I had another topic in mind to write about today, but in all honesty nothing seemed as important as the fact that, earlier this week, we lost Miranda Neville.
I’m fairly sure we never met in person, though I’m equally as sure our paths crossed several times at conferences, and we followed each other on Twitter. For writers like me, who spend most of the day all alone in a room, Twitter’s the equivalent of the old office water cooler, where we meet and mingle with our colleagues, share a grumble or a laugh, and get to know each other.
I know there are people who think social media doesn’t allow you to truly know anyone, but if you had followed Miranda this past year, here’s what you’d have learned:
She was eloquent, and funny, and intelligent, and liked to talk about our genre and analyze it. “I’ve long argued,” she said, “that [historical fiction] reflects the writer’s time: Walter Scott, Thackeray, Heyer. Compare “bodice ripper” era with current historical romance. Totally different world view.”
She was a frequent and enthusiastic participant in the discussions on the #RomBkLove (Romance Book Love) hashtag, where in one discussion on “rulers in romance”, she confided, “I like to see realistic depiction of peers exercising political power instead of being playboys or spies. Also, more powerful commoners.”
She loved series but liked it best when former characters were “there for a plot reason, not just to say ‘we are blissful with lots of babies’.”
That said, she loved epilogues. “That extra glimpse of HEA,” she called them, adding, “Of course they need to be good :-)”
She thought Terms of Endearment was such a bad movie just thinking about it made her angry. But movies she’d watched over ten times and still loved were: Top Hat, Bringing Up Baby, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, the animated version of Beauty and the Beast, Tootsie, and The Commitments.
She loved the arts, and the theatre, and music. She was hopeful writers like Lucy Parker could make readers and publishers realize the potential of theatrical settings. When told an operatic heroine wouldn’t sell, she wrote the book anyway (Secrets of a Soprano) and self-published it.
She was passionate about politics.
She used to work in rare books at Sotheby’s.
In May, on what she decided was a very good day, she was let off with a warning by a policeman who’d stopped her for speeding, and was also elected to her town library board “in an uncontested election. Way to win.” At her first meeting as a trustee, the board discussed carpeting, an ice cream fundraiser, free speech, and whether to repaint the book drop.
Although she was English, her favourite holiday was American Independence Day. “It always seems a happy, relaxed, optimistic day,” she said.
She leaned towards optimism herself. Explaining the British social custom of dividing couples when seating them at events (because “it’s assumed they talk to each other all the time”) she concluded cheerfully, “I’ve met interesting new people when seated with strangers.”
She preferred reading eBooks, although an episode where she was reading a print copy of Alyssa Cole’s An Extraordinary Union and several strangers noticed it and asked her about it, made her muse, “But I think I miss books that I used to find in book stores, books I don’t know I want until I see them.”
She loved Paris.
She was generous, recommending other writers’ books much more often than she mentioned her own.
She was ill. It was there in the background, but fleetingly. Mentions of doctors, insurance, and health care. A comment about intubation. Regrets about having to miss seeing people at meet-ups and conferences.
But she had a brand new book, Lady Scandal, set to be published this coming May 29. The heroine “might just have written a novel,” she revealed, “But [the] hero isn’t a duke.” It would feature Diana, from The Dangerous Viscount, and Minerva, from Confessions From An Arranged Marriage. She was really looking forward to sharing it with her readers. “It’s good,” she said, “to get something out again.”
The pre-order link for that book has been taken down. I really hope it goes up again. Selfishly, I want to have that last piece of my beautiful Twitter friend. I want to hear her voice speaking to me in the pages.
I am not ready to let her go.
These past two days I’ve found myself turning again and again to her timeline, revisiting old conversations. Obsessing about cake.
Her second-last post is too sad for me now to read. But I do love her last words there. In answer to somebody pondering why they’d signed up to review a month’s worth of historicals instead of the paranormals they preferred, Miranda replied: “It’s ok. Historicals rock.”
She was a big part of what makes them rock, in my opinion.
I’m grateful for the stories she has given us. I’ll miss her very much.
If you’d like to share a memory of Miranda or her novels, please feel free to join this celebration of her life and writing in the comments.
And for anyone wishing to honour her life in a more permanent way, her family have asked that, instead of flowers, contributions be made to Planned Parenthood or The National Endowment for the Arts (On the NEA website, they say: "Congress sets the level of appropriations for the NEA. The NEA has the statutory authority to receive donations; however, donated funds, if accepted by the agency, cannot be used to supplement grantmaking. We encourage you to look to arts organizations in your local community or other groups that support the arts. If you have a donation question, please contact Tony Tighe at email@example.com).