Monday, June 11, 2012
FEATURED AUTHOR: Ann Lee Miller
Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.
How did you start out your writing career?
I always say I became a writer the year I discovered Sister Sheila had hair. I was in fifth grade at St. Hugh’s Catholic School in Miami, knee deep in nouns and verbs, when Sister Sheila walked through the door in a new habit that showed two inches of mouse brown hair threaded with silver. Thanks to Sister’s encouragement, I went on to earn a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University.
And growing up on a sailboat, an aquaculture for mold and dysfunction, shoved me—in lieu of therapy—into writing.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned to be a plotter. I wrote my first two books seat-of-the-pants, but became frustrated with fixing plot lines. I used Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method of plotting as well as Karen Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Days to learn how to plot Kicking Eternity.
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
So many people in my life are wrestling with their dreams and God’s dreams for their lives. I wanted to give them hope.
What came first with this story, the characters or the plot? Why? Actually, I think it was the setting. I’ve spent a fraction of almost every year of my life at summer camp. Thus the setting. I loved the excuse for wallowing in my affection for camp.
What has surprised you most about becoming a published author?
Since this is my first book to publish, I’ll have to tell you later!
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I hate plotting, but consider it a necessary evil. I adore the self-editing process.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
Even though I had a degree in creative writing, I had taken no classes in novel writing. I wish I had realized that I needed to study craft books, participate in critique groups, and hone my skills before expecting publication.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer? Do write every day. Don’t give up.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
How difficult it is to land a publishing contract.
Tell us something few know about you?
I lived on a sailboat as a child.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I hike in the mountains with my husband, do Zumba, and go garage saling every Saturday morning with a friend. This year I mentored three teens from my youth group. I don’t know if it counts as a hobby, but I’ve been guest lecturing on plotting in Phoenix colleges for the past few years. Great fun!
What do you do to interact with your readers?
I’ve taken up Twittering, and I try to respond to every e-mail.
Our theme for this month is INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS. Have you ever considered self publishing your work? Why or Why not? If you are an independent publisher, can you offer some tips for taking this journey.
After trying to publish traditionally for ten years, I hit bottom. I think God needed me there so He could redirect me. Trust me, I had to swallow a giant hairball of pride to indie publish. But I’m chewing on hope, and it tastes a lot better than despair. I recommend Jeff Bennington’s Universe of Indie Publishing as a resource for anyone who wants to go this route.
Who was the first author you ever met?
Roxy Henke. I met her at Glorietta Christian Writers’ Conference about six years ago when she taught a class I attended. We have hung out several times since at conferences and when she visited Phoenix. We keep in touch via e-mail, and she continues to encourage me.
Oprah always asks, what do you know for sure? I know for sure God uses stories to drive His truths home. Writers and readers tap into this part of His personality and are blessed.
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
Cal looked up from the easel and caught her staring.
Her gaze darted toward the window, her cheeks burning. When she looked back at Cal, she saw a small smile playing at the edges of his mouth and eyes. It reminded her of one she’d seen and dismissed earlier.
“Why are you quizzing me on prayer?”
“You think I have an ulterior motive?”
“You tell me.”
He sat on the table top behind him. “You were sitting there like you were afraid of your own skin. I wanted to paint your fire. Pretty much a no-brainer to get you going on a topic that lights your passion.” He shrugged and grinned at her.
Raine turned her face toward the bulletin board covered with crosses her elementary students had colored. Stupidity for having fallen for Cal’s manipulation warred against something entirely different. Cal saw something she didn’t see in herself—passion.
A board creaked nearby, and Cal squatted down in front of her. His hand cupped her face. “You moved.” He brought her head back into position. His palm stayed on her cheek a heartbeat too long, his fingers trailing down to her chin almost in a caress before he broke the contact.
She met his steady gaze. “What button are you trying to push now?”
Cal stood. “The one that turns your cheeks pink like they were a few minutes ago.”
Cal wasn’t the only one who could manipulate. “Let’s talk about obeying God.”
“Talk about whatever you want. I’m going to work on your shirt now.”
Stuck in sleepy New Smyrna Beach one last summer, Raine socks away her camp pay checks, worries about her druggy brother, and ignores trouble: Cal Koomer. She’s a plane ticket away from teaching orphans in Africa, and not even Cal’s surfer six-pack and the chinks she spies in his rebel armor will derail her.
The artist in Cal begs to paint Raine’s ivory skin, high cheek bones, and internal sparklers behind her eyes, but falling for her would send him caterwauling into his parents’ life. No thanks. The girl was self-righteous waiting to happen. Mom served sanctimony like vegetables, three servings a day, and he had a gut full.
Rec Director Drew taunts her with “Rainey” and calls her an enabler. He is so infernally there like a horsefly—till he buzzes back to his ex.
Raine’s brother tweaks. Her dream of Africa dies small deaths. Will she figure out what to fight for and what to free before it’s too late?
For anyone who’s ever wrestled with their dreams
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ann-Lee-Miller/356653761022022
Fresh from college, Raine scores a teaching job at New Smyrna Beach Surf and Sailing Camp. A crush on the camp rebel/art teacher threatens to derail her plans to teach orphans in Africa. The broody recreation director spots her brothers meth addiction and Raine's enabling. Raine believes she is helping her brother--until lives are threatened.
Note: Anyone who leaves a comment with an e-mail address (JaneReader[at]msn[dot]com) will receive a free e-book copy of Kicking Eternity. Those who don’t want to leave an e-mail may contact Ann for their free book at AnnLeeMiller.com.
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