A Joyful Return

Charley’s been great at regenerating the blog with a few new posts over the past fortnight or so, but I’ve been conspicuously and embarrassingly absent — especially as it was my idea to start blogging more often! I’m very sorry about that.

It occurred to me that we’ve been absent for a long time, and it’s reached a point where the ‘author bio’ at the back of St Mallory’s Forever! is probably outdated and incomplete, so unless you know us from elsewhere or read our personal blogs, you’ll know very little about Charley and me as people. Therefore we thought we’d reintroduce ourselves and our interests.

A vaguely sensible picture of me -- this has got to be a first!

A vaguely sensible picture of me — this has got to be a first!

Who are you?

My name is Miriam Joy and I’m eighteen years old. I’m the youngest member of the St Mallory’s writing team, although even I’m a legal adult now, which is mildly hilarious. I’m a writer, student, dancer, musician, blogger, feminist, tea-drinker, and huge fan of puns. Seriously. The title of this post should have given that away.

The St Mallory’s series is set in a school. What’s your education background?

I go to a state school, a grammar school in South-East London, where I’m studying for my A-Levels, and I take English Literature, Classical Civilisations, French and Music. Don’t let anybody tell you that Music is easy: it’s certainly the hardest subject I chose to take, and I regret it on a daily basis. With any luck, I’ll be studying at the University of Cambridge from October, although of course I have to get the grades in my exams this summer for that to be possible!

Which of your hobbies contributed most to the book?

I’m the musical one of the group, so those who’ve read St Mallory’s Forever! will be able to guess that I contributed a lot to Helen’s chapters, particularly where there’s anything technical going on. I had to teach Charley that violin strings aren’t made of plastic, for example, and I regularly mock her when she sends me chapters that display her ‘musical illiteracy’, as she calls it. I leave the lacrosse side of things to her – and indeed anything about boarding school.

Mind you, I'm quite short, which might not help.

Mind you, I’m quite short, which might not help.

I used to play the violin, flute and piccolo, but unfortunately strained my wrists badly last year and haven’t been able to play since July, forcing me to abandon the violin two weeks before I was due to take my grade eight exam. Such is life. In order not to fail the performance unit of A-Level music, I recently took up singing, and I’ve also just started playing the Celtic lever harp, because why play a small instrument like the piccolo when you can play something that goes up to your shoulder?

Actually, my passion as far as music is concerned lies in folk music, so while I’ve got enough orchestral experience to last me a lifetime and I can write the Classical side without too much difficulty, I much prefer playing traditional folk tunes. I play the tin whistle, too, but I don’t tend to count that among my accomplishments because most people look down on whistle players. No idea why.

What else do you do in your free time?

This was me in 2011, when I still had super short hair.

This was me in 2011, when I still had super short hair.

My love of performing arts isn’t confined to music: I also dance. After a brief stint as an Irish dancer from 2009-2011, I retreated to the infinitely less odd world of ballet, and this year I’m dancing the role of the Cat in my dance school’s production of Peter and the Wolf. I’m also part of the dance troupe for our school production of Fame!, which is entirely outside of my comfort zone as far as technique is concerned, but I think it’ll be a great learning experience. And of course, school productions feature prominently in St Mall’s 2, so it’s all research. (I promise we’ll have a title soon.)

I’ve never really had the opportunity to act as such, though I’d be interested in it, and I’m a massive fan of Shakespeare. Hamlet’s definitely my favourite – I empathise a ridiculous amount with Hamlet as a protagonist, and my theories regarding Ophelia are slightly unusual but I promise you, well backed up with the evidence.

Other than this series, what do you write?

My writing is predominantly inspired by my interest in early/medieval history and mythology, particularly Celtic. An example: I’m currently working on a research project about the position of women in Celtic and Norse society as shown by the mythology of those societies, so if that doesn’t sum me up as a person, I’m not sure what does. As a result, my writing is usually tragic and involves fairies – in fact, one of my long-term projects is a series I refer to as Death and Fairies, so there you go. At the moment, I’m mostly focusing on an action/adventure novel about modern-day knights, and I hope to pursue a traditional publishing route with that.

I also wrote a poetry collection. That was a thing, recently.

What’s your favourite thing to read?

I think my favourite genre of books would be fantasy and all its many permutations and subgenres. In my experience, it provides the best and most cutting social commentary, especially when it’s disguised as humour, like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. They’re a fabulously amusing critique of the human race, and I love that about them. Fantasy’s often dismissed as a childish genre, not as serious as litfic or something like that, but I think that’s completely erroneous, because it allows us to step entirely outside of our society and values in order to look at them from another perspective. That’s probably one of the reasons I write so much of it, too.

Mind you, I also like historical fiction, although when it revolves around real people I somehow always manage to run into spoilers simply by researching the period. I was devastated when I found out that Camille Desmoulins was executed while I was still halfway through reading A Place Of Greater Safety… And YA fiction will always have a place close to my heart. A lot of people look down on books written for teens – the same way they look down on teenagers in general life. However, it’s such a massively broad category with so many genres within it, and a lot of my favourite books have been YA because there are often fewer boundaries.

I think what I’m getting at is that I read a lot.

What’s the most important thing to you when writing?

I’m passionate about diversity and representation in books. I definitely feel that literature – including, or perhaps especially, books aimed at younger readers – needs to represent all sorts of people. I think pop culture needs more admirable female characters, more queer characters, more disabled or chronically ill characters, more racially diverse characters … and it should go without saying that their stories shouldn’t revolve around that aspect of their life! You might see some of that sneaking into the St Mall’s series, although obviously it’s set in a girls’ school, so clearly we’re going to need admirable female characters or we won’t have any characters at all.

Anything else you want to tell us about yourself?

Two-in-one photo: archery while dressed as Eponine for World Book Day 2013.

Archery while dressed as Eponine for World Book Day 2013.

When I’m not writing, dancing, playing music (which happens less often now because of my hands), or attempting to realise my dreams of becoming a lady knight (which has involved archery and occasionally horse-riding and will hopefully one day also include armoured combat), I make YouTube videos and watch TV shows that break my heart, like Hannibal or Vikings. Occasionally I dress up as fictional characters, too.

Next time I write for this blog, I’ll share with you a few pieces of trivia about the series … like where Tim’s name came from, or why Helen’s playing the particular pieces she’s playing. In the meantime, though, Charley will probably be writing a post similar to this for herself. See you soon!

— Miriam Joy

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