Christiana Miller - Quirky Characters in Bizarre Situations
Christiana Miller is a mom, a novelist and a renegade scriptwriter. Like her characters, she can often be found in the middle of unusual adventures. If her life was a TV show, it would be a wacky dramedy filled with kids, Dobies, random ghosts and quirky characters who get themselves into bizarre situations! As our Author of the Day, Christiana Miller tells us all about her book
Please give us a short introduction to what Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead is about.
It's about a young woman whose life is falling apart. Her unemployment is about to run out when she gets evicted from her apartment, and then winds up banned from Beverly Hills. When tarot cards start predicting her imminent demise, she uses a little magic to make things right, and winds up inheriting a cottage. But when she moves in, she finds her Aunt Tillie never moved out. She's one pissed-off spirit, who blames Mara's magickal meddling for her untimely death.
What inspired you to write about someone who is haunted by her dead aunt?
Actually, I wanted to write about a place where the line between the living and dead is so thin, they can interact at will. That was probably because my dad was in the process of dying at the time. He also influenced the location. He was on a trip to Northern Wisconsin when he fell into a coma, and I had to drive up there with my mom. That location is where Tillie's cottage is at, in the book.
Tell us more about Mara - what makes her tick?
Mara could literally be any young woman who's into witchcraft and the paranormal, who'd rather deal with things that go bump in the night than with real-life monsters. She was born with witchcraft in her blood, but she also had to evolve her skills through practice and use. And I wanted her to do it in a realistic way, which is why the first half of the book really immerses you in Mara's life and how this extra ability affects her every day reality, before jumping completely into the paranormal world of Aunt Tillie. As Mara's story progresses, her powers and skills in witchcraft also progress.
Why did you use tarot cards as a way to predict what is to come?
I had taken a tarot card class, and been hired to read tarot cards at a Beverly Hills industry party. (Don't worry, the scene in the book is fiction. Mr. Lyra isn't real, and I didn't actually get banned from Beverly Hills.)
Readers call this book a "psychic roller coaster ride" - was this your intention?
I wanted to write a story I would enjoy reading. I didn't want to write a story where you could take out the paranormal elements, replace them with anything else, and the story and characters would stay the same. I wanted the paranormal elements to be integral to who the characters are, and what the story is. And I wanted the esoteric lore to be based in actual lore, not just something I made up. So, a LOT of research goes into each book in the series. That other readers have enjoyed the stories has been a wonderful bonus.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Hmmm. Well, if I tell you, they wouldn't be secret, would they?
Why, would you say, is this a good read for Halloween?
It's all about the intersection between the living and the dead, it's about witchcraft, spirits, daemons and deities, and it has its final climactic scene at Samhain.
Which character was the most fun to create?
They were all fun. Gus is fun because of his sense of humor and his witchy attitude. Lord Grundleshanks is fun because he's a toad. Lisette and Lucien popped into my head first, in a dream. Aunt Tillie is fun because of her attitude. I have fun writing all of my characters. They're all unusual in their own ways. Mara's the easiest for me to write, but the rest of them are more fun to write.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what you had planned for them?
When they do that, I listen to them. It usually means I'm trying to force them to do something that hasn't been set up or is something their character just would not do. Or I'm giving them dialogue they don't like and wouldn't say. When that happens, not only do they fight me on the page, they haunt me in my dreams. And sometimes, it takes a while to get a book written because the characters refuse to cooperate. But the thing is...they're always right. So, I always have to look at what I'm doing and maybe scrap that part of the story, or sometimes, I just need to put the book away and go back to it when I'm in a different frame of mind.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? And if so, how do you combat it?
I'm still figuring that out. Because humor is such a big element of the series and the characters, if there's anything really horrible going on in my life, I have a hard time writing this series. When I'm writing and I'm stuck, there are times when I tell myself, "just five minutes." Just sit down and write for five minutes today. And I try to "five minute" myself out of whatever's keeping me from writing.
What are you working on right now?
The Crown of Fire trilogy. And I'm trying to figure out the next Tillie book.