Welcome, Serena. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
I write historicals because I love the research and challenge of putting myself into the mindset of a heroine from a different era. I also write some Amish fiction because I live near the largest Amish settlement in the world, and have many friends there. I write Christian fiction because that is who I am. I add a suspense element to each book because I love a good mystery. And I always make certain my book has a happy ending because I don’t even want to read a book that doesn’t have a happy ending—let alone write one!
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
The Sunday my husband was able, after a very long illness, to once again go back to the job he loves--ministering to our beloved church.
I totally understand that. I almost lost my husband two and a half years ago, and his recovery was long. How has being published changed your life?
I’ve discovered that I have more discipline than I ever dreamed. Real, honest-to-goodness deadlines with real, honest-to-goodness publishers, scares the pants off me. I’m extremely focused on getting that daily word count finished before I allow myself to go outside and play.
And I’ve discovered that I just love, love, love housework these days! I always pretty much despised it before. Now I find that there’s nothing like staring at a blank computer screen for a couple of hours with a deadline looming, to make scrubbing the toilet seem like a terrific idea.
What are you reading right now?
A one-thousand page, two-volume set about the five-hundred year history of the Amish. It was written by an 82 year man who spent the past 40 years researching it. It’s hard sledding, but I’m determined to get through it.
What is your current work in progress?
Another historical that is also post Civil War and will have a tie-in with The Measure of Katie Calloway. This one is about an impoverished immigrant girl who marries a
dirt farmer and
helps raise his young family in spite of the fact that he is still grieving his
recently deceased wife. The working title is The Endurance of Ingrid Larsen and I will follow this “marriage of
convenience” as she helps her husband and his five children survive all the
hardships that defined the early settlers of the north woods. He finally realizes
the value of this young woman who is quietly holding his life and family
together. It will be set in 1871, the year of the great fire that swept Michigan . The main
thread of the story is loosely based upon my grandmother’s life, and I have
some handwritten history that I intend to weave throughout. Michigan
What would be your dream vacation?
I have two: Taking a train ride across
of those expensive private rooms on Amtrak, with only my laptop and a really
good idea for a book as my companion. The other one is floating down the America Ohio and on the Delta Queen
paddle-wheeler with my family and friends. Mississippi
They both sound like fun to me. How do you choose your settings for each book?
So far, I’ve chosen geographical locations that I’m intimately familiar with. However, the third book I’ll be writing in this north woods series will be set in
Copper Harbor, which is in upper . I’m looking forward to traveling
there and exploring the rich copper mining history of the area. Michigan
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Hands down, it would be Allan Eckert, author of the Frontiersman and many other amazing historical works. I would love to sit at his feet and ask questions about how he finds and keeps track of his incredibly intricate historical research.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
You just had to ask that question, didn’t you? Did my sister put you up to this,
I have a track record with hobbies that is legendary in my family.
I used to sew—but my neck hurt, and my back hurt, and I would get a headache, and frankly, I just wasn’t any good at it. I finally came to the conclusion that life was too short to be that miserable. Then I discovered thrift stores and never looked back.
I tried to crochet an afghan for my little granddaughter, until I came to the end of my yarn supply and realized that my afghan was three feet across at one end and only a foot wide across at the other end.
I took a crack at playing the hammered dulcimer and stopped when my family started leaving the house every time I sat down to practice.
I used to get all excited about planting a garden and would put one in every spring and feel all good about myself until I would forget I even had a garden. Then my sister, the professional organic gardener, would drop by and have a good belly laugh over my lovely garden of weeds. This scenario repeated itself for several years.
I do still weave a rag rug on an old floor loom from time to time, but these days my main hobby appears to be sitting on the front porch, staring into space, hoping an idea will hit me for a good book…and trying to come up with something quick to make for dinner.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Self doubt. I sort of have this little red devil with a pitchfork sitting on my shoulder, whispering into my ear that whatever I’m writing at the moment is possibly the worst thing ever written by any writer since the beginning of time. He also reads over my shoulder, and makes wise-cracks about how my editor will hate the manuscript so much, she’ll throw it in the trash and tell me never to contact her again.
So far, that has not happened. Instead, this year I’ve been contracted to write five more books over the next two years. The devil is a big, fat, liar.
How have I overcome it? I write even harder--just to spite him.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
a) No matter how many A’s you might have made in high school or college English, assume that when it comes to writing commercial fiction, you are as dumb as dirt.
b) Go to writers’ conferences and soak up everything you can about craft and the business from professionals who are presently in the trenches.
c) Decide from the beginning that you are in this for the long haul and that you won’t shrivel up and die if a publisher rejects a manuscript.
d) And—here’s something I really, really wish someone had told me—do NOT tell everybody you know, and the postman, that you are writing a book. (Yes, I even told the postman.) Ten years down the road, when you are still struggling to get published, some of those people will be saying snarky things like: “So-- when is that book of yours going to get published?” Or even worse, your great-aunt Tilda will decide that you are the perfect person to write her life story. Unless great-aunt Tilda was an assassin for the CIA, you’ll want to avoid that.
Tell us about the featured book.
Ah, my little Katie Calloway. Oh, how I love that girl! Okay. It’s 1867. The Civil War has ended, but Katie’s husband, a plantation-owner/soldier whose mansion was burned to the ground during General Sherman’s march to the sea, is taking his fury out on her—his “northern” wife. Afraid for her life, Katie escapes north and ends up working as a cook for a rough-and-tumble
lumber camp. Of course, the owner of the
lumber camp falls in love with her, but Katie has a secret—a violent, murderous
husband back in Georgia who she is afraid will someday come looking for her. Michigan
By the way, I don’t know how in the world the cover artist did it, but she so utterly captured the image of Katie on the front cover of the book—I burst into tears when I first saw it.
I love your cover. Please give us the first page of the book.
A drop of rain seeped through the sodden roof of the
cabin where Katie Calloway lay. The raindrop fell on her bare foot—a small,
welcome kiss on her bruised and battered body. Georgia
She had survived another night.
Maybe there was a God in heaven after all.
Katie eased her head to one side, hoping not to awaken her husband, but her caution was unnecessary. Harlan was gone. Thank God.
And yet, this struck her as odd. It was rare for him to leave without first demanding breakfast, but she didn’t dwell on the fact. She was too grateful that he was no longer lying next to her. Limp with relief, she inched her body off the ancient feather tick mattress, grimacing from the pain. Harlan had been roaring drunk when he staggered home last night. With all her heart, she hoped that her orphaned eight-year-old brother, Ned, had not heard the blows she had silently endured.
A note lay on the rickety bedside table. She reached for it, stifling a groan at the pain. Her eyes squinted as she tried to read the note in the dark cabin. There had been a time in her life when she would have lit a candle without a second thought, but candles were scarce these days. She seldom used one unless Harlan demanded it. In semi-darkness, she carried the scrap of paper outside the cabin into the faint, early morning light.
How can readers find you on the Internet?www.serenabmiller.com
Thank you, Serena, for dropping by today.
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Measure of Katie Calloway, The: A Novel
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