I previously reviewed the book “Remember, no matter what; Chin Up Tits Out” by Miranda Oh (you can find the review here). Miranda has become a friend and fortunately she agreed to let me (me….a nobody!) “interview” her for this blog! Book 2 of the Chin Up Tits Out series is due in February 2017 and I, for one, CAN’T FREAKING WAIT! One of the things I’d like to do moving forward is to interview people in my life… and I hope you like it!
Miranda and I speak regularly (ok, we whatsapp regularly – time zones kinda suck) and she is definitely an older and wiser (metaphorically speaking of-course) “cyber-sister”. As Miranda pointed out yesterday, we are two VERY different woman – different life stories and journey’s (I’m a scientist, she’s a published author), grown up in different countries (her in first-world Canada, myself in third-world South Africa) – yet we deal with similar struggles, insecurities and challenges. I completely agree and it shocks me EVERY TIME I take the time to process it!
We’re both “millennials” and it just goes to show that regardless of your background, we all go through the same “obstacles” in life – I guess its the nature of human life…and the stages, the transformations we inevitably all go through – if we like it or not! Navigating this thing we call life is not easy – well, that is my perception of it. Having a sounding board, a confidante who has experienced similar situations in life is possibly the only thing that keeps me sane (ok, somewhat sane)…. especially when you can’t live in a therapists office! (Yes, I believe everyone should go to therapy – the objective viewpoint and alternate thinking is eye-opening… I wrote a bit about it here).
It’s no lie, I have many people from different walks of life, ages, genders, family, friends who I can reliably reach out to. But each of them has taught me something different in my life – and made an impact on the person I am today. I learn so much about life, being human from these incredible people; and Miranda is definitely one of them!
By that fateful day in April 2016, I was a pretty lost cause (yes, the people in my life would agree to that… I can almost see them nodding)… There was no advice that was not given to me….lovingly and in exasperation, subtle and the not-so-subtle. The exasperation and not-so-subtle were the norm by April – for some reason i just couldn’t – for the life of me – get the advice to puncture my emotional side…. (I seem to have this problem often….intellectually I get it, emotionally… BIG PROBLEM).
The weird thing is, completely out of character, I reached out to Miranda after reading her book… to thank her for sharing her story – something in the chic-lit book jumped out at me… perhaps it was the signs I could see, perhaps it was M relating a bit more of the story? Who knows. But I knew I had to thank her. We started chatting and I recounted my situation… Miranda got it. She got me. Her advice to me actually got me. More than anyone else in my life at the time, she could relate to my situation. She not only survived something similar, she thrived!
So lets get on with the interview…. Interviewing Miranda didn’t really feel like an interview – it was pretty much us chatting… over email instead of whatsapp. My questions and comments are in bold, Miranda’s responses are italicised.
I’ve separated the interview into different sections:
- Taking the leap and publishing
Hey M, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you (you know, before you become a world famous, best-selling, movies-are-made-from-your-books author)…
Before we get to the “juicy stuff” can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Book 1 was quite a rollercoaster… from the initial meeting to marriage! How does book 2 compare?
Book 2 is a whole new roller-coaster of emotion. Hadley is really forced to grow up fast, and behave in a way that is unimaginable. You will tell immediately in the writing; the writing itself is incomparable to book 1. While book 1 was fast paced, high energy, young and whimsical, book 2 is equally as fast paced, but written to make the reader feel what Hadley is feeling, and really capture the reader’s emotion to help them relate to how Hadley feels. You will immediately feel the shift in tone, and really feel how quickly Hadley grew up. I mean, I also grew up a ton after the launch of book 1, I learned a lot on my journey with book 1 and you can tell the difference in my writing. I can’t wait for my readers to get their hands on it.
What inspired you to write?
I have always wanted to write. Write what; in fact… I had no idea. But during my own life experiences, I always joked about writing about my crazy stories. Monday mornings at my desk were coffee driven story times. I wanted to utilize that eventually and somehow I ended up with a series of books.
My life inspires me to share my stories, paying a publisher to help keep my writing on track is what makes sure I get it done. LOL I was blessed with a very theatrical personality with a very robust life, I think it would be a shame and a waste if I didn’t utilize my experiences in the form of an art where people from all over the world can relate.
Are you self-conscious in any way in your writing? How do you overcome that?
Holy balls yes, I am. I fear that someone will hate what I have put on paper so much that it will compel them to send me nasty hate mail. LOL But to date, I can proudly say that it hasn’t happened, on the contrary the opposite happens, as you can see on my social media feeds, I post almost all reviews that come in to me personally. They are all raving positive and all my readers LOVE the book thus far. I don’t like using big words, since in my own life, I try and not use big words, I use words that everyone can understand. I also use topics that maybe we don’t all talk about out loud, but we definitely think about or do behind closed doors. I overcome my anxiety about my writing with the simple thought ‘I can’t please everyone’.
At the end of the day, if I am happy, then I have done my job. Anyone else’s happiness doesn’t fall on me. That doesn’t mean that if/when I do get my first hate mail letter I will be all cool and Zen with it, because honestly I think I would lose my shit, and cry until I had snot bubbles coming out of my nose. I can picture myself throwing a straw into a bottle of wine, lighting a candle, and sitting there in the dark guzzling back the wine and wallowing in my own misery. LOL I am far from confident with my writing, but I know in my heart that I am honest, and wholeheartedly putting thoughts down on the page and meaning every word. That is really the only expectation I can put out there. I overcome my anxiety about my writing with the simple thought ‘I can’t please everyone’. At the end of the day, if I am happy, then I have done my job. Anyone else’s happiness doesn’t fall on me.
Did this take you some time to get to a self-worth and self-love place to able to confidently say you can’t please anymore. I know it is something I struggle with terribly. I know we’ll do a follow up after Book 2 is out, but can you share some of your tips for prioritising yourself, confidence in yourself and your work?
My self love and self worth I go through phases with. Some days I think I am hot shit, and other days i feel like a bag of shit. It is a constant battle every day to ensure that I am being the best I can be towards myself. I am trying a new thing that before I answer a question I really try and think the answer through all possible scenarios. It is time consuming, and sometimes hard. BUT I find that I am getting a better response and more productive when trying to coordinate people, or coordinate my feelings. For example, if I am feeling a bit insecure or unsure or unstable, and someone offers me something nice; since I am feeling down, my initial reaction is to wallow in self pity and say ‘no, im good thanks’ and then I sit there and suffer in silence.
So now I try and work through the idea of WHAT IF I say yes, please let’s do what you are suggesting to make me feel better. It is working for me. But it is a new resolution, so I will have to get back to you on the progress with that. I also try and brush off any negative energy towards me, so for example if I get a bad reaction or bad vibe from someone close around me, my intial reaction is to think it has to do with me. that their unhappiness is my fault some how. I have mentally stopped doing that, I acknowledge that this person is suffering or struggling some how, and then i immediately change the subject or stop talking. If that person wants to elaborate and chat more about it, I leave it in their court to do so, instead of asking them to talk it out. and if they dont, then I have already mentally stopped thinking it was me, and just think about something else, if I cant drown out my brain I put on music that I can sing to. that helps my mind to move on from that thought.
What challenges do you face when writing?
My biggest challenge while writing is reliving certain aspects of my own story I am using, and losing my cool about it. Since I write about some personal experiences, or experiences from others in my life, I am close to my writing, I take it personally. And I think the hardest part is to reread what I have written and judge myself on my actions. I think to myself that I could have done this, or that, and maybe it would have ended up differently… but truth is… If it ended up differently… would I be sitting here right here and now writing this masterpiece…NO; is the answer. And for that simple thought, I am grateful for my challenges.
I don’t suffer from writers block, I suffer from the opposite actually, verbal diarrhoea I mean once it starts it doesn’t stop, and sometimes my brain thinks too fast for my fingers to type. Upon rereading a paragraph or section I have written, there will be 17 half thoughts in there, LOL. Before I can finish a thought, I start another. The editing is always the most grueling part for me.
I live with a bunch of men, some students, some professionals, we were a little community of individuals that lived under the same roof. During the writing of book 2, there was at least half a dozen times where one of them would come up to me; where I would be sitting there with my noise cancelling headphones blaring R&B music, a bottle of wine, with a straw in it, or a big ass glass of wine. They would tap me on the shoulder, as I am sitting there sobbing and typing a mile a minute. “Miranda, do we need to go for a drive to get some fresh air?” they would hand me a tissue to clean up the mascara lines running down my cheeks and dangle the keys of a car in front of my face (like a dog on the treadmill). LOL I am beyond lucky to have such understanding people in my life.
Do you have a writing schedule? Or do you write when you have an urge?
When I make a commitment to writing, I have to get it done NOW, or better yet yesterday. LOL, I usually set myself a really tight goal, and try and work my life around that. I know successful writers have schedules, and/or a daily word count set. Since this is not my main career, I write when I can. If that means lunch breaks, after work, before the gym, or the entire weekend, so be it. I feel that the quicker I get it on paper, the longer I have to reread, edit and refine, which with my serious condition of verbal diarrhoea It ends up being positive to have way, way, WAY more time to refine and edit.
Did you write book 1 and book 2 “off-plan”? Or did you have an outline for what each book will contain? How long did Book 1 take? Book 2?
I wrote book 1 with an outline, and that roughly took me 16 hours to do the meat and potatoes. Book 2 I wrote with more of chronological point form, and crossed off the point forms as I wrote about them. But the meat and potatoes with that book, probably took me closer to 100 hours. You will immediately see the difference in the writing when you open the pages of book 2. I had a rough idea of what each book would contain, but didn’t set myself a limit on how it portrayed in the book, the story came out as a wild beast, and then we spent months (for each book) taming that beast.
Does writing energize you or exhaust you? Or is it release?
I think it has a touch of all 3, pending on what I am writing, and when I am writing; if that makes sense. Sometimes when I write a part that is exciting and happy, I feel accomplished and excited about rereading what I just wrote. There are times when I am writing about really crappy things, like hospital visits and drug addictions, and after I am done, I am defeated, exhausted and really depressed. Once it was all over, though, someone asked me if I felt a release after writing this book. The answer for this one is still undetermined. Honestly, I knew it was going to be healing for me to write this book, but at the end of the day, after rereading it a million times during editing, I quickly learned that it was no longer a release or healing, but more so like kicking the dog when its down, or continuously putting salt in the wound. I am beyond excited to release this second book, once that is out, the hard part is over. The final book of the series will be fun, light hearted and a lot easier to write. Maybe I get the ‘release’ once the book is launched, I will have to get back to you on that one!
During both books, you’ve juggled a full time job and writing. Was this difficult for you? How did you manage to keep sane 🙂
Sane… what is sane? LOL just kidding. My full time day job requires me to be smart, calm, cool and collected. My books allow me to be stilly, crazy and all over the place. I have found it a good mix while writing. I am also forever grateful to have a work environment that is so supportive of my ‘hobby’ of writing. As long as my work gets done and done on time, my team is satisfied with me. If I didn’t have my full time job, I probably wouldn’t be so productive with my writing. The more I have on the go, the more productive I am.
You write a lot about South Africa, having visited the country what are your impressions about it? How was the country different to your perceptions about it? Would you ever visit the country again?
I absolutely love South Africa, I love the weather, the culture, the food, not to mention the Biltong. (So much so, that I attempted to make my own!)
Prior to going to SA for the first time back in 2007, I was completely naïve about how it was there, the history, the struggles, everything. I mean to my knowledge, I assumed people lived there in manmade shacks, wore butt flaps, had bones in their noses, and did tribal dances every night around a fire…. BOY was I ever wrong. I mean way before travelling there, I realized that my assumptions, or dreams about Africa were only due to education I found in TV and movies. But living there, and living in the complexes with the gates, and garden people, and the maids that came daily to tidy, it was such a culture shock. I was completely enamored by everything that was there. I was also in love, and madly naïve to the possible dangers lurking around every corner. I was lucky and always had people accompanying me and never felt unsafe once.
My biggest hope for South Africa as a nation would be to try and find a way to love more. Maybe it was the people I was around, or maybe it is an overall consensus, but I did find there was a lot of hate towards other races and ethnicities. Growing up in Canada and being white myself, I never once (prior to my trip to SA) was in a racial issue, or faced an uncomfortable situation due to race. I wanted a friend’s co-worker who was black to come join us at our table for lunch, as he sat at the other end of the restaurant by himself. To me that was unacceptable, and I explained it to my group of people, and they all compiled respectfully…but who knows what happened after I left there. I would love to go back for business one day, I think there are a ton of opportunities there. As for a leisure trip…there are a ton more new places I have yet to visit before going back to SA.
If you could write a happy ending for Hadley, what would it be? (Note: I have no idea what’s coming in book 2)?
If Hadley had a happy ending, one that we all hope to see at the end of a Disney movie…it would be that her an Riaan finally get settled in Canada. Riaan gets a good job, and they have a couple of beautiful children with blonde flowy curly hair, dark brown eyes, and sun-kissed skin. And I would be the next J.K Rowling Author of Chick Lit. (oh wait.. Hadley… not Miranda… LOL… aren’t we one in the same) You have no idea what is coming in Book 2… I am excited for you. I wish I could be a fly on the wall to watch your reactions.
I’m very excited about it and a bit nervous at the same time. At this point we’ve shared so much and you’ve been a guiding light but I’d probably message you at odd hours with tears in my eyes or laughing like a woman possessed…or both!
My door is forever open. I am currently getting updates on every few chapters from another local girl who picked up my book from some where. I love hearing what my readers have to say, regardless if I have been friends with them for 25 years or have never met them before. My goal was for my readers to feel Hadley and her feelings, to feel the actual love, the pain, the excitment, the exhaustion, all the feelings that she felt in this part of her story. It was important for my readers to feel the overpowering feelings she felt. It really should resonate with all different types of people. at least that is my hope.
Taking the leap and publishing
What gave you the courage to send your book out to a publisher?
I needed the motivation to start writing, and I didn’t know where to start. Once I found a publishing company that I was comfortable with, we sat down over drinks, and I explained my story idea to Osamede; my creative director. He loved the idea, and loved me, and likewise. He gave me some insight and some research to do, and before I knew it, I had a contract signed, and a book outline was done.
Did you face any challenges when trying to get published?
I always pictured my writing life as; sending in the manuscript and having publishers gush over it, and fight over it, and then Miranda would get this big old fat cheque in the mail for an advance… boy oh boy… I wish I was that blessed or that lucky, or even that talented. I found a publisher that I was comfortable with and paid him to help me get it done. I think since there was a financial burden put on me, that I was so motivated to finish and get it on the shelves and start to make money off the book. I can only hope that one day I have big publishing houses fighting over me throwing book advance cheques in my face… A girl can dream, right?
Did you ever expect/ dream of being published, author?
Bahahaha – NOPE. Honestly, I still don’t see it some days. I look at it as, that I had a story, I wanted to share it, and I did what I had to do to make that happen. It is often when people ask me how it feels to be a published author… my response is always the same… I feel the same as before. We all write out stories or tell our stories some way… I drink a crap ton of wine and put it out there, no shame, no style, just me. And somehow in that mindset, I have become a published author.
After reading book 1, I did something out of character and reached out to you. We’ve become good friends and I know you’ve helped me in navigating through life’s turmoil’s and you are a role model to me… how do you describe your own inner strength?
My inner strength is nothing without people such as yourself. I am loud, outgoing, happy, and share all those feelings with as many people as I can on a daily basis. That doesn’t mean that I take those exuberant feelings home with me every night.
There are times sometimes more often than not, where I cry every day. For what might you ask? Oh, you know… I ran out of bread, dropped my make-up and it broke, realized I only have $25 to last me until pay day, someone’s tone with me at work was too abrasive…etc.… (Obviously world ending situations!) I won’t cry in front of people, but mostly in my own home, in my room – in my safe place. As much as I pride myself on always thinking ‘chin up tits out’ there are just some days where you want to tell that slogan to go f*** itself.
I hear ya! But in those moments you know that you aren’t dealing with it alone. I am miles away but always an eye to listen and a metaphorical shoulder to cry on. Anytime, I get those days too (more often than not).
I swear women are meant to be the soulmates of other women. Like we literally have extreme opposite lives, yet struggle with the same struggles, just in our own way. relaying and exchanging those thoughts, struggles and stories is what enriches our lives with hope, confidence and inner peace. (in my opinion anyways… some yogi’s will beg to differ, saying that breath in, and breath out will give us inner peace…. NO.. I want to know that I am not the only person who thinks these thoughts, and says these things… lol cuz in reality I am not the only person out there that has similar thoughts, etc – I agree with you 100%! I’d rather know other people are in the same boat, too).
LOL I also don’t cry long, like a minute or two or like five at tops. But nothing longer than that. My eyes swell and my nose starts to fill with snot and shit, and then it gets ugly. LOL But my inner strength is really reliant on the ones around me. I don’t ask them for compliments or anything like that, I just like to make people around me feel great and laugh and enjoy themselves, if I see happy people around me, I tend to be happy too.
I am constantly working on my inner peace, and my ability to enjoy my alone time. I DO enjoy my alone time currently, and feel myself getting better at it. BUT it is a constant struggle to make sure I allocate enough time to self-love, self-heal, and self-grow. My relationship and love with myself will be the biggest most important relationship in my lifetime. It should be #1 on my priority list, for many people it isn’t.
As much as I try I can never get to a point where I “love” myself. How has your journey through this been?
Hell I am not even there yet. I mean I love myself enough to continue living my life and moving forward in my life. But honestly it is a daily battle. Some days are great and some days aren’t and the days where you dont have self love, as long as you do something, even the smallest thing to love yourself on purpose, it should make the tomorrow day that much better. If I am finding that my bad days are more then the good days, I book an appointment with my therapist. I am actually meeting with her tonight. I havent seen her since summer of 2015. So its been a while. BUT I am really excited to go see her.
When trying to let someone go (someone who broke your heart) what is your advice?
Cut all strings, the good, the bad and the ugly. Refrain yourself from sending the last text, and the check in text or the random good bye phone call. Silence is key. And move on, no matter how hard. I forced myself to date only a couple of months after my ex left. It was horrifying, literally … well you read book 1 prologue … lol but the more dates I went on, the less I thought about my ex, the more things I did, the fuller my memory became with all these new memories. and before I knew it we were months apart and my mind was else where. It is when you stop and stand still that the past catches up with us. Always keep moving forward. Forward always (gosh I wish I knew what movie that line was from, I love it)
Hadley had her fare share of heartbreak – Riann leaving, breakup, engagement. In retrospect should she have been a bit more cautious? Do you think she will ever love/marry again?
Ohhh this is more so after book 2 is over … I think living cautiously you run the risk of missing out on the joys of life. I think Hadley has enough love in her to find love again. I think love comes in all shapes and sizes and that the word love evolves into much much more than just a life partner. The journey has made me realize that I love my parents differently than I love my BFF, and I love them differently than I would love my life partner, I have taken time to realize the differences in those types of love, and am learning to appreciate to love the love I already have in my life. It gives me less of an urge to find the ‘true love & prince charming’ love. it helps give me peace that i have enough already and that i would be only blessed if I got more people in my life to love.
In Chin Up Tits Out, Riaan seemed to be the love of Hadley’s life. Do you believe there is only one love, or are there different loves at different stages of lives – the trick is it grow simultaneously with that person.
I think at one point as a little girl we all want to find our prince charming, and i think at one point i believed in that. My mom and dad are happily married still after 30 years, they practically look like barbie and ken (in a more human fashion though.. I mean my dad has grey hair… but looks like George Clooney) I think that everyone has thier own path, and sometimes people find 1 true love, and sometimes people find multiple true loves. Those true loves can be in the form of partners, friends, family, children; whether birthed or adopted. I have seen so many different types of ‘true love’ over the last few years, that I have opened my heart up to any type of love that comes my way, and i am sure to work hard at appreciating what I have, instead of point out and stress about what I dont have. I think the trick is exactly that… both parties must grow, sometimes one will grow faster or different then the other, but thats when you lean on each other. sometimes you will be stuck and the other partner will grow and vise versa. I think the path is always changing, and at the end of the day if you choose to be a life partner with someone, than that someone is your teammate. you wouldnt go on the playing field (of any type) without your teammates, so why make life decisions without them knowing or understanding why. whoo whoo teamwork …
Miranda, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you! I can’t wait for Book 2!!!
I really hope you enjoyed my interview with Miranda. If you have any questions you’d like to ask her, please feel free to comment below or contact her via website (which provides links to all her social media)!
Please do check out her book, “Remember, no matter what; Chin Up Tits Out” and watch out for Book 2 – out in Mid-Feb!