Today, I'm pleased to host Amber "Tiff" Miller as my guest.
1. How long have you been writing?
My journey began many years ago. I wrote my first short story in 5th grade with several accolades from both my teacher and my fellow students. It was even entered into a ‘Young Writers of America’ contest and placed but didn’t get selected for publication. Ever since I learned to read at age 3-1/2, I’ve been telling stories, and I could often easily keep a captive audience. Writing seemed to be a natural progression from the verbal.
I wrote often, but it wasn’t until I was a Senior in high school that I got the ‘bug’ to write. My English teacher saw potential, and as an author herself, she encouraged me to pursue the talent further. However, I became more focused on finishing my education and getting my degree, so my writing took up residence on the back burner. It wasn’t until 1997 when I wrote my first fan fiction and received a lot of encouragement and feedback that I realized I might be able to make something of this ability.
2. How long have you been working toward publication?
In 2002, and after encouragement from Tracie Peterson (one of my favorite authors), I took the step professionally to begin a career by joining a national organization called ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), then known as ACRW (American Christian Romance Writers). I did everything I could to improve my skills and develop my craft. I bought writing books, studied a wide variety of fiction, conversed with other writers and authors, attended conferences, purchased audio recordings of workshops and presentations, and soaked up as much information as I could handle. Four years later, I sold my first book and took a rather scary step into the world of authorship.
3. How did your story come about?
The ‘what if’ moment came when I tried to develop the story line for the first book. Without a lot of background, I had to rely on the elements I had learned would make a good story. Some excellent advice given to me included the method of taking your character to a point that seems hopeless…and making it worse. So, I asked, “What if a heroine with no siblings also loses her parents, then finds herself as the sole owner of land in a new world where women have no voice, feeling as if God has forsaken her?”
And thus, Promises, Promises was born!
4. Can you tell us a little about this story?
It is the first in a 3-book series that will be repackaged in 2009 as “Delaware Brides.” These books are part of Heartsong Presents’ State Series, and I am covering the historical beginnings of the little, but significant state of Delaware during the Colonial period.
Here is a synopsis: Has God forsaken Raelene? Raelene Strattford knows God has promised never to leave or forsake her. But after the catastrophic deaths of her parents, she doesn’t believe it. What kind of God would take a girl’s family and leave her alone in a wild land where women have no voice? Gustaf Hanssen has admired Raelene from afar for a while, but his poor attempt at courting her in the past has made him unwelcome in her life. When Gustaf promises Raelene’s dying father that he will take care of her, he finds himself bound to her happiness, her success, and her well-being in ways he never imagined. To keep his word, must Gustaf really oversee all of Raelene’s affairs, find her a husband, and maintain her farm, while she does nothing but scorn him? Can God reach through Raelene’s pain and self-centeredness and give her the love that awaits, if only she will accept His will?
5. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
My second book, Quills & Promises, just released this month as well. Book 3 will come out in December, and I’m putting the finishing touches on my 4th book due tomorrow. That will release next year in April or May, I believe. I have 2 others in that series yet to write. I’ve also written 2 other full-length historicals and 2 contemporaries. But, I have yet to see them contracted. I’m working on them, though.
6. What is the hardest thing about writing a novel?
The synopsis! LOL! I am not a plotter by any stretch of the imagination. I start with a concept and 1 or 2 characters and let the story flow from there. Having to write out the details of what’s going to happen and explain the spiritual thread is sheer agony for me. I don’t set out with a theme in mind. It develops as the characters grow. Outside of that, writing a novel is an exciting adventure for me. I never know what’s going to happen or where my characters will take me. I’m just along for the ride. I guess if I had to pinpoint one thing, though, it would be coming to the end and having to say goodbye to my characters. That’s not easy at all.
7. How do you choose your characters’ names and their backgrounds?
I have two books that provide both the origin of the name and nationality as well as the Biblical meaning behind it. When I select my names, I usually run through a few in my mind, then I go to the books to look up their meanings. If I have to decide between more than one name for a character, it all comes down to the meaning. I select the one where the meaning matches the personality and the motivation of the character.
You should have seen the looks and heard the questions that occurred when I bought this book. It’s usually reserved for parents looking to name their babies. And I wasn’t married at the time. Of course, even when I explained the purpose I had in mind, the odd looks remained. People just don’t understand writers.
Anyway, as I researched the ancestry of the hero and heroine of Promises, Promises, I realized Gustaf was Swedish and Raelene had a Swedish mother. Gustaf means “God’s staff” and “blessed.” He became that staff for Raelene, something she could lean on when she couldn’t stand on her own. Raelene means “lovely” and “compassionate.” Although we see her at the start allowing her pain to make her bitter and unattractive, she possessed an inner loveliness and compassion that showed in her dealings with people once she let that part of her escape.
8. What did you want the reader to take away from your story?
The primary theme is that no matter how bleak the circumstances, God will never abandon or forsake you. Even when life throws all sorts of road blocks your way and it seems like you have nothing left, there will always be hope just down the road. You have to keep looking forward and maintain your faith.
A sub-theme of that is asking the question, where is God when I’m hurting? I hope this book shows readers that He’s right there all along.
9. Why are you a member of American Christian Fiction Writers?
I would not be where I am in my writing career if it weren’t for ACFW. I thank Tracie Peterson all the time for introducing me to the group and encouraging me to join. The fellowship, training, instruction, networking and information you glean from ACFW is beyond compare. No other group that I’ve found equals it. And with its almost daily growth, I know we’re in store for some great things in the near future. Christian fiction is exploding on the market, and ACFW is right at the tip of missile.
10. Will you be at the conference in Minneapolis in September?
God-willing. I know I want to be more than anything. It will be my first opportunity to actually participate IN the book signing and not coordinate it. LOL! And to sign with 100 other ACFW authors and friends in the rotunda at the Mall of America? Who would want to pass that up? So, I’m still praying for the funds that will get both me and my husband, Stuart, there. We’ll see what God has in store.
11. What is the best piece of advice you received as an author?
Linda Windsor’s advice that, “Rejections are footprints in the sands of your career. If you’re not getting them, you’re not moving,” stands out foremost in my mind.
The other is, “You have to read in order to write. Immerse yourself in a wide variety of writing styles, find your own voice and stick to it. Then, write, write, write.” However, I don’t know who it was that said that. Somehow, I managed to save it without jotting down the originator.
12. Any other tidbits of information that would be of interest to our readers?
This book is the first in a 3-book series. The second released this month and the third will be out in December. All of them follow three generations of the same family through the Colonial period and early days of the United States. The first takes place during the Great Awakening and features an appearance by Jonathan Edwards. The second is during the French & Indian War and the third is during the Revolutionary. In the two sequels, you meet a subsequent daughter of the parents from the book before.
In addition, the family and the house referenced in these books is an actual house about 2 miles away from my parents’ house, where I used to live. It was established in 1740 and is still standing today. It’s in great shape and has been meticulously cared for and restored. I spent over a year researching the history of the area, the people, the events and the culture.
The only thing most people know today about Delaware is the city of Wilmington and knowing that the banks holding their credit cards are incorporated there. But there is so much more about that little state, including its significance in the establishment of this great country. I wanted to bring that out more through these books. I hope I’ve succeeded.
*** Thank you, Martha, for hosting me here on your blog today. I look forward to reading your review and appreciate the time you spent putting together these great questions. It’s an honor to have you along on this tour.