Author Interview - CK Miller
Updated: Jan 27, 2019
Hello, everyone! In this week's installment of the Author Interview Series, I spoke to CK Miller about her most recent publication, The Phoenix Host, its upcoming sequel, and her writing habits. See what she had to say below!
1) Describe your most recently published book and/or your current work in progress.
My most recent published book came out in July 2018. It is called The Phoenix Host, a young adult novel set in medieval times. It is about a young woman, a soldier, who begins to experience nightmares that leave burning pain in her body when she wakes. She begins to realize that these dreams stem from something much deeper and more ancient than she could’ve imagined.
I am currently in the process of editing book two of the Roanfire Saga, where these dreams have become reality.
2) Which do you prefer: self-publishing or traditional publishing? What factors made you choose one over the other?
Back in 2008, I was published through a small company called Helm Publishing. (It has been out of business now for a few years.) I was careful about the contract, hired a lawyer, read every detail, and tried to do my best not to get burned. However, as time progressed and I had several successful book signings at Barnes and Noble, the royalty checks were not reflecting all the hard work that I was putting into it. Eventually, it became clear that I had gotten sucked into a vanity press – basically a self-publisher who markets themselves as a publishing company. A year later, I cancelled the contract. (Sadly, I did have a few very disappointed fans at this point.)
In 2017, I began to seriously write again. Self-publishing has become larger and more accepted than it was 10 years ago. When I was originally published, I felt so out of control and yet, I was the one doing all the marketing. Now, I have full control over the book cover, the content, the formatting, the font, and even the ways the book is marketed. I love that I do not have to rely on anyone else. If something is wrong, it is all on me – and I have the power to fix it.
3) Are there any books, movies, music, etc. that influenced your writing?
When I was younger I loved to look at the picture books of old fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, The Little Mermaid. Not the Disney versions, mind you. But the old, original tales that were darker and more detailed. There was something about them that truly fascinated me.
The music that mostly inspired my writing began with movie soundtracks and eventually shifted to epic orchestral music by Thomas Bergersen and Ivan Torrent. I love the powerful drums, the trumpets, the violins, and the beautiful voices that evoke power and strength. I love strong characters and use music to reflect that.
4) Which is your favorite genre(s) to write in? Which genre have you never written in but would love to try someday?
So far, all I have ever written is Young Adult Fantasy. I love the simplicity of it, and the freedom to create anything I like. It is my favorite. At this point, I do not have the desire to venture into anything else… perhaps a children’s illustrated book.
5) Do you prefer reading on an e-reader or actual books? Which do you think is better from a publishing point of view?
I am a lover of tangible books. I love the weight, the feel of the paper gliding across my fingers. I love the satisfaction of turning a page and tilting my head just a little to the left as I do so. I love slipping a beautiful bookmark between the pages, closing the cover, and seeing just how far I was able to read. And it’s much easier for me to pick up where I left off – or find a previous page that I’d like to re-read.
However, I think that the publishing industry is moving more and more to the screens. It is easy. You can carry an entire library in your pocket! It is functional and practical. And I think it is very effective to publish your book this way.
6) How has the online writing community affected your writing career?
I’ve only been a part of the online writing community since my book was released in July, but it has been one of the best things that’s ever happened. It is wonderful to rub shoulders with other authors – though you do run into sour apples every now and again. Just like anything in life, let go of the toxic and let in the beautiful, uplifting and encouraging people.
7) Describe your typical writing routine.
I always re-read a page or two of what I wrote during my last writing session. I’ll edit and nitpick as I go, and then I find myself just plugging away. Sometimes it seems so effortless, and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. Even though I am scrambling to meet some writing deadlines, I’ve been procrastinating a rather difficult plot-hole in my newest novel. Sometimes I just need to push through it and come back again later.
8) What is your ultimate goal in terms of writing?
To be honest, I am uncertain. I love to write. I love to share stories. I love to create worlds that I feel safe in. I love to challenge myself in sentence structures, or different ways to describe something familiar.
9) What has been your biggest writing struggle? What is your greatest strength?
Oh, the struggles! I think my biggest struggle is "self-doubt" and comparing myself to other authors. One of the things they say is that to become a better author, you must read, read, read! And every time I read, I find myself dissecting the book, the structure, the creativity, the flow, the character development, and the poetic feel. I wish I could emulate it as well, and then the doubt flows in. For one, I grew up in Germany, and all of my elementary schooling was in German. By the time I was fourteen, German was my first language. I was thrust into American high school and STRUGGLED – a straight C student in everything, save art.
But I wrote stories anyway, hoping to create a place where I didn’t feel so… well, dumb. Eventually, I began reading. I got my driver's license and drove to the local library every week to find a new book. Some were ok, some drew me in, and then I found the book, Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. The depth of the characters and the way it pulled me in was something that really fueled my desire to write more clearly. I wanted to build worlds the way she did.
10) Is there anything about the publishing world that has been very difficult? Has anything been easier than you expected? If you aren’t published yet, what do you anticipate being easy or difficult?
Getting my book published was the easy part. The hard part is the marketing. I am terribly shy by nature and putting myself front and center terrifies me. I hoped that I could simply write a good book and let it speak for itself – but that’s not how it works. (Maybe for some it does.) At least, not if you want to get noticed. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance this out without over-stressing myself.
11) What is your favorite way to market your book and yourself as an author?
Haha. Like I said, I wish I could just let it speak for itself. But since I can’t simply let it do that, I am fortunate and blessed to have talent in art. It is wonderful to be able to draw the characters and let the art pull people in.
12) Have you taken any writing classes? If yes, would you recommend them? If no, do you want to?
I’ve taken several writing classes in college, but my favorite was Creative Writing. A short story (I mean a really, really short 500-word story) of mine was featured in the College Newspaper back in 2003. Recently, I was asked to host writing workshops for teens and young-adults at the local library! I am both excited and terrified! As I mentioned before, the self-doubt creeps in. I don’t feel qualified.
13) Is writing your full-time job? If yes, what was your last profession? If no, do you want it to be and what do you do now?
Sometimes I wish I could be a full-time author, but I am a mother first and foremost. Before I was able to write, I worked for an optometrist.
14) What advice would you give to someone who has just started writing?
I would say to never stop. Sometimes a break is needed to get your bearings, but never stop. Never stop learning. Never stop improving and trying new things. Never let self-doubt, self-sabotage, and self-deprecation ruin what you love to do! (I’m still working on that myself.)
Keep up with CK's writing endeavors by following the links below!
Purchase The Phoenix Host on Amazon.
Check out CK's official website.
Like CK on Facebook.
Follow CK on Instagram.