Q&A with Rowenna Miller, author of “Torn” + BOOK GIVEAWAY!

On Monday, I posted a review of Rowenna Miller’s novel, Torn, the first book in the fantasy series, The Unravelled Kingdom. She very graciously agreed to answer a few questions I put to her about crafting her book and her life as an author. {And read to the bottom to find out how you can win a free, signed copy of Torn!}

Rowenna Miller, author of "Torn" on the self-styled life

Rowenna Miller, author of “Torn”

Here’s the interview!

Jean Brown (the self-styled life): Where did the idea come from for Torn? In particular, I love the central concept of stitching magic into clothing. I’d love to hear more about that.

Rowenna Miller, author of Torn: Confession: I’m a huge dork. I was researching late eighteenth century clothing and poring over some fashion plates (yep, they had those then) that had been produced in the 1780s and early 1790s.  It’s a fascinating time of rapid change in fashion, but it’s also of course a time of major unrest in France—where these fashion plates had been produced. I found myself thinking, if an ordinary seamstress had the ability to affect the outcome of the Revolution, what would she do?

JB: Torn is set in a fantasy world of your construction, but it definitely has a historical feel to it. Can you talk a bit about the choices you made in creating this time and place?

RM: Given the inspiration for the story, there’s a lot that comes from the eighteenth century in the setting. The socio-political elements feel a bit like France, especially with the focus on day laborers of the lower class.  I also scrounged a lot of inspiration from London and Edinburgh, looking to sketches and magazines that depict ordinary city life.  That said, it is an amalgamation of different influences and of invention—it’s not a direct corollary to eighteenth century Paris or London.  One thing I love about the fantasy genre right now is how it’s not just medieval-esque settings dominating the books being released—you have Melissa Caruso’s Venetian-inspired The Tethered Mage, Fonda Lee’s twentieth century East Asian influenced gangster drama Jade City, Cass Morris’s Roman fantasy From Unseen Fire…it’s inventive and fun and I think a lot of people who maybe aren’t too into the castles and dragons fantasies might find themselves enjoying these!

JB: Sophie is a conflicted character, torn between people, ideologies, and priorities. I can see how some readers may feel frustrated by what they might perceive as her dithering. I personally didn’t feel that way, but I’d love to hear more about how she approaches her conflicts.

RM: Often when we tell stories about revolutions, major social movements, and general times of rapid change, our focus is on the people boldly leading the charge and on the people who are staunchly opposing them.  But at any point where major changes are happening, most people are living their lives in the face of those conflicts, their normal livelihoods complicated by them.  Maybe you kinda want to overthrow the monarchy, but you’re kinda busy getting this year’s harvest in, too, and not starving this winter sounds good. Or you’re all about independence for the colonies, but a war in your backyard puts your family at risk.  I think most of us are motivated less by big picture politics and more by our relationships to our friends and family, keeping those we care about safe, and engaging in livelihoods that bring us satisfaction (and a paycheck to buy food and keep a roof over our heads).  I don’t want to say “women especially,” but in my experience, this is integral to how many women experience conflict—how does it affect those I care about and am responsible for?—so it was integral to Sophie’s engagement with the conflict around her.  Writing her as decisive would have been “wish fulfilment writing”—how I wish it could be for most people facing hard choices.  Most of us don’t have the luxury of swift decisiveness.

JB: I think it’s really interesting reading a book about a revolution in a time of heightened political tension. Did any current events impact your writing of Torn? Do you think it may impact the reader’s experience?

RM: I love this question! Publishing moves slowly.  You write the book, your agent shops the book, you sell the book (you hope), more time passes, it’s finally published…all that to say, when I started writing Torn, we were experiencing a completely different, pre-2016 political climate. So today’s climate, I think, influences reader experiences in ways I didn’t, and couldn’t, anticipate.  I think a lot of readers dive into Torn wanting glorious revolution and discover that the characters and story are more nuanced than The Rebel Alliance vs The Evil Empire.  It’s hard in a charged and difficult political atmosphere to think about someone with whom we share few political opinions still being a human person; at the same time, we might avoid criticizing problematic ideas or methods from someone in the same political camp as us for fear of seeming like we’re one of “those other people” over there in the “wrong” political camp. People have a tendency to silo themselves into echo chambers where they only hear what they already agree with—and these are all things the characters in Torn face.  Those are difficult to grapple with in “normal” political environments, but right now it can feel even more challenging.

"Torn" by Rowenna Miller #bookgiveaway on theselfstylelife.com (ends May 11, 2018)

JB: Since Torn is a first in the series, “The Unravelled Kingdom,” can you give us any hints of what’s to come?

RM: Succeed or fail, the revolution in Torn can only be the first step, Sophie’s relationship with Theodor can only be in that young, untested phase (if it survives at all…), and, in general, we’ve only see the beginnings.  Beginnings are fun, but all the tangled complications make for delicious writing in middle books.  Also, I love a middle book where everything just goes to hell and you wonder if these characters you’re rooting for can actually pull this off.  Just saying.

JB: How, HOW do you find time to write as a mom with two little kids?! Please, tell us all your secrets!

RM: One major thinking shift for me is that I no longer think about “finding time.” If I try to find it, I won’t—it will get lost in the daily minutiae of living.  I think about “claiming time.” I have to claim the time I need from everything else going on in my life.  If I don’t, the laundry or the grocery shopping or yet another game of Candy Land *will* take precedence.  Practically speaking, this means writing after the kids are in bed, claiming weekend time when my husband will be home, and hiring a babysitter who comes once a week for a couple hours.  Mentally speaking, it means letting go of the idea that I’ll have a perfectly maintained house, that I’ll work out every day, that every meal will be 100% homemade and locally sourced, that I’ll keep up with every other hobby I’d enjoy right now. Something has to give, and it’s usually impeccable housekeeping.

JB: On theselfstyledlife.com, a central theme is about creating a life outside of the ordinary 9-5 sort of model. I think a writer’s life tends to naturally take an alternative path. Do you have any ideas or tips to offer on how to go about making a successful go of things without following a typical career path?

RM: One thing I hear people say is that they’d love to write, but this day job, these classes, the housework…shoot, if only they had the time.  It might sound cruel, but I’ll say it: You will never have the time.  If you want to pursue a creative career, if you want to make something and send it out into the world, and you don’t happen be on the of .1% who’s independently wealthy, you just have to dive in and do it on top of everything else.  There is no shame in the side hustle, or in something others might slot as a hobby but that you know is, for you, a vocation. I started writing with a day job, I kept writing with a day job, then as a stay-at-home mom, then as a part-time working mom, then finishing a grad degree and working and momming…if you want to do a Thing, do it! Most of us who are creating and putting something out there aren’t doing it full-time.  Our lives are layered.  For some, the day job is a financial necessity; for many, they derive a lot of satisfaction from it, too.  Layers are good. When things aren’t going great on the creative front, you’ve got camaraderie at the office or adorable mophead kids…when the day job blows or the kids are driving you nuts, you’ve got a rich inner world to play in.  Instead of fighting the layers, find joy in having a multi-dimensional life, and invest in a good day planner that lets you keep track of it! Also, celebrate all your milestones in your creative career.  You will have fewer public successes than in your “other” life, almost guaranteed, and especially just starting out, so celebrate the private ones—finishing the draft of a novel, mastering a new technique with ceramics, getting up the chutzpah to send a poem to literary magazine. Anything that feel significant to you is significant, even if no one else knows about it.

***

Thank you, Rowenna–I love the insight into the process of writing Torn, and the atypical career advice!

If you’d like to hear more from Rowenna, follow her on Twitter @RowennaM or check out her website!

Now for the Giveaway! Here it is! You can complete any of the tasks to receive more entries for a chance at winning a copy of Torn, signed by Rowenna. The contest runs from 9 am Thursday, May 3, 2018 to 11:59pm Friday, May 11th, 2018 (EST).

You can enter by:

  1. leaving a comment below discussing your favourite tidbit from this interview with Rowenna
  2. subscribing to theselfstyledlife.com via email or RSS (toward the top of this post, on the right)
  3. sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, your own blog, etc. Leave a link in the comments to your shares! (each share will equal an additional entry)
Contest is Sponsored by Rowenna Miller and Jean Brown and Administered by Jean Brown of theselfstyledlife.com. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO WIN. Entry participation is based on the rules above. WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest are in no way associated with this giveaway. The winner will be chosen at random using random.org. The value of the prize is $15.99 USD. This sweepstakes is open to contestants 18 years and older. Winner will be notified by email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hrs, a new random winner will be selected. Residents of Canada will be asked to complete a skills question to claim the prize (I’m serious…).

Featured image: “Eye of the Needle” by Matthew Pepper on Flickr (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0)

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9 responses to “Q&A with Rowenna Miller, author of “Torn” + BOOK GIVEAWAY!

  1. I love everything about this interview and I’m so excited to read the book! I already got it from my library! I really love the insight into how real people react and behave under intense political situations. I think it’s so easy to think we’d all rise up and fight for the revolution… I mean, I’m a libertarian, we’re all for overthrowing the government 😂. But, I’m a mother first. And that means in reality if revolution hit, my first priority would be protecting my family, not taking up arms for the cause. This might mean giving in to a lot of things politically in real life never accept in the blogosphere. And this is true for most people, I’d imagine. It’s why governments can creep their way into control in a lot of cases, I think. So I love that true and insightful approach.

    I also love the discussion of the layered approach to life. It’s so so easy to feel like you’ve lost parts of yourself as a mother… Like you’ve put pieces of yourself on hold for now. It’s such a beautiful thing to instead realize that you’re not less now, but more. I’ve honestly never looked at it that way until reading this, and that’s really profound and encouraging to me as a stay at home mom who struggles to get through a nonfiction book in less than three months, do part time freelance work, and try to formulate a professional plan for myself moving forward. The notion that I’m actually this really complex, layered person is truly motivating for me!

    Thanks for this Jean and Rowena!

  2. I love the “layered” concept. This has been my experience as well and I have learned that when I decide to wait until I have time, it never happens, there is always more work, more emails to answer, more laundry, cleaning, noses and tears to wipe,etc…whatever is in your life, there will always be more to do! Setting the priority of what I must contribute and allowing it to be a layer that I claim time for, I think that is a winning idea! Thanks and if I don’t win, I want a copy of this book!

  3. Claiming time!!! This is an important concept for everyone. Especially moms who want to do anything for themselves. I can’t wait to introduce this book to our book club next week!

  4. Oh my. I just wrote a huge comment and lost it because I had to reset my password!! I love this interview and will return later to repost my very thoughtful comment. 🤦

    • Oh no—I’m sorry! (I set it up so people had to sign in so that I’d be sure to have email addresses for the winner… lol. First blog giveaway problems…)

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