This week, I am excited to introduce Rowenna Miller to the Debutante Ball! I know Rowenna through her editor, who was my
editor back before she moved over to Orbit, and I’m delighted to have made her acquaintance this year. Torn
is one of my favorite things that I’ve read in the past few months, a delightfully unique take on fantasy fiction. Rowenna sets her story in a world analogous to 1780s/90s France/England, and her heroine is a seamstress with magical powers. Rowenna takes an oft-derided talent and trade (needlework and fashion), which are also stereotypically feminine endeavors (and oft-derided for precisely that reason) and turns them into a source of power. I just adored the entire concept, and I devoured the whole book in less than a day. I hope you enjoy it, too!
1. Where do you love to be?
First, perhaps a “when”–I’m a (nerd alert) Revolutionary War reenactor/18th century living history geek. One of my favorite places in the whole world is Locust Grove historic museum in Louisville, KY. It’s a gorgeously restored home from the 1790s on about thirty acres of forests and gardens and the most incredible part is that they let us invade the outbuildings and LIVE there for two weekends a year. It’s like reenactor nerd homecoming. You might find me cooking over the giant hearth in the kitchen, swanning about the gardens in silk, or sewing under a redbud tree, talking to visitors about eighteenth century life ways. And the most beautiful-est part is that after hours we gather in the kitchen or on the porch, pass the punch bowl, sing, and laugh until our sides hurt. So that’s my happy place, with some of my favorite people.
2. Which talent do you wish you had?
I love music, but I wish I were better at it. I sing in choirs when I can (soprano–though my range is Not Great), and took piano classes in college, which I try to keep up with on my beautiful, hundred year old behemoth of a piano. I play handbells in my church’s choir, which is a great way for not terribly talented people, like myself, to still participate and create musically. It’s galling because I know that even though I’m no prodigious talent, I *could* be better if I devoted more time to it, but between writing and the rest of life, that time is scarce right now. I suppose I wish I had the talent AND the time to cultivate it!
3. What’s your secret or not-so-secret superpower?
I’m a good cook, and pie is my specialty. I’ve nailed down a crust recipe that works consistently–score! What’s more, I can make food out of random cupboard items and leftovers from the fridge that seem like an actual meal. The downside to this superpower is that I rarely use recipes outside of baking (and even then I’m pretty loosey goosey on things like pie fillings), so recreating the same thing twice doesn’t always happen and I’m terrible about sharing recipes when people ask because there is no recipe.
4. Share one quirk you have that most people don’t know about.
I’m misophonic, or have “selective sound sensitivity syndrome.” Basically, innocuous sounds set off an immediate, irrational emotional response. For most “miso” people, these are oral sounds made by other people, and though open-mouth chewing does get me (insta-nausea), my worst triggers are rustling paper or plastic bags (tense anxiety). I can’t explain why; some researchers think that the auditory processing in misophonic people is tied more closely to emotional processing. And this makes sense to me, because along with having negative emotional reactions to sounds, I also have easily-prompted positive reactions, too; the quickest way to turn my day around is to play some Ralph Vaughn Williams or let me chill outside with nature sounds.
5 What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Always have a Next Project! Every phase of my writing journey has been predicated on having a Next Thing. When I signed with my agent, it was based not solely on the manuscript I had sent her, which she didn’t ultimately feel she could sell, but the writing in that combined with the project was I rolling out next. My first manuscript with my agent didn’t sell. Now that I have a book out, I realize that this has taught me the value in having a Next Thing–a career is not made out of one book, but out of the books you write Next. I didn’t have as hard of a time switching gears away from TORN and into the next book in the series as I might have had I not had that Write the Next Thing training pre-publication! You have to keep writing the Next Thing even though you poured your creative heart into the book you’re querying or shopping or have published and have SO MUCH hope for it.. Plus it helps you to avoid going crazy when you’re sending your baby out into the world–you have many eggs and you can keep crafting baskets to put them in. If this one breaks, you can mourn the loss, but you have more writing to love and pour yourself into.
I live in Indiana with my husband, two daughters, and two adorable and demanding cats. I’ve tutored and taught writing, and have a Master’s in English in Film and Literature because I can’t shut up about stories. When I’m not writing, I enjoy hiking, making messes out of home improvement projects, and researching and recreating historical clothing.
In a time of revolution, everyone — even a humble seamstress plying her magic to support her family — must take a side. Sophie stitches good luck charms (never curses) into couture clothing, and her fine work is attracting the attention of influential noble clients. Her brother is attracting attention, too–as a spitfire revolutionary. As unrest builds and revolution grows, her brother’s life is threatened, and Sophie must decide–how far will she go to save her brother’s life?
Where to find Rowenna:
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