Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gothic Spring: An Interview with Author Caroline Miller

On tour now with Nurture Your Book Tourz is Caroline Miller. She visits with us today about her latest book, Gothic Spring, an intriguing novel about the true powers of love. Welcome Caroline!

MK: WHAT LED YOU OR GAVE YOU THE IDEA TO WRITE GOTHIC SPRING?  WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH WAS INVOLVED?

CM: I’ll begin by answering the second question first.  I did very little research for Gothic Spring as I lived its life, to a degree. In the 1960s, when I was in my early twenties, I drifted to England and found a teaching position in the Midlands of England -- a dreary little industrial town in the middle of the Derbyshire moors.  The place was called Leek which I quickly amended to “bleak” Leek.  Here was the dark geography made famous by Thomas Hardy – Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure and the like.  In that red brick factory town, soot fell from the chimneys like a grey snow, clinging to the air and giving it an oily pungency.  Needless to say, the experience left its impression.  From these memories, Gothic Spring was born. 

The theme of the story came from my work in the woman’s liberation movement.  Joining the efforts of other women to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, I observed the many ways women interacted with each other, not all of them good.  I saw jealousies and power struggles which impeded and then scuttled any hope of success. Victorine Ellsworth, the central character of Gothic Spring struggles against the same roiling emotions, but in a repressive Victorian society. Her guardian aunt smothers her; her former teacher wishes to liberate her but the older woman’s ego gets in the way and the Vicar’s wife is suspicious of this beautiful, young girl.  Gothic Spring isn’t an idea I invented but an experience which was foisted upon me.

MK: CAN YOU BRIEFLY TELL US ABOUT THE BOOK?

CM: Gothic Spring is a journey into a mind that is unraveling.  Victorine Ellsworth is a young woman poised at the edge of sexual awakening and cursed with more talent and imagination than society will tolerate.  The conflict between her desire and the restrictions that rule her lead to dramatic consequences.

MK: DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CHARCTER IN THE BOOK? WHO AND WHY?

CM: I imagine every author delights in his or her characters, even the evil ones.  Critics accused John Milton of falling in love with Satan in his long poem Paradise Lost.   But I think of all my “children” as equals because they are equally flawed.  None do I favor above the other.

MK: WHAT IS THE MOST DISTURBING ELEMENT ABOUT THE BOOK FOR YOU, AS THE AUTHOR?

CM: The most disturbing element about the book is its theme.  Love, whatever its good intentions, can be ugly and destructive.  Didn’t Othello murder Desdemona out of love?  Or Media murder her children out of love?  Love is not a gooey emotion but a powerful force to be reckoned with.  To love wisely but not too well is easier said than done.

MK: IS THERE A SCENE THAT REALLY STANDS OUT TO YOU?  WHY?

CM: The scene that moves me still is toward the last when Victorine is on the verge of destroying the youth who adores her.  In this scene she faces her insanity with a desperate desire  to be forgiven:

       I fell to my knees struck dumb by humility and the terror of a life without him.  Was it too late, I wondered?  Too late to be forgiven?
      “Jeremy, dearest,” I wept as I took his face into my hands.  “You do love me don’t you?  Don’t you?”

MK: IS THERE SOMETHING, ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN’T DO WITHOUT WHILE WRITING?

CM: As I work by inviting the unconscious, believing that what lies before the surface of memory is more potent that what we imagine we know, I require solitude.

MK: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NON-WRITING OREGON PASTIME?

CM: I adore my friends and I like nothing better than to exchanged ideas with them over a good cup of coffee while the rain pours outside.  A good book on a rainy day is also a pleasure.

MK: WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE GIVEN TO YOU BEFORE BECOMING PUBLISHED?

CM: The best piece of advice came to me from my 96-year-old mother:  Have faith in yourself.

MK: IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOUR READERS?

CM: I’d like them to know I have a new novel coming out in October of this year, Trompe l’Oeil (to fool the eye).  The story takes place in France in the 1960s during the French Algerian War.  Rachel Farraday is about to graduate from Mills College when she receives an unusual offer to travel to a small village in France to help a stranger, Madame de Villiers, develop a history of her chateau.  As Rachel’s parents have recently died, she has no obligations and accepts the offer.  But when she arrives at the Chateau L’Ombre, she discovers her employer and the chateau pose numerous mysteries, not the least of which is the existence of underground tunnels that haven’t been explored in years.  

I’d also like to invite everyone to my blog CarolineMillerWriteAway which I write 5 days a week, (M-F) on writing and literature as if reflects life.    


The Author
Caroline Miller has published numerous short stories in publications as diverse as Children’s Digest, Grit and Tales of the Talisman. Her short story, “Under the Bridge and Beneath the Moon,’ was dramatized for radio in Oregon and Washington. Her novel, Heart Land was published in 2009 by Schiel & Denver, and Gothic Spring was also published in 2009 by Asylett press.
Caroline is also a silk painter whose pieces have been sold in local galleries in the Portland area. Her art work has also been included in a number of juried exhibits. She taught English at both the high school and university levels, headed a Labor union for five years and successfully ran for public office three times.
Caroline holds a B.A. and M.A.T. degree from Reed College and an M.A. in Literature from Northern Arizona University where she graduated with honors. Ms. Miller lived for two years in England and two years in what is now called Zimbabwe.





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Buy the BOOK at:
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Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.ca
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Koho Pono Publishing

Title: Gothic Spring
Author: Caroline Miller
Genre: Fiction – Gothic
Published by: Koho Pono, LLC
Content Warning: Implied Sexual Elements
Recommended Age: YA (Young Adult), 15-17 years of age, 18 +
Format(s): eBook, trade paperback
ISBN 13: 978-0-9845424-9-9
Number of pages: 316

Book Excerpt

I do not expect anyone to understand the bizarre sequence of events that changed my life from its bucolic existence into a living hell; nor do I look for compassion. Suffice it to say, I grew up in the northern part of England, an only child who’d been orphaned since I was ten and, prior to the time of these mishaps which I am about to describe, I had been living for five years under the protection of an indulgent aunt — a plump woman in her mid-sixties, whose faded mouse-brown hair aged her beyond her years..
Growing up, I kept to myself much of the time. Being a bookish child, I fancied that I was brighter than my classmates at the Leland School for Girls, that ivy encrusted structure that looked more like a mausoleum than a center for learning. I imagined that they resented me for my passions, Shakespeare and Milton, while they contented themselves with chatter about bustles and garden parties given by the Queen. Further, because I suffered from a severe form of epilepsy and was subject to seizures, they thought me strange, or at least, unreliable. 

No matter, by the age of thirteen, my seizures increased and the purgatives became more severe. No longer did I suffer mere episodes of faintness that could be remedied with the application of trinitrini. What followed were periods of complete collapse that began with a tingling in the limbs, then a stiffening and ended in bodily thrashings so severe that I had to be held down to prevent me from doing myself an injury. Not a pretty picture I suppose, though I never had any recollections of my suffering, being unconscious at these times. Certainly these seizures and the treatments that followed, pine baths and the application of leaches, were remedies alien to a classroom. I was forced to withdraw from school, my education assigned to the sometimes careless hands of a series of tutors, most of them so unremarkable that I can recall neither their names or faces — except for Mr. Huddleston, who was dismissed because he wrote me endless poems. The other whom I remember with some fondness was Vicar Soames who served not as my academic but as my Biblical teacher. 
A cleric of advanced years, the Vicar’s frock coat reeked of the camphor he rubbed into his joints, and his asthma made him wheeze. Despite his impairments, he was faithful to me and tottered to my fireside each Wednesday afternoon so that, once grown used to him, I found him amusing. Toward me, he showed both patience and endurance, being neither alarmed nor repulsed by the excesses of my illness. In time, we two misfits grew together, each accommodating the other the way the earth accommodates a seed until it flowers. 
On the occasions when his infirmities caused him to be absent, I missed him and was saddened when these lapses increased. His failing health affected his work in the parish as well, and in time the church council called for his retirement. Aunt Julia was among them, though I suspect she had another motive as well. The extended length of our visits, the Vicar’s and mine, became an annoyance to her. “The man is forever underfoot,” she would often complain. Nor did the gifts he brought me, flowers and sweet meats meant as rewards for my studies, win him her approbation. At the very least, she accused him of spoiling me. At the very worst, she may have spied him kissing my hands, my cheeks.
Whenever the subject of retirement was broached, however, the Vicar argued against it. “One does not retire from God’s work, Miss Ellsworth,” he huffed during a chance street encounter with my aunt. “I may not be a young man, but neither am I so enfeebled that I should be put out to pasture like an old cart horse!” His remarks did nothing to endear him to my relative who wielded considerable influence where church politics were concerned. In the end, her will prevailed. A railway ticket was purchased, lodgings arranged for in Brighton and in a matter of days, the old man was no more than a memory.

3 comments:

  1. Loved the interview and excerpt! Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It was a fun interview and sounds like a great book.

    Caroline- I completely agree. I too require solitude. Thank you for joining us today!

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  3. Wanted to thank you for your comments and let you know that my novelette, "Marie Eau-Claire" is current running and free at: http://TheColoredLens.com. It will suprise you and I hope give you a smile. It's my thanks for stopping in a commenting on Gothic Spring.

    Caroline

    ReplyDelete