Thursday, October 20, 2011


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 Michigan 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. 

What would be your dream vacation?
I have two: Taking a train ride across America in one 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 Ohio and Mississippi Rivers on the Delta Queen paddle-wheeler with my family and friends.  

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 Michigan. I’m looking forward to traveling there and exploring the rich copper mining history of the area.

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, Lena?

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 Michigan 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.

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.

Chapter One
A drop of rain seeped through the sodden roof of the Georgia cabin where Katie Calloway lay. The raindrop fell on her bare foot—a small, welcome kiss on her bruised and battered body.

            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?

Thank you, Serena, for dropping by today.

Readers, here's a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.
Measure of Katie Calloway, The: A Novel

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Please tell us where you live, at least the state or territory. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 4 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

If you’re reading this on Feedblitz, Facebook, or Amazon, please come to the blog to leave your comment if you want to be included in the drawing. Here’s a link.


Wendy Newcomb said...

WHAT DID THE NOTE SAY???? You left me hanging already, can hardly wait to get this book. Thank you for hosting the giveaway.


Judy said...

Loved the interview with Serena. She made me laugh talking about her interests that didn't work out. Such as her knitting not quite measuring up.

I do love the cover of this book. It is beautiful! I can't wait to read this book to find out if Katie's husband catches up with her. (I hope not!)

Thanks for the great interview and this giveaway.


Judy B from IN

Diana Flowers said...

I would love a chance to win this one! I love the cover!

Diana in SC


Patricia said...

Serena, I think my favorite hobby is sitting on my front porch also. I enjoy watching birds build their nest, knowing I am neglecting my nest ;o)

I am very drawn to this book cover. I added this book to my to my to read list. You sound like a fun person. Thanks for sharing with us and for an opportunity to win one of your books.

Have a Blessed Day,
Patricia aka Mamaw

plb1050 at gmail dot com

Patsy said...

Oh my goodness Katie, you sure did try those hobbies! I bet it was fun though. (By the way, I love to crochet). But I really like your current hobby. Sittin' and lookin' sounds great to me.

Katie, so glad your husband is back at work!

from South MS


Anonymous said...

Great interview with Serena. Michigan is a great setting for a future book ;) Hoooked on The Measure of Katie Calloway already! Can't wait to read it!

from Michigan

Anonymous said...

Sign me up! I would love to win Serena's book!


Unknown said...

i love the way your questions bring out little known facts (to me atleast) about the authors. It feels like we are sitting in the livingroom having coffee together. Thanks. Lena

i would love to win this book of Serenas.


from Peace River Country, Alberta

Patty said...

As a Michigander transplanted to the South this book sounds like it's right up my alley! Sounds like a great read, look forward to reading this one.

Patty in SC

Lorna Faith said...

Love your sense of humour Serena:) And the 1st page sounds so interesting! I would love to be entered for a chance to win:)

Lorna from Alberta

lornafaith at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...



Cathy said...

Would love to win this book. Thanks for the opportunity!

I'm from B.C. Canada

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

I am looking forward to reading this series, being from upper Michigan and having a lumberjack for my grandfather! Time to download onto Kindle! Thanks so much Lena and Serena for this fascinating interview!

Melissa Jagears said...

Ha! Add to your a) Even if you graduated Summa Cum Laude with an English degree with your college professors often complimenting you on your great writing--when it comes to commercial fiction you are as dumb as dirt. :) I know!


scottsgal said...

what a cool dream trip floating down the river on the Delta queen
cheryl in IL
msboatgal at

Serena Miller said...

Hey everyone!! I'm on the coast of Oregon right now at yet another writers' workshop. This one is REALLY hard-core. Four days on eliminating passive voice from our fiction. FOUR DAYS! Just on that one topic! Every person in the class is an experienced, professional writer--and yet none of us have gotten it right yet. The instructor has been practically pulling his hair out. Very humbling.

Anyway...I just crawled into my hotel room during a break to lick my wounds, and discovered all these lovely comments. How cool is that! I'll be popping in whenever I can get a moment this week to respond.

Jo said...

I just loved the interview with Serena and really got such a chuckle out of the hobbies. That sounds so much like me! I always want to try things only to find that I have two left hands or can't sing worth a hoot.

I would love a chance to win this book.


Pam K. said...

I've read some good reviews of "The Measure of Katie Calloway" and am eager to read beyond page one. I'm wondering what the note said! I would very much enjoy winning a copy of this book. It was fun to learn more about Serena.
Thanks for the giveaway.


misskallie2000 said...

Hi Serena, I laughed while reading your hobbies. I have started many then stop for one reason or another. Reading and gardening are the only ones I still enjoy. I want to know what was in the note? I am adding your book to my wish list. Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us.

I live in Georgia

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Helen Wakefield said...

LOVE your advice for beginning authors! Particularly about deciding you won't shrivel up and die if a publisher rejects a manuscript.

Would love a chance to win this book, if I'm allowed! I'm in Australia :)


Maggie Carr said...

... No fair leaving it hanging what did the paper say?

Northern Indiana

Coolestmommy said...

That opening page sure leaves a girl hanging. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

EJ said...

Definitely going on my book list. And sadly, I have found that I love to clean the bathrooms also - it's so much better than tackling my to do pile of work.

Elaine from Iowa

apple blossom said...

sounds like a good book love to win it thanks for the chance.
live in ND

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Courtney said...

Sounds like a great book!! Great interview too!! Thanks for the chance to win!!

from WA state

Miss Mona said...

Sounds like a great book, would love to win it....Miss Mona/Oh

CBM said...

Great interview and a very wonderful blog filled with lots of love and encouragement.

Sharon Richmond said...

Enter me I would love to win a copy of this book! Thanks and God bless!
Sharon Richmond
Blanch, NC.

Abigail Mitchell said...

Looks interesting! Please enter me in the drawing.
Thanks and God Bless!
Abigail Richmond
Blanch, N.C.

Serena Miller said...

So--you want to know what the note says, hmmmm? I don't think it will spoil it if I tell.

The very formal note tells Katie that he will be at his cousin's all day. This is odd because he's never been thoughtful enough to tell her where he was going or when he would be back. Katie goes out to do her chores, and discovers the "accident" Harlan has sat up to kill her. Then she realizes that the note was merely part of the alibi he was setting up for himself--hoping someone would find it after she was gone.

His day-long absence gives Katie the opportunity to flee north on Harlan's valiant old war horse, which Harlan had also abused. The last line in the chapter is my favorite in the entire novel. She's astride the horse and she reaches down a hand to little eight-year-old Ned, and says, "Let's ride, little brother."

Charlotte Kay said...

Oh, Serena, thanks for the info about the note!
I still must know more and hope to do so when I purchase this book on Friday at your book signing in Chillicothe, Ohio. I am anxious t met you and so loved this interview! You sound so real and down to earth! I like that!

Many Blessings and Smiles:)

Mama Cat said...

Wow! Great start to what sounds like a great book! Would love to read it here is Sunny Phoenix!

Serena Miller said...

Oh Charlotte--You're going to be in Chillicothe? How cool!!! That means there will be at least ONE person there besides me for the signing:-)

Authors tell each other horror stories all the time about going to book signings where no one shows up--except a person or two who ask them where the bathroom is:-)

Can't wait to meet you!

Serena Miller said...

Well, doggone it--How did I end up being "UnKnown" above??

Can't figure out how to change it, so I guess I'll just have to live with it.

I'm still in Oregon, hanging out and learning from writers from all over. A lovely girl from Rome, Italy is staying a couple doors down from me. She is a part-time bank teller who is also a writer.
Her dream is to move away from Rome. I told her that I kinda thought living in Rome would be all romantic and cool. She said, "Yes, but you don't LIVE there!"

This is an eye-opener for someone who has done very little traveling.

This, of course, has nothing to do with Lena's blog--I just thought it was interesting:-)

Sarah Rebekah Richmond said...

Looks interesting!! Please enter me in the drawing.
Thanks for the chance to win.
God Bless,

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read this beautiful novel :)

karenk...from PA
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Cindy W. said...

Oh my. What a first chapter. I too would like to know what the note said.

I thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of The Measure of Katie Calloway.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


Joanna Richmond said...

sounds very interesting I can hardly wait to get this book I would Love to win it enter me God Bless Joanna Richmond
Blanch, NC

Unknown said...

This sounds like an awesome book.


rubynreba said...

I'm from Iowa. I'd enjoy this book. Nice interview.

peachykath said...

I can't wait to read this book. I've added it to my wish list. I'm glad that your husband is feeling better and back to work. Please enter me in the drawing for this book.
Thank you,

Katherine from Northern California


Ann Lee Miller said...

Thanks for the chance to win.

Ann Lee Miller
Gilbert AZ

Serena Miller said...

Thanks Katherine--After my husband's illness, I've decided that the words "Complete Remission" are two of the most beautiful words in the English language:-)

After a long journey from Oregon, I'm back home in southern Ohio--and it feels SO good to be back! My son installed a wood-burning stove as a surprise for me while I was gone. And brought in plenty of firewood. I'm ready for a cozy winter now--and I've got another novel starting to simmer in the back of my mind. Can't wait to get started.

Nathanael Richmond said...

Looks interesting!Please enter me in the drawing.
Nathanael Richmond
Blanch, NC.

Nancye said...

This sounds like a great book! Thanks for the chance.

Nancye in Kentucky

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Kristie said...

It's unusual for a woman to leave her husband in that era. How brave!! My hobby is basket weaving. I take a class or two every month. I'm trying to find my husband a winter hobby. He needs something to occupy his time. *LOL* I'm from Ohio. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

Bakersdozen said...

I loved the interview. I love historical fiction and would love to read this. I live in S. California. vidomich(at)yahoo(dot)com

Merry said...

I love the cover, Serena. The Measure of Katie Calloway sounds intriguing with the setting in a logging camp, a runaway wife and some romance. Sign me up!
Merry in TX