Interview with Tephra Miriam
Author of A Monster or a Microwave
Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
I was born in Austin Texas and then my family moved to Dallas, Texas. We moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico shortly after and I lived there until I was 18.
If you currently reside somewhere besides where you were born, what’s the story that lead from there to here?
I graduated High School when I was 16 and I actually wanted to pursue a career in music. I had been writing music since I was eight and I was also a vocalist and musician. When I turned 18 I was hired by the airlines and moved to Phoenix, Arizona for Flight Attendant School and then I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina then I finally ended up in Chicago and have been here ever since.
What made you decide to write and publish your first book?
If you asked me 10 years ago if I thought that I would ever write a book I would laugh. I never really enjoyed books when I was a child but I never really saw myself, my heritage or my skin color in any stories that I read. I never thought that I fit into the traditional writing mold but what I was really good at doing was telling stories and I loved a good story.
After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, the vision of my first book came to me all at once. I started researching the publishing industry and found that only 7% of Black, Latinx, and Native authors combined have written children’s books that are currently being published. This definitely helped to propel me into the publishing space and I look forward to continuing to produce stories that are diverse with leading black and brown characters.
How would you describe your books to first time readers?
My books are very colorful, whimsical and full of magic and imagination. They are definitely drastically different from what’s on the market right now and a new breed of fantasy fiction and children’s books. I merged the old with the new in my fantasy fiction series by creating new fantasy characters that have never been seen before with all of the fantasy characters that we know and love.
Who do you feel is most likely to connect with the topics you write about?
I’ve always said that I write books for the kids, pre-teens, and teens that don’t like to read. They are very visual, action-packed and full of humor and deep emotion. It’s also fresh, authentic and vibrant. It’s truly all things fun and imaginative content.
What unexpected or surprising thing did you learn during the process of writing and publishing?
I have learned so much on my journey about writing and also just the publishing business in general. I never knew how much discipline is required to write and publish books. Writing a book sometimes seems like a never-ending process but you have to learn to enjoy the small everyday victories during your writing process. It’s easy to get buried in the mistakes and imperfections of writing but learning to enjoy the act of storytelling will give any writer longevity in the publishing industry.
If you could, what advice would you give to your past self before embarking on this journey?
Be kind to myself throughout the creative process and start marketing sooner. I wish I would have worked to brand myself as a writer before my first book was published and do more pre-launch activities. I’m trying to incorporate more activities into my upcoming books and even do Advance Reader Copies or ARCs.
How many people would you ideally like to reach with your books?
I would love for my books to be distributed worldwide. I have many strong minority women characters and I think the message of strength and power for black and brown women needs to be spread around the world.
What has been the biggest challenge and frustration during the process to date?
Traditional publishers, literary agents, and distributors are hesitant to deviate from anything that they are not familiar with. It makes it that much more difficult to make a name for yourself but you just have to keep trying, writing, publishing and marketing as much as you can.
What’s your biggest strengths when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
I’ve never had writer’s block (knock on wood). I’m usually full of ideas and the harder part is finding the time to write.
Being an independent publisher is a lot work, especially if you want to compete with traditional publishers that have far more resources. I’ve really become good at putting in the work to get my books to a professional level and I am so glad for what I’ve accomplished as an indie publisher.
I’m pretty happy about my book illustrations and it has helped a lot in marketing each of my books. The art is a big part of my writing and I’ll be taking all of my artwork in each of my books to the next level in 2020. I’ve also created book trailers and a web series based on my children’s book that I am really excited about and has boosted my marketing for each. I’m looking at producing and directing a live-action book trailer in 2020 for book four in my fantasy fiction series that’s going to be called ‘War of the 13 Heavens.’
What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to book a) writing, b) publishing and c) marketing?
Getting myself to edit is always a task. I love writing but editing is not my favorite thing to do. Luckily it gets easier the more that you do it.
As an indie publisher, you really have to look for ways to create magic for little to no cost. You have to be very strategic and really pay attention to profit and loss margins. As a creative, I’ve learned to do it but it’s less fun than writing stories.
Marketing is like a steam locomotive. You have to constantly feed the beast. On average, it takes about seven separate times of exposure to your product before you can convert a general consumer into a customer. That means you have to find ways to get your book in front of people as often as you can. Another part of this is there is a huge decline overall in book interest. People are reading less and many young people are not excited about reading so education and literacy campaigning has to be part of your marketing strategy now.
When do you think you will write your next book?
I’m hoping to publish two or three books in 2020. I am planning on publishing book three in my fantasy fiction series called ‘The Legend of the Star Scrolls’ and an early reader that’s set in Chicago called ‘The Sparkle Riot Crew & the Kid From Star Quad 9.’ I’m also working on my first sci-fi novel for adults called ‘The Fallen and the Unredeemed.’ 2020 will be a busy year!
Are you self published or did you use a hybrid publisher, or a traditional publisher?
All of my books are published through my independent publishing company, TEPHRA MIRIAM Publishing.