From Romantic Romance to Ordered Disorder

 ~ Miriam Drori 

Want to know how to approach writing non-fiction when you’re most used to romantic stories? Don’t ask me; I didn’t do it.

You didn’t?

No.

But you’ve published that lovely romance that’s set in a really exotic place called…

Jerusalem. You’re right. My romance, Neither Here Nor There was published in 2014 and my new non-fiction book, Social Anxiety Revealed, is out on August 22.

There you are, then.

woman with flowerThere I’m not. You see, I wrote the first draft of Social Anxiety Revealed back in 2004. I was still working as a technical writer then and was used to organising stuff under headings and sub-headings. I also created lots of different styles for the book to show up the different sorts of writing in it: text, quotes, tables, jokes. I was used to all this from creating technical documents. My publisher has now had the nightmare of converting all that from a Word document to a book.

Wait a minute. You said “jokes” right? You have jokes in a book about social anxiety?

Absolutely. Even people who suffer from social anxiety know how to laugh – although they probably don’t laugh too loudly. And their low self-esteem makes it easy for them (us) to laugh at themselves. Besides, this book isn’t intended solely for people who have social anxiety. It’s just as relevant for anyone who knows someone who might have it. It’s not a self-help book, although it does contain a few tips. It simply explains what social anxiety is – all aspects of it.

Why did you write it?

To raise awareness of social anxiety. That’s my passion. Social anxiety is the most common anxiety disorder there is. It’s the third most common mental health issue. About 12% of people will suffer from it at some time in their lives. And yet most people don’t know what it is.

And what does that have to do with writing romance?

One link is story. Even in non-fiction, you can create a story to illustrate a point. I did this in Social Anxiety Revealed. I made up a fictional character with social anxiety, a guy who lives alone and doesn’t connect with anyone. Then I discussed how his neighbours would regard him.

The ability to create stories has many uses. When I learned (in a Toastmasters club) about giving prepared talks and I had to actually give short talks as practice, my best talk consisted mostly of a story I made up. The talk was more interesting than the others I gave and it was much easier for me to remember a story than a list of points.

Another link is in the contrast. How many romances have you read that include a character with social anxiety? Romance requires two people to approach each other, or at least one to approach the other. And that requires a confidence that social anxiety sufferers usually don’t have. They’re likely to think: she doesn’t like me, or he’ll laugh me off, and so they won’t take the plunge.

The one who is approached also needs confidence to respond positively. If they’re thinking: he only asked me because he has pity on me/has just been stood up/thinks I’m slightly better than having no one to spend the evening with, that positive response is unlikely to materialise.

Is it helpful for a romance writer to publish an unconnected non-fiction work? Does it help with sales of the author’s romances?

Ah, you’ll have to come back to me on that one.

*How has reading / writing non-fiction influenced your writing? 

Miriam Drori has decided she’s in the fifth and best stage of her life, and she’s hoping it’ll last for ever. It’s the one in which she’s happiest and most settled and finally free to do what she wants. 

Miriam lives in a delightful house and garden in Jerusalem with her lovely husband and one of three children. She enjoys frequent trips around the world. She dances, hikes, reads and listens to music. And she’s realised that social anxiety is here to stay, so she might as well make friends with it.

On top of that, she has moved away from computer programming and technical writing (although both of those provided interest in previous stages) and now spends her time editing and writing fiction. NEITHER HERE NOR THERE, a romance with a difference set in Jerusalem, was published in 2014. THE WOMEN FRIENDS, co-written with Emma Rose Millar, is a series of novellas based on the famous painting by Gustav Klimt. Future books will include a sequel to NEITHER HERE NOR THERE.

More information about Social Anxiety Revealed and Miriam Drori’s other books is available on her website/blog as well as her new blog that’s devoted to social anxiety.

Interview With Miriam Drori

miriam~ Interview by Melina Kantor Q: Welcome, Miriam! Please tell us a bit about your debut novel, Neither Here Nor There A: Mark recently immigrated to Israel from England. He works in software and is still trying to acclimatise to his new surroundings. Esty belongs to the ultra-orthodox community. Normally the two wouldn’t meet – certainly not for more than a passing comment. But Esty has decided to escape from the community in which she grew up, making this unlikely romance possible. The novel follows their growing relationship, while showing Esty’s struggle to become a part of her chosen world. Q: A big part of your writing journey was taking a writing class. How did the class (and your fellow classmates) help lead to the publication of Neither Here Nor There? A: The author, Sally Quilford, ran an excellent online class on romance writing. I learned a lot from it. Exercises, which she read and commented on, included describing a heroine and a hero, and telling of their attraction for each other and their conflicts. By the time the class finished, I had written a basis for my novel. After the class, I kept in touch with two fellow classmates. We sent each other our writing and they gave me a lot of advice and encouragement. One of those two, Sue Barnard, found a job editing for Crooked Cat Publishing, an independent publisher based in Scotland. Later she had a novel (now two) accepted for publishing by them. She suggested I submit my novel to them and they accepted it. Crooked Cat wasn’t the first publisher I tried, but my novel had a fairly smooth ride to publication in comparison with many others. Q: What motivated you to set your novel in Jerusalem and write about the Ultra Orthodox (haredi) community? Can you tell us about your research process?  A: I looked for a theme that would set my novel apart from those of the rest of the class and, by extension, from others in the genre. Something I knew about which the others didn’t know. This topic came to mind, and while I didn’t have inside knowledge of the haredi community, I did know something about it from the outside, from personal contact as well as through other channels – books, TV and movies. The Internet provided plenty of information. As well as teaching me more about the haredi community, it dug up a real voluntary organisation that helps those who want to leave it, and provided other information. I also revisited several parts of my home town of Jerusalem that feature in the novel. Q: How has participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) benefited your writing?  A: NaNoWriMo is a confidence builder. Just as when I began the writing class I doubted I would ever be able to write a romance, when I first participated in NaNoWriMo I didn’t expect to be able to write 50,000 words in one month. And I was right – I didn’t. But the following year I tried harder and succeeded. The result of last November’s efforts was certainly not a finished novel. But it was something to work on, and I’m still working on it. Another benefit of NaNoWriMo is meeting up with like-minded writers who are also frantically tapping out their 1,667 words per day. Writing together makes the process less solitary. Discussing the process encourages writers to keep writing. I also made some good friends during these months, including you, Melissa (aka Melina). Q: In your opinion, what are the traits of a quality contemporary romance (regardless of the setting and the ethnicity of the protagonist)? A: I think the main trait of a contemporary romance as opposed to older forms of the genre is its immediacy. Waffle is out. The heroine begins the story, while the hero must make an appearance in the first chapter, preferably on the first page. As with most contemporary novels, readers want the story to begin in the first sentence. Descriptions, back-story and other information must be woven into the fabric of the story. Also, contemporary readers are more open to new and exotic locations. Television and social media have brought distant parts of the world closer, and readers find more of interest in what might previously have seemed too foreign. They are more able to identify with the themes that unite us as human beings. Q: What are you working on now? A: My current work in progress is not a romance, although there is a romance in it. It’s the story of a guy who doesn’t fit into society, suddenly forced to communicate when he’s sent on a business trip to Japan. I’m also planning a new novel, which I hope to write in November as part of NaNoWriMo. I won’t say anything about it at this stage apart from the fact that my recent cruise along the coast of Norway informs it. Thank you, Miriam! :-)  Miriam Drori was born and brought up in London, and now lives in Jerusalem where her daughter has left her to hold the female fort against three males and a cat who refuses to take sides. Following careers as a computer programmer and a technical writer, Miriam has been writing creatively for the past ten years and has had short stories published online and in anthologies. Neither Here Nor There, published on 17 June 2014, is her first published novel. Miriam began writing in order to raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal. Visit Miriam at http://miriamdrori.com/