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Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

Author and publisher Miriam Parker discusses her surprise at writing her new novel, Room and Board.

Miriam Parker is the Associate Publisher of Ecco and the author of The Shortest Way Home and Room and Board. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington and a BA in English from Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn with her spaniel, Leopold Bloom. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

Miriam Parker

In this post, Miriam discusses her surprise at writing her new novel, Room and Board, her advice for other writers, and more!

Name: Miriam Parker
Literary agent: Allison Hunter
Book title: Room and Board
Publisher: Dutton Books
Release date: August 16, 2022
Genre/category: Women’s Fiction
Previous titles: The Shortest Way Home
Elevator pitch for the book: An escapist read about a celebrity publicist who returns to her high school alma mater—a boarding school in California as a dorm mom.

Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

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What prompted you to write this book?

I always want to write the book that I most want to read (after having written one, I also realized how many times you have to read your own book when you write one and it is SO MANY).

So, I thought about my favorite genre of book which is a boarding school novel and my favorite topics which are: mentorship, how life never actually ends up how you plan, and unrequited love. And then I built the plot out from there.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I sold the book in 2018 on proposal and then I wrote an entire book called The Other Woman that I had to throw out for a variety of reasons. It was extremely demoralizing and really shook my confidence.

But I still had a book contract, so I had to build this book up from the ground in 2019. I wrote a multi-page outline for my editor and agent to get their approval and then in November 2019, I went away to write it. I was about 45,000 words into it in March 2020 when the pandemic hit and my daughter was born (I knew my daughter was going to be born, but I didn’t also expect a pandemic).

I wrote the last third of the book while I was on maternity leave and revised it during her naptimes in the summer and fall. I don’t really recommend writing a book this way, but it is how it happened for me.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I think people think that once you’ve gotten your first book deal, all is smooth sailing, but at least for me, the process of getting published and being a published author has been a pretty bumpy road.

The first book that I had shopped (in 2008) never sold. Then my second novel The Shortest Way Home was published—I sold it in 2016 and it came out in 2018. Then the second book I sold—in 2018—had to be scrapped and the book I eventually wrote will be published in 2022.

It might be a bit of a downer to say that nothing is guaranteed in this world, even with a contract. I think being flexible and open-minded, plus stupidly persistent, really helped me in this process.

Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I mean, I’m surprised that it exists at all, to be totally honest!! It wasn’t the book I intended to write, but it is the one that ended up being written!

One thing that was added pretty close to the end of the process was the Prologue—we needed something to kind of ground the story and the characters. I wrote it more quickly than I wrote most of the book. It’s ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I always want people to have fun reading my book: to escape a little. There are some serious undercurrents of the story especially about the effect of social media on our lives. But the book is meant to be read with a glass of rosé in a relaxing chair somewhere warm that smells good.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

I think the thing that I’ve learned most acutely is to figure out what kind of writer you actually are versus what kind of writer you think you want to be. I went to grad school thinking I could be an Aimee Bender-style quirky literary writer. But I just couldn’t make that happen. The things that people responded to in my work were the voice and the dialogue which work well in the genre I’ve ended up writing in.

So, digging down on that, my advice is: listen to the feedback that you get and lean into what your strengths are. I didn’t go into my writing career planning to write commercial women’s fiction, but it was where my voice and dialogue skill and plotting abilities worked the best. And I’m super happy that this is where I ended up.

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