~ 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/