In case you missed it, City of a Thousand Dolls came out last week. It's awesome. And you should read it. But before you do, I had the opportunity to interview the author. Not that that was difficult. She's family, and she came to visit. So read on and peer into the mind of the woman who wrote the book.
Me: You have been writing for as long as I’ve known you, but you’ve been at it much longer. Your author’s profile says that you wrote your first story at the age of seven. What do you remember of that first story? What was it about?
Miriam: I actually don’t remember much about writing that story. I know about it mostly because my mom still has it, complete with folder and crayon illustrations. The story was about a princess who was captured by a dragon and rescued by a prince. But in the fight, the dragon was stabbed and deflated like a balloon. The princess thought maybe the dragon was mean because he was empty, so she put good things inside him and he became the castle pet.
Me: City of a Thousand Dolls is part a fantasy novel with a fantastic world of your own invention where magic abounds and is inhabited by talking cats among other species. But it is also a murder mystery with some elements of a traditional whodunit where Nisha is out looking for clues and hunting down a killer. What drew you to these genres and how did you end up blending them together?
Miriam: Fantasy and mystery are my two long-time favorite genres. I was always switching back and forth between them, and so when I needed a plot to use in this new fantasy world I was dreaming up, it seemed logical to use a murder mystery. But it was actually pretty difficult to blend them. Fantasy and mystery are usually paced pretty differently, and it was hard to find that balance between worldbuilding and suspense.
Me: In City of a Thousand Dolls, there are seven houses that raise and train the girls: House of Combat (warriors and guards), House of Flowers (brides for nobles), House of Beauty (beauticians), House of Jade (healers and scholars), House of Music (dancers and musicians), House of Pleasure (courtesans), and House of Shadows (assassins). If you were a girl in your book – which of those houses would you want to have train you?
Miriam: Oh, I’m a total House of Jade girl. Peace and quiet and studying sound fantastic. I’d like to say that I’d be in the House of Shadows but I’m nowhere near dangerous and badass enough.
Me: You’ve spent most of your adult life working in customer service. To what extent have the customers you’ve seen and worked with influenced the characters in your stories?
Miriam: One of the main things customer service has left me with is a profound interest in class differences. Especially when you’re working in a coffee shop where people order four or five dollar drinks every day. I love coffee shop culture, and my regular customers were fantastic, wonderful people. But it was weird having people pay for their drinks and see multiple hundred-dollar bills in their wallet. There’s a divide there that you don’t always notice, and I think it fed into my fascination with cultural and subcultural differences in general. Plus customer service is great for people watching.
Me: It is always a blessing when you come visit our family because your recreational palate fits well here. My kids share your interest in wildlife and nature films. Bekah and I are endlessly amused by the random infomercials you find. And it’s easy to swap stories with you. There’s a lot of laughter in our house when you’re around. In which of your hobbies do you find the most comfort?
Miriam: Awwww, thank you! I think I find the most comfort in stories, be they movies or TV or books or…gasp, fanfiction. Stories make good escapes. But I also like making things, which I haven’t done lately. Now that we have a garage, I’m thinking about possibly painting some furniture or something. It’s soothing to make something physical that way.
You have heard from her, and now is your chance to win an autographed copy of the book. If you want your very own copy, tell me what house from the City of a Thousand Dolls you would want to train in in the comments below. Winner will be posted on March 1st.
ps: Please use the comments on this post. I'm going to ignore anything noted on facebook or twitter.