Friday

Kindle Author Interview: Miriam Pia

Miriam Pia, author of An Adventure in Indianapolis, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about An Adventure in Indianapolis?

MIRIAM PIA: This is the first time that I wrote a full length novel intended for a mass scale audience of adults. I say it that way, because there are kids and they want to know—is it for them? This one is not, but I have also written some short fiction intended for children or for an intergenerational audience.

That being said: An Adventure in Indianapolis is set in the city of Indianapolis, a real place. It has been fictionalized. The main problem of the story is one of Indy's most embarrassing problems—meth amphetimine. In real life, this illegal drug has been manufactured in the countryside in Indiana. It is just one of the things the law enforcement agencies of Marion County are dealing with as a chronic problem. The novel hinges on a reaction to Indiana villains creating a plot to move meth manufacturing into the city of Indianapolis itself—within the highway loop of the 465. This is a type of sacrilege and would be particularly horrible as this has been prevented so far.

The Sheriff has enough informants and long term knowledge of the area's villains to know who the most probable suspects are, and somehow his department managed to get wind of the rumor of this plot to set up a meth lab within Indy. Naturally, he wants to prevent this. The problem is that he does not have enough information to get warrants and to make a bust—so what is he going to do? In this case he goes to the newly elected Mayor.

It turns out that the Mayor's Office has a few tricks up its sleeve. Here's where real life Indy goes fantasy: the Sheriff and Mayor characters are fictional although the positions are real enough. The novel can be viewed as a "law enforcement fantasy" in which they get to hunt down and arrest guilty people instead of the guilty flourishing under the protection of the same laws that can be used to bring them to justice.

A special unit of 4 people are used to help the law enforcement agencies "get what they need" to be able to bust the villains. The process is not straightforward and involves numerous side issues and adventures—that's what makes up the novel. Who are these people? There is a local lawyer, who is also an occultist. He is the main connection to the Mayor's Office. There is a young Father—he is actually the Sheriff's local priest. "For some reason he is involved". He has a special power, but let's let readers discover what it is by reading the novel. Only one of the 4 has military experience—this is their warm hearted warrior known throughout the novel by his Internet screen name: Skilleas Fog. His work history is 'abnormal' and includes things like bounty hunting and cage fighting as well as some military experience. The final member is even more dubious—a slippery local burglar who has managed to evade arrest is brought in. This is the only woman of the group. In real life most people are not that money motivated unless they are desperate but some people really are. The key to the city being able to use this person is that they have to grant immunity from the punitive side of the law and they pay. She can be bought. "Cha-ching, Sister!" Hence, the good guys are able to secure her services.

What makes the novel so unusual is that all 4 of these people are main characters. Perspective shifts, and much like in live story teller the narrator sometimes treats readers as if they are really present. This gives the novel an 'experimental fiction' quality. The truth behind it is that the author is an old Dungeons and Dragons player, and decided to resort to that way of looking at things to come up with a novel relatively quickly. As most gamers know: in an adventuring party there is often a leader, but no one person is the main character. That's how it really works.

The majority of the excitement in the novel is caused by the sideline adventures the characters go through to piece together what the cops don't know. I called it a law enforcement fantasy because these people use whatever works to get the necessary information without many of the real life restrictions involved with conducting legal investigations. So, cops might fantasize about something like this being able to happen. The big adventure is not "do they do it?" but "how do they achieve this?"

There is some magical realism in the story. I enjoyed including it. It simply goes along with the characters themselves and their interests. Hopefully readers won't feel it's random, but see it more the way people do when reading comic books. No one says, "Isn't that weird, the X-Men have special powers?" In the group of 4, the fighter is the only one who doesn't have some type of magic power.  The priests magic comes from God, the thief and the lawyer get it some other way.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

MIRIAM PIA: As referred to above, it's just that I'm a gamer, an overgrown D&D kid. I played as a child and in my 20s and then when my son became mature enough, around age 12 I put in another 2 or 3 years of playing D&D. The characters in this novel are based on my default gamer settings. Just like in a 4 person rock band there is the singer, the guitarist, the bass player and the drummer, in the default adventuring parties I grew up with there's a thief, a fighter, a magic-user, and a cleric. That's just what is needed to cover the basics. Thieves in D&D are used to remove traps and to prevent people from getting killed when looting. Admittedly, these are often not the most savory characters. In the novel, they are modified to fit into real life better but they are differentiated according to this simple system. They do what that type of person does. The lawyer is actually the main magician, if anyone is wondering what gamer-mages are really like. Its not the circus clown so much as the attorney. This is what its like when its taken seriously. As also mentioned earlier: everyone in the special unit are really good people—except the thief. I am a potent advocate of women's rights so I did not invent the thief character to denigrate we women. It's just that specific woman, she isn't meant to represent all women, or anything. She is very middle-class, perhaps showing some of the 'dark side' of the feminine: subtle, tricky, somehow able to be vicious in order to fit into her very middle class neighborhood and still be invited to lunch by the married middle class housewives who are her normal peers.

I hope that clears this up enough, but not too much.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

MIRIAM PIA: I really wrote the book for adults in general. I was hoping to appeal to as broad a range of people as blockbuster movies do, and not trying to serve a niche audience. I am aware that I am working from within a niche as a producer, but I tried to write this to have mass appeal. I view the readers as adults, many of whom have jobs but not all. A lot of the readers are men who have families to protect, and many are women—some working and some who have kids. They are mostly the real people who agree with the law enforcement agencies that its best if there aren't meth labs inside of the 465 highway. Is there anything we can do about it? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

MIRIAM PIA: LOL, I learned to read and to speak. Seriously, I wrote my first 1 act play in second grade. I didn't write it until me and one of the few male best friends I had as girl who wasn't a boyfriend and I made it up and ran it by my mother and sister—our audience laughed heartily, so we knew we were on track. I think they paid us literally $0.03 put together for our work.

My mother and father worked in education. They were married to each other 16 years but I was born at the back end of their marriage in their 12th or 13th year together. I grew up living with my mother and seeing my father regularly. My mother was not granted a superior mate to my father and my father actually preferred his second wife: a painful truth, but a reality. My mother worked in my elementary school when I went there. She was always encouraging me to write when I was a child but when I grew up and started talking about novels she looked at me and told me that maybe I could become a technical writer: as she knew I wanted to make a living. Its almost as bad as being an actress, in her mind, I guess. I can see why, as I have yet to earn a good living as a writer. My father was a professor. He always encouraged me about the writing thing—in fact he has been very supportive, and I do mean financially; he literally made it possible for me to survive while I wrote An Adventure in Indianapolis. However, not being an author but having been published in some journals as an aceademic or doing church related projects, my father never said anything about implementing being an author or a writer, but he just generally encouraged it and accepted it. I just kept telling them: "I'm a writer." I kept thinking, "My God, it's that I'm a writer."

Just to really send us all over into realms of the metaphysical and religious: my astrological birth chart apparently says that I'm a writer. I think that's hilarious but also strange. I mean how on God's green Earth can a map of the solar system on my birthday have that information encoded into it? Weird, isn't it?

I could go on about this for a long time: I'm self-centered enough to enjoy the attention, but I'll stop now.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

MIRIAM PIA: I write basically. [Looks like a smoker]. Sounds stupid? [Looks like a non smoker mother with a young child holding one hand—hair disheveled, hoping for a fun day at the local park]. I just write.

I was blessed with the gift of gab which can be transferred to written words. It's a bit like how water constantly runs over a waterfall. There's a lot of verbal flow wherever I am. That's just what it's like. Different things inspire me. I have written short stories after a chat with my son. I wrote my first novel in college because I was in cramped quarters with my boyfriend but he didn't want to hang out with me. He also didn't want me to go out without him so I listened to music and wrote a novel. I wrote part of it without him being there, but I think he was within 6 feet of me throughout the creation of the entire first draft. The situation with An Adventure in Indianapolis was totally different. It was the opposite: no one was there. I didn't even have a 'with me' type of boyfriend. I think some Zen priest was my boyfriend part of the time, but it was mostly email exchanges and visits in a coffee shop, not exactly a physically passionate affair. I landed a lover during the editing process, and got dumped by the Zen priest because I mentioned it or else because I did it: it depends how you look at it. I got in trouble with the Zen priest; he's older than me and is a teacher so I reacted like a younger person who is easily intimidated by authority. It was as bad as getting yelled at by your teacher or something.

What does that have to do with my writing process?

I was recovering from divorce and was trying to empower myself out of my misery and a novel occurred—I mean, I guess that's the existential nature of the writing process. If I get super happy I might write something. If I'm miserable and want to help myself feel better then I also might write something. I wrote the whole novel going, "Oh my God, I'm not married anymore and my kid only lives with me about half the time instead of all the time. My Zen priest boyfriend hasn't called but did send the book on Buddhism through Amazon.com because I'm trying to get him to help me with a book comparing Unitarian Unviersalism with Buddhism."

So, I either talked a lot or wrote something. I hope this is a tolerable answer.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

MIRIAM PIA: Tough question. I'd have to include God as the official author of The Holy Bible. I'd have to include Aristotle and Nietzsche when translated into English. Also people like Isaac Asmiov, Ayn Rand, CJ Cheryhh, Ann Mcaffery—you can tell we've slipped back into my childhood when I really am not sure about the author but remember the story: Pern, Narnia, The Sword of Shannara and a parade of dimly remembered interstellar battles or else something involving hordes of elvenkind in the forest. I was home reading books ruining my posture by sitting scrunched up on a sofa wasting the beautiful summer weather and ignoring other kids in the neighborhood because I feared they might 'play too roughly' for me. I started reading nonfiction that wasn't text books only after age 30. I don't even want to go into that right now.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

MIRIAM PIA: I'm sorry but to me that's a sick question. That would never happen. Put it this way, when I was a kid and tried to lucid dream about Tolkein's world, I created dreams where I was my own character and there were stories that actually involved me. For the video gamer generations, I'm sure that makes sense. That's just gross, a book someone else wrote is someone else's. If you could be someone who you aren't, who would like to be? That's what I'm hearing. That's just mentally ill. I need to be myself and write the books that I write, not someone else's.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

MIRIAM PIA: I submit it and it's out there, and I do have a web site: Uranian Fiction—because if it was me, then its probably going to be perceived as 'weird' or 'experimental'—it's just that it was me. Um [sign of social awkwardness?] I am doing this. You can Google my name and find me, but I heard that over here in ".de" I might be invisible. I belong to 10+ writing groups at LinkedIn. Myebook has shown the book around. It is for sale at CafePress, and Scribd, and iFiction has some of my short SF and novel for sale. Smashwords has it for sale, and the Kindle is selling it. Much like with a musical band, I am also giving it away. Sounds crazy, I know, but the other day myebook.com wrote to me and told me there have been 20,000 'reads' of An Adventure in Indianapolis. So, I try to at least do something. Sadly, I do not think marketing is my strong point. I would have a sales staff selling it door to door quite frankly, but don't have the funding to print out enough copies and to rent an office and hire a half dozen sales men and/or women to get it out there. I'd pay the sales team but giving them a cut of the proceeds from each copy, and try to make sure I get $2/copy myself or something as I am supposed to earn a living.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

MIRIAM PIA: I was able to get an agent: Writers Literary Agency helped me. I was able to get it out there on Kindle without having to really self-publish and without having a major publisher. This way people at least have a chance of finding it and buying it.

I think electronic readers are interesting. I wonder if the whole thing really is more environmentally sound or if it just takes it out of the environment differently.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

MIRIAM PIA: You need to have an agent to get your book out on Kindle, at least, I needed one.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miriam Pia writes, "International American mother. An Adventure in Indianapolis was written while living in Indianapolis, but currently resides in Germany—so the dual citizen son can learn how to be a German by living here. He just spent 10 years living in the USA to learn how to be American as well as having an American mother. Proud product of American 'gifted education' public school programs plus some private school. State run university and what was at the time, the world's greatest, or one of the world's greatest philosophy departments for graduate school, Middlesex University [the department has been dismantled and re-assembled in some locations, including Kingston U in England]—it wasn't as easy as some of the other philosophy departments. Freakishly spiritual for 'just a fiction novelist' and a bit 'wild and chaotic' compared to 'normal clerics' or something like that. Listened to some Buddhist Karmapa for FUN on YouTube last week, but also read Bible and currently hold a copy of Nietzsche's 'Forum Post' Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For those who don't know: Zarathustra is a model/image of the Westerner as spiritually enlightened. It can work with or without God, but Nietzsche was 'Preacher's Kid' and reacted badly, so Zarathustra was meant by him to be a spiritually enlightened atheist of the western cultures."

Visit her website.

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