What does it really take to land on a best-seller list?
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Interview With Author Sharon K. Miller
The Clay Sustains
Sharon K. Miller fell in love with words at a young age, and writing became a big part of her life from that moment on. Her fascination with the archaeology and history of the Sonoran Desert and the Indigenous cultures who left their stories etched on and buried in the land inspired the books in the Clay Series—the interconnected tales of three women separated by centuries. She lives beneath the back range of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. See: http://www.sharonkmiller.com
1. What really inspired you to write your books, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a series? There is a state park not far from where I live near Tucson, Arizona, and in the park is an interpretive trail that winds through the ruins of a prehistoric Hohokam village which was inhabited from approximately 200 BC to about 1450 AD. At the same site are the remains of a nineteenth-century homesteader’s house. Signs along the trail describe how the Hohokam lived and farmed the area and how Francisco Romero brought his wife there in the nineteenth century to establish a cattle ranch. The first time I walked this trail, I wondered about Victoriana Romero’s life in this lonely place where Apaches stole their cattle and did battle with her husband, threatening their very existence. My first inclination was to write her story, but I discovered there was very little in the historical record about her. I decided instead to write about a fictitious woman, Esperanza Ramirez, who finds an ancient pot and makes a connection to the Hohokam woman who made it—a connection that helps her deal with loneliness and threats from those who would do her harm. Even though The Clay Endures was the first book I envisioned, it became the second book in the series. The first book, The Clay Remembers, which I conceived of later, involves Anna, an archaeologist who participates in the excavation and study of the site in preparation for the park and the interpretive trail. She finds the broken pieces of the same pot and makes a connection not only to Esperanza and her experiences, but also to the woman who made the pot. The third book, The Clay Sustains, tells of that woman in the twelfth century, at a time when the Hohokam culture in the Tucson basin was in decline. Her struggle is with the village shaman who knows she has a powerful spirit, one which he wants to control for his own purposes.
2. What is the series about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader? The three books of the series tell the story of one pot and three women across eight hundred years. The stories are unified by the pot and the setting rather than an ongoing set of characters and timeline. In fact, each book can be read as a standalone. Certainly, people who live in and around Tucson who are familiar with Catalina State Park will be interested, but the experiences of my characters, I hope, will resonate with readers everywhere. Most of my readers are women, but I’ve found that I have a fairly significant male following, which is likely due to the fact that my women are not simpering, love-starved beauties who fall prey to a handsome rake who sweeps them off their feet and breaks their hearts before redeeming himself.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your books? What should remain with them long after putting them down? I wanted to write stories about strong women, to demonstrate the solidarity of women throughout time, and to show what women are capable of when they are put to the test. The pot connecting these women across the centuries is the symbol of the love, work, and suffering which binds them in shared experience.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? Find your passion. That’s where the seed that is your book is nourished and where the characters who share that passion are born.
5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? Many “big” publishing companies have merged into conglomerates that, in some ways, limit an author’s opportunities to go the “traditional” route. While it still has a long way to go, self-publishing is making great strides. Professionally done self-published books that meet high standards are available and readers are finding them. The “look inside” feature on many online book retailer’s sites offers more than a preview to capture the reader’s interest. It also offers a chance to evaluate the quality of the work. And that’s a good thing. I think talented independent authors are finding their way into the marketplace.
6. What great challenges did you have in writing your books? Certainly, writing historical fiction offers its own kind of challenges. On the one hand, it’s easy because it offers a ready-made time and place wherein my characters can interact while facing the challenges associated with the time as well as those I create for them. But on the other hand, it’s necessary to remain true to historical events and to the societal influences on those events. Occasionally I may take liberties with the timeline of history; for example, in The Clay Endures, I put the Government Land Office in Tucson several years before it actually opened. There’s a risk involved in doing something like that. Knowledgeable readers may see it as an error, or they may think I care nothing about accuracy. For that reason, all three books in the Clay Series have extensive notes that elaborate on historical events and people and explain any deviations from history that I have introduced.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be one of yours? If they buy any one of the three books in the Clay Series, they will come to know a character who was not necessarily strong when she started out, but who fought against the odds and came out on top. The journeys of these women, regardless of when they lived, offer insights into the challenges both men and women face today. Readers will remember Anna, Esperanza, and Ha-wani long after they read their stories.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs