I really love to introduce debut novels. Today, you're going to meet Miralee Ferrell. Her first novel just released this month--The Other Daughter. By the way, Miralee, I don't know where you had this picture made, but I just love the flowers in it.
I’ve only written one novel to date, and would have to say there’s a mix of me in one of my main characters, but strangely enough, not in the wife, but the husband. I did a reverse of what might be expected, and of what was true in our marriage years ago. The husband is the strong, committed Christian, while the wife is struggling with not wanting to give up control and put herself under God’s authority. That was my husband and I, in reverse, but there is little else about the two main characters that reflected myself. The story did have it’s roots in fact, however, as we discovered my husband had a daughter he didn’t know existed, when she contacted us shortly after her eighteenth birthday. But the balance of the book is all fiction, with very little else that I could point to as an accurate depiction of my life.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Oh…let’s see. I’d probably have to say (not writing related)… we owned two cougars…mountain lions, for a number of years. They weren’t taken from the wild, but were many generations in captivity. We got the male as a three-month-old cub, and the female was full grown, a rescued cat taken from a home where she was seriously neglected. They both became my husband’s babies, although I enjoyed them as well. The female didn’t like women or kids and bonded with my husband, but I took the male to work with me for a few weeks when he was a kitten, and we didn’t have a kennel built for him yet. I was selling newspaper ads at the time, and I’ll admit that sales soared during those few weeks!
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I thoroughly enjoyed composition in high school and excelled at it, and have always been an avid letter writer, but didn’t pursue writing, as I got married after one year of college and started having kids a couple of years later, so no time. Two years ago, (with the kids long grown) I got a strong nudge from the Lord that I needed to return to writing, and see what I could do with it. I had three magazine articles published the first few months after I started, then decided to write a Christian novel. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but had some excellent mentors who helped me in the process, and 15 month and a lot of work later, I had a contract for The Other Daughter.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I enjoy a wide range of genres. As a kid I loved reading Zane Grey, the old Nancy Drew books, Sue Barton nurse books, and as an older teen really got into the Gene Stratton Porter books (Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost, etc), as well as Harold Bell Wright, an amazing author. I still enjoy his work, and have added many Christian fiction writers to the list. I can’t begin to list them all, but to name just a few, Jan Karon, Francine Rivers, Linda Chaikin, Brandilynn Collins, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Alton Gansky. As you can see, there’s historical, mystery, suspense, and women’s fiction all mixed in there.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
The first book I completed was a book about the journey the Lord brought my husband and I through, in our 35 yrs of marriage. I wrote it more for myself than anyone else, although it may be something my family will enjoy someday. It’s not just a book of memoirs, but one that contains teaching…it’s a mix of Christian living and true life stories. I’m currently finishing up the second book in the Homecoming Series, the sequel to The Other Daughter. It centers on Jeena, one of the secondary characters in the first book, and follows her through some very difficult times. I’m also working on a historical romance, with the heroine living on a horse ranch in the late 1880’s. Then I have a very rough outline of another women’s contemporary book that will be a stand alone, rather than a series. I’m probably the most excited about it, of everything I’m working on, as it’s a unique story idea that I’ve not seen done in fiction before. At least, nothing I’ve personally read….but that’s all I can tell you right now!
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Right now, that’s been tough. As I’m writing this, I’m in the midst of the marketing for The Other Daughter, writing the sequel, building a new home where we’ve been heavily involved in the various construction phases, selling our present home and getting ready to move to the new one. I try to get to bed at a decent time, have at least an hour of quality time with my husband each day, snatch an hour once or twice a week for lunch with my daughter, and of course, spend time with the Lord. Church attendance is a must, and I lead intercessory prayer at our church too, which really helps keep me focused on what’s important in life.
Sounds like your hands are really full right now. How do you choose your characters’ names?
I have a list of names that I’ve compiled over the years, and I pour over it, trying to get a feel for the right one. Names are important to me, and I don’t want to just grab one and plaster it on a character. They have to be a reflection of what and who that person is…whether it be a gentle, soft name, a harsh or strong name, or one that speaks of joy or sadness. The husband in The Other Daughter is named David…not an uncommon name, but a man after God’s own heart…that said it all for me. I also try to choose names that would’ve been used during the time period they were born. My eight-year-old boy in my book is Josh, and that name was very popular about 8-10 years ago. I try to watch the trends in names, and keep those in mind, to help with the reality factor.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I think I’d have to say raising two kids who both are serving the Lord, and both have chosen wonderful, Godly mates. I don’t think there’s any higher calling for a woman, than being a helpmeet to her husband and raising children who will move into the next generation with a heart to live for the Lord, and lead others to Him. The eternal impact of that accomplishment is hard to gauge, and we may not know till we reach heaven, what it truly means to have parented Christian kids. Mine mean the world to me, and I’m exceptionally proud of the decisions both of them have made in their lives.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
That’s an easy one for me. While I’m an avid horseback rider and horse lover, I wouldn’t want to be a horse, and have a saddle on my back and a bit in my mouth. Nope, I’d choose to be a bald eagle for a couple of reasons. One, it’s protected, and while a few unscrupulous people might take pot shots at them, it’s rare. Two, they have the ability to soar higher than almost any other bird, and can float for hours on the updrafts, resting on the air currents and surveying the awesome terrain below. The freedom and peace that would bring…being away from the noise, stress and busyness of life, is something I can only dream of right now. If I’m not mistaken, I believe they also mate for life and are very loyal and protective of their mate, and I love that.
What is your favorite food?
Watermelon, hands down. I LOVE fresh fruit, and here in the Columbia River gorge we have an abundance of it. Watermelons are grown a couple of hours up the river at Hermiston, some of the best in the NW, local cherries (just up the road from me), peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, cantaloupe…the list goes on. I love summer and tend make fresh fruit one of my main staples.
I love fruit, too. When I was growing up in Arkansas, we ate watermelon a lot. Even had watermelon seed spitting contests. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started, I had a hard time with Point Of View. I had two very faithful people who kept pointing it out to me, and gave me examples of what I was doing wrong. I bought several great books on writing, and began to study…but not until after I’d written my first book. I wanted my voice to come through, without worrying too much about "rules"…after reading and learning, I went back and began to edit and make necessary changes, while still keeping my voice intact. I also struggle with getting ideas for new books, but am slowing getting my "over 50" brain turned on and tuned in to being creative again. I think it’s just taken time to get it out of the mothballs it’s been smothered in for so many years.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Join a good writer’s group, and if at all possible an online or local critique group. I’ve learned so much from both in the past two years. My current book has been helped and gently corrected by my crit group, and we four gals have a wonderful working relationship. Each has our own set of strengths that we bring to the group, and each has things that need to be strengthened, that we gain from the others. Never be too proud to ask for help, and by all means, don’t take a critique as personal criticism. You can only grow when you’re willing to hear the suggestions of others.
I’m tremendously excited about this book and the notice it’s gotten since the summary was posted online by my agent. As a result of her post, The Other Daughter was picked by a major motion picture studio to be reviewed as a potential family movie. At the time of this writing, the agent from the studio has read it, stated she really likes it, and is very interested in the possibility of obtaining an option. It remains to be seen if they make an offer, as there is some concern about the faith elements in the book, and whether the studio can accept them. With my publishers approval, I made changes that softened the faith elements, but didn’t do away with them altogether. It’s in the Lord’s hands, as He’s the one who brought the opportunity about in the first place.
I believe that the underlying message this book contains is one that most wives and mothers will relate to….the need to be in control of our family and circumstances, and the struggle to allow the Lord to be in charge, as well as the frustrations and dynamics that take place between Susanne and her husband David. I’d say that the most common response from my advance readers has been that they loved the characters. While it has a very strong plot, it’s almost equally character driven. I think the characters will come alive for the reader, and they’ll feel as though they’ve visited the little corner of the NW where the Carson family lives, by the time they’ve finished the book.
Miralee, thank you for spending this time with us. I can hardly wait to read The Other Daughter. I first became interested in this book, because the title is close to one of mine, The Other Brother.
Readers, you'll want to check out Miralee's web site:
Also, if you want a chance to win a copy of The Other Daughter, leave a comment.
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