Like many struggling authors, Miriam Rimkunas (GHS ’08) knows it is tough for a writer to sell her first novel. Thanks to the digital age, there are some interesting alternatives to the standard route of submitting work to a publisher and hoping for a contract instead of a polite “No Thank You” letter because your work does not fit their “list.”
Miriam’s solution was to podcast her first novel, a supernational fantasy titled “Extraordinary Terrestrials.” She has found podcasting and fiction writing to be very different. Music and sound are the big bonuses in favor of podcasting as a great storytelling medium. “I love that I can add thoughtfully chosen sound, music and artwork that allow the listener to become totally immersed in the story,” she said.
Miriam’s work has a clear voice that is laced with a quirky sense of humor and a delight in the unusual, unexpected, and off-kilter. When asked how her Maine roots influence her writing, she said, “Extraordinary Terrestrials is oozing with Maine. The story takes place around a wetland filled with rather unusual Maine wildlife. I wouldn’t necessarily call it an ode to Maine, but I do hope it accurately conveys what it’s like to live here.”
Miriam described podcasting as a whole new world. She said, “For a millennial, I don’t consider myself to be very tech-savvy. The idea that people would be listening to my novel, read in my own voice, was doubly terrifying.” Miriam overcame these obstacles with a little help from her family and friends. Her brothers, Peter (GHS ’06), an artist, and Jonas (GHS ’11), a musician, contributed artwork and music to accompany her story.
Jonas said, “Miriam gave me an emotional prompt for a scene, and I improvised a tune or chord progression to match, until we found something we both really liked.” Peter added, “After reading one of Miriam’s early drafts of Extraordinary Terrestrials, I knew immediately I wanted to make chapter art for it.”
Miriam is currently taking time away from her demanding podcasting schedule to focus on her new novel which, like her other works, falls in the realm of fantasy/supernatural (she is a big fan of Stephen King, Phillip Pullman, and Shirley Jackson). “Without giving too much away, the new story touches on themes of isolation, solitude, interdimensional travel, survival, and the ways in which we humans need each other,” she said.
When Miriam graduated from University of Maine, Orono, in 2012 with a Bachelors degree in English with a focus on Creative Writing, a supportive professor, Tony Brinkley, planted the seed about setting her writing in a different medium, one that would allow her to do more than just put words on paper. Knowing that “Novelist” is not the most lucrative career, one of her biggest challenges has been to strike a balance with jobs that pay the bills but still allow her time to write.
Like all writers, her life experiences, the obstacles as well as the successes, have become fodder for her craft. Reflecting on her childhood in Gorham she believes that all the time she spent playing outdoors, using her imagination to conjure grand adventures featuring villains and heroes/heroines has helped her as a writer. Just as her experiences singing with the GHS Chamber Singers (Thank you, Mr. Morrow) and participating in musicals and plays helped her develop the theatrical abilities she uses for voice-acting in her podcasts. Miriam also mentioned English teacher, Ms. Herlihy, and history teacher, Ms. Smith, as two educators who have influenced her work.
Miriam shares an apartment in Portland with her boyfriend, Kyle, best friend, Libby, and their cat, Neighborhood Tough Boy #6. Miriam admits to a Netflix and Hulu dependency, which she rationalizes by productively knitting while glued to sci-fi, horror, and true crime dramas.
Jonas, a musician and composer, has been singing since age 8. He has sung with many groups, and currently sings with a barbershop quartet called Odds n Ends, who perform in the area. A skilled craftsman, he learned his carpentry skills as an apprentice at the Carpenter’s Boatshop in Pemaquid, where he fell in love with the craft of woodworking. Since then he has taught boatbuilding and does furniture restoration and cabinet making. He is restoring a 1950’s wooden boat called “Amphibicon,” with which he hopes to sail the East Coast. If you are interested in learning more, Jonas can be contacted at 207-956-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter is a freelance illustrator whose work has appeared in many places, including Old Port Magazine. He is also a digital 3D artist who has modeled 3D cruise ship interiors for Princess Cruises. He teaches classes at the Gorham Arts Alliance in Claymation, movie making, etc. He earned a degree from UMO in New Media and a minor in Studio Art in 2011 and a BFA in Illustration from the Maine College of Art in 2013. He lives in Windham and can be reached at email@example.com.
They are the children of John and Allie Rimkunas. John, among other things, is the Choral Director of the Gorham Community Chorus and Allie teaches art in the Gorham Schools.