10 March 2022

Special Guest interview with John Anthony Miller, author of Song of Gabrielle


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Lady Gabrielle is captured at a French convent and taken to an English castle, a prize for Sir Michael Marston. Her lover, Montague of Rouen, allies with English barons plotting to overthrow their king. As England drifts into civil war, Montague attacks. Minerva, a powerful witch, casts a spell on Marston and Gabrielle, joining the two as one.

I'm pleased to welcome author John Anthony Miller to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book:

My latest book, Song of Gabrielle, is set in England and Normandy in 1216. I always wanted to write a sweeping epic, where the world the reader walks in has been created by my imagination, almost like a fantasy. Song of Gabrielle has a broad cast of characters: wizards, witches, warlocks and warriors. I found the research fascinating, and I enjoyed writing the book.

The Lady Gabrielle, who is betrothed to Montague, a French warlord, is hidden in a coastal convent, protected from English raiding parties. But the enemy finds her, takes her captive, and offers her as a gift to the English warlord, Sir Michael Marston. A group of English barons then plot to overthrow the King, aided by the French. Montague rushes to England, prepared to attack Marston Castle, where his beloved Gabrielle is captive. Minerva, a powerful witch, casts a series of spells on Marston and Gabrielle, and they become lovers. At the battle’s conclusion, Gabrielle is forced to choose—with whom will she spend eternity: Marston or Montague?

What is your preferred writing routine? 

I’m an early riser, and I’m always at my desk by 6 a.m. I work until around 4 p.m., with breaks for lunch and a daily walk, sometimes some chores around the house. I work every day, even if only for a few hours when I have plans or social engagements. I’m a workaholic (I can’t help it!) and even take a laptop on vacations, writing in the early morning while everyone else is still sleeping. 

I write two novels a year, and sometimes work on one in the morning and another in the afternoon. I use no outlines. When I’m ready to start a new book, I simply sit down at my desk and start typing. My first draft is a bit of a mess, but it’s a system that works well for me. I generally do six or seven revisions before I send it off to my agent. I have different book concepts that I keep in a file, but when I have a general idea about what book will be next—usually the time period, location, and overall plot—I start to research, reading several books, or parts of books, to prepare. 

What advice do you have for new writers?  

To be a writer, you have to write. I also think routine is important. Try to write every day, even if your schedule only allows fifteen or twenty minutes. I think this consistency is especially important during creation of the initial draft or outline, and during subsequent revisions. 

Inspiration, at least for me, comes in a variety of forms: a particular location or character, real events, or an interesting plot. I recently finished a nineteenth century murder mystery inspired only by the photograph of a tranquil lane in Paris—which of course became the scene of the murder in my book. I saw that image on the internet and thought: ‘hmmm, I can have some fun with this.’ Ideas can come from anywhere.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?  

What works best for me are interviews like this, or internet blog tours. I do some podcasts and radio interviews, an occasional book signing—but not as many as I used to. I also enjoy talking to book clubs that follow me, sometimes I’ll call in to one of their meetings and answer questions about the book. And my publishers occasionally sponsor book giveaways and send me copies to autograph and forward on to the winners.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research  

The main character in Song of Gabrielle is a strong woman who knows the art of healing. To create different scenes where she uses her medical skills, I had to research treatments used in the thirteenth century—many of which were plant based. I was surprised to learn that some of these treatments are used today. The plants are ingredients in modern pharmaceuticals.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?  

An interesting character in the Song of Gabrielle is a witch named Minerva, who lives in a cave underneath an English castle. It was challenging to create her domain—I wanted the reader to shiver a bit as they read it. I also did considerable research to show the ingredients in her different potions, and I wrote spells that the witch used. My agent had a witchcraft expert review some of the chants I created, just to ensure they seemed authentic.

What are you planning to write next?  

I write all things historical, and I like to do something different each time. I’m finishing a novel set during WWII, planned for a 2023 release, but for my second book of 2022 I’m going to write about the Vikings, probably their colonization of the western Scottish islands, which they called the Kingdom of the Isles.

John Anthony Miller

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About the Author

John Anthony Miller writes all things historical—thrillers, mysteries, and romance. He sets his novels in exotic locations spanning all eras of space and time, with complex characters forced to face inner conflicts, fighting demons both real and imagined. Each of his nine novels are unique: four set during WWII, two Jazz Age mysteries, a Cold-War thriller, a 1970’s cozy/romance, and the Medieval epic Song of Gabrielle. He lives in southern New Jersey with his family. Find out more at John's Amazon author page and find him on Facebook and Twitter @authorjamiller

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