Michael Scott Miller has a brand new novel out called The Book of Sylvia, and he’s here to talk to us about it. Last year, I read Michael’s first book, Ladies and Gentlemen…The Redeemers and instantly fell in love with his characters and his writing style. I eagerly awaited his second book, and I’m excited to tell you the wait was worth every second!
Before we get to the book, I should introduce the man behind the words:
Michael Scott Miller works with numbers by day in the business world and with words by night. He began writing shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and has had his work published in the Welcomat (now Philadelphia Weekly) and wrote music reviews for the Wharton Journal while his wife was getting her degree there.
He has written two novels, Ladies and Gentlemen…The Redeemers, and The Book of Sylvia, both works of contemporary fiction with strong emphasis on their characters.
Miller currently lives in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, with his wife and three children.
Here’s a look at the book we’ll be discussing:
Under suspicion of abetting a robbery, London streetwalker Sylvia Smith doesn’t know where to turn. Frightened and alone, she arrives on the steps of St. Alban’s church, where she meets Father Christopher Fosberry, a priest consumed with self-doubt as he struggles to resurrect his dying church.
Together they set out to recover the stolen money, following a cryptic clue whispered to Sylvia by her client as he was taken into custody. They quickly find themselves drawn toward one another by a mutual sense of despair and a desire to help the other. But Sylvia soon discovers that the more she guides the priest, the deeper she drives a wedge between the man and the church.
Connect with Michael in the following places:
Now on to our chat:
You live in the U.S., but The Book of Sylvia is set in the U.K. This can be disastrous for some authors because, while both countries speak primarily English, our languages are quite different stylistically. Yet, you handled it incredibly well. Tell us about this. Did you ever live in the U.K.? Why set this story there?
I haven’t lived in the U.K., so I knew going in that setting the story there would be ambitious. But I really felt that the story needed a charming, rural setting and the English countryside just felt right. When I write, I need to mentally bring myself to the settings in my stories and I don’t think I could have written this book set anywhere else.
With regard to the language, I wanted the book to be accessible to the larger American audience so I decided to use American English for the narrative portions and, naturally, British English, for the dialog. I’ve been to London which helped a bit, but I probably got most of my education on British expressions and phraseology from reading, and from watching television and movies. Growing up, my parents were big fans of series set in England so I ended up watching and reading P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster and Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy stories. I’ve also had pretty big helpings of Monty Python and James Bond. Lastly, I did quite a bit of research on British expressions to ensure that I was using the language appropriately.
What sparked the idea for this one?
Years ago, I was listening to the radio in the car, and a stray song lyric sounded like “the hooker and the priest.” I can’t recall the song and never found out if what I thought was the lyric was even accurate, but it got me thinking about writing a story where a priest meets a prostitute and ends up wrestling with his life choice.
One thing that strikes me in both this book and your first book, Ladies and Gentlemen… The Redeemers, is your ability to completely capture a character’s essence. How do you go about creating your characters?
Thanks, Darcia. To me, that’s the most flattering comment I can receive as a writer. I love hearing from readers that they connect with my characters. I’m not sure where I come up with my characters, but I can say that as they take shape, I am careful to make sure that I’ve provided enough contrast between them so there is a certain amount of conflict, and some teaching and learning between them. I try to define the characters well at the outset, give them some baggage, some hopes, and then inhabit the characters as I write. It’s funny to me that I really didn’t start out intending to write such character-driven novels, but I’ve found that exploring the characters is the part of writing that I enjoy the most.
What is the hardest part of the story for you to write – the beginning, the middle, or the end? Why?
The middle. In both of my novels, I knew the beginning and the end before I began to write. The middle tends to have more of a soft outline where I’ve determined the vessel that will carry the story along, but I don’t have each scene fully fleshed out when I start to write. The detailed scenes that connect the beginning to the end provide the challenge of keeping the story interesting, sprinkling clues about the characters’ pasts, developing the characters at the right pace, and ensuring consistency in the storyline. My first novel was more seat-of-the-pants. This one, I fortified my outline as I wrote, which provided me with an effective reference as I got deeper into the story.
Curiosity is often a writer’s best friend. What are you most curious about?
People. I’m curious what makes them tick, particularly what’s going on inside that isn’t displayed on the outside. That’s really the approach I try to take with my characters—how do they appear versus what’s going on in their heads.
Aside from writing and reading, what is your favorite pastime?
Spending time with my wife and my three children. My favorite thing to do with them is travel. We’ve been to Spain and Greece together, as well as throughout the U.S.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate. No contest.
What is your favorite…
a) color? green
b) song? Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen. The song is a lyrical masterpiece, filled with passion and hope, and the music so perfectly matches the tone of the words.
Glad I could ask something unique.
What inspires you?
Any time that I read a book that I find myself immersed in, I get energized to write, with the hope of creating the same feeling for my readers.
Describe yourself with one word or phrase.
Decisive….no wait, creative…no wait, driven…no wait, adventurous…no wait, thoughtful.
We should probably eliminate ‘decisive’ in this situation.
Thank you, Mike, for hanging out with us here today!
Michael’s books can be found in print and Kindle format on Amazon:
And also for Nook on Barnes and Noble:
And in all ebook formats on Smashwords.
I hope you’ll take the time to connect with Michael.
Thanks for reading.
Tags: author interviews, BestsellerBound Authors, Books with Prostitutes, indie authors, Indie Authors on Kindle, Kindle books under $5, Ladies and Gentlemen... The Redeemers, Michael Scott Miller, New Contemporary Fiction, New Kindle Books, Novels with Priests, The Book of Sylvia