Author Interview with Sarka-Jonae Miller1. How did you choose the setting of your story?
Between Boyfriends is set in San Diego where I grew up. I first came up with the idea at Syracuse University in New York, but when I was imaging it in my head I saw it in San Diego. I really enjoyed the opportunity to show San Diego as more than a tourist destination. Some readers from San Diego said the same.
2. What specific themes did you emphasize throughout the novel?
Underneath the jokes and attitude, Between Boyfriends is a coming of age story about a woman who has deep insecurities. I wanted to show that people who have a hard time being vulnerable and expressing who they truly are can get there if they make changes. The main character, Jan, never received love as a child. Her parents role modeled very undesirable behaviors and kept Jan around people like them, so she never got a chance to learn how to relate to people in an open, caring way. She searches for that missing love and acceptance through a romantic relationship with a string of boyfriends. Between Boyfriends is about her realizing her unhealthy behaviors and evolving past them.
3. Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
Jan is a composite of women I knew in high school and mainly college. She is very real. I had friends who seemed to care about their boyfriends more than their classes, their families, and certainly their friends. Every woman has at least one friend like this, someone who will ditch them at the last minute for a guy or who cannot handle being single so she jumps from relationship to relationship. I did use many of my own experiences from massage therapy school and working as a therapist to describe Jan’s education. Also, after Jan loses her financial support she has to work several thankless jobs and worries a lot about bills. I based much of that on my own life.
4. How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
Jan changes a lot during the novel though some of the other characters change too. Jan’s timid, brainy friend Lisa gains confidence throughout the book. We don’t get into Lisa’s life too much apart from Jan, but in the beginning of the book she is getting over the loss of her sisters and has moved away from her parents who were holding back her grieving by refusing to talk about the accident. Lisa latched onto Jan because she lived across the hall, but when she meets the uber sweet and innocent Becki, Lisa finds someone who not only makes her feel good about herself but gives her someone to take care of and be mature for. Becki loses some of her naivte during the book. Jan loses her defensive attitude and sense of entitlement. The only person who doesn’t change is Jan’s childhood friend Nichole, a bitchy, Queen Bee type who Jan realizes she no longer relates to, and the girls drift apart.
5. In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of your world view?
I don’t think I’ve considered this before, but I don’t think there is too much about my personal world view in Between Boyfriends. However, there will definitely be some of this in the sequel. Jan goes to Thailand to study abroad and will be exposed to a lot of new ideas.
6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way?
The only part I had difficultly writing was a scene where Jan is accosted by a man in a parking lot. What actually happens is fairly tame, but she is very scared at the time and feels violated afterward. I think most women, even those fortunate enough to grow up in a country like the US where women have legal protections not enjoyed by women in other countries, have still felt intimidated or threatened at one time, and not necessarily by a man. I think many of us can relate.
7. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
I actually sat down and read a lot of relationship, psychology, and personal development books to try and understand why some women are so obsessed with relationships and think that they need them to be happy. I appreciate a healthy relationship and how it adds to one’s life as much as the next person, but I was curious why for some people it is hard to be single, so much so that they will do almost anything to get into a new one and keep it going even when it’s obvious it isn’t working. I also talked to a lot of women and a few therapists to get a deeper understanding of this issue and how people can overcome it. I’m no expert, but I think I accurately represented at least one reason why someone may adopt this false belief and a way to work on it.
8. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
I cannot force myself to stick to any routine. I write when I feel like it, and if for some reason I haven’t felt like writing in a couple of days I may make myself sit down and read over what I’ve written, and usually I very quickly get sucked in and start writing without even realizing it.
9. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
I struggle with distractions sometimes, but usually I get so into what I’m writing that I don’t notice anything else. If I do find myself getting distracted, it is usually because I need a break and if I take one and recharge, I almost always want to get back to work.
10. Favorite book from childhood.
That would be a tie between My Teacher is an Alien, Charlotte’s Web, and The Secret Garden. I actually brought my copy of My Teacher is an Alien to college with me and randomly walked into a bookstore where Bruce Coville was doing a book signing, ran back to my apartment to get my book, and was able to get it signed. He was very touched that I’d kept the book that long and brought it from California to New York with me.
11. What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
What desk? I actually don’t have a desk, but when I did have one it was covered with bills and Post-its. I do most of my writing at Starbucks.
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