Welcome to the three hundred and first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Phyllis Zimbler Miller. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Phyllis. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Phyllis: I’m based in Los Angeles although I grew up in the Midwest (Elgin, Illinois) where I spent a great deal of time writing. I then majored in journalism at Michigan State University and later worked as a journalist. My husband and I were stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich, Germany, from September 1970 to May 1972.
Morgen: Ah, Sie können Deutsch sprechen. It’s lovely that you knew so early on what you wanted to do. I didn’t have a clue so went to secretarial college, handy now for my typing speeds. What genre do you write?
Phyllis: I write both nonfiction and fiction. The protagonist in fiction is usually a strong female character.
Morgen: Yay! What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Phyllis: I write under my own name and I co-wrote the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION with Rabbi Karen Fox in 1992 and I’m currently working on an ebook series for teens and young adults. My self-published novel MRS. LIEUTEUANT was a 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semi-finalist and I have since self-published the book FOUR COMEDY SCREENPLAYS (two of which were written with my husband Mitchell R. Miler) and the ebook technothriller LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS written with my husband. See http://www.phylliszimblermiller.com/books-ebooks
Morgen: Ooh, your husband’s a writer – does he do interviews? Have you had any rejections?
Phyllis: I self-published MRS. LIEUTENANT after many rejections because I truly believed in persevering this slice of women’s fiction from 1970.
Morgen: So many people are self-publishing because they’ve battled the traditional way and it almost seems to be becoming the norm. I did it and I love the fact that, with an editor, I have total control. Are all your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Phyllis: MRS. LIEUTENANT and LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS are available in Kindle, Nook, and iPad versions. I work with a professional ebook converter as I want the ebooks to look as good as possible. I have just gotten a Kindle as a gift and I am really looking forward to not having to hold up heavy books as I read.
Morgen: I still read paperbacks (I have a few hardback but they’re mostly writer biographies or anthologies) but love the fact that I can have 400+ books with me when I go out. Most authors have to do their own marketing these days anyway. How much do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Phyllis: The online marketing company I co-founded with my younger daughter Yael K. Miller began when I started marketing MRS. LIEUTENANT. I’ve been developing my online brand ever since.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Phyllis: The ebook technothriller LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS began life as two screenplays about the same character. Catherine Zeta-Jones would be one possibility for the leading role.
Morgen: I know I’m biased because I’m British, but I like her. Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?
Phyllis: For SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION Karen and I had very little say – and I am not a big fan of the cover. For MRS. LIEUTENANT I had a lot of say – and I do like the cover. For FOUR COMEDY SCREENPLAYS – Yael and I tweaked a template from CreateSpace – and we could have done better. For LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS – I really like what Yael created. And even more I like what she created for my ebook thriller-in-progress – CIA FALL GUY.
Morgen: Progress. Perhaps you could have an opportunity to change the ones you’re not so keen on in the future. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Phyllis: Besides CIA FALL GUY I’m considering whether to turn the sequel of MRS. LIEUTENANT – MRS. LIEUTENANT IN EUROPE – into a memoir instead in order to tell the true story of being part of the occupying force in West Germany during the Cold War.
Morgen: War books are always popular – fiction or non-fiction. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Phyllis: I do not manage to write everyday but I also do not suffer from writer’s block.
Morgen: Me neither and me neither. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Phyllis: My stories are plotted and I try to make the actions as realistic as possible.
Morgen: Do you write anything other than your books?
Phyllis: I also write numerous blog posts for my own blogs and for the blogs of others.
Morgen: So you might consider a guest blog for me. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Phyllis: I always edit – in fact I love making changes after I have gotten the first draft written.
Morgen: Do you? I’m not keen. Editing and researching are my least favourites. Do you have to do much research?
Phyllis: For LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS Mitch and I did considerable research. For MRS. LIEUTENANT I relied on my own experiences and the original documents I saved from 1970 (with a little fact-checking help from Wikipedia).
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Phyllis: I like close third person for fiction and first person for blogging. I haven’t tried second person.
Morgen: Oh, do! I’m biased because I love it but I’d urge everyone to have a go and see how they get on (an acquired taste so some of us get hooked ). I’ve written some for Tuesday Tales if anyone reading this isn’t sure what second person is. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Phyllis: I wrote several mystery novels in the 1990s that someday I may evaluate as to whether I should publish these as ebooks. I think the mystery parts of the novels are good; it’s the character development I’m not sure about.
Morgen: But now you have the experience to put it right. Mysteries are hugely popular so may well be worth revising. What’s your favourite aspect of your writing life?
Phyllis: My very favourite aspect is having a computer as I started out writing on a manual typewriter.
Morgen: Doesn’t it make life so much easier (especially researching). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Phyllis: Keep writing – and keep continuing to learn. I spent years studying different aspects of fiction writing after I had been a journalist – I still find certain aspects of fiction writing difficult.
Morgen: There’s quite a lot I don’t do – science fiction and fantasy for instance. I don’t read it so I don’t really write it, although there was a short piece I wrote for my Story a Day May collection that one of the purchasers said was his favourite so I can’t be that bad at it. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Phyllis: I love the opening lines of the prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the English he wrote in.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Phyllis: My company Miller Mosaic LLC works with clients including book authors on developing WordPress websites / blogs and using social media for marketing.
Morgen: WordPress is great. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Phyllis: Author Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I have a free download of blogging advice for fiction writers at www.FictionMarketing.com
Morgen: Ooh, great. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Phyllis: I find social media sites very valuable – and I especially love Twitter. You can follow me at http://twitter.com/ZimblerMiller. In addition, I founded and manage the Book Marketing group on LinkedIn – www.LinkedInBookMarketing.com
Morgen: Do you? I love LinkedIn. I’ve met some wonderful authors that way. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Phyllis: More and more ebooks along with more and more control for writers over their own work.
Morgen: Isn’t that great. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Thank you so much, Phyllis.
I then invited Phyllis to include a self-contained excerpt of her writing…
Aboard the USS Nimitz, Pacific Ocean: April 16, 0800 hours
She had arrived onboard only last night in the dark. Immediately this morning she’d been asked to “help out” with target practice. No time to appreciate what she’d finally achieved – a transfer to ship duty.
Mollie stopped alongside a good-looking guy also in his early 30s. His flight jacket said Witlow and he held the pistol like a gunfighter in a western. Maybe his call sign was gun fighter.
“Two hands, cowboy,” Mollie said. “This isn’t the OK Corral. And use the sights. The object is to hit your target, not scare him.”
The pilot turned blazing eyes on her. “And who the hell – “
Mollie pointed to the strip of white tape on her ball cap that said instructor. That stopped his protest.
She held out her hand for his pistol. He hesitated, then handed it over.
She assumed the perfect two-handed firing position – and in a blaze of fire emptied the magazine at the silhouette target. Next to her the pilot said nothing.
Mollie hauled back the target. All her shots converged in a three-inch group – in the target’s groin!
The pilot eyed the target and remained silent.
“That’s the way to do it,” she said to him. She cleared the pistol and handed it back to him.
She walked to the next firing position, aware of his eyes sending death rays into her back.
Oh, well, she wouldn’t have to deal with him again. Today’s instructor role was a favor. Tomorrow she’d be in her favorite spot in the whole world – up above the earth, free of entanglements, speeding towards a far-off horizon.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the co-founder of the online marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com and the author of fiction and nonfiction books.
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