scriptor, and at Orchard Press Mysteries.com. I also blog at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on my website, http://www.cynthiaripleymiller.com. I live with my husband and our cat, Romulus, and German Shepherd, Jessie, in a suburb of Chicago. Book Two: The Quest for the Crown of Thorns will be published on June 13, 2017.
- Discuss your newest book. The Quest for the Crown of Thorns is the sequel to On the Edge of Sunrise. My heroine and hero are drawn into mysterious death and propelled on a dangerous mission when they are entrusted to get a sacred relic to Constantinople. Secrets from book one are also revealed.
- Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? When I went to college, my teachers praised my writing, and later, when I discovered that a line I used in a letter to the Oprah Winfrey Show in America made it into the script of one of her television shows, it was a boost to my confidence.
- What are your current projects? I’m working on book 3 in my series, The Long-Hair Saga set in late ancient Rome.
- What books have most influenced your life? I studied World and English literature and so many authors stand out in my mind. Tolstoy, Dickens, Bronte, and Austen have inspired my romantic historical edge. Lewis and Irving brought the human condition to light for me.
- What inspired you to write your first book? Reading the romantic historical adventure series, Outlander—it had all the elements of entertaining genre fiction that I enjoyed and getting my own laptop computer.
- Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Arria Felix is a Roman senator’s daughter. An only child, she’s been educated unconventionally for the times by a progressive father. She’s known in Rome and the countryside for her sharp sense of reason and deduction. Suffering from the loss of her soldier husband and looking for a purpose in her life, she accepts the position of political envoy to the barbarian tribes in Gaul. She will recruit their help against Attila the Hun who has invaded the empire.
- Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? On the Edge of Sunrise is crafted as a romantic historical suspense and adventure novel. The foremost themes blended into the story are courage, love at first sight—an aspect of life that still occurs today—and loyalty.
- What is the hardest thing about writing? For me it’s carving out long blocks of uninterrupted time. Once I start, time grabs me and accelerates. If I’m undisturbed, hours fly by before I know it. When something interrupts me, I feel jarred into the present. I have found that the library over my office is the perfect writing hideaway for me.
- What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Everything must be fact checked for the time period and locations. From flowers and trees to garments, food, vehicles, customs and weapons, it’s best not to assume. I once had a character put her hand in a dress pocket. It didn’t occur to me until much later that—wait! I don’t think the pocket came into use until the Middle Ages. People did not use pockets in late ancient Rome. Or, the sunflower is not indigenous to Tuscany, but the poppy is a native flower.
- What is the easiest thing about writing? For me, it’s writing dialogue. I‘m generally not that talkative, but for some reason, my characters have plenty to say!
- What book are you reading now? A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. It’s set in ancient Rome about 300 years before my story.
- What is one random thing about you? I’m an Italian-American who speaks Italian and I like to cook.
- What does your writing process look like? I write a full story plot with the end in mind before I write the first chapter. I use graphic organizers as I go along to help me brainstorm sub-plots and supporting characters. I also trust my muses who sometimes take me in unexpected directions.
- Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)? My habit is to write in silence and I take walks to help me think through any character, plot, or historical obstacles I may run into.
- Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? I feel compared to some writers today I’m a slow writer. I love weaving intrigue, suspense, and in book two, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, I’ve added a mystery. I strive to make every detail fit and for events to come full circle. Taking into consideration my personal life as well, from start to finish, including edits, it takes me a year and a half to two years.
- What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around? I’m with a traditional but small publisher. The advantage is being available to more markets and the disadvantage is not having full control over your product.
- How do you market your books? Predominately through SocialMedia (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and my website: cynthiaripleymiller.com and my blog: Historical Happenings and Oddities. I also like to participate in library and bookstore author fairs and book clubs.
- What are your views on social media for marketing? I think Social Media is the best method for marketing second only to ‘word of mouth.’
- Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future? I made a trailer and it played well at my book launch, but I can’t say it’s responsible for producing a large amount of sales.
- Would you or do you use a PR agency? I have friends who have used a PR person, but they are very expensive. I think they are better suited for high volume authors not those starting out.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? Read trade magazines and articles on the Internet to learn how to navigate and use Social Media to your advantage.
- What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book? Too much! This is a complaint of mine. There’s a danger in spending more time on selling your book and less time on creating the book/books you want to sell.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Do your homework on all levels. Know what the industry is about, write a good story, trust your instincts, and join a writer’s group.
- How can readers discover more about you and you work? Readers can learn more about me and my books at: cynthiaripleymiller.com Twitter: @CRipleMiller and Facebook: Cynthia Ripley Miller
Thank you. Be sure to watch for Cynthia’s new release of Book Two: The Quest for the Crown of Thorns in June 2017. I know I will.
Wanda DeHaven Pyle, author of Windborne and The Legacy Trilogy.