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Imperfect Alchemist longlisted for the HWA Debut Crown Award 2021

Imperfect Alchemist by Naomi Miller has been selected by the Historical Writers’ Association 2021 Debut Crown Award longlist! The 2021 Crown Awards (Debut, Gold and Non-Fiction) are for full-length books published for the first time in English in the UK between 1 April 2020 – 31st March 2021. For fiction,

Hearing Voices

Storytelling offers an opportunity to enter a world of possibilities defined by characters whose voices I’m becoming acquainted with in the very act of writing them down. What I care about most as a reader shapes my priorities as a novelist, demanding my attention to not just what but who

Clean Slate or Palimpsest?

Revising the draft of an earlier novel, I face a decision – wipe the slate clean and begin again, or overwrite sections that no longer work. Sometimes the layering of a palimpsest enables additional dimensionality, and sometimes a clean slate is required. Recognizing the difference is the challenge of revision.

Reviews from the Imperfect Alchemist Bookstagram Tour

The Imperfect Alchemist Bookstagram Tour recently wrapped up! Here’s what reviewers had to say: whatalicereads A richly detailed, complex historical fiction about women, creativity & ambition. I felt completely immersed in the setting of the Tudor period. The writing was absolutely gorgeous and with excellent characterization – this was a

Swimming in Words

Like swimming, writing enables me to journey through another medium, using words to move forward, like swimming across a lake, with full awareness that more creatures may inhabit this body of water than are visible to the swimmer, trusting to the water itself to carry me across variable depths to

Diving from a Clifftop

Contemplating revisions of a previous novel after publishing my debut novel feels like diving from a clifftop into a newly unfamiliar body of water that I used to move through with ease. Writing a new opening for the older novel is at once terrifying and exhilarating – but after the

Slow Time

Resisting what to me has often been the siren call of productivity – how much more can I accomplish in the time that I have? – I find to my astonishment that I can be present with myself in new ways. Time itself slows down when I stop multi-tasking, expanding

Hear Naomi Miller on the Women and Shakespeare Podcast!

In this episode, we discuss Professor Naomi Miller’s novel, Imperfect Alchemist, which revolves around Mary Sidney Herbert and her bond with a maidservant and artist Rose. Interviewer: Dr Varsha Panjwani Guest: Professor Naomi Miller Producer: Mr Zeke Tweedie Artwork: Mr Wenqi Wan Listen here.

Making Space for Restoration

After a grueling year, committing myself to a period of restoration yields a surprising discovery – letting go of my default goals for measurable output allows my experience of daily life itself to become more spacious, enabling my creativity to bloom unquantified, without expectation or urgency.

Hydra Revisions

Just when I think I’ve successfully condensed a rambling passage or chapter to its essential elements, I’m liable to discover that I’ve lopped off Hydra heads only to end up with two new sentences or passages for every deletion! Recognizing this tendency forces me to practice more rigorous revision.

Building a Nest: Magpie or Hummingbird?

Although I may start a project by gathering shiny or unusual pieces of research to adorn my story, I must choose the moment at which I build my nest less like a magpie and more like a hummingbird, crafting each chapter with spider silk and attaching it to a branch

Beginning Anew

In the aftermath of publishing my debut novel, I return to the draft of its predecessor, a novel that now offers the ground for a sequel to the published novel. So much intervenes – my hopes and labors over that first draft, my labors over the subsequent novel that was

How Much Research Is Enough?

As an author of historical fiction, I embrace the pleasures of deep research into my subject, which can open avenues for a story that I might never have invented on my own. But I also need to let go of “expertise,” whether my own or others’, in allowing the story

Widening the Lens

Revising a draft to reawaken its potential sometimes calls for widening the authorial lens, from zoom to wide-angle, or even choosing an entirely new tool – whether telescope or microscope – in order to see what may have been present but not wholly visible.

On Rabbit Holes

When I’m tempted to explore a digression that might prove to be a “rabbit hole” – a distraction from my current project rather than a productive path – I name it and save it to revisit for another stage or future project.

Deletions Can Be Hidden Treasures

It’s hard to “kill your darlings” – to delete plot lines, characters, or passages that you’ve labored over but that no longer fit into your current project, so instead of putting them in the “trash can” you can keep them in a “treasure chest,” a file for rejects that you

Cultivating the Compost Pile

I like to keep a file for “compost” into which I throw a scattering of quotes from my own or others’ thoughts that have initiated or supported “organic” growth in my writing, which I can revisit when I’m in need of inspiration.

Accepting Bad Choices

I’ve learned that I cannot protect my characters from the consequences of their actions, even when (especially when!) I think I know better. Until I recognize that they know their own minds and must choose their own paths, they cannot come alive on the page.

Shakespeare’s Sisters: A Faculty Journey from Classroom to Novel By Naomi Miller

The Acknowledgements section of my debut novel, Imperfect Alchemist (Allison & Busby 2020), opens with these words: With my students at Smith College, who have journeyed alongside me in exploring the works produced by Shakespeare’s Sisters—the early modern women authors whose voices were first heard by Shakespeare and his contemporaries—I

Knowing My Own Mind

Receiving feedback on my drafts from perceptive readers can be enormously helpful. But at a certain point, I need to listen to the work, and not the readers, in order to be true to my own vision.

Parenting My Characters

As a novelist, I have learned to draw on my experience as a mother. Sometimes it’s no use trying to direct my characters along the path that I envision for them. I have to listen to them and allow them to make their own choices. Only then can they realize

If At First You Don’t Succeed

What I learned from writing my first – unpublished – novel, with its trials and errors, gave me the skills and confidence to write – and publish – Imperfect Alchemist.

Sitting With Uncertainty

Resisting my own desire to direct my characters along the paths I may have in mind for them enables them to fall down, pick themselves up and take me to places I hadn’t imagined.

The Imperfect Alchemist audiobook is available now!

The Imperfect Alchemist audiobook is available for U.K. listeners on Audible, Storytel, Bookbeat, Apple & Google Books. CDs available for purchase on The Reading House website. Listen to an excerpt below:  

Taking Heart From Rejections

Multiple rejections from publishers who didn’t see a market for my first novel didn’t change my own vision for it. I came to realize that the absence of “market evidence” for the commercial success of a story like mine meant simply that no one had published such a story before.

Hearing Voices

Writing fiction that includes actual historical figures requires a willingness to “hear” their voices. My job, however, is not to ventriloquize historical voices but to channel the spirits of figures from another era through language that personalizes their perspectives and renders the past present for modern readers.

No Mud, No Lotus

Whenever I face my own reluctance to start a new book project, with all its messiness and murkiness, false starts and mistakes, I remind myself that each draft supplies the mud from which a lotus may bloom.

A photograph of novelist Naomi J. Miller

Imperfect Alchemist: Writing Women’s Voices

Many popular novels about Renaissance women picture them in relation to powerful men. One need look no further than the steady stream of novels about the wives of Henry VIII, perpetuating a phenomenon that I have named the “Noah’s ark approach,” which positions women in dependent relation to famous men.

Naomi Miller ’81 Reimagines Life of Literary Trailblazer Mary Sidney

The book: A novel set in 16th-century England, Imperfect Alchemist (Allison & Busby) by Naomi Miller ’81 reimagines the life of Mary Sidney, one of Shakespeare’s literary contemporaries, and her maid, Rose Commin. From vastly different social backgrounds, they share a drive to make their own way in the world.

Six Reviews from the Imperfect Alchemist Blog Tour

The Imperfect Alchemist Blog Tour recently wrapped up! Here’s what reviewers had to say: Day One – Madeleine of ramblingmads An incredibly engaging and intelligent book. Naomi Miller adds flesh to the bones of Mary’s life, illuminating this fascinating woman and bringing her brilliantly to life. Read the full review Day Two

Introducing Naomi Miller

Naomi Miller is descended on her mother’s side from a shogun in the Tokugawa period and on her father’s side from Dutch-English settlers who arrived in America at the time of the Mayflower. An award-winner author of books about Renaissance women, she is a professor of English and the Study of

An interview with Naomi Miller, author of Imperfect Alchemist

Interview and Review by Jo of JaffaReadsToo Two women. One bond that will unite them across years and social divides. England, 1575. Mary Sidney, who will go on to claim a spot at the heart of Elizabethan court life and culture, is a fourteen-year-old navigating grief and her first awareness

Imagining Mary: An Author’s Journey

Many popular novels about Renaissance women picture them in relation to powerful men. One need look no further than the steady stream of novels about the wives of Henry VIII, perpetuating a phenomenon that I have named the “Noah’s ark approach,” which positions women in dependent relation to famous men.

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