Today’s guest author, Mariam Kobras, is not only an award-winning author and a delightful person, but a testament to the power (and importance) of social media.
I met Mariam through Twitter (we’ve since connected on Facebook, too) and immediately found myself drawn to her joyful demeanor, engaging personality, and professionalism. If you want an example of the way authors should behave on social media, follow Mariam–and read her books, which are equally wonderful.
Today, Mariam is here to celebrate her upcoming release, WAITING FOR A SONG: Naomi’s Story (Buddhapuss Ink, June 3, 2014), a prequel to her award-winning Stone Trilogy (Buddhapuss Ink):
Where do dreams go when they’re whispered to the wind?
Where does music play when it’s searching for a rhyme?
The universe listens, and sends a star…
Her life has been carefully planned from the day she was born. But Daddy’s little princess has dreams of her own, and they don’t include marrying the man he chose for her, or running the family business.
Everything seems to fall into place the moment Naomi hears Jon’s voice on the radio. Listening to him sing, and falling in love, are the same thing and it opens the door to a new life for her, far away from her father’s scheming.
On the beaches of Los Angeles, Naomi finds a new life filled with love, music, and freedom. A prequel to the Independent Publisher’s Book Award winning series, The Stone Trilogy.
[A Note from Susan: I’m currently reading THE DISTANT SHORE and savoring the wonderful story. I’m already curious about Naomi’s past, and looking forward to reading WAITING FOR A SONG when I finish this one!]
You can find WAITING FOR A SONG (and also all three books in the Stone Trilogy) via Angus & Robertson (with free shipping in Australia!), Tower Books, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and at many local, independent bookstores, both within the U.S. and internationally.
And now, with no further ado: let’s hear from Mariam!
Where did you grow up? Will you share a favorite story from your childhood?
First of all, let me thank you for doing this interview with me, Susan.
I grew up in Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.
There are no memories of Saudi Arabia, I was only a toddler when my parents returned to Germany. But I do remember Brazil! We went there by ship. It was the early 60s, I was five years old. The Berlin Wall was being built and my parents wanted to try something new. So we boarded a freighter / passenger ship and traveled across the sea to Rio de Janeiro. I remember my mother hiding under her bunk bed when we crossed the equator. She was scared silly of being “baptized.” It wasn’t as bad as she’d thought though. They smeared people’s faces with whipped cream and then tossed them into the small swimming pool.
I also remember leaving the ship in Rio. My father took us to the beach, the famous Copacabana. I built a small sandcastle (to be honest, it was more like a pile of sand), and watched as the waves came in and, with their greedy fingers, broke it down, over and over again.
I also remember our first day in Sao Paolo, where my father had a job waiting for him. It was a Sunday, and there was this huge farmers’ market just around the corner from our house. My parents took me there, and of course I got lost. A friendly stand owner picked me up and sat me on a crate behind his stand. While we waited for my parents to find me, he fed me fat, green olives. I had a blast. My parents, not so much.
What inspired you to start writing?
My high school friend Carola. We hung out together all the time when we were teenagers. She would sleep over at our house on weekends, or I’d be at their house. We listened to music, created book covers, made up book titles, and we wrote stories.
Today, you’d probably call them “fan fiction.” Our heroes were boys from a very popular TV show back then. It was a Canadian show, called Adventures in Rainbow Country.
I have to admit though that Carola was the better writer. I was…too lazy. I preferred creating the covers for our hand-written stories, and helping her with the plotting.
I’m still in contact with Carola–or rather, we’re back in touch again. She stopped writing when she entered college, and never returned to it which, I think, is a great loss. She was really good.
But yes, that’s where my writing started. I, too, stopped writing when I entered university. I got married, had my children, and was a corporate wife for many years. Looking back now, I really have to say that the writing re-surfaced for me when my husband left the corporate world and took up teaching. Suddenly, life was a lot calmer, and I had more time for myself. And I began to write—this time—seriously.
If you could go back in time and share one writing lesson with “new writer you” before starting your first manuscript … what would that be?
Since that wasn’t all that long ago, not a whole lot. I started writing in 2009, when I was fifty-three. I was already on twitter at that time, and got a lot of encouragement from my twitter friends. They were also my first critics and beta-readers. My publisher discovered me on twitter. I didn’t have to go out and submit my novel, they wanted it before it was finished.
I think the most valuable writing lesson I have to give is, finish that book before you start on a new project. Don’t let other ideas or new plots, pull you away from what you’re doing. If you’re serious about writing and getting published, then that’s what you need: a finished book.
We live in blessed times. You can find agents, publishers, bloggers who will tell you how to write, edit, and submit a manuscript. Read those blogs! Find out what works for your genre: the word-count, the submission guidelines. Find the right agent, the right publisher. Have a blog; find the social platforms that you feel comfortable with, and get your name and face out there. Be a star!
Your new novel, WAITING FOR A SONG, is a prequel to your award-winning STONE TRILOGY. This novel tells the story of Naomi, whose romance with an international rock star forms the foundation of the STONE TRILOGY novels. What inspired you to take your readers back to the beginning of Naomi’s tale?
After writing the third book in the trilogy, Song of the Storm, I wanted some fun.
Song of the Storm is about 9/11, and how the Stone family and their friends live through that day. I’d wanted to write that book badly, but in the end it took more out of me than I’d bargained for. It won me my third Independent Publisher Award, so I know I did well, but the world looked pretty dark to me for a while.
With Waiting for a Song and its partner book, The Rosewood Guitar–Jon’s Story, I took some of the gravitas out of Jon and Naomi’s relationship. In these books we get to meet the young people.
Waiting for a Song starts out on Naomi’s 18th birthday. She’s hardly more than a teenager, and her mind is on clothes, falling in love, music, her friends, and summer fun. The only thing that darkens her life is her father pressuring her to marry the right man, and take over the family business at some point. For her, this is a very big load. Of course, once she hears Jon’s voice on the radio, she knows what she has to do: write songs for him to sing. It’s a young girl’s dream come true: she gets to meet her adored rock star in person, and they fall in love.
Do you have a favorite author, book, or genre? If so, who (or what) is it, and why?
A favorite author… what a tough question this is!
I really like to read SciFi and fantasy: Lois McMaster Bujold, Patrick Rothfuss, and Sarah Monette… I love their books.
But I also love Marcel Proust, Ingrid Undset, Nagib Mahfuiz, Vikram Seth and so many, many more. I spent nearly thirty years of my life reading book after book, often three in one week. Our house is full of books, because my husband is as crazy as I am about books.
Now that we’re talking about this, though, I have to admit that I haven’t read a book “just for fun” in a couple of years. Let me go over to Amazon and check if Sarah Monette has written something new…
What was the most challenging part of writing a prequel, as opposed to writing a series that continues where the previous book left off? Did you find this novel harder, or easier, to write than the others—and why?
Writing Waiting for a Song and The Rosewood Guitar wasn’t hard at all. They were like a vacation trip after the trilogy which is, as I’ve said earlier, darker than the prequels.
Why was writing them easier… I think because these stories had always been there, at the back of my mind. I don’t know if this just me, but writing about Jon and Naomi in the trilogy, I automatically filled out their past in my head. Jon is a person who often dwells on the past, both the good and the bad. He loves to drag up memories of their past and talk about them, sometimes nearly driving Naomi nuts with this habit. Jon is the real romantic in this relationship.
So–writing these prequels I was really only writing down what I already knew. Jon kept telling me over and over again how pivotal meeting Naomi for the first time was for him, both as a musician and as a person.
Naomi doesn’t talk about herself or her past a lot. But she shines through Jon’s tales.
Do you have a favorite scene in WAITING FOR A SONG? If so (and if you can tell us about it without revealing any spoilers!), what makes that scene stand out for you?
There is this grand scene in the hotel lobby when Naomi goes to meet Jon for the first time. This scene is actually the fulcrum of the entire series. It keeps coming up over and over again, especially for Jon. If I had to name the most important scene in the Stone Series, it’s probably this one.
Jon recounts it often. He says that Naomi came into that hotel lobby from the blinding sun of a Geneva summer day, that it seemed to him as if a fairy had come out of a portal of light and into this world just for him, and that he knew it right away. He wanted to open his arms and catch her in an embrace right away, but of course he doesn’t.
What is the last book you read, and why did you read it?
The last book I read was Faye Rapoport DesPres’ memoir Message from a Blue Jay. I’m not a fan of memoirs, but Faye’s book is different. It teaches us gentle lessons of acceptance, tolerance, patience, and love. You should read it!
How did you push yourself to get past difficult moments in writing and editing WAITING FOR A SONG? Do you have a favorite place to write or to edit your work?
There were no difficult parts in Waiting for a Song. It flowed easily. I think it took me all of three months to write and edit it. I didn’t have to push, not even once.
I have an office with my desk and all my stuff, where I write a lot. But I also like to write in the corner of the couch in the living room, where I have my MacBook on my knees and my family is around me, the TV is on, and the kid is playing Skyrim. We stick together a lot, my family and I.
And now, the speed round:
Plotter or pantser?
I want to say “pantser”, but it wouldn’t be entirely true. Thing is, I just don’t plot on paper or the computer, I plot in my head. But when it’s time to start the writing, then I pretty much write the story from beginning to end.
Coffee, tea, or bourbon?
Coffee. Tea, only when I’m in the US and it’s an Arnold Palmer. Bourbon… rarely, but then it must be Woodford Reserve.
Socks or no socks?
What do you mean, socks or no socks? Do you live in a part of the country where you never have winter? Of course, socks!
Cats, dogs, or reptiles?
Cats. I have one cat (who is trying to catch my attention just now, by the way, so I’ll go and feed him). We have another cat, but she’s so stupid that we rarely talk about her. She sticks to my hubby like glue. He pretends he doesn’t like her, but it’s not true. He loves her.
For dinner: Italian, Mexican, Burgers or Thai?
Always, Thai. Green curry, red curry… just make it Thai
Thank you, Mariam, for joining us to share your writing process and to celebrate the upcoming release of WAITING FOR A SONG!
Mariam Kobras is the author of the Stone Trilogy. The first book, The Distant Shore, was titled “a contemporary romance with a light twist of suspense”. The second book, Under the Same Sun, was published in 2012. The conclusion of the Stone Trilogy, Song of the Storm, was published on July 16th 2013–on Mariam’s birthday. Born in Frankfurt Germany, Mariam currently lives in Hamburg with her husband and two sons. After studying American Literature and Archeology at Giessen University she spent several months in Toronto, Canada. Mariam has worked as an English tutor, served as a lay Judge in Juvenile Court, and managed the rookie Hamburg Blue Devils American football team. In the beginning of her career she founded a Theater Project at a local Hamburg High School where she wrote and staged plays. The huge success of this venture gave her the courage to try her hand at novels.
When her husband gave her a laptop for Christmas in 2010, to encourage her writing, she was off and running. Within a year she had written the first draft of her book. The storyline for The Distant Shore was inspired by her fascination with the limitations fame can impose on people. Her book explores the value of love in a world where money and a front-page photo are sometimes more important than a person’s soul.