H. H. Miller is the author of the novel Inscription, a historically fictional romantic adventure. In real life, she’s content director at Stoke Strategy, a brand strategy firm in Seattle, Washington, where she specializes in transforming what some might call “boring” technology jargon into compelling, readable, memorable stories. Her favorite escape is Manzanita, Oregon – a place of beautiful beaches, wild storms, chilly nights around the bonfire (even in July), and time to enjoy life with her husband and three children.
Stephanie: Hello, H.H. Welcome to Layered Page and thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me about your story, INSCRIPTION, where the story takes place and how you came up with your title.
H.H: Inscription is the story of a 20-year-old young woman in 1851 who’s life is turned upside down by people and events beyond her control: vindictive soldiers, scheming relatives, and, of course, the hero she falls in love with.
It takes place in a fictional country called Mainland. I’ve always loved historical fiction set in England, but it’s been done – and done very well – by many others. I was intrigued by the idea of imagining a world where the time period and customs were familiar, but the story was unconstrained by actual history. I was free to create places, characters, and events as I wished them to be without regard for the way things actually were. Thus, I have no idea how long it would have taken to get from London to Bath by coach in real life 1851, but I know it was a half-day ride on horseback from Oakside to Algonia in Mainland.
As for the title, I wanted something that evoked a feeling of mystery and history . . . parchment, quills, cryptic clues, wax seals, secrets of the past, adventure. Also, it needed to be catchy, simple, and not already taken!
Stephanie: I’m always finding inspiration for stories all around me. What was yours for this story?
H.H: I’ve always been an avid reader, but I fell into a reading rut about two years ago. I just couldn’t find a book I LOVED. You know the kind . . . where you just want to drop everything and spend the whole day immersed in the life and times of your favorite characters. I’d had this nugget of an idea for a story rambling around in my head, and I finally decided if I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read, I’d write one myself. I guess you could say necessity was the mother of invention.
Stephanie: Why 1851 and what do you find fascinating about this period?
H.H: Maybe I was born in the wrong century, because I’d love to live in the time of corsets and gloves, carriage wheels splashing through puddles, romance and obligation, mud and horses. On the other hand, there were definitely some stifling and often downright hazardous aspects to life in 1851, both physical and societal. One misstep – whether in the wilderness or in the ballroom – could have severe consequences. It’s a great backdrop for illuminating someone’s true character, their goodness, grit, cowardice, bravery, or integrity in the face of challenges. I like creating conflict by putting characters in settings where they are forced to make uncomfortable choices.
Stephanie: What are some of the historical aspects of this story and what are the fictional?
H.H: Well, the locations are entirely fictional. Mainland looks a lot like England, with a dash of the Oregon Coast and Cascade Mountains thrown in for variety. From a historical standpoint, the customs and characters are fairly true to form for the time period.
Stephanie: What research went into this story and did you do any travelling?
H.H: That’s the great part about writing “fictional” historical fiction. You don’t need to do a lot of research! I’ve read a lot about the time period, so I had a rich base for imagining what life might have been like. I also lived in England for a few months (many years ago).
Stephanie: Was there a particular scene you found a challenge to write?
H.H: Yes! The scene in the hayloft with Tom and Caris made me blush the entire time I was writing it. Also, I re-wrote the opening chapter countless times.
Stephanie: What was your writing process for this story and how long did it take you to complete it?
H.H: I began scribbling down ideas during the car ride home to Seattle from the Oregon Coast. My husband drove, my kids retreated inside their headphones, and I typed for four hours straight. That was right after New Year’s Day 2013. My notes turned into a sort of messy, disjointed outline as I began to organize the flow of events. I didn’t worry about the writing. I didn’t edit or censor or try to make it sound good. I just spilled it all out as if I were telling it to a friend. “And then she did this, and then he said that . . .” That mish-mash became the basis for “what happens” in the story. From there, I took it scene by scene and began to actually write it, fleshing out the characters, events, and dialog as I went along. By mid-year I had a first draft. Then it was six more months of refinement and re-writes before it was finished.
Stephanie: What do you love most about writing?
H.H: The way the characters come to life, sometimes in unexpected ways. I’ve heard other authors talk about this, but I was actually surprised when I realized one of my characters had murdered someone.
Stephanie: Who are your influences?
H.H: J. K. Rowling, Diana Gabaldon, Jane Austen, Dan Brown, Charlotte Bronte, Alexandre Dumas. Weird assortment, I know, but I love them all for different reasons, and I took a bit of something from each.
Stephanie: What are you working on now?
H.H: I keep a file with notes and ideas for a sequel to Inscription, but I’m not quite ready to crack into it yet. I also have a real job as content director for a brand strategy firm, so that keeps me pretty busy.
Stephanie: Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?
H.H: I love feedback. Good or bad, every comment helps me to be a better writer. Visit me at http://www.facebook.com/hhmillerbooks and share your thoughts. Thank you!
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Monday, April 14 Review at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, April 16 Review & Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Friday, April 18 Review at Jorie Loves a Story