Soapbox Spotlight: Sarka-Jonae Miller
Welcome to another Wednesday edition of Soapbox Spotlight! Today, we’re talking with Sarka Jonae-Miller. She began her career writing health and fitness articles and has published more than 4,000 articles on martial arts, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle. She’s here today to discuss her debut novel, Between Boyfriends.
So Sarka, tell us a little about yourself.
I am a novelist and a health writer, mainly for websites. I have over 4,000 articles published on topics such as fitness, sports, martial arts, yoga, nutrition and natural health. I have also written about travel, beauty, spirituality, education, home and lifestyle. My articles have appeared on websites like LiveStrong.com and NaturalNews.com, as well as in the “Post-Standard” newspaper, the Washington Home & Garden online magazine, and “Modern Witch” magazine.
I am a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. After graduation, I worked as a personal fitness trainer and massage therapist. I used some of my experiences as a massage therapist to write Between Boyfriends.
I am an avid traveler. I’ve been to Costa Rica, Canada, England, Mexico, and Paradise Island. I have also been to France and Thailand, and did research in both countries for novels I currently writing. I live in San Diego with a menagerie, including two cats, two dogs and a horse.
As odd as it may sound for a chick lit writer to have a favorite author who writes fantasy novels, that is indeed the case with me. Terry Brooks, author of the Sword of Shannara series, is my favorite writer, though I love Sophie Kinsella, Janet Evanovich, James Redfield and Laurel K. Hamiliton, just to name a few other authors I adore. I read a lot and from different genres, but when I was a teenager I stumbled upon Terry Brooks’ books and just fell in love. I read the original seven Sword of Shannara books back to back. They sparked my imagination and rekindled my belief in magic.
My all-time favorite musician, dancer, performer and humanitarian is Michael Jackson. I have been in love with him since I was 2 years old. I dedicated Between Boyfriends to him. Michael was the sweetest, most caring, gentle and hard working person that I have ever known, or should say known of since I never met him personally. His message was to “Heal the World” and in some small way I also hope to make the world a better place.
With that said, I also love chocolate soy ice cream, soy mochas and about anything that is chocolate and vegan. My favorite color is pink. My favorite flower is a pink rose, and my favorite movie is “The Wedding Singer.” Don’t ask me why.
My son and I are big Michael Jackson fans too! Let’s talk about rejection now. How do you deal with rejection letters?
I look to see if there is anything I can learn. I really appreciate when agents or publishers write a personalized rejection letter, even if it is short because they usually include some advice. I did a major rewrite of Between Boyfriends after getting some awesome criticism from an agent years ago. It made my book so much better.
Once I have learned all I can, I recycle the letter. I imagine it being transformed into something more positive. Educational or no, rejection letters still suck.
If your book became a movie, who do you see playing your main character?
If she were just a little younger, I would want Bridget Regan to play Jan. I went to high school with Bridget. I was one year ahead, but we were part of the same swing dancing group. Bridget is an amazing actress. She can do funny and cute. She can be tough and strong. She can be sad and vulnerable. She can do everything that I would want an actress to do to play a complicated character like Jan. I don’t really have a second choice, but I think it would be fun to find an unknown actress that no one associates with any other role. Plus, I like the idea of helping an up-and-coming actress.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?
I am reading the student workbook from “A Course in Miracles.” I read a lot of personal development and spiritual books. I was fortunate enough to meet Marianne Williamson at the San Francisco airport when I was stopping over for the night on my way to Thailand. She gave me a ride home. I had heard about her and the course before but never read the books. I love the course. It really helps you see everything from a positive place. I definitely still have a lot of work to do in that area.
Are there any new writers that have sparked your interest and why?
I recently read Sleeping With Paris by Juliette Sobanet and hope to read her new book Kissed in Paris soon. Juliette is such a funny writer. One of the books I am writing now takes place partly in Paris so I was really excited to read her book, which is mainly set in Paris. I happened to “meet” her on Facebook soon after I read her book and found out she was from Encinitas, CA, the city I grew up in. Just after we “met” I found out she was moving from the East Coast back to San Diego where I live now. I guess I just love little coincidences like that so now not only am I excited to read more of her work, but I am really rooting for her. It also helps that she speaks French, which I am learning, and she likes Michael Jackson, too.
I also recently discovered Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, Nancy Scrofano, Jennifer Coburn (who lives in San Diego too) and Brea Brown. I like to read a mix of new Indie authors and new stuff published by established authors. It’s a lot of fun to discover authors before they make it big, or in some cases before they become huge.
I think that’s one of the best parts of being an indie author: you get to meet really great people in your same field and collaborate. Then, as you said, we tend to want everything wonderful for everyone in the indie author community. I love that.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
The thing most writers complain about being the hardest for them to write is dialogue. For me, dialogue is the easiest part. Sometimes when reading other books, I find myself skimming the pages to get to the dialogue. I like to talk a lot. Maybe that’s why. I would say that being able to write realistic and interesting dialogue is my greatest strength. Most people tell me that they loved my characters’ dialogue, including their internal dialogue. The other thing I hear most is that I am really good with character development. No one ever praises my deep metaphors, foreshadowing or poetic prose, and that is because there are somethings that I am not good at writing and frankly do not enjoy at all. Sometimes it is nice to read a book that is entertaining with a few important lessons sprinkled throughout the story. I don’t want to have to work hard to understand the author’s point. I would rather work hard on improving myself once I get the message.
What inspires you to write and why?
Reading great books inspires me to write. Getting good feedback also sends me straight to the keyboard. I respond very well to praise. Some people are motivated by money or titles. I thrive on recognition.
I can certainly understand that! Can you tell us about your main character?
Jan is complicated. She is pretty, sweet, fun and loving, yet this is not what most people see. Jan is very insecure. She buys all these beautiful clothes ,but is too afraid of the attention to wear them and instead dresses in basic safe clothes. She can be really rude to her friends because she feels like it gives her power and protects her from being hurt. But she is completely different with men. She desperately wants a man to love her and feels like the only way to keep a guy is to be accommodating and practically perfect. If she meets his every need, then he won’t leave her, she thinks. She gives her love and kindness to the wrong people and treats the people who care about her poorly. Between Boyfriends is about her realizing some of these truths about herself and how she behaves, how she treats others and how she treats herself. Jan may be rude sometimes, but she wants to change. Some people just don’t know how to be vulnerable or discerning about who they let into their life. The book is about her waking up.