Today, I'm introducing you to one of my good friends, Amber Miller. Her debut book Promises, Promises is a new Heartsong Presents romance.
As most authors would likely say, there is a little bit of themselves in every character. For me, it’s my perception of the characters I create and how they might react in any given situation that is an extension of myself. That perception is based upon my experiences and observation of other people, and a part of me can’t help but come out in some way through my characters.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Wow, this is a tough one. I actually had to ask my husband because I couldn’t think of anything. But, when I looked at other words for ‘quirky’ and found unique or eccentric, I figured out something that would work. Anyone who knows me knows about my colorful Tiki bird slippers. Owning them alone is quirky, but I take it one step farther and wear them to an annual professional conference each year at ACFW. www.acfw.com
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
That would be years ago. I wrote my first short story in 5th grade with several accolades from both my teacher and my fellow students. It was even entered into a Young Writers of America contest and placed but didn’t get selected. Ever since I learned to read at age 3-1/2, I’ve been telling stories. Writing seemed to be a natural progression from the verbal. Although I continued it as a hobby for years, it wasn’t until 1997 when I wrote my first fan fiction and received a lot of encouragement and feedback that I realized I might be able to make something of this ability. It took me another 5 years before I took the step professionally to begin a career. Now, 5 years after that, I’m a published author and taking this rather scary step into the world of authorship.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
For the most part, I read historical, but I also enjoy contemporary romantic comedy, women’s fiction (or issue-driven stories) and cozy mysteries. Because my reading time is more limited now that I’m writing, I have to be more selective. What I look for is a good story, well-developed characters and a believable situation where I can relate to what the characters are experiencing or accept that they react the way they do. I want characters to have jobs, be well-grounded in faith and family and have strong motivations for their actions without seeming two-dimensional.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Who says I’m sane? :-) Seriously, though, I just take things one day at a time and try to not worry about tomorrow. As the Bible says, tomorrow will take care of itself. Worrying won’t add anything to my life, so I do my best to do what I can and leave the rest to God. I have found that if I do the best that I can, everything else has a way of working out. I also always take time each night to unwind and relax before going to sleep. I make certain to do something just for me and have improved my ability to say "no" to avoid over-committing myself. Of course, now that I am shifting gears into the world of publishing, I’m sure I’ll be facing those challenges all over again. I only pray I can continue to maintain peace despite the hectic pace.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I have two books that provide both the origin of the name and nationality as well as the Biblical meaning behind it. When I select my names, I usually run through a few in my mind, then I go to the books to look up their meanings. If I have to decide between more than one name for a character, it all comes down to the meaning. I select the one where the meaning matches the personality and the motivation of the character.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
That would be completing my first book, because not only did it prove to me that I could finish a book, but it also provided me the confirmation that I was in fact a writer. I learned so much in the writing of that first book. Although it has yet to see a contract attached to it, I believe it taught me a lot about myself, about my goals, and about where I want to go in my career. It also confirmed my talents that God has given me and showed me that I can use them successfully.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Without a doubt, an eagle. The primary reason would be that when eagles are faced with a storm, they don’t allow the storm to bog them down or deter them from the path they’re taking. They also don’t land and wait for the storm to pass without fighting back. Instead, they fly through the storm, fighting the winds and rain and obstacles until they are above the storm and can continue on their path. They also mate for life, and I’m equally committed to my husband in the same way.
What is your favorite food?
Cheese. I’m not sure if that can truly be considered a food, but if you put cheese on something, I believe it makes it much better. Obviously, there are some foods where cheese doesn’t complement it, but in a general sense, it’s my favorite. If you’re looking for a food type, I’d have to say Italian, but not the ones that are loaded in the sauces; rather, the ones that have the vegetables and vinaigrette and lighter sauces with the spices and seasoning.
Tell us a little about your journey to publication.
I stated some of it above when I first learned I was a writer, but continuing from the I decided to pursue a professional career by joining ACFW, I have done everything I could to improve my skills and develop my craft. I bought writing books, studied a wide variety of fiction, conversed with other writers and authors, attended conferences and soaked up as much information as I could handle. Four years after beginning that pursuit, I sold my first book. Was it easy? Not in the least, but the results have more than paid off the hard work. It took a lot of determination, patience, resilience, and making myself put my rear in the seat, even when that was the last thing I wanted to do.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
That would have to be recognizing my pet mistakes and learning what to do to correct them and not make them again. Thankfully, the general issues like point-of-view or showing vs. telling didn’t present as much trouble as they do for a lot of beginning writers. For me, it’s often the lack of description of the surroundings and setting the scene that caused holes in my stories. Dialogue always came easy as did the progression of a scene. But establishing unique descriptions or characteristics for my characters to make them individuals in their own right and not cookie-cutter or two-dimensional continued to vex me. So, I went back to studying other fiction books to see how other authors did it. I also asked Linda to point out to me areas where I could develop a character more and to give me an example of one scene before and after. The Writer’s Digest books on Characters, Description and Setting also were of great help to me. Other than that, I sent my manuscript or troubling scenes to readers and asked them to make comments on what worked or didn’t work for them. Once I got that feedback back, I read it over, then stepped away for a day or two from my book to digest it. When I returned, I had a fresher outlook and perspective that enabled me to do what was needed. Sometimes, it was a small fix, and other times it required multiple alterations throughout the book.
What advice would you give to others who are trying to get their first book published?
Don’t approach editore in the bathroom and try to pitch your idea or hand them your manuscript! LOL! Seriously, though, study the books that the house you’re targeting publishes, know what they are looking to find, ask questions of them or of other authors already published with their house, and present yourself in a professional manner so that they are interested in you as well as what you write. As an agent told me just last year, editors are often looking to connect with you as a person as much as they are with your writing. After all, the marketing department can’t just sell a book. They have to sell the author too, and it’s easier to market a book if the author is approachable as well as willing to assist in the marketing. Establish your web presence and start the word-of-mouth beforehand to get potential readers interested. Register your domain name now and set up a web site or blog, even if it’s just one page. If you’re serious about writing, you should have a web presence set up yesterday. This will give readers a chance to connect with you and learn about your. It’s happened before that if an editor is down to choosing between two potential authors, and one author has an active web site where the other author doesn’t, the author with the web site usually wins. You can do the site yourself with the free resources out there, or hire a professional. It can be simple or it can be elaborate based upon your goals. Anything you can do to make the publishing house’s job easier, go for it. Gone are the days when an author submits a book and sits back while the publisher does all the work. So, work on your presentation to people at the same time you work on your writing skills.
It is the first in a 3-book series set in Delaware. These books are part of Heartsong Presents’ State Series, and I am covering the historical beginnings of the little, but significant state of Delaware during the Colonial period.
Here is a synopsis: Has God forsaken Raelene? Raelene Strattford knows God has promised never to leave or forsake her. But after the catastrophic deaths of her parents, she doesn’t believe it. What kind of God would take a girl’s family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? Gustaf Hanssen has admired Raelene from afar for a while, but his poor attempt at courting her in the past has made him unwelcome in her life. When Gustaf promises Raelene’s dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word, must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene’s affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene’s pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?
Thank you so much, Lena, for featuring me and my first book. It’s great to be on this side of the interviewing process after two years of spotlighting other authors on my blog as well. Here’s to continued success for us both!
Thank you, Amber, for spending this time with us.
Readers, you can find out more about Amber Miller at these web sites:
BLOG/web site - www.ambermiller.com
ShoutLife - www.shoutlife.com/ambermiller
Shelfari - www.shelfari.com/ambermiller
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