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Sunday, June 10, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH ANN LEE MILLER

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. Tell us about your book. Kicking Eternity, First Place Long Contemporary winner of the 2009 Romance Writers of America Faith, Hope, and Love Contest, is all about chasing dreams—our dreams, God’s dreams, and the mixed-up tangle of both. 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 caterwaul him into his parents’ live. 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. Can you give us a sneak peek at your new release? 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.” What inspired this book? My daughter has had a passion to become a foreign missionary since she was in first grade. She just completed her junior year of college and is still headed for missions, probably to an orphanage in Peru. Also a close family friend fell in love with a young man and felt strongly that God told her to marry him. When the guy broke off the engagement, she was devastated on multiple levels. In Kicking Eternity the hero has to come to terms with the same dilemma. Are you a panster or do you outline? I detest plotting, but consider it a necessary evil. I plot every scene for the whole book before I actually write the book. It takes… forever. My first two books were written without plotting. Going back through whole books to fix plot lines felt counterproductive. I tried Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method of plotting for my third book and Karen Wiesner’s First Draft In 30 Days for my most recent book. I also use Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure as I build scenes. To me, it feels so much easier to make changes to the book’s skeleton than to rewrite large portions. How long have you been writing? 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. I’ve been writing novels for the past fifteen years. Tell us something about you that would surprise your readers. My father spent several years building a forty-foot sailboat in our backyard. We launched it in the Miami River and lived aboard at Dinner Key Marina when I was eleven until I turned thirteen. At the time I didn’t realize how unusual it was to live on a boat and ride my bicycle down the dock each morning to attend school. All my friends at the marina did the same. After school every day, I tossed my books onto my bunk, shimmied into a swim suit, and jumped overboard. Sailboats show up in all my books thus far. What do you hope readers will take away from this book? I especially want to reach people with unhappy, dysfunctional families like the family I grew up in. I want to give them hope that God will provide love and healing for them. Tell us about the journey to getting published. I wrote my first novel fifteen years ago and have been writing full-time for ten years while trying to break in to traditional publishing. Last summer my agent let all her unpublished authors, including me, go. In the midst of my despair, God nudged me to indie e-publish. So, I swallowed a hairball of pride and walked down the self-publishing road. I feel a surge of joy and gratitude that my books are finally being read. The part of me that clamors for validation still hopes for a traditional publishing contract. But how can I go wrong obeying God? What project are you currently working on? In addition to Kicking Eternity, The Art of My Life debuts in September, Avra’s God in December, and Tattered Innocence next March. What is your Writing schedule like? Do you write only when inspired? Since I started my writing career in my forties, I feel fairly obsessed to accomplish what God created me to do. Think about how the hero in Sweet Home Alabama jammed lightning rods into the sand to make his beautiful glass. He did his work before the lightning struck. I jam a lot of words onto the page before lightning strikes and makes it beautiful. What is a fond childhood memory? As a kid, I adored stories about girls who went to boarding school and imagined their lives as oh-so-much-better than my own. Our Lady of the Hills Camp in Hendersonville, North Carolina, the closest I got to attending boarding school, turned out to be the “happy” in my childhood, spawned a lifelong affection for camp, and inspired the setting for Kicking Eternity. What book are you currently reading? I’m reading Ann Brashares’ (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) The Last Summer, one of her adult novels. I enjoy reading her because I think we have similar writing styles and grasp on the early twenties. What are your hobbies (besides writing)? Wedged in between my writing I manage to 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’ve guest lectured on plotting in Phoenix colleges for the past few years. Every summer you’ll find me at teen church camp. AnnLeeMiller.com Twitter @AnnLeeMiller Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ann-Lee-Miller/356653761022022 Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kicking-Eternity-ebook/dp/B0082GF8CE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1337363292&sr=8-2 Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kicking-eternity-ann-lee-miller/1110908265?ean=2940014441759 Bio: 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. Book Blurb: 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. Endorsements: “Ann Lee Miller writes stories straight from the heart with characters who'll become friends, remaining with you long after you turn that final page. You won't want to miss Kicking Eternity!” Jenny B. Jones, Author of the Katie Parker Production Series from Think and The Charmed Life Series, and other single titles from Thomas Nelson “In Kicking Eternity, Ann Lee Miller masterfully weaves the delicate web of emotions experienced in that turbulent ‘twenty-something’ stage of life. Powerful family dynamics, intense loyalty challenges, and tender new loves find their niche in your heart as this story unfolds layer by lovely layer.” Mesu Andrews, Author of Revell titles Love’s Sacred Song, and Love Amid the Ashes, which won the 2012 CBA Book of the Year, New Author Category