Who doesn’t love a good Christmas story? That’s why this month’s author interview is a special edition for the festive season. I’m welcoming Miriam Payne and her two greyhounds Blue and Ramsey, who feature in their very own Christmas book! If you’re still stuck coming up with a gift for a young person in the family then this could be your solution…but first let’s find out more about the author herself.
Oh, and Merry Christmas book lovers.
About the author
Miriam Payne worked as a journalist for 15 years, both in the USA and here in the UK. Whether on camera as a reporter or behind the scenes as a producer or news editor, Miriam has always enjoyed writing and knows how to tell a good story. She won an Emmy Award with NBC News for coverage of the downing of flight MH17. She works in PR and lives in Wigan with her husband and three dogs. A Greyt Christmas Tail is her first book.
Describe your ideal writing atmosphere.
My books are inspired by my dogs so I usually form the ideas and work them through while out walking. Talking to the dogs helps calm them down and stop pulling so I tell stories to them on walks and see how they are coming together. This also helps me to see the ease in which my books can be read aloud and gives me the chance to work through verses and get them right. When I think that a story is good enough to go down on paper, I sit down with a brew after we get home from a long walk and start writing. Ideally I’m on my sofa, with the laptop and the dogs sitting next to me. On hot summer days I love to sit in the garden with a glass of wine. I write best when my husband isn’t home as there are less distractions.
How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?
I’ve always loved writing; English was my favourite subject in school and the one subject my parents say they didn’t dread going to on parents evening! They still have a story about a swan and a robin that I wrote in primary school. Writing has always been a big part of my life, particularly creative writing. I worked as a journalist for 15 years and am currently working in PR writing children’s books in my spare time.
Describe your writing style.
As an ex-nanny, I know how much children enjoy books that trip off the tongue when they’re being read aloud – they’re also much more fun for the person who is doing the reading. My stories are written in verse with a lilting rhyme that children and adults can enjoy.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
What kind of story that hasn’t been written yet do you want to read?
I love to read books that fire the imagination, sparking creativity and a desire to learn and explore in the reader. I have a couple of ideas for future adventures that Ramsey and Blue can go on so won’t say too much here – hopefully others will want to read them as well!
Name any authors or books that have had an impact on your writing.
Growing up I loved Enid Blyton and lost myself for days in the Magic Faraway Tree, Famous Five and Malory Towers books. The Railway Children, The Secret Garden and Little Women were all read and re-read until they fell apart. I read everything I could get my hands on, even my brothers’ Biggles books! A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter were also favourites and The Diary of Anne Frank was really inspirational; it made me realise that no matter how small you feel your writing may be, it can have a huge impact.
Describe the moment you truly felt like an author.
The day that the proof copy came through my letter box was the first time it actually started to feel real. Holding the book in my hands for the first time was something I will never forget. However, I think the first time I actually felt like an author was when Ramsey, Blue and I went into a school. Meeting the children and seeing them responding to my book was very special.
What book by another author do you wish you’d written?
Harry Potter. I just love the world that J.K. Rowling created and the ease in which, as a reader, you lose yourself within it.
What is the best thing about writing/being a writer?
I love letting my imagination run wild and seeing the stories come to life on the page. The synergy between words and illustrations is really special and the fact that my words can bring such enjoyment to children is something that will never get old.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
If you love a story then the chances are that others will as well. There’s a moment you get when you just know that your manuscript is right and doesn’t need any more editing. Listen to your internal voice. Never stop writing or dreaming, even if nothing comes of it you are doing something that you love and that is the most important thing in life. Keep pushing and trying to get your books out there. Don’t be discouraged by rejection.
Tell the story behind your latest book, why did you write it?
It was a bit of an accident really! Every year we buy the dogs new winter coats. As sighthounds have very thin fur and little to no body fat, they find it very hard to regulate temperatures and stay warm. I always try to find fun coats for them and they had just got their new elf coats. We were out on a walk and Ramsey was pulling really hard. I made a throwaway comment that if he kept that up Santa would be calling him to pull the sleigh. I couldn’t get that idea out of my head and it just progressed from there. After a month or so I had the story pretty much formed, came home one weekend and wrote it down. I didn’t really think much of it but showed it to my husband when he got home from work and he said I had to send it off to a publisher. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in a story I had made up about my dogs but he insisted so I sent it off. To my surprise, two publishers came back and said they loved it!
At this point, I decided that if it was going to be published I wanted the money to go to two animal rescues to help other dogs. Since adopting Ramsey and Blue, I’ve become more aware of the growing crisis of abandoned dogs, overcrowded rescues and abuse of greyhounds discarded by the racing industry. Blue was lucky – she had a great owner who loved his dogs and ensured they all found homes after racing but too many others are not so fortunate. Greyhounds are classified as livestock rather than pets so this book aims to change that perception in the eyes of the next generation.
Most inspiring quote?
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m Possible’” – Audrey Hepburn
Which author (living or dead) would you like to have dinner with?
If you could bring any fictional character to life, who would you choose?
Winnie the Pooh.
How do you beat writers block?
I take the dogs for a long walk. They’re always up to some kind of mischief which always provides great inspiration for stories. At the very least, being outside clears my head and I come home feeling refreshed and ready to start again.
Give yourself some writing advice.
Stop second guessing yourself and just do it. Believe in yourself and don’t worry so much about what other people think.
What are your plans for the future? What writing projects are you currently working on?
My second children’s book, A Greyt Pirate Tail, is being published in early March 2018 and I’m working on the manuscript for the third. I’m also ghost writing a true life crime story, helping a friend of mine tell her incredible tale of survival against all the odds.
When Santa’s sleigh crashes in their back garden on Christmas Eve, rescue dogs Ramsey and Blue jump into action. Volunteering to pull the sleigh, they help Santa meet his deadline and deliver presents around the world – all before their hoomans wake up.