It was about three years ago that acclaimed indie author Kelly Miller first began writing. Intriguingly, several years before that she had taken early retirement from the U S Postal Service. ‘I had no training, experience or knowledge of fiction writing. But I had always been an avid reader,’ begins Ms Miller, speaking with the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction. She tells us that after reading a number of Pride and Prejudice variations, it occurred to her to try to write one herself. ‘At first, I made all the usual mistakes: overuse of adverbs, clichés, and backstory. Along the way, I found articles online on the subject of writing fiction, and they helped me to improve. Within a year or so, I had written three or four full-length novels, all set in Regency England,’ she lets us know.
Reimagining of Pride and Prejudice
Talking about her latest book Accusing Mr Darcy, which was launched on August 30 this year, Ms Miller, who lives in the Silicon Valley area of California, the US, makes known that it is a romantic mystery and a reimagining of Pride and Prejudice. ‘I would rather not say what Mr Darcy is accused of since it would be a spoiler,’ the American author says with a smile.
She, however, clarifies right off the bat that readers don’t need to have any knowledge of Pride and Prejudice to be able to read and comprehend her book. Shedding light upon the plot, she says, ‘Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy are among the guests of the Kendall family, who have organized a house party at their estate in Derbyshire England. This amiable group of people crosses paths with a ruthless killer. When one of Kendall’s guests is attacked, all of the gentlemen at the house fall under suspicion.’
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Merry Times With Meryton Press
With all her books being published by Meryton Press, a full-service publishing company for books in both print and ebook formats, Ms Miller, who mothers a twenty-one-year-old girl, says that she first actually purchased and read several books published by Meryton Press, and it was only after being impressed with the quality of their books that she decided she would like to work for them.
‘To my delight, they accepted Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley, my first book, for publication. In this Regency Pride and Prejudice fantasy sequel, Mr Darcy is compelled to host an Angel of Death in human form at his home,’ she says, adding that the story explores the subjects of mortality, character, and love. ‘Mr Darcy and his wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, share a deep love though my plot puts a strain upon them and tests their bond,’ she divulges.
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Mr Darcy’s Perfect Match was the second book accepted for publication by Meryton Press. Talking about the book which has received rave reviews, Ms Miller says that the Pride and Prejudice variation begins after Mr Darcy’s unsuccessful marriage proposal at Hunsford Parsonage. ‘Circumstances create an opportunity for Mr Darcy to see Elizabeth Bennet in London. However, a scheming young lady has befriended Miss Darcy and seeks to turn Miss Darcy against Elizabeth,’ she explains, letting us know that the book has recently been made into an audiobook narrated by the popular Stevie Zimmerman.
Recommended, Reviewed, Rewarded
Giving due credit to her content editor Carol Bowes, Ms Miller, who is a big fan of writers Agatha Christie and Ruth Rendell, tells us that during the editing process with him, she received a thorough education on writing. ‘With Carol’s guidance, my writing skills improved a great deal while we edited and improved the manuscript,’ she says.
She also makes known that since Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley was her first published book, she sought as many reviews as she could from book bloggers, which helped get her book to a wider audience. ‘I also entered it in several contests, and I am still waiting for some of the results. My book received recommendations from The Historical Novel Society and Historical Romance Magazine. Having received a five-star review from Indies Today, it was a finalist in the Romance category for the 2020 Book Excellence Awards,’ she says, beaming with pride.
‘I Write Any Time and All Time’
Upon being asked if she has the plot and the characters in mind before she starts working on a novel, Ms Miller, who in addition to the three published books has three other full novel-length manuscripts that need to be edited, says she is a bit of a panster. She elaborates, ‘I have a general idea of the plot when I start, but I do not make a full outline. The story often takes me in unexpected turns as I write.’
And when does she usually write? ‘I write any time and all time. I do not have a schedule of any sort,’ replies Ms Miller, who has a fondness for mystery, horror, and suspense genres. ‘And that is because I have the luxury of being retired,’ she adds with a smile. And did she always want to become a writer? ‘I worked twenty-nine years before I took early retirement. I was always a good student, but never had an interest in writing as a younger person or most of my adult life. My college education ended after my second year when I got a full-time job with the Postal Service. I am as surprised as anyone that I found writing to be enjoyable,’ she says with a laugh, going on to exclaim, ‘I even love editing, an aspect that many writers despise!’
‘Books Do Not Market Themselves’
As the conversation comes to close, Ms Miller gives us a glimpse of her personal life. A health freak who takes time out to exercise each day and play the piano, Ms Killers lets us know she pets a rabbit, two dogs, aquarium fish, and koi that live in an outdoor pond. ‘The dogs get daily walks, and demand their share of attention as well,’ she explains.
When we ask her if she has a thing or two to tell budding authors, she goes on to assert that writing and publishing a book is a worthy accomplishment in itself, and making sales is like the icing on the cake. ‘You are not guaranteed contact bloggers will give you a review even if they accept a copy of your book, and if they do, it might not be favourable. But most bloggers will read and review if they say they will, she says, adding, ‘Many readers will not take a chance on a book without reviews. If you get critical comments, evaluate them to decide if the issues cited can be addressed or used to improve your writing in the future. Books do not market themselves, and most indie authors must promote their own books on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.’
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‘Don’t Expect to Make a Living Wage From Books’
Nevertheless, Ms Miller, who emphasises over the course of our interaction that she does not expect to make a living wage from her books, says she has a novella titled A Consuming Love set to be published in February 2021. ‘In this story, Mr Darcy meets Elizabeth Bennet when he accompanies his friend Mr Bingley to see an estate available for lease, Netherfield Hall. In one two-hour period, Mr Darcy falls victim to an unshakable attraction to Elizabeth, yet he also learns enough about her to know she is unsuitable for him,’ she explains.
When asked if there is something that she would want to be changed in the world, Ms Miller, who is keen to seek connection with other writers, no matter their genre, is quick to respond. ‘I hate to see politicians and others repeat lies in public. I wish we had a fool-proof way to detect liars so they could not get away with it,’ she says, signing off on a serious note.