Gabrielle Bivane never expected parenting a teenager would be this hard, but she never expected stillborn Oriana to live to see fourteen, either. The night of Oriana's birth, Gabrielle and her husband Roy fused their genetic and engineering geniuses to bring back all that was lost to them---at a cost. The secret must be kept. Oriana Bivane senses she's not like the other girls her age, but the time has come for her to change all that. She's tired of secrets, but does she confide in the wrong person? The life-giving key, suddenly missing, must be found.
Novel Matters: Welcome, Wendy. Can you tell us where the inspiration for The Disappearing Key came from?
Wendy Paine Miller: As is the case with all my books, it came from a culmination of experiences. My husband and I went through a season when we experienced infertility. After going through that, I imagined what it might be like to bear great loss alone, keeping it a secret from the world, without the incredible support we were shown. Years ago, I learned the devastating news that a friend from college delivered a stillborn baby. As someone with great empathy for others, I'm convinced her loss led me to write this story.
NM: Experience certainly is the seed bed of inspiration. Writing from our own emotions deepens a novel like nothing else can. Were there other experiences that added to the creation of The Disappearing Key?
WPM: My mother has Ménière’s Disease, an inner ear affliction much like vertigo. She receives steroid shots in the ear as treatment, and without giving away elements of my plot, I brought that concept into the story, using a much different item to add a mystical component to The Disappearing Key.
NM: That mystical component is what makes the story so intriguing. I've read it twice, and enjoyed it even more the second time. How long did it take you to write?
WPM: It took four months to write, and at least that long to edit.
NM: Four months? That's impressive, especially considering the in-depth medical/scientific elements that are woven so interestingly and seamlessly into the story. What is your background in that, and how much research was involved?
WPM: I research as I write, mostly online, but I also talked to doctors to discuss details with them. I've always been fascinated with brain anomalies, and have read numerous books and articles on the subject.
NM: Is that where you learned about synesthesia, which is a condition that affects Oriana? And what exactly is it?
WPM: I stumbled across an article about synesthesia years ago and tucked it in the back of my mind, knowing it was something I'd write about one day. Simply put, synesthesia is the blending of senses, such as a color evoking a specific smell. Because the method of treatment in The Disappearing Key is so avant-garde, I thought it would be fun to create Oriana with synesthesia, inciting readers to wonder what the key is capable of ... or not.
NM: It's certainly an interesting element to the story. Regarding your writing style, are you a plotter, a seat-of-the-pantser, or something in between?
WPM: For me, it's a combination. I loosely plot each work, establishing conflict points. But they've been known to change on me. My style might equate to planning a vacation: I pack my bag, know where I'm headed, but when I enter the zone I'm pleasantly surprised by the people and places I come into contact with.
NM: That's a nice analogy. Tell us about your path to publication.
WPM: I graduated college with a degree in writing concentration. My first love was non-fiction, but something happened after I had my children. I fell in love with characters. They busted in and never left.
A few years ago I signed with my wonderful agent, Rachelle Gardner, who champions my work. I'd been exploring the indie route, and we agreed that The Disappearing Key, being a novella, seemed the ideal project to publish in that fashion. So that's what I've done, and I've learned invaluable things about the publishing process along the way.
NM: Having gone the indie route, what are you doing to market The Disappearing Key, and what's working best for you?
WPM: I hosted my launch party at a coffee shop where I help with their social networking. Over 40 people came to celebrate the release of my novella, and I sold every copy I'd brought with me. Many of the attendees had already purchased and read my book, and yet they bought other copies to give away. That's what I call support!
I've attended over a dozen local book clubs that have read the book, and Skyped with others online. I'm in my element with these groups, and I absolutely love the conversation stirred up by The Disappearing Key.
I've been on blog tours, I promote the book on my Facebook page, I have influencers who promote it as well. I visit local libraries and book stores. Essentially, I stay hungry to have my book read. Rather than waiting for people to find my book, I go out and find them.
NM: "Stay hungry to have my book read." I like how you put that. The Disappearing Key is a fascinating, well-written story. What's next for you?
WPM: I'm actually preparing to announce the exciting news in a few weeks. Think early summer. Think flowers. Think full-length. Stay tuned!
NM: We will indeed! Is there anything else about the writing process you'd like to add as we conclude?
WPM: I feel most alive when I write. When the light grows dim along the publishing path, I always come back to the writing. It lights me up, and fuels me to use story to incite valuable conversations. With every story I write I'm improving, not just as a writer, but as a human being.
NM: Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your story with us. We wish you all the best, and look forward to your next novel.
Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Disappearing Key. Visit Wendy Paine Miller at her blog, Thoughts that Move, and her Author Page at Amazon.