Thursday, July 22, 2021

Linsey Miller

Linsey Miller grew up in Arkansas and has previously been a crime lab intern, neuroscience (undergrad) lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of Bookends Literary and holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Wichita State University. She can currently be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

Her debut duology, containing Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars, was about a genderfluid thief who fought their way through auditions to be the next royal assassin. Her more recent books are Belle Révolte, a French-inspired fantasy about two girls, one revolt, and unimaginable magic, and The Game, a YA thriller about a game of assassins that turns deadly in small-town Arkansas.

Miller's new book, What We Devour, is a young adult dark fantasy about dangerous magic, a curious boy, and the terrible choices we are sometimes forced to make.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I always want my titles to prepare readers for what they’re about to read, and I knew What We Devour was going to be a very specific type of dark fantasy. It’s about a young girl navigating the politics of a world in which humans gained magic by eating the immortal creatures who previously oppressed them, and it deals heavily with issues of class inequality and the ethics of magic/academia. My publisher and I bounced around a few ideas—they liked Pretty Beasts, What We Destroy, and We All Devour, and I liked A Monstrous Feast and What We Wrought. Eventually, we all agreed on What We Devour. I am particularly drawn to it since it prepares readers for the main metaphor and themes of the book.

What's in a name?

The main character’s name—Lorena Adler—came from a combination of things. I quite like the cadence of it, and the nickname that some of the other characters use, Lore, fits in well with the themes and feelings of the story. Like the lore of how humans gained magic, people use Lore in whatever way benefits them.

I also always loved the Irene Adler from the original A Scandal In Bohemia growing up. Knowing that the name is somewhat derived from “noble” felt fittingly ironic for Lorena.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I like to think she wouldn’t be terribly surprised by What We Devour itself. It’s sort of the culmination of a lot of my ideas, and I like to think she’d read it and go, “Oh, so that’s where this thought process is going? Alright.” She would probably just be shocked I wrote a book since teenage Linsey was still dead set on being a medical examiner.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I always know the ending when I set out, but I never know the beginning. I tend to not even start drafting unless I know where the main character ends up. The penultimate chapter in What We Devour I wrote a draft of several years ago, and though I rewrote it, the plot didn’t change. The first three chapters, though, changed constantly. The first draft had a much more action-heavy feeling, and then the next draft was a bit too hero’s quest epic fantasy for my liking. Eventually, I settled on the current opening because it felt like the right amount of intrigue and melancholy to set up the world before the characters actually explored that world.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

They have bits and pieces of me, the small things that flesh them out. Lorena and several of the other characters have the same quirks or preferences (disliking tomatoes or always cleaning their glasses when anxious) I do. I do this when I start writing to help ground them to specific character arcs in my head, and they don’t always keep these traits. I think it helps me figure out ways to make them more real, though.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Loved ones have had a large influence on a lot of my writing concepts. Lorena has a small found family that I can definitely see my own friends as the inspiration behind, and many of the concepts in the book come from my childhood and my father, who was a union representative. I can also definitely see flashes of my favorite anime—Psycho-Pass, Fullmetal Alchemist, and the like—in What We Devour.
Visit Linsey Miller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue