Monday, January 23, 2023

WHEN YOU SEE HER by author BARBARA BOEHM MILLER (debuts January 24th!)

What if you needed to find a perfect place to hide in plain sight.

Trapped and isolated in small-town Wisconsin, Sarah wants nothing more than to blend in and lead a normal life away from her abusive brother. Weighing five hundred pounds and having no job or formal education, however, makes this almost impossible.

When Sarah commits an unthinkable act, she seizes the only opportunity available to escape the consequences of her actions. She contacts the carnival man who previously offered her a job as a sideshow act. Burying her guilt, Sarah leaves home and begins performing under the stage name Lola Rolls.

Traveling from town to town, Lola wonders if it's possible to hide in plain sight and truly outrun her past. She builds lasting friendships along the way, and as the quality of her performances improves, she starts on a path to self-reliance and self-acceptance.

Set in the late 1970s, When You See Her is an immersive page-turner that explores what it means to be both visible and invisible, simultaneously desired and reviled, while carving out space in a too-small world.


Dramatic yet heartwarming, this dazzling debut pulsates with all the fun and ferocity of the fair, quickly drawing you into the underworld of a 1970s traveling carnival. Miller is a gifted storyteller, displaying a conjuror's dexterity as she leads you through Lola's dramatic escape from reality to her introduction into this new, volatile world and her spectacular new colleagues.

--Jennifer Ryan, international bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies Choir

Barbara Boehm Miller’s “When You See Her” is vivid and visceral, the perfect read for when you want to inhabit another world … or another body. While at first you might think you’re sneaking a lurid peek at the sideshow fat lady, in Miller’s capable hands you’ll move quickly beyond the spectacle of the carnival world and into the fully realized life of a courageous, dynamic woman. We all long to be seen exactly as we are; this novel isn’t afraid to look.

-- Julia Rocchi, author of Amen?: Questions for a God I Hope Exists

In When You See Her, author Barbara Boehm Miller creates a rich and colorful world that is inhabited by believable individuals who display remarkable resilience in the face of their difficult lives. Miller’s dialogue is masterful, and she writes with great authority. The first-person point of view and narrative in Sarah’s voice work together to give the reader a profound understanding of Sarah and her motivations.

Sarah’s character is drawn with compelling dexterity and empathy. From the opening scene where she is standing with a skillet in her hand to losing her virginity to a man more than twice her age, to her transformation into a self-sufficient woman, Miller hardly puts a foot wrong. The audience is hooked, drawn in and held to the last page.

When You See Her is a story that is well-written, gripping and emotionally charged.

--Thomas Anderson, Editor-In-Chief, Literary Titan, 5-star review

 Author interview with Barbara ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

Making up stories was my favorite activity as a child. As I got older, I began to write some fiction and kept a series of journals for about 10 years. In college, I focused on studying foreign languages because I wanted a career that could take me to different parts of the world and because I believe, to paraphrase a quote from Charlamagne, that in learning a second language, a person gains a second soul. 

Following graduation, I sought out language immersion opportunities in foreign countries, eventually earning the equivalent of a master’s degree from the Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica. After settling in the Washington, DC area, where I still reside, I began working as a diplomatic translator and pursued a degree in fiction writing. Some of the other students I met in that program are part of the writing critique group that read the many drafts of When You See Her. 

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Writers are readers, so reading, of course, and also spending time with my family, which includes a wonderful husband, inspiring twin daughters, and a comical brown dog. I like to cook too and host parties for friends and play piano (poorly).

Do you have a particular writing routine?

Because of my schedule, I have to write in my spare moments. The upside of this approach is that I’ve learned to block out pretty much all background noise and can make the most of even small snippets of time. Whenever possible, I like to write in the morning because it makes the rest of my day that much better.

Is there anything major that changed in this novel from when you first plotted it out?

So much has changed! I rewrote When You See Her many times. Some earlier versions had a dual timeline, and others were framed more as a fictitious memoir. The most significant changes, though, were in the characters. With each rewrite, they grew and became more complex and appealing. In short, they became better people.

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”

A collection of my favorite pens and a notebook for jotting down ideas and possible plot items. I love pens, so they’re like toys as well to keep me entertained and engaged when my writing stalls.

If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need…

If it’s a recently deserted island that has a nice, non-haunted hotel with a well-stocked kitchen and bar, I’d just need a couple of good books and some of my favorite people.

What career did you think you’d have as an adult?

I thought I would be a writer, so publication of my first novel is very much a dream come true.

What is something about you that would surprise people?

I sound like a Costa Rican when I speak Spanish. I also make a killer falafel and can tell fortunes using playing cards and know how to read palms.


Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I have an entire “day career” and have worked for many years translating documents from Spanish and French into English.


What was the original title of this book?

“Lola Rolls,” which is the stage name of the main character. In effort to help potential audiences understand more about the book upfront, I later switched the title to the more descriptive “Lola Rolls, Sideshow Fat Lady.” 

After being accepted for publication, the book was renamed “When You See Her.” Even though adjusting to this change was no easy task, the new title is a much better fit in that it reflects the underlying themes of the book, rather than just its content.


Where do you get your ideas, or what inspired this book plot?

For me, writing fiction is like a series of what-if questions. When You See Her starts with a plus-sized protagonist. Then I asked myself: What if her weight were extreme enough to keep her trapped and isolated? What if she lived in a time period when there were few overweight and virtually no morbidly obese people? What if she needed to go on the run? What if her only option was to join the sideshow? What if she could find a way to live a bold and meaningful life? What if she didn’t try to fit in?


Do you have a manuscript(s) in your drawer? If so, will it ever see the light of day?

Yes, and no way! I cringe now to think about that manuscript, containing, as it did, many instances of every mistake a fiction writer can make. For a while, I thought it might be possible to revise that work. It could not be fixed or improved enough to make it readable, however. Writing that first book did show me that I had the stamina to complete a novel. To my mind, an unredeemable mess of a rough draft far surpassed an unwritten or unfinished book.


If I wasn’t an author, I might be…?

I would be a person brimming with stories who never wrote anything down.


Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?

After working through the manuscript with the members of my writing critique group and before submitting it for publication, I give also it to one of the members of my book club because they are perfect examples of my target audience. Both groups are good, sensitive readers, and their feedback is spot on.


Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?

I read The Grapes of Wrath when I was young. That was the first time I understood how powerful a book could be—how it could wring your soul with both hands. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving showed me what a wonderful and outrageous thing plot can be. I try to capture both of those ideas in my own work. I want my writing to tell a vivid story and have an emotional impact.


Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

The biggest challenge was learning what I needed to do and then developing and acting on a plan. The path to publication also included a lot of rejections and raised hopes that then crashed hard. No matter how I rationalized these “thanks, but no thanks” responses, they still took an emotional toll. The upside is that my skin has become alligator-thick.


If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?

I’m very excited that my novel is soon to be published, so I wouldn’t want to change anything that led me to this place.


What are you working on now?

I’m revising a book I wrote about a troubled family, crushed together in the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic. The father is a survivalist. The mother is having an affair, and the daughter is incandescent with her desire to move away from the small town where they live.


Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

I’ve lived with weight issues for all of my life and I wanted my main character to be a fat woman who lives a fulfilling and unapologetic life despite the obstacles thrust in her way.


Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?

There is a wedding scene toward the end of the book that I loved writing. By that point in the story, the reader knows the characters well, and the wedding is a chance for all of them to interact and celebrate with each other.


Do you have a favorite character?

Probably Gigi. She is funny, endearing, and has an unconventional outlook on life. She also loves the main character, Lola, as much as I do.


Finish this sentence: “If I could write about anything, it would be…?”

I’m fascinated by closed-off or secret societies. At some point, I would like to write a book set inside a cult or a prison. I can only imagine the amount of creative planning needed to research the latter.


What was some unique research you had to do for a book?

When You See Her takes place in the late 1970s, and much of the book is set in the sideshow of a rundown traveling carnival. I had to learn the business side of the carnival, which is quite complex, and also studied the lives and careers of various sideshow performers. One of the most interesting things I learned in the course of my research is that carnival people have their own secret language that they use to hide their conversations.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Keep at it and find your reward and satisfaction in the writing itself, not in how others perceive it. In my case, and I think this is true for many people, I wrote for a very long time before being published.


What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

Writing is a solitary act and can, therefore, be a lonely experience. As a bit of an extrovert, I really struggle with that. The best part of being an author is the privilege of making up stories and creating entire worlds in which you make all the decisions about what happens and to whom.


Place you’d like to travel?

I love to travel and am fortunate that, in building my career as a translator, I’ve had the opportunity to live in various countries. At present, my foreign adventures are limited to vacations, though. When the pandemic hit, we had just begun to plan a visit to Thailand to celebrate a milestone birthday. I hope to take that trip within the next year or so. Also, I don’t know when it will happen, but I would like to visit the Galapagos Islands.


Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you for reading my work! Being able to share my stories is a true privilege, and I’m so grateful to the readers who make that possible.

To connect with Barbara (all links):

No comments:

Post a Comment