Monday, February 01, 2010
I think there is a portion of me in all of my main characters. I don’t do it intentionally, but it does come through. Sometimes they’re a mixture of me, friends, acquaintances, my children or other relatives. Because we’re all impacted by people in our lives, I think those characteristics tend to come through as we’re writing—at least they do for me.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Since researching and writing The Carousel Painter, I’ve become a carousel enthusiast. I attended the National Carousel Association convention in Philadelphia and made it my business to ride as many different animals as possible during our visits to eleven different carousels. We were able to ride several times at each carousel, so I think I’ve managed to ride all of the ones on my list except the flirting rabbit. But I’m determined to ride one of those in the near future. For anyone interested, a flirting rabbit is a rabbit that has one paw in the air as if waving or flirting with you.
I could go for several carousel rides. I love them. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Not until 1995. I have always been a prolific readers, but it was during the time that I was commuting over sixty miles each way to work that I began developing a story about a young girl who came west in a covered wagon. I couldn’t get the story out of my head and decided I had to write it. My husband grew weary of me talking about it and finally told me I should either write it or quit talking about it—so I wrote it. That book was my first and was published by the Heartsong Presents line in 1996. I’ve been writing ever since.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I truly enjoy historicals more than anything (I know—go figure), but I do read contemporary—both secular and Christian. I also like to read biographies and non-fiction history books. I don’t read anything that is extremely scary—I can scare myself enough without going to scary movies or reading scary books, although I enjoy a good mystery. I don’t read sports books and I rarely read science fiction. I do try to keep abreast of what’s going on in the market, and read books that are current.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I have authored or co-authored (with Tracie Peterson) more than twenty-five books. Most of them are listed on my website at http://www.judithmccoymiller.com/
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
By spending quiet time with the Lord. I think we need to take time to be alone with God if we’re going to accomplish the tasks He’s given us.
I so agree. How do you choose your characters’ names?
I enjoy walking through cemeteries. I keep a small notebook in my purse so that when I travel and am able to stop at a cemetery, I can write down the name of the cemetery and unique names and inscriptions I find on headstones. For instance, while researching for the Daughters of Amana series, I visited cemeteries in the Amana Colonies and used a few names I discovered there. Usually I’ll mix a first name with a different last name. When writing about different ethic groups, I’ll sometimes search on the internet and have found some names in that way, as well.
I’ve come up with a few names when I’ve met people at book signings or speaking engagments, as well. The main character in The Carousel Painter is named Carrington Brouwer. During a book tour through Canada, we signed at Dove Book Store in Lethbridge. The storeowners’ granddaughter and grandson came into the store to meet us. Her name is Carrington Brouwer and her brother’s name is Tyson. I used both of their names in that book, although I had to change Tyson’s last name. I did ask permission of both the children and their parents, and they were delighted to have their names in a book.
In my next book, I borrowed (with his permission) one of our friends' last name for the villain. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
My marriage to my husband, Jim, and my children.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I think I’d have to be a zebra so I could have those vertical stripes to make me look a little thinner.
What is your favorite food?
Oh, my. That depends on when you ask me. Unfortunately, I like almost any food, but warm homemade bread, biscuits, and rolls with butter come close to the top of my list.
Comparing my writing to others. I’m not sure I have it completely under control, but God is working on me. I now accept that every author has a different and unique voice and that comparing one author to another is much like comparing apples and oranges. While reading another author’s book, I’m forced to keep reminding myself of that fact.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Attend writers’ conferences, purchase and study craft books, get into a good critique group, and write, write, write.
Tell us about the featured book?
Somewhere to Belong is the first book in the Daughters of Amana series. Each book in the series is independent, but they will all be set at different times and in different villages that make up the Amana Colonies in Iowa. I hope readers will enjoy a look at this unique group of people who left Europe to escape religious persecution and settled first in New York and then moved to Iowa. I found great pleasure researching and writing about these wonderful people. And for anyone who hasn’t been there, the Amana Colonies are a wonderful place to visit! Most of the structures are still in existence and woolens are still produced at the woolen mill and handcrafted and other handmade items can still be purchased there.
From the Back Cover:
Johanna Ilg has lived her entire life in Main Amana. But when she learns a troubling secret, the world she thought she knew is shattered. Now she must make difficult choices about a new life and the man she left behind.
Berta Schumacher has lived a privileged life in Chicago, and when her parents decide they want a simpler life in Amana, Iowa, she resists. Under the strictures of the Amana villages, Berta’s rebellion reaches new heights. Will her heart ever be content among the plain people of Amana?
Please give us the first page of the book.
Amana Colonies, Iowa
Rigid as a barn pole, I stood planted in the parlor doorway with my gaze fixed upon the pink feather-and-plume bedecked hat. Sparkling pins held it atop wavy dark tresses that crimped and coiled. The girl’s hair reminded me of the curly leaf lettuce we forced to early growth in our hotbeds each spring. An artificial rose peeked from beneath the curvy brim like a vigilant watchman. Although the visitors to our villages sometimes adorned themselves in outlandish costumes, the hat perched upon this young lady’s head surpassed anything I’d ever seen. She appeared rather young to be wearing such an ornate headpiece. Not that I could imagine anyone ever attaining any age where they thought that hat becoming.
Touching her fingers to the garish chapeau, the girl’s lips curved in a patronizing smile. She’d obviously noted my attention. “The latest fashion from England. My parents purchased it for me on their last visit.”
My mother waved me forward. “Come in and meet our guests, Johanna.” I tried to force myself to look away from the hat, but my eyes betrayed me as I stepped into the room. I couldn’t stop staring at the unsightly mixture of fabric and fluff. My mother cleared her throat. “Come, Johanna. Meet Dr. and Mrs. Schumacher and their daughter, Berta. They arrived only a short time ago. You remember we’ve been expecting them.”
I turned toward the well-dressed couple who sat side by side on our horsehair-stuffed divan. Berta, who looked to be sixteen or seventeen years old, had obviously inherited her dark curls and fine features from her mother. As if prepared to take flight at the earliest possible moment, the girl sat balanced at the edge of her chair. And given the size of her hat, it would take only a slight wind to carry her aloft.
I can hardly wait to get my copy of the book. How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is located at http://www.judithmccoymiller.com/
Also check out http://www.writespassage.blogspot.com/ where I blog with five other historical authors. Wednesday is my day, but come over on and day and pay us a visit. We all love to hear from readers.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to visit with your readers through your blog, Lena. It’s been a genuine pleasure. ~Judy
And thank you, Judy, for the interesting peek into your life and writing.
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