Saturday, 6 June 2020

Chatting with Miriam Drori

It’s not often I do guest posts. TBH, it’s not often I put up posts at all, but today I’m making an exception, in the shape of a conversation with the lovely Miriam Drori.
It started out as a video chat, but a morass of technical problems at both ends meant we had to revert to good old-fashioned written words.
Miriam is a writer and editor, a resident of Jerusalem, and a producer of high quality work. Which only begs the question, why would she want to talk to an idiot like me?
Still and all, let’s get on with it.
Welcome, Miriam. One of the questions people ask me is, what prompted you to become an author. Fact is, I had a good education which was a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money, and when I retired from the rat race ten years ago, I took up scribbling more seriously. So let me put the same question to you. What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

Ooh, you've thrown me in at the deep end and forced me to start with those two letters: S. A. No, that's not South Africa or South Australia or even Société Anonyme, which is the first one that Google gave me. No, for me, SA is social anxiety, which I've been unfortunate enough to share most of my life with. It probably sounds strange for me to say that social anxiety prompted me to start writing, but I can explain. When I eventually discovered that was my problem, I joined an online forum for 'sufferers' (for want of a better word). I 'met' a lot of people who were much worse off than me. And I noticed that almost everyone who joined the forum wrote, "I thought I was the only one." Also, I noticed that people on the forum wrote a lot about not being understood - even by professional people who should have known better. In other words, people who had it didn't know they had it, and people who didn't have it didn't know anything about it. So, I became passionate about raising awareness of social anxiety. As writing was something I knew how to do, I started writing about social anxiety. That was in 2004. The book, Social Anxiety Revealed, was eventually published by Crooked Cat thirteen years later, in 2017, stayed with them for three years and is now published independently. It was when I finished writing it, in about 2005, that I had the idea of writing a story and so began the long… well, never-ending period of learning the craft of fiction writing.

Another question people ask me is what’s a typical day like you. Disastrous is the first word that springs to mind. A jackrabbit mind like mine needs something to keep it occupied, so there is no typical day. I could be talking to the webcam, writing, marketing, or (when the missus is in that kind of mood) working in the garden. Your turn. What does a typical writing day involve for you?

A typical day… I wish I had one! I wish I could say I spend the mornings writing and the afternoons editing and marketing, but it doesn't work out like that. I have lots of days when I don't do any writing at all… at least, not the fictional sort of writing. In November, on the other hand, I spend whole days writing. That's because of NaNoWriMo - that month when certain crazy people around the world try to write 50 thousand words in a month. I don't always reach 50 thousand words, but I always have a great time doing it and that's because of all the other local crazy people doing the same thing and the meetups we all have where we eat, drink, discuss what we're writing and write together. So, this is the time that writing isn't a solitary activity.

When I think about my work, I often ask myself, what’s the best part about writing? For me it’s typing those two magical words THE END. What’s the best part of the writing process for you…and the worst?

The best part is reading through something I've written and thinking, "That's really rather good!" The worst part… I don't know. It's certainly not finding a section that doesn't work. That happens all the time, but I know that if I think about it, I'll come up with a better idea, or else I'll ask for advice. So, I can't think of a worst part of the actual writing process. In the wider context of being an author, marketing is the worst part.

I’m a panster. I never plan anything. If I do, the plans are invariably go wrong. Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

I've tried both. I think the writing process flows more quickly when I plot in advance. I prefer to know the ending so that I always have a goal in mind. Having said that, nothing is engraved in stone - any part of my plot can change as I'm writing.

I frequently struggle with deciding on names for my characters. Is it one of your problems too?

In general, I try not to have two with the same first initial. Also, I try to choose names that would sound familiar to English-speakers even if the characters are not English-speakers. That's not always possible, so my second choice would be names that are short and hopefully easy to remember.

In the first novel I ever wrote, I didn't know what to call the main characters, so I called them M for male and F for female. Eventually, they turned into Martin and Fiona. Luckily, I decided to scrap that novel, but the characters remained with me, keeping their names in a new plot that became my latest novel.

Let’s throw you right in the deep end. Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

Yes, I can summarise it because this is something I've considered. In 3 words: Japan smashes walls. In 7 seven words: Social misfit's journey through Japan and life. That one was suggested by my friend and author, Katy Johnson.

And the inspiration for the book?

The original idea came from a writing course I attended. We were told to describe a character and I chose Martin, who I knew well from my discarded novel. Then they told us to place the character in a country we hadn't visited. At the time, I hadn't been to Japan, but I'd heard a bit about it. So, I imagined how Martin would fare if he was sent to Japan, and that's what led to the novel, Cultivating a Fuji.

I’m sure it’s a winner.

I spent much of my working life travelling all over Great Britain, so I don’t need to do a great deal of research for my books. Do you do much research?

Oh yes, but not an enormous amount, because I deliberately used places and facts I knew. I researched sites in Japan that I didn't get to see on my visit there. And I discovered new places in Bournemouth, which is where Martin lives. And various aspects of life in the '70s and earlier - like songs that were popular then, and even the weather. I discovered I'd included a waxwork in London's Madame Tussaud's that wouldn't have been there at the time. It took me some time to find another one that was there and that suited my story.

Other people ask, do you have a message for your readers? The answer for me is, yes. Read and enjoy. So again, I put the questions you, is there a message for the reader?

Mostly, I wanted to create a good story. If readers enjoy the story (and they have), then I'm satisfied. If it causes them to rethink anything afterwards, that's an added bonus. There are several messages they could take away, starting with this one: The effects of childhood bullying can last a lifetime.

Last question. Do you remember Desert Island Discs? If you were stranded on a desert island, what luxury item would you like with you?

I still listen to Desert Island Discs, although I always expect to hear Roy Plumley! (Yes, I'm that old.) I'd take a piano. Hopefully, I'd finally have time to practise. Hidden inside the piano would be lots of notebooks and pens, because I can't imagine not being able to write!

I think that’s cheating isn’t it?

Miriam, it’s been absolutely wonderful talking to you, and I wish you every success with all your work.
Miriam’s novel, Cultivating a Fuji is published by Crooked Cat Books and you can find it at:

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