Author Zara Miller Talks with New Degree Press on Her Debut Novel


Vulnerability is the best policy Vulnerability is the best policy

What do you do when you encounter trauma? Do you throw potatoes at it? Do you complain? Do you avoid it? Can you even prevent it? What if you don't want to talk about it with your shrink, or anyone for that matter, for the sake of not being pitied? And most importantly, how do you move forward?

To give you a bit of a background, I come from a place and time when people were convinced that their problems would go away if they wished so in silent, painful prayer.

I'm not from eighteenth-century Ireland, though; I'm only twenty-five years old.

It tells you a lot about the power of the digital era. How much has changed in so little time. Even the way we deal with trauma. For better or worse, I've chosen, after many elaborate attempts to bury my trauma, to try the new era approach — talk about it publicly.

So, what happened that was so traumatic I felt the need to push past the seemingly impenetrable walls of insecurity and transform it into a publishable novel?

I got tired of having my opinion, and my plans shut down on account of being too young, too inexperienced, and overly sensitive to understand.

I understood. I had to grow up in a household with a person who was my biological father yet bore no resemblance to being a dad.

As suggested by the opening lines, I had to accept this stranger into my life who couldn't care less about the family or me he found himself in by the grace of my mother and grandparents.

Being plucked out of your home and thrown into a new situation sets a dangerous precedent for your future beliefs. Because childhood traumas are funny like that, they embed ideas into your brain and soul that are so incredibly hard to strike down and replace with healthy ones; you're lucky if you even identify them, much less begin correcting them, and yourself.

"I don't need you to fix them,“ Cecilia said, “I need you to fix me.”

An excerpt from I am Cecilia by Zara Miller.

When someone tattoos into your brain that you're not good enough for them to even stay around, much less try to be a good parent when you come and go as you please, it shakes you to the core of your soul on such a profound subconscious level, you might spend the rest of your life undermining yourself.

So, how do you cope with all the above? How did I? I could have waited for Saturn to align with Mars or educate myself. Art helped me. Music helped me. Books helped me.

There is a world out there outside your pitiful bedroom of self-afflicted misery. I should know because I used to own that kind of bedroom, and I happily exchanged the comfort I found in misery for the discomfort of the unknown. I am no savior, nor do I have all the answers. But I know there are more answers to be found. There is life after a traumatic childhood. And books provide a much-needed escape into that world until you feel ready to venture out for real.

“No dream is too far a stretch. Unless you dream of a normal, functional family, that sounds just a little off, if you ask me.”

An excerpt from I am Cecilia by Zara Miller

After years of wandering from one European country to another, after years of toil and working on self-development, I landed in Washington, DC, where I found the people who brought the story of Cecilia to life.

“Our goal as a publisher is to help each author create the best version of a book they can create, and to create something that they can be proud of and excited to share with the world,” says Brian Bies, Head of the Publishing at New Degree Press, a hybrid publisher based in Washington, DC, who gave a green-light to the story four months ago.

Brian Bies, Head of Publishing at New Degree Press

It sounded too good to be true after I first encountered New Degree Press and all their editors and coaches at NDP (shout out to Professor Eric Koester and author Haley Newlin), who graciously navigated me through the gratifying process of writing a book. Perhaps that is what happens when you wish to get over your trauma, and life presents you with an opportunity to do so — write a book about it, get it out of your system.

New Degree Press was awarded the USASBE Excellence in Pedagogical Innovation Award with Creator Institute in January 2018

Dive deep? I was bitter. And I wanted to write, but I needed to find a way to create an authentic portrait of a soul, not a distorted caricature — a product of my ego. Just imagine writing about a sister who's been bullying you your whole life or a mother who has always been just a little checked out as a parent.

“Your mother and your aunt — two fiercely intelligent women who fell in love young and effed up their lives over it, paying to this day — that's rare, no? You usually see only dumb women do that in books and movies,” one of my friends who wished to remain anonymous had said to me back in June.

I fell in love, too. But I never lost sight of who I was because of it. I was also impertinent, open-minded, opinionated. I stuck out like a sore thumb everywhere I went.

Members of the author community actively help choose the author the cover design.

That's the story — a misfit looking for a home outside their home—a family who aren't your relatives. I did find them, but I don't think anyone would believe me unless I show them a living-breathing proof.

It's tough to write a book about your story without compromising anyone involved in it. It's not fair, after all, for you to tell it. It's always and forever going to be only your side of the story.

And that's incredibly difficult to come to terms with as a writer. Whether a fiction or a fact, you're telling stories, and you have to be prepared that people won't like it for one reason or another.

“I fell in love," Ingrid said. And she had a good reason to repeat this mantra. Arguments were based on logic, and you couldn't argue feelings with logic. That pointer would always go to her.“

An excerpt from I am Cecilia by Zara Miller

But the risk is worthwhile because there will always be people who will find joy and comfort in it. Maybe, you will even find love while searching.

The moral of the story? There is a painstaking difference between the words relatives and family. If you haven't found your family yet, keep looking. They're out there.

I am Cecilia will publish in April 2021. You can follow the progress and become a member of my author community on Instagram @zaramiller_author or LinkedIn @Zara Miller.

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Zara Miller is a writer, blogger, and the author of the Young Adult novel "I am Cecilia" published under the auspices of the New Degree Press Publishing. She studied diplomacy at Middlesex University London where she started developing her artistic talents. She is a vivacious blogger, book reviewer, and a social media enthusiast. She loves musical theatre, historical anecdotes and her greatest inspiration for writing comes from her family.