Hello, friends, and welcome back to my author interview series! Today, I’m thrilled to bring someone else that I love on Twitter to my blog – Shanna Miles, author of Willow Born!
My name is Shanna Reed Miles and I live in Georgia with my daughter, educator husband and my writing demons. I work as a school librarian and try to fill my time writing and reading Young Adult novels. My passion is Paranormal Romance, but I also have a deep affinity for diverse Science Fiction like that of Octavia Butler and Sherri L. Smith.
Little things about me….
1. I refuse to live outside of the sweet-tea region of country. Really, is it that hard to stir in the sugar while it’s hot? I’m talking to you Arizona.
2. I wrote my first book in elementary school and sent it to a cousin. I guess I knew what I wanted early.
3. I used to work in Pharmaceuticals and found it to be soul sucking.
4. I played raunchy comedy during my water birth and made my nurse blush.
5. I’m an advocate of diversity in literature of all levels, because the world is presented to children in books. If people of color don’t matter there, they don’t matter anywhere.
6. I love social media, but just can’t get the hang of Instagram. Selfies? Blech!
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve been given is to not be too precious. When you first begin to write there is the feeling that you’ll only get one shot or that you’ve only got one story in you. If you believe that you’ll spend a lot of time perfecting your story which is good, but if you believe it too deeply you’ll never put the work out there. The work will never be done, never be good enough and no one will ever read it. You have to allow yourself to grow and to allow others to follow along on that journey with you.
What’s your favorite emoji?
My favorite emoji is the blushing smiling face. I have an occasion to use it every day of my life. It’s a grateful and humble digital animation of human emotion. Doesn’t that make you feel fuzzy?
Where do you like to read? What do you need for a good long reading session?
I have two children so I like to snatch reading time whenever I can. I read on my kindle in bed, I read in the car as a small reprieve before grocery shopping. I also read while the kids play and watch cartoons. If the house is clean I might get a good long session in, otherwise it’s in snatches.
What are your top 3 go-to book recommendations?
My top 3 go-to book recommendations are pretty solid. I love YA, so they usually have teen protagonists. There’s Silver Sparrowby Tayari Jones, which is a family tale about a girl who befriends her half-sister. The sister is unaware that her father has another family. It’s set in 90’s in Atlanta. It’s about family, love and betrayal. Everyone I’ve recommended it to has loved it.
Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon is a love story written in letters back and forth between a young girl and her boyfriend. The boyfriend has been arrested for killing his abusive father. The letters span ten years and follows them as they grow from young teens to adults. It’s an unconventional and lovely coming of age story.
Finally, I like to recommend Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It was easier to recommend when the movie hadn’t come out because people had no concept of what it was about. I still believe it has one of the best end-of-the-book twists I’ve ever read.
What authors are auto-buys for you?
I will read anything by Beverly Jenkins. She writes African American Historical Fiction Romance. I’ve read everything by her and I can’t say that I even like romance novels. I just love her. I always learn so much when I’m reading them and they are super steamy. I can also say that I’m on a Neil Gaiman kick right now. I love how he tells stories.
What does your writing space look like? (Can be a photo or a description)
During the school year I usually write after the bell rings at my desk in the library. It’s a circulation desk so there are usually bookmarks and flyers from the public library about an after school program. I have a stack of audiobooks that rarely get signed out and The New York Times in a display case right next to hand-painted cardboard cutouts of the school’s letters. There’s a coffee maker that rarely makes coffee and a half empty canister of creamer, but no sugar. It’s standing height, but I’ve got a cushy chair that I have to pump up a few times to hover me right where I need to be. It’s my throne.
What is your favorite description of your books?
I’ve been called lyrical and at times fierce, but the best response has come from a grizzled and gravelly-voiced mystery writer I met at a conference once. He just simply said, “You’ve got the stuff.”
What is one of your biggest strengths in writing?
I think my biggest strength is constructing lovely sentences. I love a turn of phrase and I can spend a lot of time muddling over whether to describe a cloud as spun sugar, a cluster of mother’s loose cotton balls or God’s expectation swelling and growing until it rains hope upon the multitudes. That stuff is fun.
What inspired you to begin writing fiction?
I began writing because it became increasingly clear that if I wanted stories featuring Black characters who weren’t suffering in some way by their blackness I’d have to write them myself. The industry is responding to calls for my diverse books, but they respond to them slowly and there has to be some kind of mass appeal for their to be a big push behind the effort. You still haven’t seen a book with a major push from the YA community with a Black main character and a Black love interest.
What is your biggest struggle in writing?
I’m a slow writer and I have so little time to write so I have tons of stories, but it’s hard to get them down on paper. I tend to overwrite, as well, making the stories far too long, although that could just be me placing limitations on myself. Maybe the world needs a 100,000 word paranormal romance.
What’s the first book you remember falling in love with?
I love Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It’s about Janie Crawford, a young girl in the 30’s who wants to experience all that life has for her, but doesn’t really get the chance until after her first husband dies and she falls in love with a much younger man and runs off with him. It’s about expectations and feminism and the hero’s journey.
What was your last five star read? What made it a five star read?
The last book that I read that really had me salivating was Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I loved it from beginning to end. It has a cinematic quality to it and it works as a fantasy novel and adventure/crime novel. I really can recommend it to anyone, which is rare. I work in a high school as a librarian and when someone doesn’t know what they like or is looking for something different I know I can pick that one up.
What other projects are you working on?
I just finished a dystopian sci-fi romance following a girl hoping to escape a life of servitude as an old man’s wife for a chance to be a colonist on Mars. It also follows a boy who’s trying to find where his powerful father has hidden his mother for the last seven years. He also finds himself on the path to Mars. It’s about family, loss and the sacrifices we make for love. It’s epic and tragic and otherworldly. It’s also done but, tragically not done. I’m pretty sure I want to change the last half of the book entirely.
I’m also working on a historical fiction romance about a former slave boy with a mind for engineering who tries to start a horseless carriage company in order to buy the girl he loves out of slavery. I don’t know if I’ll go full steampunk with it or just tweak timelines a bit.
What’s one thing that would surprise people to know about you?
I minored in Dance in college. I’m not a super outgoing person so I think that might surprise people.
What do you to break out of writing slumps?
I read and try to write shorter pieces. Flash fiction is a great way to get the juices flowing again. I usually try to snatch a prompt and free write for about twenty minutes. It’s not too long, but long enough to flesh out an idea.
Where is the best place to contact you?
Where should readers start when it comes to your writing?
Where all things start….at the beginning.